Charter Arms .44 Bulldog Review

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I’ve been fascinated by the big-bore snub nose revolver ever since the early 80’s when I read about a woman who rotated the tables on a would-be rapist. When he grabbed her, she grabbed a .44 out of her purse and ensured he would never harm anyone ever again.

The Charter Arms Bulldog was always the gun I imagined her carrying. Yes, there were other big bore snubby revolvers on the market, but the Bulldog always seemed to be the gun I envisioned. I suppose the name “Bulldog” helped conjure that image.

The Bulldog has been around for almost 40 years now, and it has undergone a few refreshes over the years. But the same basic gun has always been there: a short barreled, five-shot revolver throwing a big chunk of lead downrange.

.44 Special Tiger

The Bulldog I reviewed was the model 24420, which is outfitted with a handsome black and OD green stripe pattern similar to the Tiger Stripe cam patterns.

As with other contemporary Bulldog revolvers, this one was chambered in .44 Special and had a 2.5” barrel. The hammer is exposed, allowing for double action or single action fire.

The double action trigger pull was somewhat heavy, averaging 11 pounds 8 ounces. Although not as smooth as a Colt Python, the trigger was not bad, and certainly acceptable for a defensive handgun.

The single action trigger pull ran a touch over 3.5 pounds, and was very nice. There was just a slight amount of take up in single action mode and then a clean break.

The sights are fixed, with a ramp front and notch rear. The sights are machined into the barrel and frame, so there are no easy adjustments or swaps if you are so inclined.

The hard rubber grip is full sized, meaning your pinky won’t fall off the end. The grips feel good in the hand, but somewhat narrow. If the rear of the grip was a little wider, I think that would have filled my hand perfectly.

As with other Charter Arms revolvers, the cylinder on the Bulldog rotates clockwise.

The ejector rod is shrouded, which is a nice extra.

The unloaded weight of this gun was 21 ounces, though it felt lighter. When held, the weight was clearly distributed forward toward the barrel.

A 4” model of the Bulldog is available. That gun has adjustable sights and a stainless steel finish, with an unloaded weight of 23 ounces.

MSRP on the Bulldog Tiger is $466.

Proof is in the Shootin’

I won’t lie: I was pretty stoked to carry this out to the range. I’ve shot other .44 Specials & Magnums, but never the Bulldog.

I took along a variety of practice loads plus two Hornady hollowpoints: the 165 grain Critical Defense FTX and the Custom 180 grain XTP loads. All of the loads were 100% reliable with the Bulldog.

As you might expect with the .44 Special, none of the loads could be described as punishing, and all were more than accurate enough for self defense work. At 15 yards, none of the loads escaped a 4” circle.

The best load out of the revolver, for pure accuracy, was the Magtech Cowboy Action ammo. This load features a 240 grain flat point lead bullet rated at 761 fps.

As recounted in a recent review on the Charter Arms Off Duty, my chronograph appears to be possessed by demons from the Brady Campaign, and is out of commission. So, I do not have any velocity numbers for you.

The only gripe I had about the Bulldog was the black front sight. I know some people like having sights that are completely blacked out, but I’m not one of them. I like big, bright front sights.

The front sight on the Charter Arms revolver was large enough, but with it being black, I had trouble finding it quickly. I’d prefer a bright orange insert on that ramp, but that’s just me.

Ever Meet a Star?

I don’t know if you’ve ever met one of your childhood heroes, but I have. For some people the meeting is an utter disappointment, while other people find their hero is even better in person.

I had high hopes when I got the Charter Arms Bulldog, but was worried it might not live up to my expectations. Fortunately for me, it did.
I found the Bulldog to be a solid, well-built handgun for a very reasonable price. The Tiger paint style just added to the cool factor.

For fans of the big bore revolver, the Charter Arms Bulldog is well worth consideration.

Related

Richard Johnson

An advocate of gun proliferation zones, Richard is a long time shooter, former cop and internet entrepreneur. Among the many places he calls home is http://www.gunsholstersandgear.com/.


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  • http://rockinaseaofchaos.blogspot.com That Guy

    Nice review. My wife gave me a Charter Bulldog for my birthday this year. It had an issue right out of the box, but charter fixed it. It has been a solid 100% performer since then.

    It is my BUG. It does exactly what I need it to do.

  • http://falnfenix.blogspot.com Laura

    My other half bought a Bulldog relatively recently and our experience with it is identical to yours. He’s run the Magtech through it with no problems, but will likely be looking for defensive loads. What were your opinions of the Hornady defensive loads?

  • armed_partisan

    I like it. Never liked the crane and extractor setup on Charter Arms revolvers. Very, very complicated, should you ever need to take one apart. That said, it looks cool and I wouldn’t mind having one for carry.

  • West

    This was also the gun that David Berkowitz AKA ‘Son of Sam’ used to shoot his female victims in New York City in the late 1970′s.

