Charter Arms .45 Pitbull: So Far, Bite Matches Its Bark

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Fiv3r, Jan 18, 2019.

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  1. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Member

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    Let's get this out of the way. Charter Arms firearms are not refined like a Smith and Wesson. They are not the everyman tanks like the Ruger wheel guns. They certainly do not excrete the intoxicating flatus of Colt or Kimber that I have been told can literally bring angels to tears;)

    However, they're aren't Taurus (I've never warmed up to nor kept a Taurus. 5 of them have come and gone), and the finish on the CA guns actually look like they have been machined instead of beaten out on a rock like the adorably ugly RIA .38s. But they do cost a little bit more.

    So what are they? Not Smith or Ruger quality nor overbuilt. Not dirt cheap like the imported guns. So why did I decide to buy one over the other bands? Basically, they're light and they pack a punch. I hate heavy guns. I mean, I love them, but I'm a huge baby when it comes to carrying one. Hundreds of dollars in holsters and belts. Thousands of dollars in guns that either now reside by the bed or in the safe or went on to greener pastures. For a good stretch I have carried a .380, and I still like the caliber. However, I have enough feed issues or mags popping loose in my pocket that I felt a little iffy carrying one for primary defense. I've carried single stack 9mms, but they never fit my hands well and I find them uncomfortable to shoot.

    I am primarily a revolver guy, so when I decided to shelve the auto and go with a packable wheel gun I had a lot to decide on. As I have noted in other threads, the logical choice would have been a .38 or .357. I'm set up for that, and there are a lot of known quantities out there. However, I don't particularly want to shoot .357 out of a lighter gun. Furthermore, I have never found a .38 special aluminum frame revolver that I shoot worth a dang. I've had a 642 and 2 lcrs in .38 flavor, but they moved on because I don't find myself going toe to toe with the broad sides of barns very often. My foolishly traded 9mm lcr handled better for me, and my other foolishly traded sp101 in .357 was a bit heavy but handled .357 with ease. I hated the 9mm moon clips, and the Sp101 was comfy to shoot but heavy to pack around for a 5 shot. I would have liked to have kept those guns, but neither really ticked off the boxes for me.

    Furthermore, like many of you, the temptation of trying something novel is powerful. I got to thinking of my perceived role for this gun. To carry it and most likely never need to draw it until someone had a hold of me. Maybe a thumping big bore was in the running. I have always had a desire to own a Bulldog, but the .44 ammo price scared me away. Maybe I would just try one of there ultra light Off Duty hammerless guns and call it a day. 12 oz is great to carry...sucks to shoot, but I can live with it. Certainly not tipping the scales of 30oz or more like some of my steel guns had. Plus, for $325 I felt like I could give it a try. But man, that Bulldog was tempting for $40 more.

    I buy almost all of my guns from a LGS. They have a website as they also ship to FFLs. The day before I went in to buy the OD I see that they have a lonely .45 Pitbull on sale for $406, $40 off. I start to do the math. 80 bucks more but it lobs 230 grain bullets. .45 ammo is half the price of .44 special and available everywhere. It comes in around 21oz so it shouldn't be as snappy as the 12 .38. I read about 15 reviews and decided to take a chance. i handled it in store, found the trigger acceptable and walked out a bit lighter in the wallet taking the gun and some SIG 230 gr V Crown along with me.

    Once again to get this out of the way, the Pitbull is roughly finished. The edges are a bit sharp, there are a few tool marks, and even the roll mark of the Pitbull on the barrel isn't cleanly done. That said, the barrel rifling is free of debris and the built in extractor works beautifully. For $400, I have done much worse. I will be filing the trigger guard edges a bit. I think I could thinly slice a tomato with it.

    I'll be the first to probably admit that I straight up hate the stock grips on this thing. Just like I hate the ones on the GP100. I don't have huge hands, so oversize grips on a gun I want to conceal are a no-go. I generally go with Pachmayr Compacts on the guns they making them for. The Pitbull was no exception. I actually ordered them before I even went to the store to buy the gun. Much better fit for me. You can see them on the picture there.

