Reviewed By: Randy R on 04/30/2014
Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]
Charter Arms is making a fine product that rivals, and in some areas, surpasses compact revolvers by S&W, and Ruger.
The Bulldog .44 has been in the Charter line up for decades and must be selling well to have remained in production for so long.
The SS model has a nicely blasted, matte finish and it took a moment to realize the grip frame/trigger guard is aluminum with the same finish - pretty good job Charter Arms! The pistol fits the hand very naturally with no odd dimensions. Hammer cocking is a rather longish pull, smooth with a "rolling" feel to it. DA is very goo at maybe 10 pounds, short throw, and the hammer cocking to about 60% of where it does when hand cocked. There is a feel of "new metal" moving inside...not gritty per se' just brand new parts that will smooth out over time. Repetitive manipulation of the action reveals zero hitches, binding, or tight spots.
The Bulldog reminds me of the (old) Colt Agent with it's beefy barrel, but also because like the Colts, the cylinder rotates to the right meaning as rotational stress is placed on the cylinder ratchet the entire rotating unit is being forced into the frame. This is one of the strong points of Colt and also Charter Arms because under hard recoil, even if the cylinder were to unlatch the hand is present to retain the cylinder in the frame. On S&W the cylinder rotates to the left...the hand essentially trying to push the cylinder out...minor to some, major to others. Also, the barrel-cylinder gap is nicely CLOSE! Just a few thousandths of an inch excess cylinder gap has a major impact on velocity, and on snub-nose revolvers one would like all the velocity possible! Other the years S&W has been a bit inconsistent with BC gaps...my 4" .500 shoots 100fps faster than my 6.5" .500 due to the 6.5" having a "generous" BC gap. It's nice to see that Charter Arms understands what they customer wants and has taken the time to ensure the working aspects of the pistol are put together well. The "fit" of all functional parts is excellent. The only detraction from "perfect" is with aspects of the cosmetic fit. The barrel extends below and above the "flat" of the frame...doesn't affect function one iota, but to the nit-picker it would be a detraction. The neoprene grips are Charter branded which indicates built to fit this frame, yet they protrude 1/8" above the frame at the back. The barrel's bore is not concentric to its outer profile...again, not a function issue, merely cosmetic as compared to the way an S&W is put together.
Areas I think are superior are the narrower cylinder stop notches and generously relieved scallop into the notch - zero chance of a chamber skip. The cylinder crane fits inside the frame which while not as aesthetically pleasing as the way Smith does it, it mechanically better. Already mentioned the "reverse rotation" cylinder, and tight BC gap. Also, front and back of the cylinder is generously beveled. The sights are also superior...reverse wedge front - wide blade, with a wide, deep channel that it is easy to pick up and allows enough light on either side of the blade to assist in fast aiming.
The Bulldog is only slightly larger than a J-frame...about one inch longer - with it's 2.5" barrel, and about 1/4" wider through the cylinder. It weighs 19.6 ounces according to my calibrated postal scale. That's 5.1 ounces more than my M-642 PRO. Considering the Bulldog is pushing out approximately 100 lb-ft more kinetic energy, the trade off seems reasonable. Aside from the person who must shave off absolutely every ounce possible, the bottom line is that if one can and wishes to CC a J-frame, one can CC a Bulldog .44 just as easily, and the .44 special is considerably more powerful.
It's a shame that S&W or Ruger has never managed to figure out the unique market (some would say novelty) that exists for a genuinely compact .44 caliber, but for Charter Arms this means the Bulldog has no real competition, and I suspect they sell all they can built each year.
I was going to give it a 4 star rating due to the cosmetic imperfections, however the more I factor in the mechanical pluses the more I realize this little gun deserves the full five stars!
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