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Charter Arms Bulldog: My experience so far

Discussion in 'The Snubbie Club' started by Landric, Mar 25, 2009.

  1. Landric

    Landric Supervisor?

    I recently picked up a Charter Arms Bulldog Pug .44 Special. Its new production (the date on the fired case envelope was 2-26-2009), 2 1/2" barrel, stainless, and DAO.

    I went to the range on Friday just to test fire it. I shot about 25 rounds through it, some Georgia Arms 200 grain Gold Dot, PMC 180 grain JHP, and my own handloads, 6.5 grains of HS-6 under a 240 grain RNFP. It functioned fine, shot point of aim at 7 to 10 yards with all three bullet weights, and was reasonably accurate. Recoil was stiff but not awful, of the three my rather light handloads were the easiest to control. The only thing I didn't care for was the rather sharp cylinder latch, which cut my thumb during recoil.

    Obviously 25 rounds is not a serious test, I just wanted to function check it. Since it worked fine, I decided to try carrying it around the house and yard while I was working on some projects on Saturday. I used a DeSantis Pocket Holster for a Ruger SP101 and the Bulldog fit perfectly. It slipped right into my front pocket, and while it was obvious something was there, it wasn't obvious it was a gun. The factory grips on the Bulldog enclose the backstrap and are a little long, so the very top of the grip stuck out of the top of my pocket. Charter offers a compact exposed backstrap grip similar to a boot grip, and I placed an order for one on Charter's website. I think that will solve the problem there. The Bulldog is quite light for its size, and didn't seem to drag my pants down at all, much like my usual pocket gun, a S&W 37-2 DAO, and unlike my DAO SP101.

    The reason for my Friday range trip was a IDPA BUG match at The Range in Oxford, NC on Sunday. Those of you who are familiar with IDPA in Central NC know Frank Glover puts on an exceptional match, and this one was no exception. It consisted of twelve 5-round stages. Two stages were set up in each of the six bays used for the match and scored as string one and string two, but in reality it was 12 separate stages. I'm looking forward to the Carolina Cup this year, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see some expanded versions of a stage or two we shot yesterday.

    So, I brought along the Bulldog, 50 rounds of my handloads (again the 240 grain RNFP with 6.5 grains of HS-6) and 50 rounds of Longhorn Ammunition 240 grain LSWC. I shot 35 of my handloads and 25 of the Longhorn rounds. The Bulldog performed well, with one exception. I had two light strikes on the second string of the first stage I shot. That was with my handloads, and I'm willing to accept it was possibly due to high primers or some other error on my part. All my other handloads and the 25 factory rounds fired without a problem. Both of the light stikes fired on the second time around the cylinder, but that cost me some seconds on a stage that should have been much faster (and would have been without the misfires). As I said, those occured on the 7th and 9th times I pulled the trigger, and there were no problems after that.

    I did notice that the factory 240 LSWCs were keyholing at longer ranges, and problem I didn't experience with my handloads or the factory ammo I shot on Friday of last week. Perhaps the Bulldog just doesn't like that bullet.

    Overall, I'm impressed. I wish the cylinder latch wasn't so sharp, and the cylinder turns the "wrong" way, but it seems like a good deal overall. Time will tell how it holds up. Charter basically has the market cornered on a small frame .44 Special. I wish there were more options out there, but the Charter seems like a good deal so far.
  2. Berto

    Berto woo woo

    Sep 15, 2003
    Thanks for the interesting report.
    I've been curious as to how the new Charters are doing.
    FWIW, I had a (Taurus) revolver that gave light strikes before I was required to change out the mainspring. It also showed keyholing issues during the time it was light striking....perhaps inconsistent ignition could be the issue....

  3. Landric

    Landric Supervisor?

    I don't think they are related. The light strikes were likely due to a handloading error on my part, given there were only 2 and they both happened with handloads I'm willing to stick with that theory unless it happens with factory ammo or handloads I am sure are good to go.

    This is my theory on the keyholing: It only happened with the Longhorn 240 grain LSWC. I don't know the specific hardness on the bullets Longhorn uses for this load, but I suspect the bullet is designed for higher velocities. When a lead bullet is too hard for the velocity it is loaded to, the base doesn't expand and bite into the rifling. When that happens two things tend to occur, the bullet is less stable and the gasses passing the bullet in the barrel cause an increase in leading. The Longhorn LSWCs were only keyholing at longer ranges (10 yards or more), which suggests they were unstable in flight, and I had some pretty severe leading in the Bulldog after the match.

    While my range trip last Friday only involved firing 25 rounds through the Bulldog, I also fried quite a few rounds through two other .44 Special revolvers I had along (a S&W 21-4 and a Taurus 431). I fired all the same handloads mentioned above with the 240 grain RNFP. I get my bullets from Missouri Bullet, and those bullets are specifically designed for Cowboy Action velocities (read low). I didn't have my chronograph with me that day, but 6.5 grains of HS-6 is the starting load, so I'd be surprised to see more than 700 fps out of any of the three revolvers ( 2 1/2", 3", and 4" respectively). That is solidly within the velocity range for which the bullet I was using is designed. I had no problems with leading at all in any of the three guns that day. I saw a lot of leading when I fired the Longhorn in the Charter. I think my theory makes some sense.

