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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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