    • Ed

      His victims were male and female couples not just women

  • Jae Senn

    Dwayne Johnson’s snub-nosed .454 Ruger Super Redhawk in “Faster” should be more ass-kicking than this! I wonder how he handled the recoil!

  • Martin (M)

    Did the author mean to say ‘other big bore snubby revolver’? I wouldn’t consider a Charter Arms to be snobbish in the least.

    Good review, though. I actually like big bore snubby revolvers, even when they’re a little snobby.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/ Steve (The Firearm Blog)

      Martin, it was a typo and is fixed.

  • 3Speedyfish3

    Sweet review. I had a Charter Arms .38 as a BUG that was just fine. The Tiger Stripe is Magnum PI goodness!

    ‘fish

  • Sean

    I have two Bulldogs. They aren’t fancy(ok, one is. I polished it mirror bright). They are what they are. Solid, dependable things. I would not shoot an IPSC match with one. I use them for basic defensive guns. One is hidden in an odd location in case it is needed. The other I carry in winter months when a .38 just doesn’t seem like enough.

  • http://oldnfo.blogspot.com Old NFO

    Nice review, thanks!

  • Bob Z Moose

    A gun that you should never drop in the grass… You’ll every find it! (Thank you, I’ll be here all week.)

    On a side note, how’s the recoil on the snubby 44′s? I’ve been thinking it would be worth the extra weight for the stopping power over a 38.

    • Mike

      Bob, check out the FBI results at this website I came across. They list bare gelatin & the same covered with 4 layers of denim.
      http://www.firearmstactical.com/ammo_data/ammodata.htm
      How much penetration is too much? Ask innocent bystanders.
      For me, the heaviest bullet with no more than 12 inches penetration should work best for keeping me out of any lawsuits & protect my life.
      Speer’s Gold Dots do well though denim/barriers. Hope this helps.

  • rhogg

    Not real encouraging when Buffalo Bore states on it’s website that every other modern 44 SPC except the Charter Arms (Bulldog) revolvers are safe for their ammo.

  • DM

    I have some Buffalo Bore ammo in other calibers and it is maufactured to high pressures.
    I only use it in 4 inch barrel or longer. I would not even think of using it in any snub. The recoil would be a bit much. BB makes ammo for short barrel revolvers in .38 special standard pressure. I am going to try it in my wifes Charter Cougar. I use Corbon 165 gr. JHP in my Charter Tiger and my 4″ Smith 29 Classic for standard carry and Hornady .44 mag 240 gr. XTP in my Smith for special carry situations. When I decide what Buffalo Bore to buy for the Smith I will most likely change from the Hornady, maybe.

  • DM

    Buffalo Bore has come out with a .44 Special round SKU# 14E. It is the Anti-Personell .44 Spl. 200 grain Hard Cast Wad Cutter, Standard Pressure Low Flash. I contacted BB and they stated it is the only round BB makes that is safe to use in any Charter Arms .44 Special revolver. I hope to test it in the near future. Good luck Bulldog owners!

  • chris

    I have a problem with mine . It won’t open after as few as 5 shots. Any suggestions.

    • http://centurylink pita

      yes, throw it in the river, please.

      • http://centurylink sweetpea

        MY PUG .44 IS A REPLACEMENT. THE 1st ONE BLEW OUT THE CYLINDER. I BELIEVE EITHER THE METAL USED IN THE CYLINDERS IS TOO MUCH ALLOY OR THE CYLINDEER WALLS ARE TOO THIN FOR THE .44 CTG. THIS NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED BY CHARTER.

        • kalbo

          the two I got were crap. get rid of it. even when repaired it broke. I would not bank my like on a charter arms gun.

  • DM

    Work the action with the hammer and move the cylinder with your hand to open and unload it. It has a life time warranty and they have great customer service. Contact them and send it in for repair if you need to.

  • http://acplindia.net/ Cranes Spares Parts

    This blog is very informative , I am really pleased to post my comment on this blog .

  • Joe

    I have a CA Bulldog from the 1970 era. I think it is too much cartridge for such a lite frame. I want to sell it.

    • James Frame

      You wouldn’t live in Florida, would you? If so, I’d be interested in your Bulldog…..Jim

    • duke

      Where do you reside. How much for it? I want it.

  • Patrick

    I have one and I love it. It’s my CC weapon when I’m in the mountains in case I run into a bear or a cat. When I’m in the mountains I carry 240gr cast bullets in it and when I do carry it in town I use 200gr Winchester Silvertips. The recoil will get your attention but it’s managable.

