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Old May 28, 2012, 03:14 PM   #1
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S&W .38 special vs BULLDOG .44 special

Of these two Revolvers, I'm wondering which of the two is "better". By better I really mean in terms of reliability. From what I've read when the .38 special is loaded with +P it can match the "power" of a .44 special. That's at least what I read. I'd assume that a .44 special though being a heavier grain would win. But I don't know. What I'm mostly looking for is a home-defense weapon, that can be counted on to work at any moment in time. So reliability is the main factor.

So two factors.... Reliability and power.

#1. Is a Charter Arms "Bulldog Pug" .44 special. I don't know how old it is, but it has some wear. How old it is, and how many rounds have been fired through it are unknown. The seller didn't mention how old it was/amount of rounds put through it. From what I can tell though, everything seems to be working fine. You can tell it has some wear, but it seems to be functioning fine. Here is a link/picture of a brand new one:

#2 Smith and Wesson Model 642, snub-nose, .38 special + P. This one, I also don't know how "old" it is, but the owner said it only has about 80 rounds through the life of the gun. Here is a link/picture of it:

Of the two, which wins in terms of reliability? Both of them are used and not new. The bulldog seems to have more use and wear than the S&W does. And how about overall powerful? My guess is, the S&W wins in terms of reliability, but I'm not 100% certain. I've heard some people say the .44 special Bulldog is amazingly reliable. Yet I've heard it also had some issues with certain models/years. So I don't really know, nor do I know the date the Bulldog was made. I do though like how the .44 Bulldog is SA/DA. I feel like cocking the hammer manually adds to the "reliability" if you need to get a shot off. To me it seems almost impossible for the gun to not fire if it's loaded, and you manually cock the hammer back and fire. To me it seems like the force of the hammer falling down would "force" the chambered round to fire, regardless of the condition or reliability of the gun - at least for that 1 shot.
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Old May 28, 2012, 03:42 PM   #2
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If the 80 rd. estimate is ballpark correct, I'd go with the S&W.

I have a .44 Bulldog and really like it and am a fan, but I don't shoot it a lot. Charters aren't really built to be range guns. If you're going to get a lot of range time in over the years, the S&W is better built for that.

To me, .38 is enough for SD, especially in +P... So I wouldn't be too concerned about not having enough gun.
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Old May 28, 2012, 05:47 PM   #3
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I would add that the 38Sp ammo is much more readily available and much less expensive than the 44Sp thus allowing for more economical practice. Anyone will tell you practice, practice, practice. I own a S&W 642 and it has a fair amount of recoil due to its light weight, but it is not really bad. I have never shot the Charter Pug or any other 44Sp in a snub nose, so I can't really comment on that. I really like my 642. My $.02
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Old May 28, 2012, 09:34 PM   #4
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Yup. Even if the Charter is in real good condition, it's not a gun to take to the range regularly to shoot. They will loosen up with use much faster than say, a S&W. But they're nice and light to carry (especially for a gun that fires a .44 bullet). Not a lot of fun for most people to shoot. I have been carrying a Bulldog Pug for a long time. It only gets fired a couple of times a year. I can hit what I want with it and it functions 100% with my loads. When I want to burn mass quantities of ammo I use S&Ws or Rugers.
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Old May 28, 2012, 09:58 PM   #5
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The .44 spl really comes alive in stronger frames. The Bulldog is for standard pressure only which isn't anything to write home about.

If you don't mind carrying something a little bigger check out the S&W 329 Night Guard. It's rated for .44 magnum but only a fool would try it. I think of it as a reliable, light weight .44 spl that can be loaded hotter but kept in the comfort zone. It ain't chep though!

Bulldog = 21oz

Night Guard = 29.3oz
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Old May 28, 2012, 10:30 PM   #6
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Thanks for the replies The S&W 329 Night Guard looks really nice... But...

I forgot to mention this... I already own both these two revolvers (Bulldog and the S&W .38+P). I was actually planning on selling one of the revolvers, and then keeping the other. Then, with the extra money I get from selling the revolver I would buy a new/different revolver.

Problem is I'm having the hardest time deciding which to keep. The Bulldog Pug would NEVER be used as a range gun, rather just fired "every once in a while" to ensure proper functioning. I would use it either as a Carry, or at home-self defense weapon. So constant firing and use of the Bulldog Pug vs the S&W J frame .38 special is not an issue.

