Charter Arms Bulldog, guard dog in your pocket.

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Charter Arms Bulldog. 44 Special revolver, a guard dog in your pocket.

Charter Arms Bulldog-1

With all the new fangled miniature auto loaders for concealed carry available today  it is tough to beat a snub nose revolver chambered in a cartridge that is loaded with a big heavy slow bullet.

Short barreled revolvers suffer from velocity loss more so than their larger counterparts. A .357 Magnum from a 2 1/4″ barrel is different than the same round from a 6″ barrel but a 6″ barrel is not conducive to concealed carry. That is not saying a .357 pill from a 2 1/4″ barrel is anemic. When velocity loss is unavoidable another option is to go with a large heavy slug. This is where the .44 Special shines.

Chambering the .44 Smith and Wesson Special in a small, lightweight revolver is a solid match as it is a lower pressure round that is not a barn burner. That keeps recoil down over such rounds as the .357 Magnum and allows manufactures to build the revolver lighter for ease in carrying day to day.

The Charter Arms Bulldog is a fine example of that recipe in an affordable revolver built in America.

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The muzzle of the large .44 Special

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The Charter Arms Bulldog rollmark

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The cylinder latch is serrated to help your finger keep traction during a reload

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The cylinder swung out showing the five shot capacity.

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The front sight is serrated to disrupt any glare.

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Fixed rear sight provides and excellent reference for the front sight

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The top strap is grooved for a clear sight picture.

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The trigger broke at a clean 4 1/2 pounds in single action with some take up and little overtravel. Double action was a long 12 pound pull, which is pretty standard for defensive revolvers.

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The star ejector positively ejected the spent cases and is spring loaded to offer a bit of resistance at the end of the throw.

Initial Range Trip

My mom and I were the first to try out the Bulldog test sample. She has helped me with several reviews over the years and is a proficient revolver shooter. She has carried a Ruger SP 101 in .357 Magnum for many years now so she is familiar with snub nose defensive revolvers. She and I ran a few cylinders through the small revolver. It was dead on at thirty feet and pretty soft shooting. My mom even commented on the single action trigger and minor recoil. My opinion so far is the same as hers and not because she can still whip my tail if I disagree with her.

Charter Arms Bulldog .44 special accuracy

Reload 1 was a 200gr Hornady XTP 10.3gr of Bluedot

Reload 2 was a 200gr Hornady XTP 8.5gr Power Pistol

Reload 3 was a 240gr Hornady XTP unknown propellent

Reload 4 was a 240gr lead semi-wad cutter unknown propellent.

Accuracy measured at twenty-five yards from a rest. Considering the distance, the role the revolver was designed for, and the fixed combat sights I was well pleased with the accuracy of the Bulldog.

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Barbara taking careful aim with the Bulldog

Second Range Trip

Me trying out some Hornady Critical Defense in .44 Special

Allison, with the Bulldog and 3 rounds.

At this point we were at around 100 rounds through the Bulldog without issue. With the Hornady Critical Duty, recoil was a bit sharp but manageable with some practice.

Third Range Trip

We took the Bulldog out to run a few reloads that were donated.  These reloads were pretty warm, they will be used for the upcoming ballistic test, but I wanted to get a few groups with them as well for the review.

By now we have run about 125 rounds through the Bulldog without any problems or signs of stress on the frame.

Fourth Range Trip

Roger Pettit of PC Shooting, who was instrumental in getting rangehot.com the Bulldog test sample from Charter Arms, teaches a concealed carry class on a regular basis. I am an assistant instructor in his class and since he was good enough to donate a box of his .44 Special reloads I though it would be a good idea to take the little revolver to his class and let him and any of the students that wanted to try it out. We passed it around and ran a few more cylinders through it bringing total round count to 150 and still the little bulldog was running like a champ. In this last range trip we shot at some defensive targets from about five yards away. Though some of the shooters were less experienced than others they were able to get solid hits with the Bulldog.

Here is Roger shooting the last nine rounds for the test.