  • AJ

    I have one as well and I couldn’t be happier. I picked one up (SS, DAO) about a year and a half go and have put about 600 rounds through it so far. I didn’t like some of the off brand ammo, as it’s a tad fussy when it comes to primers. The trigger smoothed out after the first 50 rounds or so and became even more pleasant to shoot. It also shoots POA/POI with 200 gr ammo and my choice of carry ammo is the Federal 200 gr SWC HP. I feel the barrel is too short to effectively utilize a 240gr JHP round. Recoil is not as bad as expected and one can keep a 4-6 in group at 25 yards. I recently fitted my Bull Dog with a beautiful set of Eagle Grips, which helps when it comes to pocket carry. Also, Charter Arms customer service is A+. If you’re looking for a reliable fighting / combat / self defense big bore handgun at a reasonable price, this is the gun for you.

  • duke

    If Ruger would build an SP101 in .44 Special they would put Charter Arms out of business.

    • Mojorysn

      If one production firearm would put a company under, other manufacturers might as well stop production immediately! That must be one super gun! I am going to sell all of my firearms and get one. But I guess they won’t sell because nobody will want them because of the SP101! Darn, I’m stuck with a bunch of paper weights! At the very least I will own the SP101, the perfect gun that fits everybody and slew the others like dragons in the night. The firearm that changed the world as we know it. To sum it up the SP101 is a good but not that good. I can’t think of a single anything out there that is that good.

    • Ed

      I love the sp101 but think it would put charter out of business being that the sp101 is in a different weight class. My bulldog weighs 19.5 oz whereas the sp is over 25 oz for the snubby. It would probably be even heavier for the 44.

    • Ed

      Meant they wouldnt put them out of business

      • http://TheFirearmBlog Mojorysn

        Ed,
        Nothing wrong with Ruger or the 101. I fired the 101 three times for hours at a time and it was reliable, fun and potent! Only thing is my hand was bleeding slightly on two of the range sessions. But the firearm can’t be blamed, it would be like me spilling hot coffee on my lap!

        Good shooting,
        Mojo

  • Vince

    Im really interested in this firearm and havent been able to find one at any local range to test. How is this weapon for grip size? I have shot my friend’s S&W 629 and have difficulty keeping a firm grasp due to its large frame and my smaller hands. Any help would be great in helping me make this decision.

    • DM

      Vince,
      The grip on the Bulldog is nice but not compact. If your hands are small you can change the Bulldog grip to the grip that is used on the Charter Arms “Cougar”. The Cougar is a .38 Special and uses a smaller grip. It fits my wifes hands very nicely and I find it very comfortable as well. This grip is available on the Charter Arms website. I think you will find this grip the ticket for small hands, it also conceals well. The Cougar grip is a nice rubber grip and fits hands of various sizes from small to large. Bring up the Charter site and look at the Cougar to see what it looks like. The grip is also used on some of their .32 H&R Magnum models also.
      Happy New Year Bro

    • Wild Bill

      If I could make a suggestion based on my experience, try the Ruger Redhawk with Hogue grips. I also find the Smith M29 frame a bit large but the real heartburn is the trigger reach. Long story short I bought a Super Redhawk and am totally happy with it. With Hogue grips and Wolf mainspring the trigger reach/control is no worse than an “L” frame S&W. The Ruger doesn’t look as suave and graceful but it works much better for me.

  • http://charterarms.44bulldog ron

    I own a new Bulldog 44 pug Have had no problem with it Just don’t like the blacked out sights I use the Cowboys at the range Use Hornaly 180 red tips for defence Great round For lesser recoile use the 165 grane Best trail wepon I ever owned

  • kalbo

    Mine arrived broke. The owner’s manual says the trigger and hammer should not work with the cylinder open. Well mine does. So I guess it is going back. It should have been caught before it left the factory.

    • http://centurylink pita

      I have a factory replacenent .44 spl. pug. The first one cylinder blew apart after about 60 rds. of Wnchester Silver Tip HP. Top strap pushed up far enough to crack at the rear of cylinder. 3 cylinders let go. The one that fired was just gone. I didn’t even find the shell. Don’t know where it went. The tops of the two cylinders on either side blew apart with one shell casing left jammed flat on bottom part of cylinder. Charter replaced gun at no charge, but I am hesitant to shoot this one as I may not be so lucky if this one blows up.

      • kalbo

        I got my replacement/repaired gun back and took it to the range. cylinder locked up after a few rounds. sent it back. to broke to repair so they sent me a new one. I took it down to the gun store and he gave me $150 for it. I am done with charter arms.

  • steve

    Nice review of a honest gun made by a good company.

    They should do an enclosed hammer version too.

  • Barry

    I just bought the SS Charter Arms Bulldog in .44
    I really like the little gun. My only complaint is mine shoots 2 inches to the right–since is has fixed sights no way to adjust.
    With the reloads I’m doing (Hornady XTP 240 GN JHP, 5.0 GN HP-38) this little gun makes a big hole with minimum recoil.
    Nowhere near the accuracy of my Ruger Redhawk 44 mag, but the Ruger doesn’t fit well in my pants!
    I recommend the CA Bulldog 44 spl to anyone wanting a lite weight, reliable Carry gun.

