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Old 10-12-2011, 15:16   #1
PVQ
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My Opinion - Charter Arms Pitbull .40 S&W Revolver

Though I do have a couple of Glocks, I've always considered myself a revolver aficionado. I'd heard of Charter Arms, but honestly, prior to this purchase, I never actually had the opportunity to fondle a Charter Arms revolver. I did an exhaustive amount of internet research on Charter Arms and, with some trepidation, ordered my Pitbull from Davidsons, sight unseen. What follows is a rather lengthy review of my revolver in particular, and Charter Arms' owner, employees, and company in general. To those interested in my impressions of the gun without a desire to read further...I LOVE IT! I think it is a fine quality revolver that will most certainly outlast me (and probably my children) with a reasonable amount of use and care. But I feel the need to recount (in painstaking detail) not only my opinion of my revolver, but of the company itself. There is a lot of negative opinions about Charter Arms out there on the net. Since my experience has been extremely positive, I want to share it for those that might be considering a Charter.
So that you might have some context for my opinion, I have been a law enforcement officer for the past 24 years. I spent 10 of those years as a certified firearms instructor and have bought and sold more guns than I care to recount (since I have regretted nearly every one that I let go.) I began my career with a variant of the S&W 686 as a service weapon, and a Ruger SP101 as an off duty. I've had many snub nose revolvers (mostly S&W) through the years. I was one of the last to begrudgingly convert to a semi-auto, and only after my agency adopted the Glock. (Their first foray into the "wondernine" world was the S&W 6906 which I held in low regard.) To this day I prefer revolvers and am elated that Charter has taken the initiative to develop and market a self defense revolver that accepts rimless ammunition since that is what I am currently issued.
Despite that fact that there were a number of Charter Arms authorized dealers in my area, none had the PitBull in stock, and none indicated that were planning to order them. One of the unintended consequences of the internet is that dealers seem to be restricting their stock to only the most popular firearms. This prevents educated consumers (like me) from "cherry picking" the best one in stock. With no alternative means of getting my mitts on a Pitbull, I ordered one from Davidsons and had it shipped to my local dealer.
I was pleasantly surprised when I picked up my new revolver. It was tight, locked up solidly, and exhibited much more of a quality "feel" than I had expected based on some of the internet information I had read. There were no machine marks or sharp edges, the revolver was finished well, and timing was flawless. One issue of immediate concern was that the ejector rod was very stiff. I chalked it up to the fact that the gun was brand new and needed a good cleaning and lubrication. Armed with "Davidsons Lifetime Guarantee" as well as Charter Arms "Lifetime Warranty", I accepted the gun, hopeful that Charter would resolve any issues that might arise.

At my first opportunity, I sat down to do a side by side comparison of my new Pitbull with my Ruger LCR. (FYI, my LCR has about 150 +P rounds through her) Despite the fact that the Pitbull is a larger gun (most similar in size to the Colt D frame Detective Special), I think it is valuable to compare the Pitbull to the LCR since it appears to me that both are similarly constructed. Both the Pitbull and the LCR feature a two piece frame, enclosed crane, and lack a cylinder stop. My admittedly unscientific observations are that the Pitbull is virtually identical to the LCR in terms of tolerances. Both revolvers lock up tightly, there is no play in the cylinders when the trigger is held to the rear, the "hand" and "cylinder bolt" of each revolver appear to be proportionately sized and of equivalent strength, and the (very minimal) amount of "end skake" is the same in both revolvers. Those of you familiar with the LCR know that it utilizes a completely different trigger system which I think is without equal. The Charter trigger was a bit gritty out of the box, but "smoothed up" beautifully after dry firing it a hundred times or so. One criticism I have seen about the Charter revolvers is that there is greater than normal "cylinder wobble" when the cylinder is opened and hanging on the crane/ejector rod assembly. This appears to be because the crane is narrower where the ejector rod passes through in order to accommodate the "slip collar" on the ejector rod which slides into place to provide a locking point when the cylinder is closed. This may be difficult to visualize without handling the revolver, but I do not envision this being a problem. There is less "cylinder wobble" when the crane is open on the LCR, but the LCR locks up with a detent on the end of the extractor rod (like an S&W), allowing for more metal on the crane which I believe accounts for that difference.

