Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Two-Inch .38

Xavier, the Nurse with a Gun, writes an excellent blog, well worth reading. One of his regular features is to detail some of his wanderings on the local gun and pawn shop circuit. In his entry for WE 16 JUL he tells us of looking at an example of the Charter Arms Undercover snub nose .38. I started a lengthy comment on his topic, and then realized two things.

One: No matter how compellingly interesting my comments may be, people go to HIS blog to read HIS stuff, not mine.

Two: My own blogging has been rather sparse of late, and I could do a post of my own, tied to Xavier’s. So, if you haven’t already done so, pause here, click the above date link, and read Xavier’s Thoughts first. Go ahead. We’ll still be here when you finish.

Back so soon? Excellent. Now, some background stuff on that little resolver.
A little bit-o'-history first.
Douglas McClenahan, a former employee of Colt, High Standard, and Ruger, started Charter Arms in 1964. The initial offering was the .38 Special "Undercover." It was a near-twin to the very popular Smith & Wesson Chief's Special, though quite different in design details. It was promoted as "A pound of protection," and "The lightest steel framed .38 revolver." The light weight was due to providing the steel frame with bolted-on alloy trigger guard and grip frame. It worked out quite well.

Charter Undercover .38 Special Revolver -- This example is fitted with a Tyler T-Grip adapter

Not terribly popular at first, and certainly not as handsome as the S&W snubbies, the new Charter revolver was dependable and of good quality, at a substantially lower price than the S&W and Colt’s offerings. The size was near enough that the Undercover could be carried in holsters intended for the Chief's Special.

The Undercover truly came into its own during the Vietnam war, when S&W was devoting most of their production to U.S. Government contracts. S&W produced their J-frame pieces only sporadically during that period. The rest of the time, their production lines were running full blast to provide K-frame revolvers, mostly for U. S. aviation personnel. During this time, the Charter was available on the home front. Many large law enforcement agencies which had previously specified only S&W or Colt revolvers for duty use now approved the Undercover for plainclothes personnel and for off duty carry.

There was some distrust of the durability of the Charter Arms revolvers, especially when subjected to police qualification courses several times a year. All in all, though, the guns held up well, and were certainly adequate in durability and accuracy for light duty use. Even with the later popularity of “Plus P” .38 ammunition, the Undercover held up quite well. The frame, after all, was steel. More significantly, in such a lightweight revolver, the higher pressure ammo was downright rigorous to fire in practice. As with the S&W and Colt alloy framed numbers, many were carried with the heavy loads, but most range practice was conducted with standard or target-power cartridges.

The history of Charter Arms and the other handguns in that product line makes good reading.

Charter revolvers have figured prominently in three notorious crimes:

-- Arthur Bremmer attempted to assassinate US Presidential candidate George C. Wallace on 15 May 1972. He wounded Wallace and three bystanders, using a Charter Undercover .38 revolver.

--In 1976--77, David Berkowitz murdered six persons and wounded seven others using a Charter .44 Special Bulldog revolver. Before his arrest, the shooter was called “The .44 caliber killer.“ After his arrest, the crime spree was known as the “Son of Sam” killings.

--On 8 DEC 1980, Mark David Chapman murdered British musician John Lennon in New York City. He shot the former Beatle four times with hollow point bullets fired from a Charter Undercover .38.

The brand of firearm used by these criminals is, of course, totally insignificant. It is mentioned here simply in recognition that the type gun used was widely reported in each of these cases. As with other brands, the vast majority of Charter firearms are lawfully owned and legally used by decent individuals.

For example - - - Several months ago, I ran across a used-but-good-condition Charter Undercover at a reasonable price in a local pawn shop. Beloved Bride Holly and I were satisfied enough with it that we took her daughter to look at the piece. It felt good in her hand, so we bought it for her birthday gift. It is a vote of our confidence for the product, that we would provide it to BB's Angel Baby Girl for use as a "life preserver."

I’m aware that Xavier has other guns, but at the price he mentioned in his post, I believe the Undercover would certainly be worth having on hand. “The Other American .38 Snub Nose” is still a serviceable and worthwhile defense arm.



Xavier said...

Thanks for this. I'm on call again today, but I hope I have the chance to go back.....

lainy said...

You can rest assured the BB's Angel Baby Girl is protected. I heard how patient you were with people on July 4 th. Master teacher.

cranky said...

Here's a fourth scumbag: Mumia Abu Jamal shot officer Daniel Faulkner with a .38 Charter Arms.

Carteach0 said...

Good post... I learned a few things.
Thank you.

Assrot said...

I agree that this gun is a worthy gun for self defense and concealed carry.

I prefer the S&W CS45 Chief's Special in .45 ACP for my main CCW gun but I recently picked up one of the Charter Arms Undercover .38 Specials for a backup gun. I got the DAO, Hammerless, Stainless one.

I've found it to be a much better gun than I expected. I like it a lot and my wife seems to handle it well also.

See the link for the one I bought. I paid quite a bit less than the MSRP for mine.

Charter Undercover DAO SS .38 Special

It gives me great confidence in the gun knowing that a retired LEO with your experience thinks well of it.


Anonymous said...

Dont suppose you have a manual in digital format for this peice ?

My had has one that I'm trying to repair for him (he assumes since I was in the army I know everything about anything that shoots) but I dont have the faintest clue of inner workings of this weapons trigger mechanism and am hesitant to attempt to take it apart to see whats sticking without knowing the propper way to do so.

JPG said...

Sorry, but I don't have a manual, either paper or in any e-format. Frequently, manufacturers have manuals and exploded drawings at their web sites, but I can't find one at the Charter page. Your best bet might be to go there and get the phone/fax numbers or the url address for their service department. I can't imagine a manufacturer who'd NOT be happy to send a manual, from a safety liability concern, at least.

Anyway -- The Charter Arms home page is at - -

Good luck

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