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Old March 31, 2012, 10:09 AM   #1
bspillman
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vintage charter arms under cover

I just came into a charter arms revolver, undercover model. from what i could learn from the internet it was made from 1977 through 1980, it seems to be built like a brick s@#t house, but i have no experience with charter arms. can anyone tell me if its any good. the serial number is #348163 and the barrel reads stratford Conn.
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Old March 31, 2012, 10:20 AM   #2
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I bought my (now) ex-wife one during that time period, they are much better than the new ones IMO. Never had a problem with it, I often carried it as a BUG to my 1911. As long as it's not worn slam out, you got one of the good ones.
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Old March 31, 2012, 10:38 AM   #3
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bspillman,
My current data base indicates that your UNDERCOVER was most likely made in mid to late 1974 - from the serial number - probably closer to the end of the year.
Test the lock-up - I think you be pleasantly surprised how solid these pieces are.
Make sure it's empty - pull trigger full stroke dropping hammer, hold trigger back and take a good grip on the cylinder - try for side-to-side wobble and fore and aft shake - anything? 8 groove rifling and unbreakable beryllium-copper alloy firing pin, shortest hammer throw and fewest moving parts of all the snubbies made during that time period. IMHO (having owned/owning over 20 various pieces) solid, well made and reliable guns.
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Old March 31, 2012, 10:52 AM   #4
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I did the check out that i found on this forum good info. It locks up tight and the trigger is like butter. It feels like its built like a tank. I traded a sigma semi auto that i did not like for it. I have always like revolvers better than semi autos. I think i am going to get it refinished.
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Old April 1, 2012, 10:06 AM   #5
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Solid gun from my experience. Have one in great shape I bought for $79.95 in my first year of law school - which was about all I could afford at the time. Have another my brother gave me that is about the same vintage with Pachmayrs. Like the originals better.
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Old April 1, 2012, 12:59 PM   #6
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"$79.95"? That was a heck of a deal. Don't use any kind of +P high velocity ammo in it and it will last a long time.
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Old April 1, 2012, 01:41 PM   #7
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It really was a deal. Sporting goods store going out of business in 1976 or 1977, I think it was. I don't recall if mine came with a tag not to use +P, but I've seen some that did.
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Old April 1, 2012, 07:26 PM   #8
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I carried one off duty for awhile back in the early 80's, and found it to be a solid, well made revolver. I don't have any experience with the newer vestiges of Charter, but the older model that I had was just fine to protect my family, and me. I hope you enjoy yours!
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Old April 2, 2012, 09:09 AM   #9
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The only 1st Gen CA revolvers rated for .38 SPL +P would be the "POLICE" models, which were 6 shooters built on the larger BULLDOG frames.
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Old April 2, 2012, 09:20 AM   #10
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Even if Charter said the gun was "safe" with loads running above standard pressure the gun will have a short life if you feed it those loads on a regular basis. They are great little revos but they are rather lightly built. I do think the solid frame design is a step forward (like the early Ruger DA revolvers).
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Old April 2, 2012, 09:31 AM   #11
Mike Irwin
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I have an early one as well. It was my original carry revolver. Carried it for years. Still in the gun safe, haven't shot it in a long time.
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Old April 2, 2012, 03:20 PM   #12
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Any idea when my Undercover serial # 127XX was made. I'm assuming that it's an early specimen.
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Old April 2, 2012, 05:56 PM   #13
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Mr. Irwin, you need to get that thing to the range and spank it good. You'll be glad you did.
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Old April 2, 2012, 06:24 PM   #14
Jim March
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Yes, it's a good gun.

Only two things to need to be cautious about.

1) The ejector rod can come unscrewed, as can some of the frame screws behind the cylinder area. Blue locktite is your friend.