The revolutionary feature of the Pitbull is that it allows the use of (so called) rimless ammunition without need of moon clips. This is accomplished by means of spring loaded tabs that engage the cartridge rim when inserted. As a result, the rounds don't just "fall" into the chamber when reloading since some force is required to push back the spring loaded tab. One trick to reloading is to depress the extractor rod to lift the star, then placing cartridge on to the extended tab, allowing the round to "fall" into the chamber when the extractor star is lowered. I loaded and unloaded the cylinder about one hundred times to evaluate its reliability. Initially, one of the five tabs would stick and fail to engage the cartridge case. One drop of Militec oil (from a pin point oiler) solved that problem. I assume, much like the trigger assembly, the tabs need to wear in a bit. It is important to point out that the spring loaded tabs serve ONLY to allow for the extraction of the spent shells. The cartridge itself is headspaced in the cylinder, so even without the tabs in place, the cartridges would seat properly and not fall through. The rimless system seems very robust and I think it will perform well long term.
When, after a through lubrication and cleaning, the ejector rod continued to bind, I emailed Charter Arms to arrange to return the gun for repair. Since I live in NYC (where it is unlawful to ship firearms except through an FFL) I had inquired as to whether or not I would be able to bring the gun to the factory (about 75 miles from my home) and have it repaired while I waited. Imagine my surprise when I received a call from Nick Ecker (Owner and President of Charter Arms Inc.) personally on a Sunday! Mr. Ecker told me that Charter would, of course, cover all shipping and handling in the event that I wanted to ship the gun to them, but he invited me to visit the factory for a tour while my gun was repaired. I was giddy at the prospect of a factory tour, and happily chose the latter.
When I arrived, I was greeted by Mr. Ecker who proceeded to take me on a step by step tour of his factory, which is basically a classic machine shop. All parts in a Charter revolver are manufactured within a 100 mile radius of the factory, with assembly, fit and finishing done by Charter. I got to meet many of his employees (there are just under 30) who (in addition to being extremely friendly) were proud to demonstrate their role in the manufacture and distribution of these fine firearms. I really got the sense that Charter Arms is a family. Mr. Ecker noted that his company has a "zero" attrition rate, and that most of his employees were there when he bought back the business back in 1999. (If you visit charterfirearms.com you can read about the full history of the company.)

It is also worthy of note that I asked Mr. Ecker how many of his employees were devoted to warranty repairs. In response he pointed to a cabinet containing about a half-dozen guns. He also volunteered that since 1964, approximately two million Charter Arms revolvers have been sold, and that cabinet was typical of what was "in house" at any given time for repair. There are no employees dedicated to warranty service since it is simply not necessary. All repairs are completed on the regular assembly line, and turn around time is normally five business days or less. In my view that speaks volumes about the durability, reliability, and over all quality of Charter Arms revolvers.

During my brief visit, I developed a tremendous admiration for Mr. Ecker. He, along with his employees, truly embody the traditional American values of hard work, pride, and craftsmanship. He is justifiably very proud of his company. All of us who cherish our Second Amendment rights owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Ecker (and others like him) who overcome enormous regulatory and legal hurdles to bring their product to market.

On Wed 10/12/2011 I headed to the range for a quick test run. One thing that struck me right away is that the Pitbull seems perfectly balanced, points naturally, and has a very comfortable grip. I realize this is totally subjective, and not entirely unexpected since I have always regarded the old Colt Detective Special as the perfectly sized, weighted and balanced snub-nosed revolver. An added bonus is that I was able to squeeze the Pitbull into my old Cobra Gunskin H-35 paddle holster which I regard as the best holster I have ever owned. For me it just feels right.

Due to time constraints, I was only able to fire 65 rounds (Federal 135 grain HST), but I can state that gun shot to point of aim and exhibited excellent combat accuracy out to 15 yards. Like most weapons I have fired...the gun is capable of higher accuracy than I am. There were no malfunctions and the revolver functioned superbly. Spent casings ejected easily, and the extractor tabs functioned smoothly. Three friends that were with me each test fired the Pitbull and were equally as impressed as I was.

