Charter Arms on revolvers

Via Handgun Hourly, I’m directed to a white paper released by Charter Arms on why you should carry a wheelgun for self defense.  Now, it’s no secret that I’m a fan of revolvers for competition and concealed carry; as I write this I’m wearing a Smith & Wesson Model 60 Pro Series, and of course I shoot revolvers exclusively in competition.  However, there are some things in Charter’s white paper that absolutely need to be addressed, including one line that actually made me laugh out loud.  The funniest line in the whole paper was this:

While it makes for interesting macho conversation to talk about filling a drug filled attacker with lead or blowing their head off with bird shot (if their head is a watermelon)

I laughed.  That’s quite obviously a direct shot across the bow at the Taurus Judge, and kudos to Charter for pointing out how ridiculous some of their advertising for the gun is.  Anyway, on to the rest of the article.

Revolvers are quickly recognized as guns even by dumb bad guys. The revolver communicates that this is a real gun and not something else like a can of soda, etc

I fail to see how a Glock 26 or a Smith & Wesson M&P doesn’t do that exact same thing.

There is little doubt a revolver is loaded and many times the threat/attacker will see it’s loaded by simply looking at the cylinder and seeing the ammunition in it.

If a fight has ever been stopped because some dirtbag looked in the cylinder and saw the bullets I will eat my hat right here. I am pretty sure that all Johnny Sumdood sees when you point a gun at him (any gun) is the muzzle pointed dead amidships.

Revolvers are quick and easy to operate. Simply draw, aim and fire. No switches or tricky functioning, stoppages or other malfunctions; they will work when they are most needed!

So is a Glock. Or an M&P. Or a Beretta 92D. Or a Ruger LCP. Or a Springfield XD(m). Or a blah blah DAO/Striker Fired/whatever.

Any trainer will tell you that revolvers require less training than semi-autos to fire competently and safely thus making them the best firearm for the average citizen for self-defense purposes.

I guess they didn’t ask Tiger McKee about that.  In all seriousness though, revolvers, especially snub nosed revolvers are in fact more challenging to shoot well than a full sized pistol such as a Glock or a 1911.  Their short sight radius and heavy trigger pull make a 2 inch wheelgun something that is going to require even more practice to master than a compact auto pistol.

Shooters at any level do NOT buy a short-barreled compact revolver to take to the range and plink, hunt or shoot targets with. Yet people will talk and blog endlessly about so-called “excessive recoil,” short barrel sight radiuses, etc. as though target shooting, plinking and hunting are why the person initially bought the compact firearm in the first place. Their technically irrelevant remarks relate to snub nose revolvers with the same credibility as comparing a Ferrari to a dump truck.

Actually, we make those comparisons because we know what we’re talking about. Seriously, the paragraph right before this in their white paper they say that people don’t practice enough with their compact semi-auto carry guns, so they should carry a revolver because it requires less practice! Dammit Charter, I’m trying to be nice here, but that’s just not smart. Seriously, ask anyone that shoots lots of bullets for blood or money and they’ll tell you that wheelguns are harder to shoot effectively; and as mentioned later in the white paper only hits count. That means that even with your 2 inch snubbie, you need to go to the range and actually burn up rounds so that if/when you need to use your firearm to defend your life, you’ll have the necessary skills to get the hits you need.

I swear I’m not trying to pick on Charter Arms here – I have a lot of respect for the fact that all their guns are made in the USA, that they try to keep their price points down, and that they’re making an affordable defensive firearm. But if you’re going to write a piece about how “revolvers are awesome”, it would probably behoove you to actually talk to some revolver shooters, or people who actually carry these things before you do.


  1. Well I’ve read more than one place that revolvers take about 25% more effort to learn than an auto.
    The last two Charter Arms,we had in class had several failures to fire, and really were not heavy enough or big enough to beat anybody with ether. Also regardless of the reason they bought it, they need to become reasonably proficient with whatever tool they chose

  2. The Duck beat me to it. It’s all about target demographics, anybody smart enough to know that presser is full-of-shit will have heard of Charter Arms already, and know they should be looking at a S&W or a Ruger for their needs.

