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Old January 19, 2016, 09:44 PM   #1
pvq
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Charter Arms Redesigned Pitbull 9mm Review

This is a painstakingly long review where I impart a lot of extraneous information which many of you may consider useless. For those that don’t want to take the time, the readers digest version is that I highly recommend the Charter Arms Pitbull 9mm. It is a splendidly designed and executed revolver that has performed flawlessly from a company whose customer service and dedication to the firearms community is second to none in the industry. I can’t overstate my enthusiasm for Charter Arms as a company, or their Pitbull revolver. I own and have owned more than my share of fine revolvers, and though I can’t precisely put my finger on why, this one is might be my favorite. For those that want my more detailed thoughts, read on.

I’ve been a law enforcement officer for the past 29 years. I cut my teeth on revolvers and am one of those that was dragged, kicking and screaming into the semi-auto world. I have to confess its only in the last seven years or so that I have completely abandoned my five shot revolver (most recently a Ruger LCR) in favor of a semi-automatic (most recently a Glock 43) for every day carry.

Although I have reluctantly accepted that the modern semi-automatic is nearly as reliable as a revolver, is generally easier to carry inside the waist band than a revolver, and generally has at least a marginally higher capacity than a revolver, I still remain a revolver shooter at heart. I will always prefer the mechanical manipulation of the action on a fine revolver to the “bang switch” on a modern semi-auto. I believe all new shooters should be trained using a revolver since there is no better way to hone the art of trigger control.

The price of quality revolvers from the “big three” American manufacturers has skyrocketed in recent years, as has the price of .38 ammunition. I’ve long sought a reasonably priced revolver that would fire semi-auto ammunition without the need for moon clips in order to satisfy my recreational shooting preferences since 9mm ammunition is half the price of .38 these days. It was that research that drew me to Charter Arms.

I owned (and in a moment of madness sold) a 2011 Charter Arms Pitbull revolver in .40 S&W. Back in 2011 I wrote an extensive review of that revolver which was picked up and published here for those that are interested in reading it:

http://www.dayattherange.com/?p=1585

Everything I said in that review remains true. Owed to my enthusiasm for the company, my recent acquisition of a 9mm Pitbull, and their recent redesign, I thought I would do another review.

To my knowledge, there is only one other 9mm revolver that does not require moon clips currently in production, which carries an MSRP of $1000.00 (the Korth Sky Marshall.) The venerable S&W 547 (the only other production revolver I am aware of that doesn’t require moon clips) has been out of production for a number of years. As I type this there is a S&W 547 currently for sale on Gunbroker that has been bid up to $1325.00 with one week left to go. I have never laid hands on either of these guns, but it is important to note because these are the only guns I am aware of that legitimately compare to the Pitbull (which carries an MSRP of $469.00.) All other Ruger, S&W and Taurus revolvers designed to fire 9mm ammunition utilize moon clips, and therefore, in my humble opinion, cant be validly considered as equivalent. The cost of an otherwise traditional revolver that is simply machined to accept moon clips would be dramatically lower than the innovative and complex machining required for the CA Pitbull extraction system. If Charter had simply taken their Mag Pug and adapted it to use moon clips, the MSRP would likely be in the $400.00 range with a street price markedly lower. I highlight this in order to make a fair comparison of the Charter Arms Pitbull considering the price point. This revolver mechanically and cosmetically is not at the same level of a $1000 plus firearm, nor is it purported or expected to be. Charter Arms does not manufacture museum quality handguns. The do build durable, reliable weapons with superior quality components where it counts (like the beryllium copper firing pins which are widely regarded as unbreakable.) There are some rough spots in the casting, and some angles that are sharper then they ought to be on surfaces that do not routinely come into contact with the hand. Those issues are purely cosmetic and on my specimen would remain unseen by all but someone examining the revolver with a jewelers loop. Similarly, the action which boast fewer parts than most other double action revolvers, is robust and reliable but lacks the refinement of a S&W. The revolver is very attractive, adequately finished and the action better than I would expect for a currently manufactured revolver at this price point.

Overall, I would say my 2015 Pitbull exhibits even better fit and finish than my last, which indicates to me that Charter is upping their game on an already excellent revolver. I would describe cylinder lockup as rock solid. The cylinder wobble (when the cylinder is open) which I’ve seen mentioned in other Charter Arms revolvers reviews is dramatically reduced. For the record, I don’t think the wobble when the cylinder is open has any relationship to the lock up during firing, which, as stated, is rock solid. There is no end shake. The timing is absolutely 100 percent perfect. It doesn’t seem possible to “stage” the trigger for those that prefer to do so. I was always trained that “staging” the trigger was not recommended, particularly for self defense purposes. The “surprise shot” which is what I was trained to aspire to is effortless thanks to Charter’s faster-than-average lock up time and superlative timing. The revolver is extremely tight in all respects out-of-the-box. I spent a good deal of time manipulating the action which is breaking in nicely as a result. The stock finger groove grips are adequate, but they seem too narrow for my hand. I am awaiting the arrival of a pair of Pachmayr Compac grips which I know from prior experience provide a more satisfying palm swell (for me.)

