When the good folks at Charter Arms sent me the Undercover that I reviewed a few weeks ago, they also sent along one of their big bore revolvers, the Bulldog:
The Charter Arms Bulldog is a five shot, 2.5" barrel .44 Special revolver. It's got an steel frame, brushed stainless finish, rubber grips, and weighs 21 ounces - about as much as a sub-compact 9mm. Instead of offering 10 - 12 rounds of 9mm, though, it has five rounds of .44 Special, a round that's been around since 1907 - a relative newcomer compared to 45 ACP (1902) or 9mm (1904). And yeah, to get it out of the way, the Bulldog gained notoriety in the 1970s when one was used by the Son of Sam killer to murder his victims.
While pocket .45s have lessened the overall allure of a big bore pocket (kinda) revolver, I've been a fan of the .44 Special round for a long time. I had a Taurus model 431 as the second gun I ever bought, and carried it intermittently for a few years as a winter carry gun. Five rounds of even a moderate .44 Special round are nothing to brush off, and looking down the cavernous barrel - and seeing the silvertips at the ready - is a deterrent factor all its own.
Or so I thought when I bought it, mind you. Over time, the heft (the 431 was larger than the Bulldog and certainly heavier) of the gun and the cost of shooting it (even before ammo prices went through the roof, .44 Special was routinely north of $20 for a box of 50 rounds) had me shelve the big Taurus. After a few years of languishing at the bottom of the gun safe, I sold it to fund other purchases, but always held a special place in my safe for another big bore snubbie.
Enter the Bulldog.
Charter's Bulldog is arguably their most famous (some would say infamous) firearm, and with good reason. There are only a handful of companies that make revolvers any more, and even fewer out of that group make something in .44 Special. Taurus offers a handful of revolvers in .44 Special; neither Smith & Wesson nor Ruger list any. The Bulldog stands alone as an American made .44 Special revolver.
The size of the Bulldog puts it somewhere between a Smith & Wesson J-frame and a K-frame, meaning it's a compact(ish) size a little too large for pocket carry but a decent size for IWB carry. It will fit into holsters designed for the K- or L- frames:
I wouldn't rely on any of these holsters providing a lot of retention, though. While the Bulldog is close in size to the guns after which those holsters are modeled, there is still a slight bit of wiggle - certainly not a knock on either the holsters or the Bulldog, just stressing the importance of matching the holster to the gun. Either Dennis or Michael could certainly craft a custom holster that would fit the Bulldog perfectly.
I carried the Bulldog a few times; it's smaller than the S&W model 242ti which I have carried frequently, so it's a good size for a carry revolver; even more impressive in a big bore as opposed to a six- or seven- shot .38 Special. On a personal level, I'd rather carry the smaller J-frame Snubbie from Hell™ with the 125 grain .357 Magnum screamers, but the Bulldog is a lot easier on the hands to shoot. Which, naturally, leads to a discussion of...
Shooting the Bulldog.
Shooting the Bulldog was a lot more painful than I thought it would be - insofar as finding and paying for .44 Special ammo. It hasn't gotten any cheaper since I divested of the Taurus, and has gotten a great deal more rare. The local gun shop had exactly 40 rounds in inventory when I went to pick the Bulldog up, and hasn't had any in stock since. I was able to scrounge another 150 rounds, so the test firing consisted of nearly 200 rounds only. The only issue noticed in all of the shooting was removing all the spent casings - the ejector is shorter than the cylinder, so if you don't pop it just right they don't all come out. This is very common and has happened with every short-barreled revolver that I own.
Even though the revolver only weighs 21 ounces, recoil is supremely manageable. .44 Special is no slouch in the velocity department - 165 grain Corbon rounds routinely clock upwards of 1100 - 1200 FPS. One thing that I did notice, while firing the Bulldog at my club's indoor range, was that there's an impressive fireball that comes out of that 2½" barrel under lower light conditions. It wasn't blinding or "donut of death" like, but it was something to be aware of. The trigger pull is long in double action and still somewhat long in single action, but is clean and uniform throughout.
Accuracy was surprising, given the short barrel, low weight, and long trigger pull:
This is a representative target shot double action at 25 feet. With the exception of one flier (caused by a nasty flinch on the last of 10 rounds), everything's well within the grey area. Followup shots are easy to make; recoil is noticeable but easy to handle; keeping the gun on target is simple and straightforward. The weight to recoil ratio on the Bulldog is excellent - while it's light enough to carry, it's not so light that shooting it is painful.
For a big bore, lightweight, small-to-medium frame revolver, it shoots and carries well. The finish is spartan, meaning that it's no BBQ gun - but it's not intended to be such. With an MSRP of $426, it's an inexpensive - but not cheap - alternative to the .38 Specials in relative abundance. I found the Bulldog to be decent to shoot (albeit pricey!), more accurate than I am, and rock-solid reliable. It's got a kick and a muzzle flash, and that's what I like about it.
You could say this is one Bulldog whose bark is almost as impressive as its bite.
That is all.