In summary, I am happy to report that I am extremely satisfied satisfied with my Charter Arms revolver, due in no small measure to the company that manufactured it. Charter Arms revolvers have a decidedly different "feel" than either Ruger or S&W, but I would not characterize it as a feel of a lower quality...just different. I have no plans to torture test my personal weapon, but I read somewhere that tolerances in one of the initial Ruger LCRs remained within factory spec after 10,000 rounds fired (some with the crane screw removed) and I have no reason to believe that a Charter Arms revolver would perform any differently. Here is a link from the Charter Arms website to a "torture test" of 2000 rounds performed on one of their aluminum framed revolvers with favorable results http://www.charterfirearms.com/audio...ure%20Test.MP3 I have to imagine a steel frame would fare even better. I doubt my Charter revolver will see 5000 rounds until my grandchildren are using it, but I am confident that it could handle many more rounds than that, and if any issues did arise, they would be expeditiously resolved by the Charter Arms family.

I would like to close by urging any of you considering the purchase of a revolver to give Charter Arms a hard look. I own S&Ws, and Rugers...and I like them very much, but there is an intangible satisfaction that comes from owning and carrying a fine quality American revolver, made by a small company that does one thing and does it exceedingly well. I echo the sentiments of Congressman Ron Paul in that I consider myself a capitalist, NOT a corporatist. That is not a swipe at S&W or Ruger, nor is it meant to say that all large corporations are bad...but I do think that small businesses like Charter Arms are the backbone of this great Republic. Mr. Ecker is Patriot who manufactures an excellent product, and whom I am proud to support.

Thanks for taking the time to read my opinion.
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Old 10-12-2011, 18:03   #2
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Interesting.
Thanks.
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Old 10-16-2011, 20:13   #3
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Wow, that's one hell of a post.

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Old 10-18-2011, 13:29   #4
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I always liked Charter. I think they get a bad rap. I have worked at Gun Shops for over Ten Years and have seen many different makes of Guns Sent back to the Manufacturs for repair and replacement.
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Old 03-28-2012, 10:42   #5
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My take, which is LEO, on the Charter Arms Pitbull:

http://thinblueflorida.com/?p=1078

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Old 03-28-2012, 11:02   #6
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I've only owned one Charter Arms gun years ago & it was the Bulldog 44 spl. It had the same issues you describe, plus other problems - the screw in the recoil shield kept backing out, sometimes the trigger would get stuck (both in the forward & backward position), the action was gritty & the cylinder frequently would not close. At that time, there was really no other big-bore snubby available. Charter's main selling point is not quality products, but rather offering something unusual that no one else offers at a cheaper price.

The factory may keep fixing it forever, but when they return it to you, you still have an unreliable gun that wears out quickly. Besides, you don't get to choose when the gun fails you - at the range, on the street or in your home.

It's not always a good thing when the action "smoothes up" dramatically with little use. That may be because the steel is so soft it allows burrs & the sloppy-fitted parts to wear smooth quickly.
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Old 03-28-2012, 13:38   #7
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Thanks for the write up, I've been waiting on the 9mm, now im sure I want it

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Old 03-28-2012, 14:20   #8
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ive owned three C.A wheelies, two 2.5" .44spl bulldogs and one 3" .22lr pathfinder.

the pathfinder was a great little gun. the bulldogs were poorly made and still had the same problems after being "fixed" by the company. this was in the late 80's.

id really like to try a current bulldog .44spl but nobody in my area that i know of has one for me to fire at the range for trials and i can put any more of my money down the toilet if theyre messed up again.

ive handled two current production C.A. guns one was a 4" .22lr pathfinder and the other was a blued 2.5" .44spl bulldog. both guns were gritty feeling when opening and closing the cylinder, working the ejector rod, and dry firing. both guns showed noticable porosity blow holes on the surface of the metal. (NRA mag cover with .40cal pitbull shows them too). a s.s. .38 modern C.A. wheely seized up during firing with factory new ammo during a "ladies" personal safety class i helped with.

just not impressed with the ones ive seen lately. gun mags get sent the hand cherry picked samples to review, not the off the local gun shelf gun you and i buy.

id really like to find a good C.A. .44spl. i like big bore snubbies that are small. do the C.A. bulldogs still come with a skinny shark fin like cyclinder stop? the ones i had wore down (rounded the edges) enough that you could manually rotate the cylinder backwards (reverse of normal rotation) with minimal force.
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Old 03-30-2012, 09:30   #9
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I like the replies, guys.