Charter Arms has redesigned the extractors on the 9mm Pitbull, and in doing so reduced the capacity to five rounds from the prior iteration of this revolver. The extraction system appears to be more refined and robust than my prior .40 S&W model. This revolver is much easier to load than the .40 S&W model which I assume has to do with the newly designed extractor which appears to have a smaller area of engagement on the rim of the cartridge. Despite the smaller area, the engagement is more positive since there seems to be less moment in the “fingers” themselves. I do not have a gauge so I can’t comment on the weight of the trigger pull, other than to say it is stout, but smooth and breaks cleanly. Single action exhibits absolutely no creep and breaks like a glass rod with zero over travel.

I fired 115 rounds through the revolver. Twenty five each of Federal 115 grain 9BP, Gold Dot 124 grain HP, 19 Ranger T 147 grain HP and 46 Winchester NATO hardball. I did not experience any light primer strikes, and extraction was flawless, though as the revolver got dirty it was more difficult to punch out the empties. Charter Arms recommends cleaning the revolver after every 50 rounds. I ran a dry bore brush through the charge holes at 75 rounds which helped. I’ve read that on some specimens that the front sight blades were too tall. Mine was spot on at 15 feet.

Overall I am extremely pleased with my Charter Arms revolver. In my opinion each manufacturer's revolvers have their own unique “feel”, and Charter is no exception. That is not to say one is objectively better or worse, just different. Its all a matter of personal opinion. Charter Arms deserves acclaim for it’s responsiveness to niche market segments as only a small family owned company can. I for one am very pleased that they have taken the lead in offering revolvers in semi-auto calibers that do not require moon clips, and I know there are a lot of left hand shooters out there that love their “southpaw”. As far as I know, they are the only manufacturer to offer a 5-shot 44 Special at a reasonable concealed cary weight. Without Charter Arms, those innovations would be either cost prohibitive to the average shooter, or unavailable at all.

I think it appropriate at this juncture to address some of the negative reviews I’ve seen about Charter Arms revolvers in some corners of the internet, not to mention those negative comments on my previous review. I’ve seen a number of comments that have suggested that Charter revolvers are “carry a lot, shoot a little” guns, and that they are not designed for many thousands of rounds. I have not read a single post where an individual claims to have worn out a Charter revolver. With the understanding that every gun is wearing out a little with every round fired, my completely unscientific observation is that Charters one piece “sideplateless” design is extremely solid, and that the average shooter couldn't afford enough rounds to wear it out. Those that follow CA know that there was a time when quality control suffered, however I can personally attest to the fact that the two Charter Arms revolvers I’ve owned since 2011 have exhibited a quality of fit, finish and function that far exceeds expectations at their price point. For comparison purposes, I note that over the past 7 years, I’ve had to return a a brand new Ruger semi-auto and brand new S&W revolver for out-of-the-box defects. That is not to say that every CA revolver is perfect, but neither can that be said for guns from the “big three.” What is important is the level of customer service that can be expected in the unlikely event that you experience a problem. I can attest to the fact that Charter Arms customer service is best in the industry. There is no CEO more dedicated to producing fine American revolvers than Nick Ecker, and he is a heck of a nice guy as well. For me, that fact that Charter Arms is a family owned business is a compelling enough reason alone to give their product line a close look. If you’re considering a revolver, I strongly urge you to give Charter Arms serious consideration.
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Last edited by pvq; January 20, 2016 at 08:17 AM.
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Old January 19, 2016, 10:09 PM   #2
CaptainO
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The "new" Charter Arms is far better than those of recent past. I own a 1991 3" barreled Bulldog in .44 S&W Special. It saved my life.
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Old January 19, 2016, 10:10 PM   #3
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Unless there have been some mechanical changes made in today's Charters, I wouldn't touch one with a ten foot pole.

As a gunsmith, I saw too many little "problems" with Charters that would put them right out of action, not to mention the relatively fragile nature of the aluminum grip frame when dropped.
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Old January 19, 2016, 10:49 PM   #4
amd6547
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My experience with Charter Arms was with older versions. I owned three. A stainless Bulldog 44, a 4" Target 44, and an Off Duty 38.
No problems with any of them.
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Old January 20, 2016, 01:39 AM   #5
weblance
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Nice write up. I own 5 Charter revolvers, including a 6 shot 9mm Pitbull, and a 44 Bulldog. I have had one issue with a new Pathfinder that was corrected quickly, and at no cost. I WOULD touch them with a ten foot pole, and there are thousands of satisfied owners out there who have had excellent service from their Charter revolvers.