    I took it to the range to check it for function. I have decided that this is going to be treated as what it is, a close up gun. It's not for fun, but it actually isn't as violent as I was expecting. I think +P out of an aluminum 38 is worse. It was more of an aggressive push, but after 150 rounds, shooting a magazine of 9mm out of my full size P320 felt like I was shooting a .22 Ruger Mk. Still, I could have shot more easily. I used a combination of Remington ball 230 gr, Monarch 230 gr jhp, and a few rounds of the SIG 230 V Crown. They all recoiled about the same although I'm sure the SIG would do the most business on an attacker, but I have elected to keep 5 rounds of the Monarch as my reload, which I'll get to in a moment.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the Pitbull series, instead of a moon clip, they use a nifty little extractor in the star. They use this little spring loaded tab to clip into the groove under the "rim" of a rimless cartridge. They aren't a "have to" thing as they only aid in extraction. Should they break, the round won't fall all the way through and case could be poked out. I've heard the 9mm can sometimes jump the rim and jam it up, but so far extraction has been 100% on my .45. Now, the only thing that makes them a little tricky is that with the star fully flush, you have to give the ammo a little bit of a hard push with your thumb to get it to seat to load it. Brass will slip past it, but the SIG nickle-looking hard case wouldn't snap in easily. I found that slightly lifting the star up a hair allowed the case to slip past the tab enough. Not really a big deal, but not something you want to add to an already slow reload in a 5 shot gun.

    So how do you carry a reload for the Pitbull? Moon clips are out. Speed Strips work well, I've heard. 1911 mags loaded with 5 are handy. Then I remembered I had a spare subcompact XDS magazine that held 5 rounds of .45. Loading it with the brass Monarch ammo, thumbing in the round had enough positive force to overcome the extractor and seat the bullet with a satisfying THUNK. Much faster than by fingers and a lot handier to keep in my pocket.

    Enough yapping....how does it shoot? In a couple words, incredibly well. Kinda surprised me, actually. I'm not sure if it was the weight of the gun compared to the aluminum J frame type or the lower pressure .45 or the 8 twist rifling, but at the 5-7 yard range the Pitbull was chewing the hell out of the target. Double action was doing an easy heart size grouping. Single action I could shoot each of numbers in the zones with aimed fire. I shot it well both right and left handed. A bonus for a gun you may need in a hurry. Up close, this puppy will do just fine.

    In short, is the CA an heirloom gun? Nah, but I didn't buy it for that. I didn't buy it to leave to my daughter. I bought it because it fits the criteria I need to make sure I actually carry it so I can get home to my daughter. It's rough, but I don't really care. That means I don't care if I bump it into stuff or scratch it putting it into the safe. It'll be a fine gun to trail walk with at the cabin. Light enough I'll have it on me, hard hitting enough to do damage, and the stainless will hold up to a dunk in the lake if I find myself out of my boat unexpectedly...the price tag means I won't cry too much if it sinks the 40' to the bottom as well.

    My example of the CA Pitbull is a solid revolver. I hate to say "on a budget" because I COULD buy a Ruger or Smith. I just wanted to give something new a try. An American made gun with a lifetime warranty that won't pull down my britches or make me look far and wide for something not sporting an ugly nanny lock. I'm sure the screws will back out and will need a drink of lock-tite. I would guess she'll be a rattle box one day but will probably still work. I see the Pitbull living in my care for some time. Too easy to carry with too little trade-in value to give up on an impulse. Pair that with it being chambered in the potent .45, I'm pretty pleased.

    If the Pitbull continues to perform, I have my eye on a polished stainless undercover at an attractive price that might be nice for weekend carry. Also, I still really really want the Bulldog. I feel like I'm settling with the .45 as the .44 special Bulldog is a bit of a classic. Time will tell. Thanks.
     
  2. Tallball

    Tallball Member

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    Nice review! Congratulations on your purchase.

    I bought one used a few months ago. It had some issues, but the factory fixed it for free. It's worked great since then. Like yours, mine has a decent trigger and is plenty accurate enough for SD. The recoil isn't bad at all. I enjoy shooting it.

    I have the 44 special version also, but the 45acp is very convenient to take to the range when I'm also bringing one or more 45acp semiautos.

    I like carrying a large caliber. Some people say that 38 or 9mm or whatever is just as good, but I like to put nice big holes in things.

     
  3. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    I purchased this in the early 1980's. It is a 44 Special and the recoil is surprisingly sharp. No Elmer Keith loads for me.

    UUEfpU0.jpg

    I would like to get the 45 LC version, just for the heck of it. Nothing wrong with a 45 ACP, but I prefer the bigger bullets.
     
  4. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Member

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    The .45 colt is on my list. It's more available than the .44 special, but it is a tad larger. Still, what a classic cartridge.

    The .45 acp has just enough recoil to let you know you touched one off without feeling like it's going to crack your wrist.
     
