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Monday, February 21, 2011

Updated: Charter Arms ‘Undercover’ .38 Special

I scarfed  up an old 1960's Charter Undercover .38 last Friday. The gun was in near-new condition and the 'turn line' on the cylinder appeared only after the weekend's shooting. Please excuse the poor photography; time and weather have been uncooperative.

It has the Bridgeport address which, according to some sources, indicates 1960’s production. I count this as a plus. I've had a couple of .44 Bulldogs over the years, both Bridgeport guns and both excellent in every respect. The second one was utterly dead-nuts on the money at 25 yards with Federal's 200 grain .44 Special lead hollowpoint load. My general opinion of the little guns has been this- Given a choice between a Charter and Chief's Special, I'd take the S&W every time; but the Charters were 'good enough' and a lot of gun for the money. Charter has also consistently offered guns not available elsewhere, like their .44 snubs, and continued to undersell the competition.

I dug out some primed .38 brass and loaded about up 30 rounds, with Hornady’s 158 grain swaged SWC and 3.4 grains of W231. I shot ten of them at 25 yards and I suspect the soft bullets and shallow rifling were a poor match. While I got a few keyholes--and a few high-left flyers--I won't have any trouble qualifying at 25 yards with it. As is, it still shoots well enough to put a hurtin' on Joe Felon at 25 steps.

Smaller holes are from a snake load at about ten feet.

Later, I loaded a few 158 grain jacketed HP's over the same charge of W231 I used with the soft lead bullets; the 'keyholing' disappeared and five shot groups are just under four inches. This is shooting two-hand unsupported at 25 yards. I reckon that is good enough given the application.

If a DA revolver is going to exhibit light strikes, lead-spitting etc. they will generally do it when run hard in double action. So I ripped off a few five shot strings from the hip, as fast as I could. Primer hits remained good & deep. The little gun points well and it was no work at all to stitch-up torso-sized targets at 5 yards.

The little .38 needs only minor improvements. It shoots two to three inches left at 25 yards, but the front sight is plenty fat enough to shave 0.030" off the right side and that should pretty near correct it. Why, you might ask, even worry about it? Because pistol bullets aren't magic and they need to go in the right spot to work. Heck, I might even want to shoot a groundhog or bucktooth little garden thief with it. If you own a gun it ought to be zeroed.

It also needs some grips. I'd forgotten how poorly Charter's 70-era wood combat grips fit my hand- and that the damn things loosen up in about 25 rounds. It looks like current choices are Pachmayr Compacs or Charter's current 'boot' grip.

This will make a useful addition to the armory and it goes to work real soon.

03/18/11 Update: I took a file to the right side of the front sight and knocked off a total of about 0.040".  The next batch or reloads were loaded with the Hornady 158 SWCHP, seated out to 1.510" to cut down on bullet jump. Zero is much better, the keyholing is gone and accuracy improved some. Shot this sitting on the ground and shooting over one knee this afternoon; distance was 25 yards. Got four in 2 1/2" but tossed one right for 3 1/2" total. Not match accuracy, but not shabby for a snubnose either:

Don't know if it'll hang around long or not... I'm starting to wish it was a J frame. 


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