Conclusions

Truth be known, I am a fan of the auto-loader for every day carry but after all was said and done, I like the Bulldog. It is soft shooting and easily controlled except with the hot stuff but that is also controllable with a bit of practice. The hammer was easily cocked and the single action trigger was nice. Even double action firing was easy on the finger. I like the .44 Smith and Wesson Special as a defensive round, especially out of a snub nose revolver. It seems like a solid combination.  I can see the Bulldog as a primary carry handgun when concealment is very important but without using a small cartridge. It could also serve well as a back up handgun or even one that could be left loaded in a vehicle, as long as that is done safely. I imagine this revolver with a speed strip reload would be right at home on your hip or glove box. Some women conceal carry in a purse and the benefit of a revolver is it could be fired while inside a purse without worry of a malfunction as with an autoloader in a similar situation. Being a stainless steel revolver, the maintenance would not be as important as on many auto loaders.  Don’t get me wrong, I am all about taking care of what takes care of you but a stainless steel revolver falls just before a rock on the low maintenance scale.

Specifications

Model: 74420
Finish: Stainless
Frame: Stainless steel
Grip: Full
Barrel length: 2.5″
Capacity: 5-shot
Caliber: .44 Special
Hammer: Standard
Weight: 21 oz.
Sugg Retail: $418

 

Acknowledgments

Charter Arms

Hornady

Roger Pettit of PC Shooting

Clinton Jamieson

 

 

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30 Responses to Charter Arms Bulldog, guard dog in your pocket.

  1. Nick Ecker November 18, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    Dear Hunter,

    Great article and good smooth reading.

    Thank you,

    Nick

    • Hunter Elliott November 18, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

      Thank you very much for the kind words Nick. I appreciate you taking the time to let me know your thoughts.

  2. Dusty Engel November 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    Excellent review Hunter, I carried an identical revolver as a daily CCW while working on the Stampede Trail during the late summer of 2010. I started the season with a 5.5″ Raging Bull in .454 Casull carried crossdraw in a Simply Rugged Sourdough Pancake, after a month with no Brown Bears I switched to the Bulldog strongside in a Sourdough Pancake. The only ammo I could find in Fairbanks was CCI Blazer 200 Grain Gold-Dot, turned out to be minute if squirrel ….. ;o) I let it go in a trade when I got back and have missed it ever since. After reading your review I think I need another one …..

    • Hunter Elliott November 20, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

      Thank you very much.
      I did not know exactly what to expect from the Bulldog, as this was my first experience with Charter Arms. I really began to like it as the review progressed and once it was all over I was pretty impressed with how it all turned out.

  3. deesnutsinyomouf November 20, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    Decent review.

  4. Harry December 3, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    You have an awesome mom

    • Hunter Elliott December 3, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

      I would agree HD.
      Thank you for that, I will let her know what you said.

  5. Dick Barnett December 9, 2014 at 8:01 am #

    Enjoyed. I bought mine five years ago and it has been not for sale ever since. I live in Texas and it goes every where I go except where firearms are prohibited of course. Good little revolver.

  6. Patrick Colrnwell January 14, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

    Just picked up a new Bulldog yesterday. Some trepidation, due to mixed reviews on internet, magazines, etc. Chose the Bulldog over the S&W airweight due to airweight being so very light, would rather have 5×44 vs 5 x 38. etc. Brought it home and found out to my chagrin that the hammer will not consistently stay back after cocking, i.e., would fall forward after thumb release. Will be sending it back. Hope this turns out ok…….

  7. Mike Gleixner April 21, 2015 at 8:20 am #

    Excellent review. I love my bulldog, and the fixed sights are dead on at 10 yards. Sweet gun for woods carry too!

  8. Pat April 21, 2015 at 8:14 pm #

    Seems to shoot low with 180 gr lead. Shoots closer to poa with 240gr, but seems to key hole. Suggestions/solutions?

    • Hunter Elliott April 21, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

      The defensive snub nose revolver is not going to be as precision accurate as a range pistol. How low with the 180gr and at what distance? Key hole is due to the bullet not stabilizing enough due to rifling twist vs bullet length, bearing surface.

