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Old July 5, 2013, 06:23 AM   #1
Pond, James Pond
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What's the deal with Charter Arms?

For all the major revolver manufacturers that I know I've got an impression of their general standing in the minds of people on this forum.

Rugers are generally viewed as tough, S&W as perhaps more refined, Korth as a bit of a luxury along with Freedom Arms, Taurus seems more divisive with many claiming quality issues and yet others claiming flawless functioning and finally Colt seem to have a cult following. I get the feeling that they may not take abuse well, but they are some sort of benchmark.

Charter Arms, however, are still a mystery. They, too, seem to have a cult following but where this stems from is unclear to me. I also get the impression from some posts here and there that they are not necessarily built particularly well. However, I've never seen a post that has said out-right that they are either brilliant or junk. So what are CA about?
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Old July 5, 2013, 07:00 AM   #2
lowercase
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Charters, especially the Bulldog .44s, do have somewhat of a cult following. They also have plenty detractors, with some folks flat out calling them junk. It all pretty much depends on what luck you have had with Charter products as to what your opinion will be. I happen to like Charter Arms revolvers.

I have 6 Charters, and have had good luck with mine. I very much like both the vintage and modern versions of their flagship model, the Bulldog .44spl.

As far as particulars of Charters, I can say that they definitely have their own "personality". They are very lightly constructed, compared, say, to the overbuilt look and feel of a Ruger. This has been described as "flimsy feeling" by numerous detractors. I just chalk it up to the nature of the design. Charters are also not as well finished as counterparts like S&W, and never have been. They are constructed to a price point, and are what they are.

I do very much like the way my Charters feel in the hand. Ergonically, they are some of my favorites. I have very small hands and can't speak for everybody, but I like how my Charters fit me. I also like how light they are, because it makes them very easy to carry.
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Old July 5, 2013, 07:48 AM   #3
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Lowercase sums it up well. Back in the fifties one could buy a "stripped" Chevrolet, all the mechanicals and body panels were the same as the expensive Chevy but it lacked trim and comfort. Charter offered a well made no frills product with castings of less expensive metals and distributed the revolvers at a lesser price. Charter had lots of returns early on and also complaints on their sleeved barrels but I think the company now has it together after a very rocky road. I would say their warranty work is a cut above the norm but you pay to get the firearm to them (unlike some others who will send a shipping label).
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Old July 5, 2013, 11:02 AM   #4
LewSchiller
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Quote:
I do very much like the way my Charters feel in the hand. Ergonically, they are some of my favorites. I have very small hands and can't speak for everybody, but I like how my Charters fit me. I also like how light they are, because it makes them very easy to carry.
Fascinating. My wife and I also find our Charter to be the best fit - for both of us. I have large hands - hers are to the larger side of average for a woman. For instance - on a typical S & W 9mm semi-auto (6309 in particular) her grip thumb can't reach the slide stop. The Charter Undercover fits her like a glove. The S&W fits my hand very well - and the Undercover also fits me like a glove.

Go figure.
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Old July 5, 2013, 11:19 AM   #5
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From my observation of Charter in general, they have been a rather "iffy" company as to business practices, sort of on-again-off-again company, and their guns have shown that. Depending on the company's status, quality is good or bad.

My only experience with a Charter was the original Bulldog .44 Special of 1975 vintage. Not as handsome as a Smith, that little revolver shot very well. Once, as a stunt, I put, as I recall, three out of five shots through a paper plate on the 100 yard berm at my local range.

And, because of its short extractor throw, I loaded .44 Russian cartridges for use in it.

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Old July 5, 2013, 11:55 AM   #6
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The Charter Arms made form the 60s to the 90s were OK, not Colt or S&W quality but OK. They had an aluminum grip frame but were steel other wise. I had two 38s, an undercover and a police bulldog and now have a 44 bulldog. These were all made before Charter changed hands. The current owner (according to what I hear) is making OK guns but the ones made in the late 90s and early 2000s were of questionable quality.
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Old July 5, 2013, 03:22 PM   #7
PetahW
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Those Old Wives Tales was then; this is now - and according to it's Prexy, Nick Ekers, in a personal conversation with me :
" The current Charter Arms is committed to making the best product we possibly can, but acknowledge that that same product is made by human beings to sell at a certain price point. Should any problem arise with any of our products, Charter will "make it right" for the customer."

To wit: Charter replaced a new Pathfinder, and has twice sent me a pre-paid shipping label (Fedex) to send a gun to them for warranty repair.

Except for those 2 revolvers, all my other Charter revolvers (including the replacement & the returned/repaired unit) have operated flawlessly for me.

NO, they're not a pretty as the S&W's or Colt's I have owned; nor are they built as heavily as the Ruger's I've owned - but then the Charter's are built to a different price point/market, which any prospective buyer should take into considering before comparing apples to oranges.