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  5. SteadyD

    SteadyD Member

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    How would you compare the recoil of the 44 versus the 45?
     
  6. Duster340

    Duster340 Member

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    Thanks for the detail review Fiv3r. Much appreciated. I love my 44 Bulldog and have been shooting the snot out of it since I got it a few years back. Being the owner of a new CA weapon, you'll hear the patented "carry often...shoot little" comments, never fails to pop up. But I can vouch for the ruggedness of the CA Bulldog. Shoot it, a lot, man it'll go bang every time. I've got over 4000 rounds through mine and have no plans to stop shooting it every chance I get.

    Enjoy that new gun!

    P.S. Affirmative on the loktite. The dogs will back them screws out after awhile.
     
  7. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Does the 45 ACP need moon or half moon clips?
     
  8. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    I have almost the same exact pistol, great SA & DA trigger and surprisingly accurate.

    Yes, at 21 ounces recoil is brisk, which is why I put the wooden grips away and installed the Pachmayers.

    I filed the serrations off of the trigger, rounded it a bit, and polished it smooth.
    Great for double action, and didn't take anything away from single action.
    Charter Arms Bulldog Pic 1.JPG
     
  9. entropy

    entropy Member

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    I had to read halfway down your post to find what caliber it was. They make it in .45 LC, too, you know. Nice review of your Pitbull!
     
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  10. fxvr5

    fxvr5 Member

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  11. Tallball

    Tallball Member

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    It has cool little clip things inside each cylinder so that you don't need moon clips.

    If there is much difference in recoil between the 44 special and 45acp, I can't really tell. They feel about the same to me. You know that you touched off something bigger than a 38, but neither one is excessive.
     
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  12. zaitcev

    zaitcev Member

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    I shoot my .45 ACP Pitbull once in a while, but the last time I did, I could not figure out where I'm hitting on the 10 yard target stand. All shots went outside of my 8-inch See-It target. I don't shoot it often enough to remember its weird sight picture... Should the front blade stick out from the trough and by how much. I have a .380 Auto Taurus with conventional sights, and that hits even after an extended hiatus, even though Taurus engineering is garbage and the rear sight wobbles. Pitbull is worse than that. At this point I'm this > < close to drilling and tapping the frame for a pic rail, slap a See-All on it. The only thing that's stopping me is a concern that the alloy top strap may break where I drilled it.
     
  13. Joezilla

    Joezilla Member

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    Very nice writeup. You make me want one of these. I recently, in the past year, discovered that I like .45acp guns. I have a Shield and a Springfield Mod 2 in .45acp. Love these guns, but I also love EDC revolvers. I need to go to my LGS to see what they have available.

    Joe
     
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  14. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Member

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    Much appreciated, Joe.
    And thanks to all the kind words of everyone else.

    Recoil is such a subjective thing. I dont find the Pitbull uncomfortable at all to shoot short of needing to smooth the sharp edges of the trigger guard as the gun DOES move when it goes off;)

    Airweight .38s seem to feel like they buck much more. I also think the little XDS in .45 I had was much less pleasant to shoot. But then again, I hated the overly aggressive texture of the grip and it threw brass at my face hard enough to cut my forehead once.

    I will say the DA on the Pitbull is lackluster. Not Nagant levels of finger breaking at all, but nothing like a Smith. However, the SA was quite good. I would say that if some grabbed you and had you down on the ground, you wouldn't notice the grittiness of the DA as you were dumping 5 rounds into whatever part of him you could. However, if you were doing a little backwoods plinking, the SA is a lot more fun. It's certainly Minute of Pinecone.
     
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  15. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    Great write-up on a revolver you really don't hear all that much about. Been thinking about getting one in .44 Special because I already have a Ruger Flattop Blackhawk to share the ammo with. But one in .45 ACP does sound tempting as I also have a far number of 1911s chambered for that round!
     
  16. Tallball

    Tallball Member

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    The DA trigger on my Pit Bull is actually pretty good. I figure things like that are pretty much luck of the draw. The parts are made by machines and are supposedly "in spec". Some handfuls of parts fit together better than others. My "Handgun X" might have a good trigger. Someone with a serial number a few serial numbers higher or lower might have a tough gritty trigger, or a great one. Luck of the draw.
     
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  17. KevininPa

    KevininPa Member

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    Excellent review. At least for me. I've been toying around with the idea of picking one of those up. Would like to have a big bore revolver in a round that I can afford.
     
