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REVIEW: Charter Arms Professional

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This is a great all-around revolver for personal defense and field use — and also a fun gun to spend a day at the range with! READ MORE

Charter Arms Professional
The Charter Arms Professional is a clean design with much to recommend.

Bob Campbell

I have used Charter Arms revolvers for more than 40 years. Charter was introduced in the 1960s and armed many Americans at a time when truly good affordable guns were scarce. The Charter Arms design features a transfer bar ignition for safety, among the first revolvers to do so. The frame is steel also it is enclosed by aluminum to save weight. The revolvers have always been available with well designed grips. The sights are wide and easily picked up quickly. Quite simply you get your money’s worth with the Charter Arms, and perhaps then some. The Charter Arms .44 Special Bulldog is the most famous product but revolvers in .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum, .32 Smith and Wesson Long, .38 Special, .357 Magnum and perhaps a few others have been offered. The revolver illustrated is among the most interesting.

Charter Arms Professional
While light the Charter Arms Professional proved easy to use well.

The Charter Arms Professional is a small frame revolver with a 3-inch barrel, hand filling grips, a double action/single action mechanism, good sights, and a nice finish. Open the cylinder by pushing the cylinder release forward and you will see a 7-shot cylinder chambered in .32 H&R Magnum. The pistol uses the classic Charter Arms steel frame but the finish is a modern black nitride. I cannot see any problem with the durability of this finish. The rear sight is wide and broad like all Charter Arms revolvers while the front sight is a fiber optic insert. This green insert is high visibility and easily acquired for speed shooting. Despite the light twenty two ounce weight the Charter Arms Professional has proven a light kicker with standard loads. The action is as smooth as any modern production double action revolver. In single action mode the trigger breaks at 4.5 pounds. I like the revolver a lot and after firing more than four hundred cartridges I have formed a good opinion of the revolver.

Charter Arms Professional
A heavy underlugged barrel provides good balance.
Charter Arms Professional
The fiber optic front post is a good option for all of us but especially aging eyes.
Charter Arms Professional
The rear sight is broad and easily acquired for fast shooting.

My primarily loading has been the Black Hills Ammunition cowboy load, a lead bullet with modest recoil and good accuracy. I have also used the 85 grain JHP at 1055 fps. The revolver is very easy to use well and to fire quickly. A trained shooter will find a neat group of cartridges on the target, well centered at 7 yards. The revolver tended to fire slightly low. I accommodated this by holding the front optic sight slightly higher than the rear sight, resulting in the bullets homing in on target. The revolver is more than accurate enough for filed and camp use, exhibiting five shot groups of 2-2.5 inches on paper at 15 yards when carefully bench-rested. Frankly I went overboard on both time and ammunition budget goals with this revolver. It is simply a fun gun to shoot. As for a comparison to .38 Special recoil, the .32 Magnum kicks much less than the .38 Special. I can place seven .32 Magnums into a man sized target in the same time, approximately, I can place five .38s into the target. The .32 H and R Magnum isnt as powerful as the .38 Special but then accuracy can often make up for power. The reverse is seldom true. The .32 H and R Magnum offers reasonable power for the light recoil. As an example the Hornady Critical defense at 1040 fps penetrated well past twelve inches in testing and expanded well.

Charter Arms Professional
The Professional proved reliable and accurate in extensive testing.

It is difficult to separate the cartridge from the handgun and a look at the .32 Magnum is wise. The .32 Magnum it seems was originally intended as a crackerjack field round. For small game the .32 is a hand loaders dream- economical, accurate, and effective on small game. For personal defense it is more problematical. As we grow older we are more sensitive to recoil, the skin is thinner, and the joints ache. A .38 Special revolver, particularly a lightweight version, stings and may just be too much for many shooters. The .32 Magnum is a reasonable alternative. Most 85 grain jacketed hollow point loads will clock 1000 to 1100 fps from the Charter Arms Professional’s three inch barrel. This is approximately .380 ACP class, perhaps a bit more energy, but less expanded diameter. The .32 revolver with standard loads offers light recoil. It is a trade off but a reasonable one. The .32 Smith & Wesson Long, as an example, pushes a 98 grain RNL bullet to a miserable 690 fps!

Charter Arms Professional
The .32 H and R Magnum, left, compared to the .38 Special, right.
Charter Arms Professional
A 5- and a 6-shot .38 Special compared to the 7 shot Charter Arms Professional .32 H and R Magnum, on right.

