Neat and discreet

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...


Undercover Lite models are thinner than most .45s and within 0.010 inches of most pocket-sized handguns like the new Kimber Solo. Continuing the comparison, most Charter Arms models are about half the price of similar guns.

I used 5 Star Firearms speed loaders throughout this test. They’re a favorite because of their use of 6061 aluminum and high quality parts. This is a small company in Illinois—a U.S. manufacturer that will likely make a huge impact in the firearms industry simply because the product is superior. The fact that 5 Star Firearms makes a Zombie Killer version, green with red zombie “blood” is not lost on me either. When carrying a lightweight 5 shot, the thinner, lighter 5 Star Firearms speedloaders also clear synthetic grips better than any other product.

My tests were done using HPR 125-grain TMJ cartridges, which allowed me to shoot a longer session because the cartridges are especially clean burning. For duty ammunition, this gun preferred Winchester’s 130-grain PDX1 Defender cartridges, which do well in terminal performance tests also. Both brands are made in the United States, which, by this time should not surprise the reader.

Charter Arms Undercover Lite revolvers use 8-groove button rifling, which appears to impart consistent downrange stability on the medium weight .38 caliber bullets. I managed to shoot some sub 3-inch groups, and the gun is obviously capable of better accuracy than I can shoot. While the combat fixed sight was designed for snag-free durability, my eyes had no problem putting them on target.

Ammunition failure, by the way, is statistically unlikely for law enforcement products. Regardless, every officer should look at every cartridge before putting it on duty. When in doubt, throw it out.

The best firearms designs are simple and have fewer moving parts and potential wear areas. This is where this model shines. Whenever I field test a revolver I like to “milk” the trigger to a point where the cylinder is out of battery, then see if it comes completely into battery when I give it a full stroke. This revolver couldn’t be fooled. Believe it or not, I found a popular model revolver on the market that can be milked out of battery about half the time.

I found that the hand, the metal latch that engages the bottom of the rotating cylinder, had some sharp edges. This would be completely unnoticeable to most shooters, but I stick two fingers through the frame while reloading. Despite the sharpness of the edges, I wouldn’t trade this design for any other production revolver. There was so little play in cylinder lockup because of these sharp edges, that the down range work was much easier for me.

The ejector is completely shrouded and the barrel is contoured, adding to the overall feel of a handgun designed for unconventional carry and hard use.

Charter Arms does not use the removable side plate design to house its components. Rather, the frame assembly, which is the upper receiver portion, mates with the grip frame and trigger guard, an inherently robust design. In terms of engineering, this allows for a lot of options and easily replaceable components. For Charter Arms, it also means plenty of color options, which I mentioned earlier.

I would change only one thing with this gun. I would take the spurred hammer that came with this firearm and use a spurless hammer instead. Guess what? Charter Arms has this feature covered, too. The replacement part, a spurless hammer, is available for most models, including this one. Since this gun is a keeper I will purchase and install a spurrless hammer to go with it.

Charter Arms handguns use a hammer block safety system, which will not allow the gun to fire unless the trigger is pulled fully to the rear. This design does not affect the smoothness of the trigger or cylinder rotation, but it certainly makes it a safer revolver.

The most important things about this gun, and the reason you are reading this article, are the intangible things. The Charter Arms Undercover Lite 53870 handles well. It is an all-day carry gun that can go out on a date, out for a hike or out on a call and be vigilant until needed. I liked the way it felt behind +P power and I found follow-up shots to be easy.

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