  18. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Member

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    Pretty much my reasoning for giving the Pitbull a try. I would love to get into a reloaders cartridge like the .44 special or .41 magnum, but I just dont have the time or set up to go down that rabbit hole right now.

    On the plus side, I dry fired my gun about 500 times over the weekend and the DA has really smoothed out. Single action is feeling better. To my neophyte hands, it's on par with anything else knocking around in my collection.

    Pretty pleased so far.
     
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  19. Texas10mm

    Texas10mm member

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    You know the bullets are the same size? If you reload you can easily load those 255 gr SWC in a .45 ACP.
     
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  20. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    I believe to push a 255 gr bullet in a 45 ACP to the same speed you can push it in a 45 LC case, requires higher pressure. For such a lightly constructed pocket pistol as a Bulldog, higher pressure is not the direction I want to go. Someone can research this, what pressure does it take to push a 255 Lead in a 45 ACP case, to 850 fps, in a four/five inch barrel, and then, what pressure does it take to do the same with the same bullet, same powder (I recommend Unique) same velocity, in a 45 LC? I would like to see those numbers. It would be most informative. If the pressures of the 45 ACP exceed that of the 45 LC, then there is the answer.

    When these first came out in the 1960's, writers such as Major George Monte were recommending Elmer Keith loads. That is, a 240 gr bullet with 7.5 grs Unique. That is way too hot for the 44 Special Bulldog's. It really showed the lack of gravatus in the Gunwriter community, when a writer of National stature is recommending high pressure cartridges based on his measurements of cylinder wall thickness, and nothing else. The guy lacked the intellect to call Charter Arms, ask for the cylinder alloy and heat treatment, calculate hoop stresses, and then figure out a possible fatigue lifetime. When I talked to Charter Arms about my Bulldog, they informed me that they had received back lots of blown and bulged cylinders, based on reloaders trying to "improve" on factory loads and pressures.For individuals who suspect they are so incompetent, that they don't know the level of their incompetence, for those people, they should just stick with factory ammunition, or factory equivalent reloads, for their firearms. They should never, ever, attempt to "improve" on things.

    If you are so incompetent that you don't know or suspect that you are incompetent, and you are a real bold, confident type, you are going to create some real problems for yourself.

    57DMvHB.jpg

    Now I consider 6.5 grains of Unique a factory equivalent load in terms of pressure, based on manuals, in the 44 Special. I used a little dandy which the throw volume was "6.6" grains, for this data. Given the variance in throw weights, the average came close to 6.5 or less. These little pistols push a big bullet at a very moderate velocity, at a very low pressure. Keep within factory pressures, and everything will be OK.

    Charter Arms Bulldog 3' Barrel 44 Special

    250 LSWC 6.6 gr Unique UN 331 Fed

    T ≈ 75 ° F 15-Aug-92

    Ave Vel = 698
    Std Dev = 20
    ES = 46
    Low = 670
    High = 716
    N = 5

    And when I get a 45 LC version, I will be staying with factory equivalent ammunition. If I had a 45ACP version, I would stick with whatever ammunition shoots to point of aim, and that is probably a 230 FMJ with 5.0 grains Bullseye.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2019
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  21. Jesse Heywood

    Jesse Heywood Member

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    I found the 45 Colt on Gunbroker, but not on the Charter website. Is it a new model?
     
  22. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Member

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    I'm pretty sure it's brand spankin' new. From what I understand, it's a new XL frame. Now, how much bigger it is than the Pitbull, I dunno. I've never seen the .45 colt in the wild. I think that the .44 Bulldog as well as the .40 and 9mm Pitbulls are the same size, but .45 acp is large enough not to fit holsters for the others. From what I understand, the .45 colt is stretched even more to accommodate those long cartridges. i'd like to handle one in the future.
     
  23. Tallball

    Tallball Member

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    Next time I have the safe open I'll compare the sizes of my 44 Bulldog to my 45acp Pitbull.

    I've had the Bulldog for 4-5 years. Every so often I'll put 50 rounds of mild reloads through it. It's just as tight now as when I bought it (used).

    I need to take a magnet to them. They are light enough that I assumed the frames are aluminum alloy, but others have told me that theirs are steel. Either I made an incorrect assumption (very possible), or maybe they have used different materials over the years.
     
  24. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Member

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    Everything I have read is that the Bulldog and Pitbulls are stainless frames. I do think the trigger guard and maybe the grip frame is aluminum alloy. I'm pretty sure the part of the gun taking the beating is steel, though.
     
  25. the Black Spot

    the Black Spot Member

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