Between the two guns, I'm more considered what is more reliable? Of the two brands/models, which one needs the least overall maintenance if left sitting as a "at home self-defense gun" or a "storage self-defense gun" or whatever you wanna call it. My best guess is the S&W, since it's known for reliability. But I have no idea. I've heard people swear by Charter Arms Bull-dog pug in terms of reliability.

Also, the kick on a J-frame S&W .38 is pretty darn harsh. I have yet to fire the .44 special so I'm not sure if it has less recoil or more recoil.

Last edited by Josh17; May 28, 2012 at 10:46 PM.
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Old May 28, 2012, 10:42 PM   #7
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Sell both and get a K-frame S&W snub. I've seen Model 10s for under $300.
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Old May 29, 2012, 10:27 AM   #8
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Sell the Bulldog, and buy a new set of grips. The new grips that came on my 640 Pro are amazing. If your 38 is "Too harsh" shooting with those grips you need more range time.
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Old May 31, 2012, 08:16 PM   #9
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I have a Bulldog in 44 spl and a Colt Agent in 38 spl. Like them both. Carry either without a reload as a primary CCW or BUG.
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Old May 31, 2012, 10:02 PM   #10
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44 vrs. 38 sp

i have carried both the question is which of the two are you more accurate with and the most comfortable with , my bulldog is not quite as accurate as my smith but i have always followed what the old timers told me the larger the hole the more apt a man is to stop and rethink his direction the winchester silvertips do a fair job with flattening and making a big wound channel in a deer , a man should be the same dont be afraid of the cheaper charter arms many departments back in the day purchased the little 38;s for off duty and dicks i never had any brought in for not working. mostly dificulty qualifying sight radius is minimal also food for thought most departments are going to the 9mm ...... however most tac. units carry 45"s humm good luck with the decision
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Old June 4, 2012, 05:25 AM   #11
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Bulldog or 642?

Hi Josh! I would go with the 642 for reliability's sake. Most of the Charter products I have handled always felt kind of like rattle traps. When I graduated hs back in 76, Dad gave me a Bulldog .44 because I had wanted one badly. I kept it close while dispatching for the local Sheriff's department. While visiting my grandparents for the holidays, I rushed in for dinner from tromping around their small farm and had my Bulldog on in a Pancake holster which had somehow become unsnapped. Sitting in a dining room chair, in a room which had a carpeted floor, the gun slipped from my holster and hit the floor. This was a drop of about twenty inches or maybe less onto a reasonably well padded floor. After dinner, while outside again, I attempted to fire the Bulldog and the cylinder would not rotate. The thing was jammed. With a LOT of work, Dad and myself were able to get it unloaded and shipped it back to Charter for repairs. When it came back, a couple of months or so later, the cylinder would rotate and it would fire again, but it was shooting about two feet to the left at 25 yds. I sold it (with caveat to the buyer about the POI) and bought a 3" barrel S&W nickel-plated Model 36. This gun, although shooting a much smaller bullet, was far more accurate and solid than the Bulldog it replaced. I lost it in a divorce a few years later.

FWIW and in all fairness, this gun was made by the "old" Charter Arms company which went out of business but is still the same design as the current production guns. I currently own a .38 Charter and occasionally carry it, but it still has that weird, "rattletrap" feel to it.
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Old June 4, 2012, 10:17 AM   #12
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The Charter and the S&W guns are built for two completely different markets and usage and you really cannot compare the two. I have S&Ws and Charters and I have carried the Charter Bulldog for many years but it sees very little range time. They are not made for high round count use (even the older ones). They are a joy to carry but require much more maintenance and frequent inspection. Screws and pins will loosen regularly. And a large number of them should have never passed quality control at the factory. I have experienced situations where my Bulldog came into contact with concrete and asphalt several times and it did nothing but cosmetic damage to it (although I did give it a Marine Corps drill Sergeant inspection afterwards. No mechanical damage. I keep waiting for it to die but it just keeps trucking on. I wish Ruger would embrace the concept of a 5 shot big bore snub and build a nice solid one. I bought a 696 when they were first introduced and while I do LOVE that gun it is considerably larger and heavier than the Charter (and now they are insanely overpriced on the used market). I am glad I got one when the getting was good. It has seen a LOT of rounds and hours of range time. The Bulldog does seem to get more carry time though. But if you plan on shooting the gun regularly DON'T buy a Charter. They will never hold up as well as a S&W.