    Overall I'm quite impressed with the performance of the Bulldog. I look forward to more testing.
  4. Sounds good - keep us up to date, as I've been looking at the new Bulldog myself. Curious how it holds up once the round count gets close/over 1000.
  5. BOGE

    BOGE Millennium Member

    Mar 21, 1999
    They don't. Mine, bought new in Feb. '07, had the bolt spring go bad at less than 200 rds. It failed in the midst of a CCW requal. Talk about :embarassed:. I finished with a borrowed G19. At right around 500 rds. it "vapor locked" and had to send it back to Charter. They fixed it. They had to Nylok in the chintzy screw they use on the breech face as this area peens.

    I love the gun, but as the esteemed Jeff Cooper once said, it's a Class A idea in a Class B platform.

    Advice: these are to be carried a lot & shot little. :whistling:
  6. kirgi08

    kirgi08 Watcher. Silver Member

    Jun 4, 2007
    Acme proving grounds.
    Great info,Thanks.'08.
  7. Landric

    Landric Supervisor?

    There is no doubt that the design could be better executed. I too am interested to see how the gun holds up. Its not a weekly range gun, but it needs to hold up to at least monthly practice and qualifications or its not worth much. Time will tell, but so far I'm pleased.
  8. Dogbite

    Dogbite DNT TREAD ON ME

    May 20, 2000
    Thanks for the review. I have always wondered about Charter Arms, and how they shoot and such.
  9. fastbolt


    Jun 9, 2002
    CA Central Coast
    Hope the new CA works out well for you.

    I haven't revisited owning CA revolvers after a couple of admittedly early experiences with a pair of blued & stainless 3" .44 Bulldogs.

    The blued one keyholed with factory ammunition often enough to be annoying, especially with the early .44 Win STHP. I eventually got rid of that one.

    The stainless one developed a condition where it would lock up during both live fire and dry-fire 1-2 times for every 5 trigger strokes. I returned to the stainless one to the factory for repair 2-3 times, each time getting it back with a letter or work order that it had been repaired. The last time I got it back I picked it up out of the shipping box at the dealer's counter (they paid shipping for me ;) ) and started dry-firing it. The cylinder locked up before I'd made it all way around all 5 charge holes.

    The dealer offered me some sympathetic comments, being familiar with the number of times they had returned it to CA on my behalf, and offered me a decent amount on trade if I wanted to buy something else. Seems they had a bored gunsmith who didn't mind taking on a bit of a challenge. I got rid of it.

    I always thought a lightweight 5-shot .44 Spl was a nice alternative for folks who wanted a compact, large caliber defensive revolver. Obviously I was interested in the concept at one point to buy a couple of them. ;)

    In later years I briefly considered the M296 Airlite but I don't particularly care for titanium cylinders and felt the 296 was a bit large for what it offered.

    I'll always have a bit of a nostalgic spot for a short .44 Spl wheelgun. ;)
  10. mesteve2


    Mar 2, 2001
    I have a .357 mag pug on order.

    2.2" barrel SS Gun and ported.

    I hope it works.:wavey:
  11. Mushinto

    Mushinto Master Member

    The CA .44 Bulldog is a great gun. I have owned several from the different parent companies. Quality could be better, but they are the only game in town for a small big bore snubbie.

    It is also an example of how retarded some other manufacturers are that they cannot seem to make a 5-shot .44 that comes anywhere close in size to the Charter. S&W, Ruger and Colt :)rofl:) could make the gun in a high quality package and charge twice as much as Charter.

    BTW, the Bulldog will fit any holster made for the Colt D frame or Ruger SP101.

  12. doc540


    Apr 25, 2007
    Deep SE Texas
    Once upon a time:

  13. JimBianchi

    JimBianchi Da Da CLM

    Feb 15, 2006
    Las Vegas
    My first carry gun (1988) was CA 44SP SS Bulldog. I had mine bobbed/polished/deburred by a local smith almost as soon as I got it. Made a world of difference. Your report brings back fond memories of a fine little gun.
  14. MBR


    Jan 11, 2000
    I wish C.A. would offer the Bulldog in .45 ACP with 5 round moonclips. I would buy it immeadiatly.
  15. G33

    G33 Frisky! Millennium Member CLM

    May 29, 1999
    With G29
    Carry a lot.
    Shoot little.
  16. Mushinto

    Mushinto Master Member

    I have one of those ^.

    Wish I kept the box.

  17. watsoncb

    watsoncb CLM

    Dec 31, 2006
    Falls Church
  18. Mushinto

    Mushinto Master Member

    I currently use Federal 200 gr LSWCHP but I am interested in the Buffalo Bore lead hollow point.

    Almost 1000 fps with a 255 gr bullet seems a little stout. How is it to shoot? Does the cylinder of the Charter fall off?

  19. PBRLite


    Jan 29, 2009
    Doesn't it clearly say not to shoot Buffalo Bore in a Charter Bulldog .44 Special?
  20. MSgt Dotson

    MSgt Dotson

    Sep 30, 2006
    Even if the Bulldog handles the pressure ok, I'm not sure the pounding of hard loads is good idea...