    One nit to pick, I wonder if their statement “Revolvers are quickly recognized as guns even by dumb bad guys. ” is a dig at the LCP, Seecamp, Kel-Tec Kahr, and many other plastic micro-guns, or even things like Hi-Points, or NAA mini-revolvers which sometimes do look more like toys than real-deal guns, like the Glock M&P, Beretta, or wheelie.

    There is something to say about the crop of itty-bitty micro guns, especially if you’re clutching them in larger hands in a two-handed grip, they do offer a mighty small profile when looking at the business end.

    That being said if I had any hopes that the mere sight of my gun would scare my attacker away, I’d save myself some money and just toss one of those nifty high-end Airsoft guns in my holster, and not worry about silly things like crossing state lines, permits, or going to schools or post offices.

    Nope, if the sight of my gun gives thugsley the creeps, that’s great! If he’s not scared it also makes a REALLY loud noise. I’ve heard my piece also has a few other tricks that are pretty scary!

  3. “There is something to say about the crop of itty-bitty micro guns, especially if you’re clutching them in larger hands in a two-handed grip, they do offer a mighty small profile when looking at the business end.”

    Charter also makes mostly stainless/aluminum pistols. Shiny guns. It really isn’t hard to mistake some of the current crop of tiny black .380s for a wallet, etc. Shiny guns or incredibly ugly zebra guns stand out a bit more.

    “In all seriousness though, revolvers, especially snub nosed revolvers are in fact more challenging to shoot well than a full sized pistol such as a Glock or a 1911.”

    So? Apples to oranges and you ought to know it. Most small pistols have the same problems snubby or auto. If it’s small and light then the recoil and sight radius will suck. No real way to get around it. The little locked-breach .380s are flatter and lighter, but shoot a weaker round. They really aren’t any more amenable to regular practice.

    Do I think snubbies are an ideal first pistol? No. But I have seen that revolvers are a lot more approachable than my autos to non-technical people when I take them to the range. Not sure about hitting anything, but revolvers are much easier to get novices shooting with in the first place.

  4. I do follow Clint Smiths advice “carry the biggest gun you can conceal, A gun is not suppose to be comfortable, it suppose to be comforting” (he carries a 5 inch Goverment model, I carry a Commander

  5. I carry a commander in all but the warmest of weather….then I carry a snubbie.

    Of course I plunked a few bux more down for a S&W 642 with no lock that has a trigger pull that is NOT described with colorful analogies using “Piano” or “Gravel Driveway”

  6. Caleb, as someone who works teaching PTC classes.. I can tell you that with regards to training, revolvers do take quite a bit less training to operate proficiently than a similar sized semi-automatic. Barrel length/sights and recoil play less of a role in an SD situation than plinking at the range, as most SD situations occur at point shooting distances.

    Take a malfunction clearance drill for a semi auto.
    1.tap the mag
    2. invert the weapons.
    3. rack the slide.
    4. asses the situation and fire as necessary.

    Compare that to the clearance drill for a revolver
    1. Pull the trigger again.

    I highly recommend snubbies for shooters that have less experience and I will continue to do so. Striker fired guns like a glock require comparatively more training to operate safely, than a revolver does.

    Charter is certianly capable of spouting all sorts of b.s. at times but this is not one of those things.

    As always thanks so much for posting I love your blog.

    1. I suppose if all a person is teaching is point shooting at contact distances, than there isn’t any functional difference between a revolver and an auto. At contact distances, most people can hit a man sized target without using the sights because “monkey point good”; but if we’re not teaching people to actually shoot their guns well then we’re doing them a disservice.

  7. In a PTC class we DO focus on 21 feet and on in.. that’s point shooting distances for a man sized target anyway you cut it.

    For newer shooter who wants to carry, the snubbie is the way to go.

    At contact distances there is a functional difference between semi-auto and snubbies. That is the ability to fire the weapon from inside a pocket multiple times, or without fear of the slide hanging up on you or your assailant if things start to get hands on physical.

    I’m not trying to pick a fight here.. I’m just saying revolvers are simpler to operate than the equivalent sized semi auto.

    I teach other classes were we focus more on things other than “monkey point good” : – P. but I don’t believe that teaching people in PTC class this type of shooting is a disservice. Please don’t paint it as such.

  8. As for bad guys recognizing guns, I think it would take a pretty dim bulb to NOT recognize what a muzzle meant? Or the bore of any gun being pointed directly at them?