Last edited by drail; June 4, 2012 at 10:29 AM.
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Old June 5, 2012, 08:16 PM   #13
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The older Charter Arms are good guns IMHO, I have owned a few and still have / carry an old Undercover .38. It, along with my Interarms Walther PPK/S, are my favorite carry guns. I can't speak for the new Charter Arms.
That being said, I would take the S&W .38 over a .44 Spl. Why? Because for practice, factory .38 wadcutters are VERY cheap (compared to factory .44's) and very accurate. Put +P's .38's in for SD.
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Old June 5, 2012, 08:42 PM   #14
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I had a Charter 2000 Bulldog Pug .44 Special some years ago and while it was very accurate. Suprisingly accurate in fact. I would never take one over a Smith & Wesson revolver if a Smith was a choice. I have had and carried a 642 for years and recently added a 638 and carry that every day now. The quality is top notch and no complaints. After around 150 rounds of Hornady and Silvertip .44 Specials the Bulldog started feeling loose around the cylinder. .38 Special is far more readily available and cheaper to boot and has been a continuously effective cartridge since 1899. Strong vote for the 642.
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Old June 5, 2012, 08:59 PM   #15
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Close call but....

I would likely keep the smith. I have a Smith642-1 pre lock. Mrs vermonter and I both started with charters. The smith has become my daily ccw because it feels like the highest quality. Then again try and pry that Charter out of her hands I dare you.
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Old June 5, 2012, 09:34 PM   #16
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for the OP, what sources say that the 38 +p can approach the 44 power in energy?

using the latest ammo catalog from cabelas, fun read, theres always going to be a listed difference of at least 100 foot pounds. some of the best 38 ammo can hit 300 but not in a short barrel.
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Old June 5, 2012, 11:12 PM   #17
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I have a Bulldog, and love it. But I wouldn't recommend it as your one and only gun. Ammo is scarce, expensive, and the gun can be a handful to shoot. Something in .38 would be better in all those categories.

Also, you could leave either one of those guns sitting in a drawer for thirty years and it would work just fine when you pull it out.
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Old June 6, 2012, 02:06 AM   #18
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In terms of reliability, overall quality, accuracy and a broad selection of ammo, the S&W 642 is your best bet. The "sealed" hammerless top means less dust intrusion for a gun that sits in a drawer too. The .38 with good defensive loads will do a fine job. For a 2" revolver, I'd go with the Speer 125gr +P Gold Dot ammo for home defense. The lighter bullet has more chance of stopping after passing through drywall and furniture.
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Old June 6, 2012, 05:29 AM   #19
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I do not know about the Charter 44, but can honestly say my 642 is superior to my friends similar Chart 38 spcl. For reliability and carry.

I looked into buying 44 spcl rounds to shoot out of my 44 mag, and I was amazed at the price for the 44 spcl ammo. I guess because it's not as common.
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Old June 6, 2012, 11:39 PM   #20
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The less common/lower demand cartridges are very often produced in "seasonal" batches. Cartridges like .32 S&W, .32 Long, .44 S&W, .41 Rem Magnum, .38 Super and .38 S&W are produced several times a year instead of constant production runs. These are stockpiled and used to fill any orders and/or are backordered until the there's enough demand for the next run.
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Old June 7, 2012, 01:40 PM   #21
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I was amazed at the price for the 44 spcl ammo
.44Spec really is a reloader's cartridge. All I shoot in my Bulldog. As said above the Bulldog really isn't meant for regular range use (in my opionion). I get mine out to the range once a month for refamiliarization but that that's it. Around 20-50 rounds a month is all goes through it. Reloads of course. Since I've never had a problem with mine.... I've got to see it is very reliable. I like big and slow too, so the .44Spec fits in perfectly for CC.
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Old June 7, 2012, 01:58 PM   #22
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Keep the Smith. Practice with it. It is the far better choice.
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