Earlier I compared the Smith&Wesson 442-1 and the Ruger KLCR (and Glock 26) on the range. You can read about it here: Smith and Wesson 442-1 and Ruger KLCR Comparison Part 2: Range Report
I decided it was time to see how the Charter Bulldog in 44 Special would perform in the same FBI qualification course I ran the others in. So I loaded up some 200gr LSWCHP practice rounds ran them through the chronograph to get them around 950 fps which is the speed of my carry ammo, and set out to the range to run them in the course.
The Bulldog has 1190 rounds through it at the time of this writing. It has served as my winter carry as well as my desert carry. It has proven itself to be reliable, accurate, and easy to carry. With 200gr Speer Gold Dot JHP hand loads moving over 950 fps backed by 240gr JHP hand loads moving over 900 fps and some snake shot, it can handle almost anything I would encounter in the high or low deserts in a light weight package.
I wrote about the Bulldog here: The Charter Arms Bulldog 44 Special
While some have gotten a bad rap, mine has been flawless and I trust it. The only change I have made since the writing, was to paint the front sight green and go back to the Pachmayr grip due to my hand injury, which added 3.5 ounces over the wooden grips but allowed for me to get a full grip on the firearm. I may look to a Tyler T in the future and go back to the wooden grip but for now, this will do.
I have taken it on many desert incursions where it was covered in dirt, grime, and dust. It never once failed to fire. I also have run 300 rounds out of it at one time with zero issues. To date I have only had to check screw torques and tighten the cylinder release latch screw after some range sessions. I use the same rule of thumb with the Smith: hand-tighten then 1/4 turn of torque on all screws.
TALE OF THE TAPE
|Revolver||Weight Unloaded||Weight Loaded||Height||Length||Width||Materials|
|Charter Bulldog 44||21.6oz||25.2 oz||4.92″||7.25″||1.46″||Stainless|
|Ruger KLCR||17.1oz||19.1oz||4.50″||6.50″||1.28″||Polymer and Stainless|
|Smith 442-1||14.6oz||16.6oz||4.25″||6.33″||1.30″||Stainless and Carbon Steel|
All weights were my current configurations: The Charter with the Pachmayr Compaq grip and 200gr Speer Gold Dots, the Ruger with a modified boot grip and 135gr Speer Gold Dots in 38 +P, and the Smith with the Altamont wood boot grips and 135gr Speer Gold Dots in 38+P.
|Revolver||Cylinder Rotation||Cylinder Release Action||Barrel Length|
|Charter Bulldog 44||Clockwise||Push forward||2.5″|
|Ruger KLCR||Counter Clockwise||Push back of Release in||1.875″|
|Smith 442-1||Counter Clockwise||Push forward||1.875″|
Charter came in at 12.3lbs out of the box. It is slightly longer than the Smith but shorter than the Ruger and can be short stroked or “locked” if not released fully. The reset is not as long as the Ruger.
The Smith trigger out of the box weighed in at 14.15lbs. It has a positive reset and is quick to manipulate but seems heavier despite the measured weights.
The LCR out of the box weighed in at 10.12 lbs. It was most susceptible to short stroking due to the long reset.
Out of the three, I like the Smith length and reset the best, the Charter trigger weight the best, and the LCR break the best. They all have their pros and cons.Just train and get used to whatever you choose.
The HKS are the only speed loaders I found available for the Charter. They work well with it in any grip configuration. The cylinder releases just like the Smith for easy reloads.
The recoil on the 44 special Charter is a lot less than the Smith 442 and Ruger KLCR running the 38+P rounds which directly translated to more accurate follow-up shots.
The Charter sights are much like the Smith sights. Thin non replaceable front sights with blade rear sights that are machined into the frame that cannot be changed out. The Ruger is the only one with the changeable front sight albeit it is thicker.