    As for the types (revolvers vs. semi-autos) and calibers, I think Walt Rauch said it best when he stated he has never met a gunshot victim who said, “Yeah, he ONLY shot me with a .25!”

    For my money, I think revolvers are easier to operate, but more difficult to shoot well or master; especially so in the more powerful chamberings.

    Your mileage may vary…

    All The Best,
    Frank W. James

  9. The next time Charter Arms TNG (née Charter 2000, née Charco, née Charter Arms TOS) goes tits up, somebody please remember to nail the damn coffin shut.

  10. Revolvers are easier to operate, but it’s harder for a beginner to hit the target with one. Let’s analyze this… Which is more important for self defense: being able to understand the reload sequence, or being able to hit your target in the first place?

    Tiger McKee is right.

  11. Weird. Charter Arms touches on all the wrong reasons for owning a revolver. I like my .327 because it is fairly simple, and takes several different rounds making it a handy trail gun which can be pushed into small game hunting in an emergency (using the ancient .32 S&W and all my accumulated good karma) but still has options for feral dogs and feral humans. A dud round also doesn’t stop you from laying down some lead.

    But Charter is really stretching with their reasoning.

  12. I’m not following. Are some of you making the claim that revolvers with a long, heavy DA pull are harder to shoot well than a comparably sized semi-auto with a long, heavy DA pull? That’s, umm….silly.

    Caleb is right about a full sized semi-auto, like a 1911, being easier to shoot well then a J-frame .38, but the 1911 has a single action trigger, a longer sight radius, and less recoil. Compare the 1911 to a S&W K-frame .38, especially the heavy barreled models, and the difference becomes much less pronounced. A quality, full sized revolver is far and away more accurate than your average locked breech, semi auto.

    I will grant that revolvers in magnum calibers, and most revolvers in the “Snub nose” category, are in calibers which are too powerful for the inexperienced shooter to do well with them. However, I would temper that with the fact that most people recommend calibers for self defense that are too powerful for the inexperienced shooter to do well with. A PF-9 is an excellent carry piece, but if it’s the first handgun you’ve ever fired, recoil is a bear. Most inexperienced shooters will complain about the recoil of a P3AT/LCP sized pistol. The same is true for anything with a decent amount of stopping power.

    The female shooters I have instructed also seem to prefer revolvers far and away above compact and subcompact semi-autos of all stripes. They like the simplicity, and they like the fact that you don’t have to pull back the slide, which many, but by no means all women I’ve taught have had trouble with.

    As for me, while I prefer revolvers for 99.5% of all shooting tasks, I carry compact or sub-compact semi-autos because they’re flat, light, and easy to shoot well. Almost none of them are easy to reload quickly, and they would be considered underpowered by many shooters. That’s fine, because most of them are too small to hold onto anyway. Big guns end up riding in the car, or they end up guarding the nightstand. In FL, we don’t have the option of concealing large framed anythings in Summer.

  13. The female shooters I have instructed also seem to prefer revolvers far and away above compact and subcompact semi-autos of all stripes.

    Do you have any goddam idea how much of a total tool a guy sounds like when he says this?

    No, you obviously don’t.

    Butthurt reaction in 5… 4… 3…

  14. “Any trainer will tell you that revolvers require less training than semi-autos to fire competently and safely thus making them the best firearm for the average citizen for self-defense purposes.”

    Ummm, no, they won’t. In fact some of the most prominent trainers will tell you the inverse.

    If you think of firearms as tools, people want to overutilize the snubnosed revovler. Those weapons are expert guns, not for beginners. The effective range is limited.

    Training with revolvers takes work and each platform has their own nuances.

    Whatever the platform, they all take work. No magic swords.

    “Do you have any goddam idea how much of a total tool a guy sounds like when he says this?”

    Wait, women are allowed to own firearms now?

  15. “Do you have any goddam idea how much of a total tool a guy sounds like when he says this?”

    Heh +1

    I’ve had the fortune of standing beside several friends and family members as they plunked down money for their first handgun. The sex ratio has been about 50/50 chicas to chicanos. Oddly enugh the ratio of flat guns to round guns chosen by preference of those people is also 50/50, and no sex linked.

    Seems that one size does not fit all.

    And here I thought if I could get those dumb Glock fanboys to settle down and pick up 1911s we’d have world peace!


