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Charter .38 Question

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Rodbow, Apr 18, 2008.

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  1. Rodbow

    Rodbow Member

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    I've read that the CA isn't the best gun to have however I inherited an undercover .38 spl with a 1 3/4" barrel.
    How do I find out:

    1-how old it is (6 digit SN beginning with 733###) and
    2-depending on the age - is +p inadvisable?

    I fully understand that you aren't able to know the gun but a smith (in training) said it was tight but didn't know about whether the increased pressure of the +p would make a difference, and I don't plan on shooting boxes through it just don't want it to cause damage to itself or me.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Jim March

    Jim March Member

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    First question: does it have an open ejector rod (not shrouded by the lower part of the barrel)?

    If so, that marks it as being from the "tight lockup" era for sure.

    What I mean is, that series (and I own one myself) is supposed to have a cylinder with zero rotational play at "full lockup" as per the checkout, similar to how most Colt DAs work.

    With this setup, the gun is trying to create a precise alignment between cylinder bore and barrel.

    When it IS right, accuracy is superb. I've embarrassed guys target-shooting with guns you'd think would be worlds ahead of a lowly Charter 38 fixed-sight snub.

    When it goes wrong, and cylinder-bore/barrel alignment is no longer perfect, the gun tries to beat itself to death in short order. Most of the "shot loose" Charters out there weren't killed by high round counts, they were slaughtered by a tight lockup being tight in the wrong place.

    S&W and Ruger use a different approach, with some rotational cylinder slop built in so the gun can make a final alignment driven by the bullet. This approach is more durable at a slight accuracy tradeoff.

    And this is why we avoid +P in Charters. And why the new Buffalo Bore standard-pressure 38Spl combat loads are a Godsend for us :). If we do carry +P rounds, it's because we can't score BBs right away and we don't practice with 'em much if we're smart.

    The payoff is in accuracy, and it's worth it as long as you understand the gun and it's limits.

    So: go run "The Checkout" (see stickied post this forum) and see what you've got. If it's right'n'tight, baby it a bit, it'll treat you right.
     
  3. Rodbow

    Rodbow Member

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    Thanks Jim. This revolver does have the open ejector rod and passes The Checkout. I will use the standard loads for practice and hang on to the +p JHP for carry until I can find the BB.

    Since I'm getting into the gun game at over 50 and have little experience with a handgun (I couldn't understand where the round was going when shooting from 50' :uhoh:), I think the UC will suit my needs just fine. It fits well and provides the "what if" reliability - for now.
     
  4. FPrice

    FPrice Member

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    I have a Charter Arms .38 I picked up several years ago. My experience seems to mimic Jim's. I decided to use lightweight, standard (I hope) pressure rounds in it. I settled on the Federal 110 grain standard load. Mine seems to shoot this well.


    CA38Spl.jpg
     
  5. armoredman

    armoredman Member

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    Older Charter Arms revolvers were fantastic - had an Off Duty back in the mid 80s that was a jewel. Charco or Charter 2000 are of a lesser quality.
     
  6. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    armoredman

    Not all older Charter Arms Undercovers were fantastic. I bought one new in 1976. It started to disassemble itself after 50 or so rounds of 148 gr. wadcutters. The cylinder crane screw began backing out and the frame pins were coming through on the left side of the gun. Not exactly my idea of higher quality.
     
  7. bayouboy

    bayouboy Member

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    The original Charter Undercovers were introduced in 1964 and were pretty innovative for their time. At the time they were the lightest .38 available (16 oz), mainly because of an alloy subframe/trigger guard unit and had the fewest moving parts of any available revolver. The early ones were good guns. I have one and don't have any qualms about occasional +P but I don't feed it on a steady diet.

    guns497.jpg
     
  8. Harley Quinn

    Harley Quinn Member

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    The undercover is not a bad little revolver, if you understand the distance is less than 5 yds IMHO the +p would be a hand-full for sure:what:

    Wad cutters and 158 grain semi wad cutters would be good, then try the +p and see where it hits at 5 yds, good luck:) Some would recommend the lighter bullet of 125 grain also.;)
     
  9. 32 Magnum

    32 Magnum Member

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    Charter Arms - .38 SPL +P

    According to a circa 1986 Charter Arms Corp. catalogue, which I have, the only models rated for +P use are the Police Bulldog series (6 shot), the Police Undercover (6 shot .38 and .32 H&R Mag), the Target Bulldog (5 shot .44 Spl and .357Mag) and the Bulldog Tracker series (5 shot in .357 Mag/.38 Spl +P). It is specifically mentioned that the Undercover and Off Duty series are not rated for +P ammo.
    I currently own 22 various model First Generation (Bridgeport or Stratford Conn. addressed) pieces. I have fired several of them and found them very accurate and pleasant to shoot despite the lighter than standard weights. My current favorite is a 2.5" Bulldog Tracker in .357 Magnum, with a Stainless Steel Bulldog .44 (or two) in close second place. All of the pieces I have have very positive lock-up, except pieces made above around s/n 900,000 which have a little more play in the cylinder than earlier ones, perhaps as a remedy to the above mentioned "welded" lock-up problems.
    From the research I've been able to conduct so far, I would think that a piece with s/n in the 766,xxx range would be circa 1982 or 1983 production as pieces chambered in .32 H&R Mag (introduced in 1984 by Federal) begin showing up in the 870,000 range.
    Any Model and serial number, along with barrel address information that can be linked with year of manufacture or purchase, would be very much appreciated and would help with my researching a production time frame based upon serial number.
    As an additional piece of info - Charter Arms Corp. production seems to have ended around 1991 in the s/n range of under 1,090,000. Charter Arms Company (CHARCO) seems to have begun producing slightly after that and in the 1,100,000 range. Charter Arms 2000, Inc. starting up in 2000, reset the serial number series at either 0, 0100 or possibly 01000????
    Jim Hauff
     
  10. madprof4

    madprof4 Member

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    For 32 Magnum: CA Undercover

    Got an Stratford manufactured Undercover, ser. no 7104xx, purchased in the spring of 82. Still a very accurate snub.
     
  11. sheephearder

    sheephearder Member

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    I have had two Carter arms both needed an extra power hammer spring to fire some brands of ammo in double action, always worked single action. Both were OK, and worked but were not keepers. Bill :)
     
  12. Rodbow

    Rodbow Member

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    Thanks 32 Magnum.
    The SN is 7337## and the barrel address is Stratford. So I guess it would at be pre-'82. Thanks for the additional pinpoint of the circa.
     
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