Not long ago I tested a Charter Arms Undercover Lite 5-shot, 12-ounce revolver capable of handling +P cartridges. Made of aircraft aluminum and stainless steel, this model has a non-reflective finish and distinctive appearance. I found that a 12-ounce gun was light enough to place into a stretchy waist pack for a few miles of trail running. At the end of the test I had a smile on my face and a pile of expended brass.
Law enforcement officers used to choose revolvers because of their simplicity and the fact that they didn’t rely on fragile magazines for their reliability. Autos got better and lighter. Then autos of similar proportions became slimmer, and professionals began adhering to the rule about using the same ammunition for backup.
A few things changed the paradigm. First, the +P cartridges of a few years ago cannot even remotely duplicate the performance of the ones available now. I can easily demonstrate this with a box of Hornady Critical Defense cartridges or with 130-grain Winchester PDX1 Defender cartridges used in this gun, and a fresh mix of Vyse gelatin. Second, the handgun manufacturing techniques and materials are simply better. For example, there are dozens of sub 15-ounce .38 Special revolvers on the market that can handle high pressure cartridges. I have one, and the Charter Arms Undercover Lite is dramatically lighter.
I have tested Charter Arms revolvers before. They have always had a good shooting “feel,” which is a product of their short hammer throw and lock time. The Undercover Lite 53870 was not exactly a custom revolver, but everything was crisp and cylinder lockup was excellent. Charter Arms uses a three-point lockup for the cylinder, and this gun had minimal pitch and yaw in the cylinder.
The stocks (grips) that came with this gun are among the best I have tested on any revolver. They were palm filling and soft enough to soak up the recoil of high performance cartridges. Even large-handed shooters can get a consistent grip without having the little finger floating around on the bottom.
Ok, so why did Lindsey shoot a few times, then swap the Charter Arms stocks out? Two words: Crimson Trace. In fact, when the green laser for this model comes out…
Charter Arms’ products are 100 percent USA made. Not only that, but all of their suppliers are within about an hour of their new Shelton, Conn. manufacturing center. I got a chance to interview Nick Ecker, Owner of Charter Arms, who told me that some of the material suppliers are so close, often their contact is face-to-face rather than over the computer or phone.
The personal business model of Charter Arms is advantageous for the consumer, especially law enforcement officers. First, the company has a production level that emphasizes quality over quantity. Ecker reiterated this point, saying they recognize the current trend in sales is just a spike and they are in business for the long haul. Second, the business model of Charter Arms includes responding to customer needs quickly and personally. Third—and this is the part that I just don’t get—they listen to their customers. Ok, I understand the “listen to customers” part. I just don’t understand how the pink and lavender frame colors are so popular. Ecker told me many customers own several models just because they like pink and lavender—I wouldn’t have seen that coming. Having said that, I shot a Charter Arms Pink Lady DAO on steel last year and, despite its color, the firearm could do some impressive things downrange.
Officers often pick a compact auto over a revolver, assuming the width of the cylinder will detract from its conceal-ability, especially if the gun is carried strong side pocket. The argument in favor of the revolver is its theoretical reliability. Auto gun failures are most often magazine based, followed by ammunition based, if all other factors are “equal.” There are secondary arguments that are statistically limited, like the fact that autos do not fire well while tangled in clothing (fired from a pocket, etc.) but many of these arguments stem from questionable techniques. Revolvers do not require magazines and ammunition failure is trumped by a follow-up shot—another pull of the trigger.