  16. All we need now is for KdT to show up talking about how girls can’t rack the slide on a 1911 and the thread will be complete.

  17. After 10 years hanging around a prominent gun skool (six of those years as an assistant or instructor), I have still never met a healthy adult woman who cannot be easily taught to rack a slide in less than 10 minutes with a competent instructor.

    Note the word “competent.” Those instructors whose experience involves multiple healthy adult women unable to rack the slide are invited to contemplate that word and take it personally.

    During the same time frame, I have lost track of the number of healthy adult women I’ve worked with who lacked the hand strength to pull a DA revolver trigger properly while keeping the muzzle aligned with the target, without resorting to two-finger pulls or SA mode. Of course most women can easily manage this, but there are those who cannot, and for these, no amount of competent instruction eliminates the problem. There are only less-desirable workarounds.

    Does this mean every woman new to shooting needs a semi-auto? Heavens no. It means women (just like men!) are individuals, with individual needs.

    It would be downright silly to recommend that all women new to shooting get a semi-auto. But based on my own direct observation, it is outright dangerous to recommend that all (or even most) women new to shooting get a revolver.

    1. Agreed, in fact if there is one thing I’ve learned from shooting revolvers competitively is that these stupid guns are quite a bit harder to shoot well than a comparitively sized semi-auto.

  18. “…these stupid guns are quite a bit harder to shoot well than a comparitively sized semi-auto.”

    That is a fact as far as I’m concerned but IF YOU REALLY WANT TO INCREASE THE DIFFICULTY FACTOR, then try shooting something like a .41 Mag S&W loaded with 1,200 fps loads in your local IDPA match.

    You absolutely HAVE TO turn the wick up just to stay out of LAST place in a field of five shooters where 3 of ’em have never shot a match before in their lives.

    Plus you also have to be sure and bring plenty of bandaids…

    All The Best,
    Frank W. James

  19. Gee, Tam, I forgot that you were the anointed representative of every female who’s ever fired a gun before, or for that matter even contemplated firing a gun. What was I thinking? I suppose I was thinking of all of those times when I actually taught women how to handle a gun, and not “Gee, how will that chick from “View From The Porch” react to this factual statement.” Sorry if my observations weren’t politically correct enough for your tastes, but I will not censor a factual argument because YOU PERSONALLY dislike revolvers, and shoot more than most cops.

    I said THEY PREFER THEM. Given the option of either gun, and being shown how to handle both, they like the revolvers most often. You may be used to forcing your opinions about guns on people, but I don’t do that. I present them with the manual of arms, and they tend to choose revolvers. They also seem to feel that six shots is plenty, and don’t worry about speed loaders or extra magazines no matter what they carry.

    So, yes, I am a tool. A tool of knowledge, education, and safety. Oh-my-butt-hurts-so-bad! You really taught me a lesson. I’m sure I’m the first.

    @ Pax

    What exactly is a “healthy adult woman”? What is the average hand and/or forearms strength required of an adult female which is considered healthy? Why does someone need to be healthy in order to own or operate a firearm? What type of person do you believe attends a “Gun Skool”? Do you feel that the average person who attended had limited or no experience with firearms, or that they were probably more familiar than the average citizen?

    1. @ Frank – no thanks, that sounds like uh…more fun than I’m interested in.

      @ Matt – see above re: confirmation bias.

  20. @ Matt – Healthy means not suffering from severe arthritis or bursitis, and not subject to an underlying injury such as damage to the nerves or muscles that significantly impairs function in the hand, wrist, arm or shoulder. Nobody needs to be healthy in order to operate a firearm, but some forms of injury or illness necessarily complicate weapon choices. For those who are healthy, however, there’s no reason to limit them to one choice or the other — simply a reflection on the instructor if he can’t get a healthy student up to speed with a modern weapon.

    As to the experience levels of the students I’ve worked with, for the first several years at the school I helped -and still primarily work- in beginning classes with students absolutely new to firearms, many of whom had never fired the gun before we started working with them. Beginners, not people already familiar with firearms.

  21. pax, I think I’ll take a quick moment here to thank you for your wonderful website.

    And I’ll add that I have taught several healthy, but hardly powerful, women to rack the slide of a semi-auto pistol (including my 5″ 1911) thanks to the teaching on your site.