ACCURACY AT 10-15 YARDS
To go back to the accuracy of the 442 and KLCR shooting +P one-handed slow fire:
Compared to the Charter @ 15 yards with full power 240 grain handloads:
I would put them about the same accuracy wise at short ranges.
Please note that the charter has a 2.5″ barrel while the 38’s have 1.875″ barrels.
ACCURACY AT 25 YARDS
To go back to the accuracy of the 442 and KLCR shooting +P two-handed slow fire:
This is where the 44 special shines:
It is great at long-range.
FBI QUALIFICATION COURSE RESULTS
Note: This was not done officially. This is my own personal training group.
Passing is 48 out of 60. In one of the 3 yard stages requires 3 shots strong hand then a hand swap 3 shots weak hand in 8 seconds…. so with the 5 shot revolvers, you lose a shot needing to achieve a 48 out of 59.
I shot a 54/60 PASS and only put one round off target with the Charter. It was very accurate and very easy to shoot. Out of the three revolvers, I was fastest split time wise with the Smith. I attribute that directly to the trigger. It’s shorter than both the Charter and Ruger and has a more positive reset which required more trigger release on the others to prevent short stroking. The Smith was also faster out of the holster and on target, but not by much. The Ruger came in a close third on all counts. Mostly due to the long trigger.
In comparison here is how I did with the others:
Glock 26 9mm – 50/60 PASS missed no par times. Second time around 59/60.
Ruger KLCR 38 Special – 34/60 FAIL missed 4 par times (all short-range) one being the reload
Smith 442 38 Special – 48/60 PASS, missed no par times
I had a 41 round session before hand to make sure my reloads were shooting where my carry ammo was and then the other 59 shots for the course so I was at 100 rounds for the day.
It is very accurate and other than a few drifters to the left everything was in the COM
If could sum it up in one sentence: These snub nose revolvers are the best and you can’t go wrong with any of the three. But for comparison sakes…
The Charter is more accurate at longer distance, has less recoil ( when using the 200gr), and definitely has more sectional density than the 38’s therefore makes bigger holes. The 44 special has always been known for its soft recoil and accuracy.
Here is a side by side comparison of my two carry bullets, the Speer Gold Dot 200gr 44 caliber on the right and the Speer Gold Dot 135 grain 38 caliber..
The Smith and Ruger were both better fit and finish out of the box as the Charter needed some break in as described in my earlier review. I still think trigger wise, the Smith is the best of the bunch. The Charter can lock up or short stroke without a full release, not as easy as the Ruger short strokes, where the Smith has a great reset and does not do this. I have only short stroked the Charter once under speed shooting.
Fit and finish wise The Smith’s forcing cone had some machine marks, and the Ruger was perfect. So if you care about fit and finish I’d say: Ruger, Smith, Charter in that order. But I break in all my revolvers as I broke in the Charter described in the original review so it wasn’t much of an issue for me.
Reloading issues with the Charter I encountered was the occasional hung case under speed reloading with the higher pressure rounds which required a pull out because it just wouldn’t come out. I have experienced this about five times since I bought it.
Concealing all three is easy, with the Charter being longer and larger but still easy to conceal under a shirt. The Charter also doubles as an excellent desert/woods carry gun. The 240 grain bullets will take care of anything short of a grizzly bear. Whether it be a mountain lion, coyote, or other rabid animal or two legged threat.
What I don’t like about the Charter is holster availability. The Galco stow and go is made for the little snubs but the same model is supposed is used for the Charter Bulldog and it hangs out of the holster due to the longer barrel and sometimes I can feel the front sight get caught and drag on the draw. But I love the stow and go. I wonder if a 3″ SP101 holster will fit. It is the best easy on and off and most comfortable and flexible holster I found for concealed carry AIWB.
Otherwise I cannot say enough good things about the Charter Bulldog. Long term, it has been doing just fine. If you do not own one and you hand load, you should. You are missing out on a great little revolver in a great big caliber.