When the 45 ACP Pitbull becomes readily available, my collection of Charter revolvers will grow to 6.
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Old January 20, 2016, 03:07 AM   #6
CaptainO
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The .45 Pitbull seems interesting. The short case should make good use of the 2.5" barrel I would prefer to use a flat-nose FMJ so that penetration will be devastating on impact.

As I had written earlier, I have a 1991 .44 Bulldog (in stainless steel) and it saved my life while working as a Security Officer. (A man pulled out a machete, I pulled out the Bulldog... I won).

If it is better than some of Charter's offerings of five years ago, I might go for it.
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Old January 20, 2016, 07:02 AM   #7
David R
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I have a Bulldog 44 sp. I blew it up, they replaced it for free even though I told them It was my fault shooting some one elses reloads. Liking the 44, waiting for the 45 to come out.

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Old January 20, 2016, 07:29 AM   #8
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Thanks for the review. The description of the action as "less refined" and trigger weight as "stout" would give me pause but it's good to hear the QC is better overall.

But it has to be said that. THIS THREAD IS USELESS WITHOUT PICS!
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Old January 20, 2016, 08:17 AM   #9
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Apparently I'm only allowed to upload three pictures which I have done
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Old January 20, 2016, 10:06 AM   #10
g.willikers
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A relative had one of the original Bulldogs way back when.
Not exactly a fun gun to shoot, but it always worked as expected.
And probably meant to be that - often carried, but seldom shot.
That 9mm version does sound inviting.
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Old January 20, 2016, 10:21 AM   #11
Glenn E. Meyer
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FYI - Korth is making a cylinder for SW revolvers in 9mm with their new extractor.

Don't know the pricing yet?
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Old January 20, 2016, 10:47 AM   #12
pvq
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Very Cool! I had no idea. Here is the announcement:

http://www.gunsholstersandgear.com/2...rame-revolver/

An excellent option for those that already have an L frame 357. Unfortunately i don't so acquiring and L frame in addition to that cylinder would likely cost more than the Korth in the first place. I doubt that cylinder will come in under $100, but who knows.
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Old January 20, 2016, 11:12 AM   #13
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Very interesting review on the Pit Bull 9mm. I have to agree with pvq in his praise for Charter Arms. I currently own an Off Duty (concealed hammer .38 spl) and a Pathfinder in .22 LR and am very happy with both.

There was a keyholing issue i ran into, with my Pathfinder, which was resolved quickly at the factory. Since i live and work within just a few minutes of Charter, I was able to drop off the Pathfinder, meet Nick Ecker and many of his crew - by the way, they take their jobs very seriously and have tremendous allegiance to Nick and the company.

Nick was gracious enough to offer me a quick tour of the facility as well - my first in a gun manufacturing facility. A couple of days later i received a call and picked up the repaired revolver - it's been flawless since, as has the Off Duty - right out of the box.

I have no hesitation in recommending Charter Arms to those considering their line of products.
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Old January 20, 2016, 11:41 AM   #14
lee n. field
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Quote:
As a gunsmith, I saw too many little "problems" with Charters that would put them right out of action, not to mention the relatively fragile nature of the aluminum grip frame when dropped.
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As always, YMMV.
The grip frame on the two I had was some kind of plastic. I have also seen a steel CA grip frame.
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Old January 20, 2016, 12:29 PM   #15
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Apparently the current Charter Arms products should not be judged by previous ones, other than maybe the originals.
There were several intermediate companies that kind of let quality slip.
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Old January 20, 2016, 07:16 PM   #16
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I have two Charter Arms revolvers. They both work well. I have no complaints. It is nice that they make them in 32 H&R magnum and 44 special, which are two of my favorite calibers.

To nitpick, I believe that Taurus still makes a lightweight 44 special revolver. I bought mine new just a couple of years back.

Thank you for the nice review. I carry my Bulldog often and am glad to hear that other people do the same with their CA revolvers.
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Old January 20, 2016, 07:32 PM   #17
lee n. field
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Quote:
To nitpick, I believe that Taurus still makes a lightweight 44 special revolver. I bought mine new just a couple of years back.
I checked on Taurus' website. All the .44 Special guns are listed as "archived product" --> no longer made.

The .44 Specials look like something that comes and goes in Taurus' line. Wouldn't mind picking one up myself (with the usual caveats about careful inspection).
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Old January 20, 2016, 09:40 PM   #18
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Quote:
Apparently the current Charter Arms products should not be judged by previous ones, other than maybe the originals.
There were several intermediate companies that kind of let quality slip
.

There was that, but the problems I encountered were a number of design flaws that proved to be quite problematic. Overall, though, at the time, I would have probably picked a Charter over a Taurus, Rossi or H&R.
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