Review: Charter Arms Bulldog .357 Magnum

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The Charter Arms Bulldog isn’t a go-anywhere do-anything handgun like a four-inch barrel .357 Magnum or a Colt Government Model .45, but it is a great defensive sidearm.

For easy packing and as a bedside gun, these sturdy double-action revolvers have much merit. The name is an honorable one in revolver history.

The first Bulldogs were developed about as soon as we had cartridge revolvers.

The British Bulldog revolvers were typically small-frame revolvers with five-shot cylinders firing the .450 Adams cartridge, and later, the .455 Webley.

Back when the British were free people — ironically they are less free now than when under a monarchy — these revolvers protected Brits the world over.

The American Sheriff’s Model revolvers did not quite fit the bill, as most were six-shot revolvers on a large frame.

A true Bulldog should be relatively compact. There were also American Bulldogs, some chambered for smaller cartridges.

Charter Arms Bulldog Revolver
The stainless steel Charter Arms Bulldog is one burly revolver!

History of Charter Arms

Charter Arms made a name for themselves with the introduction of a lightweight steel-frame revolver in the 1960s.

Good guns were scarce, and the Charter Arms revolvers were available. In 1973, Charter introduced the Bulldog .44 Special revolver.

The frame of the Charter Arms Undercover .38 was lengthened, and the revolver fitted with hand-filling grips and a three-inch barrel.

The new Bulldog sold well.

The design featured an ejector rod that locked at the rear, but not the front, and the finish was not on a par with the old-line makers.

However, the modern revolver featured a transfer-bar ignition system. This is the safest of revolver systems.

revolver with open cylinder
It is uncommon to see a recessed cartridge chamber in any modern revolver. This is a good touch.

Bulldog Features

There is a big difference between inexpensive manufacture and cheap manufacture.

The Bulldog isn’t a copy of an old-line revolver made to sell more cheaply, rather, it is designed to offer a reliable, but affordable option.

The company designed a good handgun. The .38s are good guns as well, however, the Bulldog is my favorite of the Charter Arms revolvers.

The new Bulldog revolver features a shrouded barrel and ejector rod, tall front sight, and is available in stainless steel.

The modern grips are superior to the ones on the original handgun.

The new rubber grip design is a great aid in firing powerful cartridges, and the Bulldog is chambered for powerful cartridges!

revolver with ported barrel
Barrel ports help control .357 Magnum recoil.

Load Selection

The .44 Special was intended as a mild and accurate big-bore cartridge. The .45 Colt was the man-stopper and the .44-40 the outdoors cartridge.

Attempts to “hot rod” the .44 Special have worn out many good revolvers.

With a 246-grain RNL bullet at 750 fps, the .44 Special compared closely to the .455 Webley at 650 fps with a 265-grain bullet.

Both have a good reputation in personal defense. The newest Bulldog in the gun safe is a stainless steel version chambered in .357 Magnum.

The Magnum makes a lot of sense. With full-power defense loads, the .357 Magnum offers plenty of wound potential.

If you have a need for defense against animals, the superior penetration of the .357 Magnum cartridge is important.

The new Bulldog features modest barrel ports, which help control recoil.

The hand-filling grips make for good comfort even when firing full-power magnum loads.

The action of the new Bulldog is smoother than most revolvers on the market and smoother than any vintage Bulldog.

Modern CNC machinery makes for exact manufacture. The .357 Magnum revolver may also be fired with .38 Special ammunition.

In this heavy-duty revolver, .38 Special loads are mild and easy to control.

Yet, there are pretty impressive .38 Special loads that offer good ballistics.

Truth be told, the .38 Special is about all the power the occasional shooter may effectively handle.

With the .357 Magnum you have a considerable improvement in power.

As an example, the Remington 125-grain Gold Saber isn’t a full-power magnum load, but a powerful load intended for personal defense.

This is the ideal loading for the Bulldog.

For those not quite up to controlling this level of recoil, a quality .38 Special such as the Remington .38 Special Golden Saber or Remington 158-grain lead semi-wadcutter hollow point is ideal.

When hiking or spelunking, feral dogs and big cats are a concern addressed by a light but powerful revolver.

The .357 Magnum Bulldog makes a lot of sense.

Charter Arms Bulldog on Target with holes
Combat accuracy is excellent for those that practice!

Accuracy and Performance

When practicing with the Charter Arms Bulldog, the goal is to press the trigger smoothly and get a center hit, recover and press again.

A small group on the target with 10 or 15 rounds clustered never saved anyone’s life. Groups do not do the business in personal defense.

A fast center hit with a credible defense cartridge will save your life.

Practice getting on target, pressing the trigger smoothly to the rear, and getting a hit.

It doesn’t matter if the sight wavers a little, you cannot hold it completely still at all times.

But concentrate on keeping the front sight on target as the hammer falls. Stop the wobble just as the hammer falls.

As for absolute accuracy, the revolver will put five shots into a single ragged hole at seven yards.

From a solid benchrest firing position with the Remington Wheelgunner .357 Magnum, firing single-action with no timeframe, the piece put five shots into two inches and just a little over.

That is more than accurate enough for defense use.

Conclusion: Charter Arms Bulldog

With the .357 Magnum Bulldog, the power-for-ounce factor is high, the piece carries light and is reliable.

It is a classic defensive revolver appreciated by those that understand the reality of personal defense.

What do you think of the Charter Arms Bulldog? Let us know in the comments below!



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