Inexpensive .38 Wheel...

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Apr 26, 2008
Been looking for a .38 revolver (like the S&W Chief Sp) without spending too much. Wondering about the quality of some of the less expensive pistolas (ie. Charter Arms, etc.)
Appreciate any feedback.
The new Charters are just fine,,,

The new Charters are just fine,,,
A lady friend of mine has a .38 Undercover snubbie,,,
It's not highly polished stainless steel but everything fits snugly.

It was very gritty at first but after a few hundred rounds it smoothed out.

I own a Pathfinder .22 that was the same way,,,
It's not the prettiest gun out there but it shoots well.

These are the only two I've had personal experience with.


You can still find some "shooter" Chiefs Specials for the same or even less than new "off" brands. I got a nice shooter about 6 months ago off GB for a measly $250.
I agree, the current Charter Arms revolvers are just fine and American made too. Way back in the 70's Charter Arms was a very strong gun company. Unfortunately they went through several incarnations and owners including Charter Arms 2000, the worst of them all. now that the Ecker family is back at Charger Arms (from the original company) The quality control and craftsmen ship is again back on top.

NO, I'm not involved with the company in any way!

As a matter of fact, Charter Arms invented the Hammer Block Safety and instead of putting a patent on it they shared it with the entire industry to make guns safer for everyone. I like this company!
Thanks for the input...
Over the years I've just heard alot of negatives about Taurus and Charter...
Good to hear Charter is now putting out a better product.
Have looked at GB for some S&W Chiefs, but nothing in the $250 range... but I'll keep checking.
Again, thanks for the help!
Stay with the Model 36.....bought my Chief back in the '70's and it runs like a clock....only gun that I own I would never sell.....saved my arse twice.
Thanks for the input...
Over the years I've just heard alot of negatives about Taurus and Charter...
Good to hear Charter is now putting out a better product.
Have looked at GB for some S&W Chiefs, but nothing in the $250 range... but I'll keep checking.
Again, thanks for the help!
Unfortunately the days of the $250 Chief's Special are long gone and probably will never return. This is especially true because S&W now has the Chief's Special in their Classic line with a Retail price tag of $749!

From what I've seen the price of a nice Chief's Special has not been below $300 for at least 5 years or more. (very nice gun though)
I have two Undercover .38 revolvers from Charter Arms. One is from 1966, and the other from 1987. Both are rock-solid, and reliable shooters. The newer one rode back-up and off-duty with me the first few years I was in LE. The older one was my dad's, and became mine upon his death in 2010.

The new CA revolvers have come a long way to bring the company back from the worse state it was in when it operated as "Charco" and "Charter 2000."

The Taurus Model 85 seems to be one of the more-respected wheelguns Taurus puts out. Their ownership of Rossi may be bringing that maker's revolvers around as well.
The wife got a Rossi about a year and a half ago. Exterior finish and fit are very good. The trigger is super heavy. I have a had a number of Tauruses (Tauri?) good guns and better triggers than the Rossi.
What's your budget? If you could live with something like a used 637/37 or 642/442 there's like a gazzillion of them on Gun Broker. Finding one for $300, plus/minus $20, is not that difficult. Nice all steel j-frames, from the '70's and "80's, for maybe $100 more. You just have to wait and watch. I'd rather take my chances on a used Internet S&W, then a new second-tier LGS Rossi/Taurus/Charter/EEA/etc.
I have a S&W Model 60 Chief, which I bought new in '87 and carried on duty for years. It also runs like a clock and I would never, ever part with it. There's just something very comforting about a nice small revolver. You know it's going to work.

Regarding the Taurus Model 85. That's the only gun that I've ever taken back to a dealer. Out of the box it was continually light-striking with resultant failures to fire. After one range trip I took it back to the dealer and walked out of the store with a used S&W Model 60 (not the one I have today). The Taurus was nicely made and looked great, but the S&W never failed.
I have a CA Mag Pug, in .357 mag. It is awful, though it was made about three years ago. The screws constantly loosen. It shot 20-30 inches low at 25 feet. I had to mill down the front sight just to hit paper. Now, it still shoots 6-10 inches to the right. Seems to have been a frequent problem if one looks at some videos. The chambers are all oversize. The rifling has horrible chatter marks. It is a use-once, toss-it type of gun. If it didn't cost so much it would be a Saturday Night Special. I too was lured by the "made in the USA" aura, also, but now know better. Compared to a Ruger it is a joke.
I've thought about a Charter or a Taurus, but haven't had the chance to shoot either yet.

If you're truly worried about their quality, though, there is no shortage of used S&W .38s available. You can always find a good selection of M10s & M64s on GunBroker. If you're just looking for a shooter, you can find them for $250-300. Can't go wrong with those classics.
If you're OK going up to 6 shots over 5, RIA makes a nice little affordable Colt Detective Clone.

I don't have any need for another .38 snubbie, but I handled one at the LGS and it feels pretty well made for the price.
Don't go cheap....

Get a real good one on lay-away. Quality is quality and it cost more.

But you can just pay it off a bit of a time and then you hare a real good gun instead of a also-ran.

Just giving my opinion , I've owned a lot of revolvers from inexpensive Armscor's to Colts and by far Rugers are built like tanks ,Smiths are more expensive and to some more refined I like them both and have never had any issues Rossi and Taurus is a crap shoot never can tell if you will get a good one or not and the Armscor is not built for the long hall and better suited for carry ,house, or stick it in your truck! My Windicator was junk as well went back to EAA twice I finally gave up and sold it cheap...the only one I haven't tried yet was the charter arms I'm not sure i like all the screws holding that together ,I've heard mixed reviews so I'm not running out to try one. If your patient and look hard you can find a nice Ruger or Smith for right around 4 bills ,there out there I promise
Define "inexpensive."

The S&W 442 is priced around $400 new. Nothing against any other brand, but if I can have a S&W for another $50 or so, that's probably what I'd buy... assuming you're looking for a CCW gun.

FWIW, my brother picked up a used Rossi K-frame sized .38 Special a few years back. Unlike S&W's, the Rossi is entirely stainless steel, right down to the trigger, hammer, and adjustable sights. His gun locks up tight and is very pleasant to shoot. I think he paid a little under $300 for it used in excellent shape. I like my SP-101 better, but I can't say his Rossi is a bad gun in any way. While on that subject, keep your eyes open for a used SP-101 too. It's a .357, but loaded with .38 Specials it's a very controllable and pleasant gun to fire.
Thanks again for all the input...
I need a .38 and would like to be in the $275-300 area...
You've all given alot of great ideas.
My friend picked up a very nice security six a few months back for 325$ I offered him a little more, he wouldn't sell it... Keep in mind a lot of "guns" run fine when new but if you plan on doing a lot of recreational shooting as well your gonna want something that starts out tight and remains that way I've come across several Taurus trackers that loosened up pretty badly my 85 went back to Taurus and came back three months later never again I say.
I would rather have a cosmetically challenged used Ruger, Smith and Wesson, or Colt than a shiny new anything else. The quality is on the inside...
Sa previously stated , Rossi IS a crap shoot. I've had 3 ; 1 excellent and 2 throwaways. I had a S&W Chief's Special which was not at all pretty and rather loose in lock up , but it still was a champ at the range.

Buy quality , even if well used.
Have seen the Armscor M206 being sold in the $250 area (NIB), which is a decent price... looks like a nice gun.
I know RIA/Armscor makes a pretty good 1911 for the money and they have an excellent reputation for Customer Service...
May look in that direction... and keep scanning GB for a S&W.
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