I liked the revolver enough to experiment with a couple of loads from Buffalo Bore. We are introducing extra recoil into a package that was designed to offer lighter recoil, but we are also increasing wound potential substantially. If carrying the revolver for defense against feral dogs or the big cats the Buffalo Bore loads change the equation. The 100 grain JHP is surprisingly fast — 1220 fps. The point of impact is raised and the revolver is dead on the money at 15 yards. This load is closer to the .38 Special in recoil but offers excellent penetration and expansion. The 130 grain flat point hard cast load breaks 1190 fps. This is a stout load that sometimes offers sticky extraction and should be used sparingly. Recoil is there with this load. Buffalo Bore designed this loading to penetrate the skull of a bear in a last ditch effort to save your life. It will penetrate forty inches of gelatin or more. These loads offer another option in the field for those wanting a lightweight but credible protection handgun.

Charter Arms Professional
With both lead and jacketed hollow point loads available the .32 H and R Magnum is relatively affordable.
Charter Arms Professional
The author fired a Critical Defense bullet into soft mud, left, into water jugs, center, and that is a 100 grain Hornady XTP fired into water, a Buffalo Bore loading.

Loaded with standard loads seniors or inexperienced shooters have a revolver they can use well. Accuracy can make up for power, the reverse is seldom true, and the Charter Arms Professional .32 H&R Magnum has plenty of power and accuracy.

Charter Arms Professional
Compared to the Colt Cobra, top, the Charter Arms Professional is lighter but has a longer barrel.

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REVIEW: Charter Arms Classic Bulldog

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One of the original “handfuls” the .44 Charter Arms Bulldog deserves its place among the iconic concealed carry choices of all time. READ WHY

charter arms bulldog

Robert Sadowski

The Bulldog Classic is Charter Arms’ iconic revolver that was first manufactured in 1973. It looks old school with the tapered 3-inch barrel, exposed ejector rod, and checkered walnut grips. What I like about this revolver is its compact size and .44 Special caliber.

If you have ever seen one of the old school Bulldog revolvers you may have noticed the color of the finish was a purplish blue. This is because the finish of older revolvers changes over time due to the alloy frame. It turns a purplish color while the barrel and cylinder stayed a dark blue. The Classic had a bit of a purple hue to it from the get go, when I placed is against a matte black Charter Arms Pitbull.

charter arms pitbull
Note the purplish hue of the Bulldog Classic (top) compared the matte black finish of a Charter Arms Pitbull (bottom).

In hand, the Classic is lightweight and feels a lot like a .38 Special except for the fatter cylinder which holds five rounds of .44 Special ammo. The nicely shaped wood grip goes well with the Charter Arm medallion. The rest of the revolver has a nice polished look. The wood grip was just large enough to help dissipate recoil into the palm of our hand, yet still be very concealable. The checkering was fine and offered a secure grip.

charter arms bulldog
The Bulldog was compact and offered just enough grip for controllability.

The DA trigger had a pull weight of about 13 pounds — SA was about 3.2 pounds. The trigger was grooved, so even in recoil my finger stayed put. In DA mode, I felt a bit of stacking, but since the cost of this revolver is more than reasonable, I’ll ignore that. The serrated cylinder latch slides forward to open the cylinder. You can also pull forward on the ejector rod to gain access to the cylinder’s chambers — a feature I really like. A slight ring appeared around the cylinder after dry firing and testing. Bulldogs are made to be used and should not be safe queens.

A safety transfer bar is a feature on the revolver. This system prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled fully to the rear.

At the range, the Bulldog felt surprising small and compact to hold 5 chubby .44 Special cartridges. Using a rest at 15 yards, I was pleasantly surprised to get on average 3-inch groups with 5-rounds with all ammo. The 15-yard accuracy test is much farther than the distance you would typically be expected to use this revolver, but I wanted to push the limits of this iconic snub-nose. With the Hornady Classic 180-grain XTP round, I was able to shoot a 2.2-inch, 5-shot group using a rest. That was excellent considering the revolver was compact and had fixed sights.

At closer ranges, I was able to get some excellent groups. The full grip made the Bulldog pleasant to shoot. Remember, this is lightweight revolver, so there is not much weight to help absorb recoil.

I found that when ejecting empties, if I pressed the ejector rod fully out, one of the empty cases would get trapped by the edge of the grip. Not a show stopper since this snub nose is more of a get away weapon, allowing you to fire at close range and get to safety so a fast reload may not be required. As much as it felt good in hand, this could be a liability, so I’d take a Dremel tool to the factory wood grip and fix it. There are plenty of aftermarket grips for the Bulldog if you want to go that direction.

charter arms bulldog
Note the empty case is hung up on the outer edge of the wood grip. This increased reload time.

One thing Charter Arms got right was the point of aim. Fixed sight revolvers can be an issue requiring the shooter to resort to Kentucky Windage. This is not the case with the Bulldog. It hit to point of aim.

I used a holster designed for a S&W J-frame to tote the Charter Arms around and found the size and weight of the Bulldog was comfortable and comforting.

The Bulldog is a compact, accurate, and inexpensive defensive revolver that offers excellent concealability for a revolver chambered in .44 Special.

bulldog specs

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