Snaps, a 9mm version is in the works, so we just need to be patient.

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Old 03-30-2012, 13:03   #10
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My first SD revolver was a Charter Arms Detective Special I bought in 1983 and I never experienced any issues with it. I'm curious to know what comparison the OP could make between the felt recoil of the Pit Bull vs the LCR or the SP101.
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Old 03-30-2012, 14:30   #11
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I, too, wanted the CA Pitbull, however, my local candy store tried to get me one, but none of his distributors had any available. Apparently, they're very popular right now. I instead, ordered a CA Police Undercover, a six shot 38 Spl. version.After receiving the gun, it too, was a little rough around the edges, but she has fired every time I pulled the trigger. The revolver will make a good carry gun for anyone. It is not as finely finished as a Smith or Colt, but it works, and works well. Down the road, I see another one or two joining the .38. Possibly a .22 and a .44 Spl., or the .40. I just seems like so many guns, and so little money.

I enjoyed your review, and think that Charter Arms is making a good, usable revolver.
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Old 03-30-2012, 22:30   #12
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L Pete,

I agree about the finish on thr CA guns, but If they function properly, then they fulfill their role as self defense tools! Thanks for taking the time to read the review.

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Old 04-04-2012, 15:31   #13
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An E-mail from Charter Arms:

We are in the final stages of testing for the 9mm. We hope to be shipping by the end of April or in May. The .45 is being developed now at may be available by the end of the year.

We are very excited about the newest edition to the Pitbull series and thank you for your continued interest in our American made revolvers!
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Old 04-04-2012, 18:07   #14
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I am glad to here someone saying nice things about one of my favorite companies. I had some experience with the original .44 Bulldog that a friend owned and liked it but never picked up one on my own. I saw the guns that were produced under the 'Charco" and "Charter2000" labels and was underwhelmed. I looked at the new Charter Bulldog, liked what I saw, wished they would return the old 3" barrel but bit the bullet and bought the pug. I was,and still am completely impressed totally satisfied and really, really enjoy the gun. The fact that I am a reloader helps a great deal. And, as my luck usually runs, six-weeks after I bought mine, Charter announced the "retro" 3" <sigh>
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Old 04-04-2012, 20:57   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DustyJacket View Post
An E-mail from Charter Arms:

We are in the final stages of testing for the 9mm. We hope to be shipping by the end of April or in May. The .45 is being developed now at may be available by the end of the year.

We are very excited about the newest edition to the Pitbull series and thank you for your continued interest in our American made revolvers!

this right here keeps my dumb ass on the hook for C.A.
im a .44spl snubby 5 shot fan. C.A. is the only maker who now has these guns in production. Taurus had a nice line up that they dropped, Rossi did too for some reason.

but now C.A. is trying to make the .44spl bulldog right, and following it up with a ".45" acp/colt? in the same sized gun.

9mm and .40cal 5 shot "k" frame size guns dont impress me. .44spl, .45acp or colt do.

im so damn tempted.......
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Old 04-04-2012, 23:24   #16
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.45 ACP not .45 Colt (as specified in my original e-mail)

If the 9mm is a j-frame 5-shot, I am in.
If the .45 is a 5-shot I am in.

One of the best shooting revolvers I've ever owned was a 4" CA Target Bulldog .44 from the late 1970s. I should never have sold it. What a great CCW gun.
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Old 04-05-2012, 21:14   #17
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70's 44spec were great! The other owners went w/ a imported engineer=probs
latest version,owned by friend, has had many max loads fired=all good. looking 2 get another in .44. .40 has me thinking. 9mm, hmmm.
Why is there now this idea"don't have 2 mess w/ moon clips"? They are the fastest surest load & unload ever! u carry 2 inverse in the same pouch or pocket.
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