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Old July 5, 2013, 04:08 PM   #8
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Part for part, Charter Arms is a pretty light-duty machine compared to the Colts, S&W's, and Rugers. the latter being probably about the heaviest-duty out there.
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Old July 5, 2013, 04:18 PM   #9
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First off, there are Charter Arms guns, and then there are Charter Arms guns, and then there are Charter Arms guns. The company hasn't been around very long at all compared to Colt, Smith & Wesson, or even Ruger, yet it has changed hands and reorganized at least three times in that comparatively short stretch. Not only have they changed hands, the entire company has moved at least once, not just across town (like Colt, from an aging relic of a complex in Hartford to a more modern factory in West Hartford), but several towns away. Colt still has workers who were originally hired to work under the blue onion dome. I doubt very much that Charter Arms has anyone working there from any of the previous incarnations of the company.

Based on limited exposure, I would rate Charter Arms as perhaps a notch above Taurus in quality but well below Ruger, S&W, and Colt. That's in part from handling their guns in a local gun shop where the owners don't mind telling me which guns give them the most headaches, and partially from discussions with a friend of my wife, who was Charters quality control inspector before she retired.

Charter Arms (the current incarnation) does seem to be better about repairing defective guns than Taurus, which is why I rate Charter slightly above Taurus.
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Old July 5, 2013, 04:23 PM   #10
Nathan
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They are a purpose built CCW guns.

My experience is that the triggers are less "rolling" and more of a "stacking" type trigger. The Pitbulls are way better than the Undercovers, IMLE. "Rolling" is that constant pull weight feeling Smith's have in DA mode.
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Old July 5, 2013, 06:15 PM   #11
lee n. field
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Quote:
Charter Arms, however, are still a mystery.
Ask me in six months about them and I'll be able to give you an informed opinion. I just bought a new production .38 Undercover.

Seems to work OK. Ask me in six months.

Quote:
Rugers are generally viewed as tough, S&W as perhaps more refined, Korth as a bit of a luxury along with Freedom Arms, Taurus seems more divisive with many claiming quality issues and yet others claiming flawless functioning and finally Colt seem to have a cult following. I get the feeling that they may not take abuse well, but they are some sort of benchmark.
I did some research online, and didn't see the kneejerk loathing that mention of a certain Brazilian company's products elicits.

Are Charters available in Estonia?
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Old July 5, 2013, 08:14 PM   #12
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I would rate Charter Arms as perhaps a notch above Taurus in quality but well below Ruger, S&W, and Colt.
I think that comment is as close to the truth as you can find concerning the Charter Arms. I am a fan of their revolvers having owned 4 and still own 2. The Bulldog and the Undercover both from the 80’s. My bulldog has a steel frame not aluminum. Having shot one of the new Bulldogs I think the quality is the same now.
For what their made for, light duty and price I think their good guns
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Old July 5, 2013, 08:56 PM   #13
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I've owned a couple/three Charter Arms 38's. I think they're good guns. For some reason, and I don't know why, I've never warmed up to Smith & Wesson's "J" frame revolvers, but I really like the Charter Arms. Go figure.

About the only thing I don't like about them is the small wooden grips they put on the old production guns. Those things beat my knuckles bloody even with light loads. I replaced them with a set of the current production neoprene grips and ended that problem.
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Old July 5, 2013, 10:20 PM   #14
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I have an old Pathfinder .22 I like a lot. It's a nice little medium barreled revolver, like the old Smith Kit Guns. It has the tiny grips, and every time I go to bid on some on eBay, I get outbid. Guess I'm meant to keep the originals.
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Old July 6, 2013, 03:36 AM   #15
PetahW
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My .22 Mag Pathfinder



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Old July 6, 2013, 07:35 AM   #16
Pond, James Pond
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I did some research online, and didn't see the kneejerk loathing that mention of a certain Brazilian company's products elicits.

Are they available in Estonia?
If you mean the Brazilian brand, yes, they are.
If you mean Charter Arms, no they are not.
I'm just curious, although I can see why they have a cult following. The Bulldog has a certain charm.

Maybe they should be called Charmer Arms... Despite their short-comings, people still seem to like them a lot!!

Given the condition 3 carry rule for auto-loaders, here, revolvers actually make a lot of sense. The fact is I think most people probably just flaunt that law. That is their gamble, and not one I am willing to take, so I opted for a snub as a potential carry gun.

All that means is that despite their advantage over semi's from a carry perspective, revolvers are not super popular.

One shop that tends to cater for the wealthier customer sells Ruger. They are about the only place that sells that brand. They will get hold of any Ruger DA revolver.

There is another place that seems to live off Finnish hunting tourists, because their prices are exhorbitant: there is no way any savvy locals would shop there. They sell a small selection of S&W revolvers.

Whatever the choice, forget about the sort of customer support you guys get over there: here, you are on your own, so I'm glad I bought a Redhawk, new and for a song!!

The Astra was a lucky used find: essentially a S&W in all but name: they are clones. I got a S&W trigger for a fraction of the price.

That leaves Taurus. They are quite common both new and used. Price-wise they are far cheaper than any other revolver options, new.