    • Mike Gleixner April 22, 2015 at 7:01 am #

      I shoot 240 gr LSWCs over 6.5 grains of Unique. Dead on at 10 yards, and leaves a nice, clean, big, round hole.

  9. Pat April 22, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

    I have been using 180 gr and it is 4 inches low at 25 ft. 240 gr os closer to poa. How much of a crip do you use on your
    240 gr under 6.5 gr unique? I dont expect range gun accuracy, but I want the best possible. , have

    • Mike Gleixner April 23, 2015 at 8:31 am #

      Not sure how to measure crimp. All I can say is, it’s enough crimp that I never have had a bullet back out under recoil, and have used as much as 7.0 grains of Unique.

  10. Dave April 1, 2016 at 7:31 pm #

    Great review. I was influenced by your article and I picked up two Bulldogs- the stainless and the classic model with the retro 1970’s look- and love them both. Great guns especially for the money.

    • Hunter Elliott April 1, 2016 at 9:46 pm #

      Thank you very much. I dig the Bulldog and bought the test sample. I have had it out several times since the review and it has yet to give trouble.

  11. Jason May 15, 2016 at 10:54 pm #

    Would it be good to use your left hand to cock the gun? In slow motion you can really see how much time it takes to reset your grip after each shot.

    • Jason May 15, 2016 at 10:55 pm #

      Oh and great review. I forgot to write that before.

    • Hunter Elliott May 15, 2016 at 11:23 pm #

      It would be fine to cock the hammer with your support hand but once I got used to the Bulldog I did not have to adjust my grip after each shot. Either way you like is very feasible.

  12. Brent Cates August 13, 2016 at 11:49 am #

    Great article ,would have liked to have seen The cci included in the group at 25 yds chart . Have carried the CCI 200 gr for years in my Rossi 720 ,my Charter 2000 Bulldog and now in my Boomer .The aluminum cases are just a little lighter for carry . The 165 critical defense is the first round that has made me think about giving up the 200 gr . Would like to get your input on a few things
    .
    Felt recoil CCI vs Critical defense

    Compare the two in the boomer

    how hollow points perform in boomer? Some are saying wadcutters are a better choice for it

    How do the safety slugs work ? I just can’t wrap my head around how they function

    Thank You
    Keep up the good work

    • Hunter Elliott August 14, 2016 at 10:39 pm #

      Here is the ballistic test for the .44 Special http://rangehot.com/44-smith-wesson-special-ballistic-test/
      I can only include ammunition I can find in my area and afford. Recoil was similar in all ammunition, the main increase in recoil would be as bullet weight increases. I had to send the Boomer test gun back, since I have limited resources there is only so much I can do.
      Ammunition in the Bulldog would preform very similar in the Boomer, due to similar barrel lengths.
      Thank you for the input.

  13. Alex August 17, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

    Hmmmmm……I like the look of the boomer especially for pocket carry but I don’t like the porting for shooting from retention. This one looks nice butt I need a hammer shroud for it and it’s a little heavier and bulkier than the Boomer wondering what to do

    • Hunter Elliott August 17, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

      All great points you bring up. I talk about canting the revolver in the video for retention. Good for you to think of that as I had to learn the hard way.
      Take a look at some of the other Charter Arms revolvers as they have a plenty of options. Let me know if that helps please.

  14. LouisianaMan December 13, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    Very nice review, thanks! Hits many helpful points, and highlights a lightweight, hard-hitting snubnose option for SD.

    My stainless .44 Bulldog Pug is an integral part of my day-to-day defensive readiness. It stays in my truck in an inexpensive Soft Armor nylon holster, with a 2-pack of speedloaders and a Speed Strip. Everything is a handload, using Speer 200g GDHP and a max charge of PowerPistol, using Speer’s published data. Milk jug/water tests show beautiful expansion and penetration.

