Few things beat a revolver for ruggedness and reliability. Â But, they are complex machines and bad ones are often worthless junk. Â You have to buy a quality revolver to obtain the legendary reliability most are known for. Â In thisÂ Charter Arms Off Duty review, I will tackle the questions: Â Is this a good revolver? Â Is this gun better than a Smith & Wesson revolver? Â Read on…the answers may surprise you.
Charter Arms has been making handguns since 1964. Â Although the company is probably most famous for the .44 Special Bulldog, the company started with The Undercover, a .38 Special revolver. Â The company, like many, has been through its ups and downs, but has never given up on making .38 revolvers. Â The Off Duty is one such .38.
The Off Duty is a “hammerless” revolver, which is a bit of a misnomer. Â The gun definitely has a hammer, but it is completely hidden inside of the firearm. Â This style of gun must therefore be double action only (there is no external hammer to cock) and the gun does not have as many things to impede a smooth draw from concealment. Â If you like to cock your gun, but still limit the possibility of the gun snagging on anything, check out the On Duty revolver. Â It has a partially shrouded hammer that still allows the shooter to cock the gun.
The Off Duty is light: roughly 12 ounces unloaded. Â The gun is also compact with a 2″ barrel and holding only five rounds of .38 Special ammo.
Unlike some other snub nose revolvers, the Charter Arms Off Duty has a full length underbarrel lug which serves as a shroud for the ejector rod. Â If bent, the rod may not eject spent cases. Â The Off Duty’s shroud helps protect the ejector rod from damage.
Charter Arms Off Duty
|Weight (unloaded)||12 ounces|
|Frame Material||7075 aluminum|
|Action||double action only|
|Grips||rubber, boot grip style|
|Sights||fixed: ramp front, notch rear|
|Laser||Crimson Trace optional|
Shooting the Revolver
Let me start by saying that during this Charter Arms Off Duty review, the gunÂ was completely reliable with every load I ran through it. Â I shot standard pressure and +P loads (all factory stuff) and everything worked properly.
Shooting the lightweight revolver wasn’t as punishing as I had expected. Â Many times when shooting a small gun, especially with hot loads, the recoil can be less than enjoyable. Â Surprisingly this wasn’t the case with the Off Duty. Â Recoil was definitely more than that with a 4″ K-frame, but it wasn’t bad.
I believe the mild recoil was largely due to the grips used by Charter Arms. Â They are a hard rubber and do a very good job of filling the hand. Â They seem a little thicker than the boot grips found on some other guns, and seemed to more evenly distribute the recoil impulse across a larger area. Â I wonder if the felt recoil would be even less if the grips were made of a softer rubber.
The sights were easy to use; in fact, they were much more visible than what I am used to on other snub nose revolvers.
Accuracy was good. Â Hitting a man-sized target at 15 yards is not difficult with this gun. Â But, I believe it could be improved with a better trigger.
Out of the box, the Off Duty’s trigger was heavy and gritty. Â As I dry fired the gun, and then later shot it on the range, the pull did improve. Â It got a lot smoother and seemed to lighten up a bit. Â It was still a very heavy pull, and would never qualify as “smooth,” but it was certainly useable.
I started off the review with two questions. Â I believe I have now have answers for both.
Is this a good revolver? Â While very much a subjective question, I believe the answer is yes. Â The Off Duty seems to be well made, it is light and concealable, and it functioned with 100% reliability. Â I found nothing in my evaluation that would cause me to believe that it is not a good handgun.
It may not be the best handgun, or even the best revolver, for all circumstances. Â The gun is better suited for concealed carry than for recreational or target shooting, for example. Â But for the niche it fills, it is a good gun to have.
Is this better than a Smith & Wesson revolver? Â Ah, now we really get into the subjective with this answer. Â For many people, including myself, Smith & Wesson is the gold standard in double action revolvers. Â If we ignore the trigger locks found on most of the modern revolvers, the current line of S&W wheel guns is excellent.
Probably the closest model to compare to the Off Duty is the S&W 642. Â Both are aluminum frame, hammerless, .38 Special revolvers. Â Both have suggested retail prices that are close ($411 vs. $459.) Â Fortunately, I have owned a pre-lock 642 for almost 20 years, so I believe I can talk with some authority on the gun.
Is the Off Duty better than the 642? Â Yes. And no. Â There are some things that I definitely like better in one over the other. Â For example, I think the fixed sights on the Off Duty are easier to see and use than those on the 642. Â Also, the grip of the Off Duty fills my hand better than the standard boot grip on the Smith & Wesson. Â The Charter Arms gun also has a full barrel shroud which protects the ejector rod. Â Lastly, the placement of the cylinder release on the Charter is slightly different than on the 642. Â The 642 eats into the top of my thumb knuckle when shooting, and the Off Duty does not.
But, that isn’t to say the Smith & Wesson doesn’t best the Off Duty in other areas. Â The most obvious is the that the 642 has a vastly smoother trigger out of the box. Â The Off Duty’s trigger did smooth out, but it still wasn’t as nice as the Smith’s. Â Also, the S&W’s ejector rod, though shorter than the Off Duty, functioned much more smoothly. Â Overall, the S&W has a much nicer fit & finish to the gun. Â It just feels like a higher-quality gun.
So, is the Off Duty better than the Smith & Wesson? Â In some ways yes, in other ways no. Â It certainly holds its own against a classic revolver, and that is no small feat.
In this Charter Arms Off Duty review, I give the gun a solid thumbs up. Â It will get the job done, and at a reasonable price to boot. You can click here to buy one from Brownells.
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