Excuse me, but who deliberately treats a firearm badly? A long time ago I owned a Ford Escort. A friend of mine owned a service station, and his experience was that Escorts lasted 60,000 miles. “Then they die, Pat.” Mine? I traded it off at the 135,000-mile mark, still working fine. How? I changed the oil, washed it and did all the other normal maintenance things you do to a car.
And so it was with the Charter Arms revolvers I’d see as a gunsmith. The ones that came to me didn’t work, and for the most part it was clear why: They’d been abused–dropped, filed-on abused. They were rusted, lint-packed and the oil was congealed in them. Most any revolver would have quit if treated that way.
What kept me from repairing them was the on-again, off-again existence of Charter Arms. When the company was not in operation, getting parts was impossible.
It is back in business–has been for a while–and is making the same well-constructed low-cost revolvers it did before. The company sent me a box ‘o guns, and this Firing Line report is on the Police Undercover. It’s a stainless steel, six-shot revolver chambered in .38 Special. Yes, all the wheelgun cognoscenti now carry snubbie .357s, in exotic titanium, scandium and unobtainium alloys. They also don’t shoot them much with .357 Magnum ammo, as the recoil is downright painful.
The 20 ounces of the Police Undercover are not enough to make it heavy to carry but are enough to dampen the recoil of even .38 +Ps, which the Police Undercover is rated for.
The Police Undercover is a double-action revolver with a swing-out cylinder. You can quickly reload using an HKS Model 10A speedloader, the same one that your buddies use for their S&W K-frame revolvers.
The exposed hammer works like every other DA revolver out there. The various grip manufacturers make grips for it, so it isn’t like you’re buying an orphan when you buy a Charter Arms.
Charter Arms: Police Undercover
|Manufacturer||Charter Arms, 203/922-1652|
|Type||double action revolver|
|Caliber||.38 Special +P|
|Barrel Length||2 in.|
What you’re getting is a product aimed at the “value for money” market. At an MSRP of $375 (less on your dealer’s counter) the Police Undercover is going to cost you half what a stainless S&W or Ruger does. For someone who plans to put tens of thousands of rounds through a revolver in practice, the extra cost of the bigger brands means a smoother, more-refined wheelgun that will probably work longer. For someone who is looking for a basic carry gun and is going to shoot less than that, the Cha
rter line is certainly worth consideration. If you take care of it, your Charter will last a long time.
Out of the box, the Police Undercover inspired confidence. I gave it the usual inspection and then test-fired it, looking for reliable function, accuracy, velocity and handling quirks. I found a few edges that were a bit sharp and could do with a bit of de-horning, something easily done on a stainless gun.
The trigger pull wasn’t heavy but neither was it particularly smooth. It is entirely useable, and once you get used to it, useful.
The DA doesn’t stack, but the lockup of the cylinder does come before the hammer falls, so if you want to shoot trigger-cocking style, you can. Me, I just use a straight-through pull and use the extra fraction of trigger pull as extra aiming time.
The trigger pull in single action is clean and light enough. Again, no one is going to select it over a Colt, S&W or Ruger for target shooting, but this is hardly a target-shooting kind of gun, now is it?
The two-inch barrel precludes a full-length ejector rod, so your empties will not be pushed completely out by a stroke of the ejector. You want them out, you have to slap the rod. This is not a detail exclusive to Charter Arms; any two-inch barreled revolver will have this problem. The solution is proper training and practice to get the empties out.
The accuracy is good, although the width of the front sight makes aiming a bit of work. The front sight is 0.150 wide, and it subtends 41⁄2 inches at 25 yards. A narrower front sight would make aiming easier, but I was still able to shoot four-inch groups at 25 yards with it. A group smaller than the apparent width of the front sight is entirely acceptable.
What was a real problem was that those groups were more than a foot below where I was aiming. I luckily found that out before doing the chronograph sessions or I might have shot my skyscreens.
For the ammo-crunching drills I did to test function, I simply aimed where I’d always aim and let the groups form at the bottom of the “A” zone on my USPSA targets.
|.38 Special||BULLET WEIGHT (gr.)||AVG. VELOCITY (fps)||AVG GROUP (in.)|
|Win. White Box FMJ||130||744||5.0|
|Speer Gold Dot||110||823||5.0|
|Extreme Shock Air Freedom||85||1,007||5.5|
|Black Hills JHP||125||755||3.0|
|American Eagle LRN||158||664||6.0|
|Mighigan Ammo TMJ||585||158||5.0|
|Notes: Accuracy is the average of three five-shot groups, fired at 25 yards from a sandbag rest. Abbreviations: FMJ, full metal jacket; SJHP, semi-jacketed hollowpoint; SCHP, solid copper hollowpoint; LRN, lead roundnose; JHP, jacketed hollowpoint; TMJ, total metal jacket.|
Once I’d churned through 600 rounds, I figured I’d let the Charter Arms warranty department have a go at it as every new Charter Arms product comes with a lifetime warranty. If your Charter Arms has a problem, send it in. This is for the new ones; repairs done to models made by previous iterations of Charter will have to be paid for.
So I sent the Police Undercover in with a letter explaining that it was hitting low. Three weeks later, a package arrived on my doorstep: the Police Undercover returned. I tossed it in the gun bag for the next range trip, and viola, it shoots to the sights.
So if you’re looking for a solid, no-frills revolver that won’t break the bank, Charter Arms is back. The money you save can be applied to practice ammo, making you a better shooter in the long run.