2) These guns are a "tight lockup" design, which means the cylinder is designed to be held rigidly in the rotational direction, moments before firing. This helps with accuracy, and is wonderful when it's running right. When it's NOT running right, the cylinder is held rigidly in a mis-aligned state between the barrel and firing cylinder bore, which means lead shaving plus the gun is trying to really tear itself apart. So you need to do the "alignment check in full lockup" section of the "Revolver Checkout" thoroughly, run milder practice ammo instead of balls-out +P stuff and continue checking the alignment every time you clean it or every 200 rounds or so max. Keep it in good shape though and it will serve very well.

This "tight lockup" process is much like a Colt, except that the Charter locks the cylinder at both the front and rear like a recent-production Ruger DA. There's a few areas of "Ruger similarity" to the design, although it's really more of a similarity to the Colt SAA that made it into both the Ruger and Charter DAs: the action parts "fork up into the frame" without need of side-plates.

The Charter design was always superb. Quality control suffered in the mid-80s and a few other times but you have one from the peak years.
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Old April 2, 2012, 06:46 PM   #15
Mike Irwin
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I ran it hard for years. It's more or less retired.
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Old April 3, 2012, 11:44 AM   #16
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LWC -
Your s/n 127xx (I'd really like the rest of the s/n for the data base) - was made very early on and most likely mid to late 1965. It should have the serial number stamped into the lower right side of the frame and have NO barrel address.
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Old April 3, 2012, 02:53 PM   #17
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"LWC -
Your s/n 127xx (I'd really like the rest of the s/n for the data base) - was made very early on and most likely mid to late 1965. It should have the serial number stamped into the lower right side of the frame and have NO barrel address. "

The full s/n is 12751.
You are correct about the NO barrel address, thanks for the info I thought that the gun was made pretty early on in the Charter Arms history.

Larry
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Old April 3, 2012, 04:11 PM   #18
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unbreakable beryllium-copper alloy firing pin

Umm know of two that broke their pins after heavy use. Anything man made can break. Still good guns if early models, wish I had kept mine but move on to the five shot .44's.
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Old April 3, 2012, 04:27 PM   #19
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Those older Charter Arms were made to be shot with standard pressure ammunition.

I shoot with a guy who is an Wildlife Enforcement Officer. He is also a Marine Combat Veteran of Vietnam. I handled his personal sidearm, an older Charter Arms 38 Special. The crane screw had fallen out but he was carrying the thing in the woods coming across all those meth labs. He just intimated the druggies.

In time he upgraded to a compact Kimber.
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Old April 3, 2012, 06:40 PM   #20
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Charter will repair newer guns for zip....and charge just a small fee for the older revolvers......i really like Charter firearms....best customer service ...period....
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Old April 3, 2012, 07:50 PM   #21
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When I started this thread I was under the impression that they were a saturday night speacial. I am really surprised with all of the positive feed back im getting. My under cover is a great little gun im glad I got it. I sent it to be reblued this morning. Thanks for the good reorts.
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Old April 4, 2012, 01:42 AM   #22
Jim March
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When "Charco" bought the name the QC went totally into the toilet. Much bad rep ensued and over the years got applied (unfairly) to the older ones.

The 44Spl variants didn't help either - those will shake themselves loose.

Basically, an open ejector rod and case-colored hammer/trigger will tell you it's an older one. In .38 and passes the checkout, it's worth owning.
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Old April 4, 2012, 05:44 AM   #23
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I found an old Charter Arms Undercover in a pawn shop back in 1995. I am not certain of it's vintage as I never checked it out. I carried it as my LE back-up for several years and the only problem I've ever had was the ejector rod coming unscrewed. Like Mike Irwin, mine has been in the safe for a long time, retired, and I haven't even seen it in several years. I might just pull it out and let it see the light of day.
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Old April 4, 2012, 10:43 AM   #24
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Here's the rough notes taken from my data base with over 1000 points including magazine articles, company brochures and sales tags, etc:

The very first Charter Arms Corporation production began in 1965 in BRIDGEPORT CONN - earliest pieces - mostly Undercover model will have either NO address on the right side of the barrel or will have BRIDGEPORT CONN
Around 1974, address was changed to STRATFORD CONN - all pieces made after mid 1974 will be marked with that address on the right side of the barrel and all will have CHARTER ARMS CORP. as the first line. Sometime in 1991, Charter Arms Corp. ceased operations. This was the end of the FIRST GENERATION.
Around mid 1991 (may be as early as 1988????), the company was re-organized under new leadership and became known as Charter Arms Company - CHARCO, and was located in ANSONIA CONN. All second generation pieces will be marked on the right side of the barrel with that name and address in two lines. This is the SECOND generation and apparently the period which caused the most damage to the Charter name and reputation.
In 2000, the company was again reorganized as CHARTER 2000 and relocated to SHELTON CONN. All pieces made during this THIRD generation will be marked with the SHELTON address. Early production of this generation seems to have been spotty and reputation still lagged. About a year and a half ago, the company re-reorganized under the direction of MKS Marketing and seems now to be if not flourishing at least it is progressing in quality and market share.
From the limited data set that I have been able to assemble so far the following serialization seems to be valid: (NOTE: model name and caliber will be stamped on left side of barrel on all pieces)

FIRST GENERATION
0001 - <13500 1964 - ? CHARTER ARMS CORP. right side of barrel marking only, no address
~13500 - <315,000 ? - ~1965 CHARTER ARMS CORP. over BRIDGEPORT CONN .marking
~315,000 - <1,088,000 - ~1974 to 1991 - CHARTER ARMS CORP. over STRATFORD CONN. marking

SECOND GENERATION
>1,090,000 - ??? 1991 - 2000? CHARCO over ANSONIA CONN- marking

THIRD GENERATION
000001 - to date 2000 - 2011 CHARTER ARMS 2000 over SHELTON CONN marking.

This is the updated (4/12) serial number info that I have - based upon around 1050 data points
The earliest 1st Gen - ~0 to ~13,500 have NO barrel ADDRESS and s/n is on lower right corner on right side of frame. CA company founded in 1964, first production pieces of the Undercover model produced in 1965
Bridgeport CONN address - ~13,500 to ~315,000 1967 - 1974
Stratford CONN address - ~315,000 to ~1,090,000 1974 - ~1991
All marked as Charter Arms Corporation

2nd Generation - CHARCO, Ansonia Conn address - 1,090,000 to ??? ~1991 - 1996?

3rd Generation - CHARTER 2000 - Shelton Conn - 0 to where ever they are today. 2007 Charter Arms/ MKS

From the 26 pieces in my collection (all 1st Gen) and from dozens more that I've had the opportunity to observe and handle, I'd say that around s/n 600,000 the finish was made a lot finer - although the integrals (lock work, action) was at least as good as the earlier ones. I have or have read magazine articles that cover pretty much of the production life of the 1st Generation, and during that period (around late 1980, early 1981) it seems that CA attempted to capture more of the market by doing so, also in April of 1981, they introduced Stainless Steel revolvers into the mix, for the first time. Some of the articles lamented that the earlier pieces, although rough finish, were rather inexpensive (~60-65% of S&W) and when CA began their "modernization" process, the finishes got better but the prices increased to about 85 to 90% of the S&W line for comparable models.
During the 2nd Generation, the CHARCO (Charter Arms COMPANY), under new management and reorganized, the quality was definitely more spotty and haphazard. I've seen CHARCO produced guns with Stratford marked barrels, obviously using up old stock.
The earliest CHARTER 2000 pieces I had the opportunity to handle (some fairly early 4 digits s/ns - were uniformly, poorly fitted and finished and had some horrendous and gritty actions. That seems to have been rectified under MKS's (circa 2007) new leadership and the most recent pieces I've handled - s/n's in the high 100,000 range have been "decent" but not as fine in finish and action as the mid years of the 1st Generation. This is simply my studied opinion based upon experience.

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Old April 4, 2012, 11:24 AM   #25
Mike Irwin
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Jim,

Were 1st gen. Charter Arms all numbered in the same serial number series? Or did they have different serial number identifiers for the various models?
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