    • Mike

      Barry, you can fix the sights but you would have to file down the inside left edge of the rear sight. It would widen the picture of the rear sight but when you place the front sight in the middle of it, it should move your impact to the left. For me, I would then paint Sig’s dot the I sight picture.
      Hope that helps.

    • john b

      mine did too. put the gun in a vice wrapped in thick rags. cranked the barrel to the right about a sixteenth of an inch with a big crescent wrench and another rag. straightened it out.

  • Jim Skelton

    I bought my Pug, stainless a couple of years ago. I was a bit dubious about it at first. But I’ve fallen in love with it. You can’t expect MOA out of a snubby. But this little guy puts them right where I want them every time since I filed about 1/8 inch off the front sight, and shoot 200 or 240 grain lead. It’s a great friend to have under the shirt when out fishing.

  • Mike

    The guy that had one blow up was unllucky. I have put alot of heavy handlods through 2 Bulldogs that I have had with know problems. Factory shells are made wrong sometimes as I have seen heavy crimps on auto pistol cartridges for example. My heavy load is from an old Hodgdon manual it is 250gr. lead swc. and produces 960fps from my 3″ barreled Bulldog. It is a real handfull and kicks more than a 44 magnum. The same load ran through my 5 1/2″ Super Blackhawk goes 1200fps and still recoils like factory 44 mag loads. The preasure is no more than the fast powder loads usualy recomended for this gun but the recoil is very stout. The muzzle jump is more than a heavy handloaded 44 mag. The penetration this load has is realy unbelieveable. I am sure it would make a believer out of a black bear and maybe even discorage a grizzly.

  • Doc Stu

    I have owned a stainless, bobbed hammer Charter .44 for 15yrs. (also several undercover.38s) Love them all.

    My is quite accurate with 205 gr SWC handloads even with the short barrell. Suprise! I load them to standard pressures for economy, accuracy and consistency for all purposes. Paper targets, plinking AND self-defense. I have carried the gun for years and love it. I prefer it to my glock or other autos actually. You can tell if it is loaded from accross the room by simply looking for yellow brass against the stainless background. (I have kids so safety is very important in the house. I cannot risk leaving “one in the tube” regardless of training, years of experience etc.)

    It fits my medium hand well, cycles flawlessly and punches big holes in the target.

    IMHO, if you want to carry very potent rounds, carry something else. Common sense folks, this is a very small gun so think before you feed it higher pressure rounds. Regardless of advertising or any other “assurances” from anyone, pressure is pressure, metal is metal.

  • eb

    What is a “gun proliferation zone”?

  • rugerred50

    How much

  • Mazryonh

    Interesting that you mentioned a case of a “would-be” rapist–do you have a web link to the specific case you remember? After the Jodi Arias case I wonder if a woman will shoot dead a man who might have been close to her but now displeases her, and then claim that he tried to rape her.

    I would think that the most famous Charter Arms Bulldog would have been the one used by the Son of Sam serial killer in the 1970s.

    • GraemeB

      I can remember the article, If I can recall correctly it was published in, Guns and Ammo in the early 80′s and the cover carried a statement like ‘ No one ever raped a 44″ , If someone has this article I would appreciate a copy of it

  • jimmy ward

    I bought two charter arms guns the 38 and the 44 I cannot find any ammunition at all for the 44 so im not to happy with that

  • Carlos

    I own a 44 special bulldog and like it very much after shooting it at the range, very powerful handgun.

  • thelank

    i recently purchased a bulldog 44 and it came with a box of winchester western
    x44sp 246 grain lead bullets. i haven’t fired it yet and wonder if i should use any special safety equipment before firing these bullets or should i buy new bullets with a
    smaller grain load, any comments would be appreciated. thanks

  • Kalbo

    My first bulldog came broke right out of the box. I sent it back and got it repaired. The replacement gun went to the range with some Georgia Arms ammo. 12 rounds and the cylinder locked up. Broke so bad they couldn’t fix it. So I was sent a new gun. The more I looked at it the more I decided I was not going to bank on this gun saving my life. I took it to the gun store and sold it for $150. I will never own a charter again.

    • Kalbo

      I also went with my brother to the range to shoot his .32 h&r revolver that charter sent to replace his .22 mag revolvers he sent back four times. The cylinder completely fell out of the gun after about twelve shots. Put it back on and then it locked up. They build crap and I would never buy another. What I did fall in love with was his kel tek p32. Shot sweet and I went and bought me one.

  • roger johnson

    I bought one and it blew up during the delivery. It shot out all 4 tires of the UPS truck and then self destructed into shrapnel. The factory warranted it and gave me 7 more pistols plus an ar15.