    The whole shebang is atop my console, by my right hand, camouflaged under an intentionally unimpressive hand towel. In the blazing summers here in Louisiana, I use a white one to reflect sunshine and it does a good job of keeping the gun and ammo cool to the touch, thus avoiding the velocity spikes caused by exposure to high temps, sunshine, etc. When things cool down slightly, I use a light blue-gray dish towel that blends in better with my truck’s upholstery.

    I liked the stock rubber grips just fine, experimented with Pachmayrs which are a joy to shoot with, but are much heavier and bulkier. (Great pick for HD use.) Wound up mounting a nice pair of original slim Charter wood stocks obtained on eBay, because it reduces bulk very significantly, provides adequate controllability, and avoids the tendency for shirts to stick to the rubber grips.

    Finally, I dropped in a spurless hammer purchased online from Charter, which sacrifices the single-action option in favor of a snag-free configuration. Drift one pin, remove hammer, drop in replacement hammer, re-install pin. 2 minutes or less, and I have a “factory” smooth, hammerless profile that’s perfect for shooting up close and fast. Five round burst easily on torso-sized target at 10-15 feet, hip-level point shooting, in about 1.5 secs. from low ready position. And I’m a lifelong shooter, but no match competitor or “expert” (except with M16A1, M1911A1, and M9, which dates me as an Army officer 1981-2005).

    Have tried and liked cast bullet handloads of 200g RNFP, 225g WC, and 240g SWC (smushed nose to .36″ sharp-edged meplat), and would feel confident with any of them, but just can’t beat the “flying ashtray” Gold Dots! Must load the cast bullets to 725-800 fps (or more) to avoid keyholing caused by inadequate velocity & stabilization. Also successful with 180g and 200g XTP max loads (c. 880 and 840 fps), which expand and penetrate, just not as massively as the GD’s. Nonetheless, fine substitute and the 180 gives a lower recoil option. Have yet to try some 183g cast WC’s that would be yet another fine solution for either lowest recoil or max velocity. Critical Defense 165g works fine, but penetration is slightly shallow.

    Had one mechanical problem with the gun early on, in which the hammer and trigger would function with the cylinder open. Gun worked fine otherwise, only noticed that by accident. Sent it in for quick, free repair from Charter, which sent back the gun with a short list of other adjustments or repairs they made. Easy, fast, everything works great. Owned a .38 SPL Charter Undercover for many years and never had any problems with it.

    Typically I carry some combination of one or two S&W .38’s, usually I frames, sometimes the larger J frame. These are .38 S&W (NOT .38 Special), loaded with 200g LSWC. But the Charter Bulldog Pug .44 remains always ready on the truck console, under my hand, not trapped by the seat belt like the IWB .38’s.

    If for some reason I find myself unexpectedly jumping in the truck without first donning a .38 or two, I simply tuck in the Bulldog as my carry rig before I get out of the truck, along with two speedloaders and/or a Speed Strip for reloading. Just untuck my shirt in hot weather, or “blouse” it out carefully and it conceals the gun beautifully. Paid local shoe repair shop $6 to move the belt clip up to the top edge of the holster, slowing the draw but providing absolutely max concealment.

    Sorry for the wordy contribution, but wanted to show what a wonderful, versatile job this gun can do. From a practical standpoint, I could skip all my .38’s and simply use the .44 Pug. If necessary, wear two for a “New York reload,” or carry one + one in truck, or Pachmayrs for HD and another with stock rubber or wood grips for carry. Endless combinations of stocks and ammo to fit any need. Think of it this way: 5 shots of .45 ACP performance for roughly half the weight and size, reloading at revolver speed if needed. Works VERY well for me.

  15. Hunter Elliott June 14, 2015 at 11:05 pm #

    I don’t think you could go wrong with the Bulldog in .44 Special. It sure beats 6 rounds of 9mm in my opinion.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] all that in mind, I choose the Charter Arms Bulldog, reviewed here for the ballistic test since it is designed primarily as a self defense […]

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    […] Charter Arms introduced the five shot Boomer, which is based off their Bulldog, which I reviewed about two years ago. You can read that review by following this link.  […]

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