    I’ll also add that my preferred draw method for my shoulder holster is the one explained on your site.

    You’re a great woman, Pax, for Male and Female shooters everywhere.

    Oh BTW in that shoulder-rig demo you had a polymer barrel in your Glock, where did you get that?

  22. Personally I think you should buy and carry whatever you are willing to practice with, and semi vs. revolver doesn’t make much difference. I prefer my Glock 19, but wouldn’t feel a bit underarmed with my Ruger 357 either.

    I live in a large city and know many people who have never been around guns. A few times a year some friend or coworker will ask me to take them shooting because they’ve never been. And I’ve seen a potential problem with semi-autos.

    At least half of the new shooters I’ve taken to the range have serious problems with limp-wristing. I’ve seen them jam up Glocks, Sigs, and a CZ75B. They also tend to get easily confused by the controls. I’ve seen several people drop out a mag while shooting. Usually with a bit of instruction and practice they get over these problems. But it’s a concern. Self-defense is a reflexive act, and the amount of practice makes a big difference.

    So when they ask for advice on buying a handgun I always ask a question. “Tell me honestly, do you plan to come to the range fairly often and spend some real time practicing, or are you likely to throw it in the nightstand and forget it until you may need it?”

    With willingness to practice, I recommend a semi-auto. Collecting dust in the nightstand, I recommend a revolver.

  23. @ Caleb
    I see your point, but I work for a gun company, and we do not sell revolvers. If there’s a bias, it’s towards the guns my company sells, and not towards the guns my competitor sells. Many of the females I’ve instructed are older, and they remember what they’re fathers, husbands, and police officers used to carry. What they saw on TV for most of their lives, etc. If there is a bias (and with all things related to human nature there certainly is) it does not mean that the choices they have made for themselves were the wrong ones.

    If after I instructed them, they always picked semi-autos, that would be a confirmation of bias as well. You will also note that I did not indicate that all women, universally, prefer revolvers, and some have selected semi autos BUT the majority I have dealt with have not.

    @ Pax
    What do you mean “a modern weapon”? Like something that uses a center fire metallic cartridge? Are you equating revolvers with flintlock dueling pistols?

    I’m not in the business of telling people what they have to buy and use for their own personal security. In fact, I’ve never been paid for any instructional services I’ve rendered. Since I’ve never taken my position as an educator as license to tell someone what they should think and how they should act and what they should like. So you’re right. I suppose that is a reflection of my character, as well as why they came to me, and not to someone like you.

  24. …2 …1.

    Huff. Puff. Bluster. Political correctness! Defensiveness. Blah-blah. I hate you.

    Can I call ’em, or can I call ’em? 😀

    The best part was the part about how I “…personally dislike revolvers.”

    That must be why I own fifty or so of the things, carry two, and keep a third next to the bed.

    Way to miss the point of what I was saying, Matt.

    Read what Kathy is saying: It’s the same thing, but she’s being nicer about it.

  25. There is little doubt a revolver is loaded and many times the threat/attacker will see it’s loaded by simply looking at the cylinder and seeing the ammunition in it.

    Oh SURE, and I’ll bet when the attacker is looking down the barrel of your 1911his 1st thought is determining whether the gun being pointed at his head is loaded or not…..

    Where do they come up with this stuff?

  26. So tell me if I’m crazy here:

    Revolvers feel lots safer for those days when the gun has to go in the holster and out of the holster and in and out and in and out. Especially in the winter when this happens in the front seat of a truck in and out of the center console with jackets and sweaters and such.

    Days when I can check for a round in the chamber, put on the gun in the morning and then touch it next that night before turning out the lights are Glock 19 days.

    Days when I am working somewhere or going somewhere where I can’t carry and the gun will be on and off and on and off are S&W days.

  27. Girls and guns

    My own limited experience teaching a girl to shoot was surprising. I expected my medium frame revolver to be the easiest for her, but she very much preferred the auto. The problem was hand strength.

    She had difficulty pulling the DA trigger on the revolver, and didn’t like cocking the hammer for each shot either. Just too much effort. I don’t think men truly appreciate the difference in grip strength between the sexes. I know I didn’t.

    So even though an auto may be a lot of effort to prepare to fire for many girls, loading a mag and racking a slide, the ease of firing seems to more than make up for it.

    I’m just saying.

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