If it weren't for the quality risks I keep hearing about, I might have bought one, but I am glad I ended up with my Ruger/Astra combo.
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Old July 7, 2013, 04:11 AM   #17
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The old saying for Charter guns is "carry a lot, and fire little". They're CCW guns. They sacrifice some strength and durability for light weight and small size. They were built to ride around in a holster all day, and occasionally send some lead down range. All at a price most folks can afford and are willing to pay for a gun that will be sweated on and develop holster wear.

I have a newer Bulldog I picked up at a pawn shop that had some issues with the cylinder gap. I sent it in, and they had it back to me in two weeks flat; no questions asked, good as new.

Because of that, I bought one of their .22 Pathfinders. So far, so good with that one.
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Old July 7, 2013, 04:33 AM   #18
Old Stony
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I agree with the fire little carry a lot opinion. I would have no problem using a Charter as a carry gun. They go bang on a regular basis. Most of us probably don't fire our carry guns as much as others, and these Charters can take care of our needs at a reasonable price. They have their niche'
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Old July 8, 2013, 07:57 AM   #19
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Am I the only one who heard the post title in Jerry Seinfeld's voice?
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Old July 8, 2013, 10:47 AM   #20
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Everybody has it pretty much spot on in that they are more lightly made and have a rougher fit and finish than the other American DA Revolvers. However, they do work well, and while the mantra of "carry a lot, shoot a little" is sound advice for the slightly lighter action, I don't think they really need to be babied as much as some might think. Yes, they will not stand up to constant firing of max pressure loads, but one can certainly take any bulldog or undercover I have looked at and shoot 50-100 rounds a week of mid-pressure target loads for a long time before the action gives.

Is that less than a Smith, Colt, or Ruger? For Sure. But if treated right, they are a good quality working gun, for a very affordable price. Perhaps the difference is that to me 100 rounds a week is a lot to put through any of my firearms, regardless of how much more they could stand, but to some that might constitute "shooting a little".
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Old July 8, 2013, 11:25 AM   #21
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I try to shoot my .44Special Bulldog once a month. Put around 30 rounds down range for re-familiarization. I have my Ruger .44 Special flattops for the normal workload... I like the little gun for it's intended use of CC.... Not a target gun, not a hunting gun, not even a woods gun (have my Single Actions for that) ... just a light small .4x revolver, handy when you may need it for personal/home defense. And that is why I have a Charter Bulldog (made 2010).
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Old July 8, 2013, 09:43 PM   #22
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I've owned 3 of these babies over the decades past, still have 1, and still kicking myself in the behind for selling the others. Unfortunately, other needs were greater. I LUV THESE THINGS. Nice triggers (nicer than the triggers on my 2 S&W revolvers), amazing accuracy, easy handling, low recoil, light weight, and that great big hole at the muzzle is reassuring. NO, you won't get enough velocity out of a .44 Special with a 3 inch barrel to achieve dramatic bullet expansion, and so what? It's already a .44 (.429) and smaller calibers have to work real hard just to make it that far. And that 246 grain bullet isn't going to get any smaller.

I own lots of fighting handguns including 1911, S&W, Colt, Luger, Walther and Webley models, but the gun in my nightstand is my Charter Bulldog. I will be acquiring another one (again!) soon.
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Old July 8, 2013, 11:28 PM   #23
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Post #6...

I agree with post #6.
Charter Arms has a rich history as part of the "gun valley" of well known firearms makers. $$$ problems & a few QC issues in the 1990s & 2000s led to a downward spiral in US sales and the line's quality.
In 2013, Id say a few models like the .44spl Bulldog are worth a serious look but for the $, I wouldn't trust my life & safety to the .38spl or .22LR DA revolvers.

S&W(without the lawyer lock), Ruger, Dan Wesson, Colt, etc would be better.
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Old July 11, 2013, 08:23 PM   #24
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My take on it was that Charter Arms 44 was built to both a price point and a use that was not intended to be heavy or target.

Not sure if it was EK who said carry lots, shot little but that describes my CA 44. I bought it for a reason as it had the pop in those days others lacked and I could keep it reasonably concealed, throw in a glove box and cart around and not worry about messing up a fine gun.

It always was reliable though. The grips shift a bit which is disquieting to S&W and Colt users and the like but it doesn't affect the gun use any.

It was funny my wife could shoot it better than I could and I was a pretty good shot back in the day.

I have gotten rid of all my low cost guns but that one. I keep it around the house as a grab gun.

Modern SD ammo has negated the advantage of the old low slow led slugs but its also still a good go to gun. Not the prime one but no qualms about grabbing it if its the nearest one.

I have to get it down to the range and shoot it a few times again though!
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Old July 12, 2013, 06:45 AM   #25
HALL,AUSTIN
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I've shot one my friend owns. His (a 3inch tapered bbl 44spl) shoots great at 15 yards. Its all shooter. Some will blame the trigger or the gun but it's a nice light weight carry gun with plenty of power.
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