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Old 04-24-2011, 08:44 PM
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Default charter arms undercover .38 quetsions.

just wondering, i just picked up a revolver from my grandfather and was hoping you guys may be able to answer a few questions. first of all, its a snub nose 38 that has bridgeport conn. on the right side of the barrel, undercover 38 on the other side. ill post pics when i can. its blued finish, and has smooth walnut grips with the scroll type logo in them. the sn is 1774xx. its in good shape and i was wondering if there is any way to date this thing. and maybe any way to tell if it can handle +p ammo or not. i dont know much about these guys except that there were some more made later on that i hear were not of good quality. anyone have any info on these old dogs? thanks guys.

josh
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Old 04-24-2011, 08:55 PM
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I have one I purchased while stationed at Ft Benning Ga in 1977, used and have nothing to say but good things about it. I bought it for my wife to keep in the nightstand while I was overseas. It was smaller than my chief's special so it fit her better. I have never shot +p in it but it is built like a vault so I would not be afraid to load some if I was carrying it. Don't think I would shoot more than a cylinder full to get a feel for them. I'm afraid they might be a little stout in it. just my opinion. Mike
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Old 04-24-2011, 08:58 PM
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thanks man. im cleaning it now and it seems like its built very good. i hear some of the newer ones were not on par as the older models. so far im liking what i see in it. thanks again.
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Old 04-24-2011, 09:32 PM
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My personal experience is that Charter Arms' quality control was very spotty. Some were okay, others, not so much. To be fair, a few I've seen were "misused" in that shooting full house .357 Magnum loads out of a light weight framed piece on a consistent basis is asking for problems. I had a friend who was a LEO and carried one as a back-up. He had to get special permission as the only official back-ups were either Colts or S&W - my buddy had a chronically sick child, so money was tight, and his Chief was an understanding guy. So he got to carry the lower priced Charter Arms until he could afford a Colt or S&W. Funny thing was once he could upgrade, he didn't want to - for whatever reason.

Best of luck,

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Old 04-24-2011, 11:39 PM
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I bought one when they first came out, shot it a lot, and it worked fine. I preferred the Smiths though. I got rid of it for an airweight Smith.

Still have one that was poorly stored. It lives in my console and works perfectly.

Bob
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Old 04-25-2011, 06:34 AM
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I have #4978**.Great revolver.No way to date it that i know of.I carry +p's,and shoot regular .38's from it.It's my 2nd. carry gun after my S&W.The later ones were hit & miss[no pun intended!].
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Old 04-25-2011, 02:32 PM
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I have an "undercover 38 special" #25366, used & carried regularly since about 1968.

Steel barrel, cylinder, frame, with alloy trigger guard & gripframe.
Loaded with 158 gr. service ammo. it weighs 18 1/2 oz.

Finish is 20% or less, mechanical function is 100% as always. In 23 years of nearly daily carry, it has had no failures or breakages. None, zip, nada! Has been carried thousands of miles & shot thousands of rounds & definately my favorite.

Jim
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Old 04-25-2011, 05:48 PM
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thanks again guys for the info. i didnt really think that +p ammo should hurt it since some of the loads i will be shooting are not much more potent than the regular factory loads i normally shoot. but the higher chamber pressures are what caused me to ask. i plan on keeping this little thing and ill post some pics when i get some new batteries. and i def. want to get some better grips cuz these things are tiny and my huge hands may have a time gripping it.

anyone have an idea to where i may be able to get a date of manufacture? ive searched the net for info but was unable to come up with anything close.
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Old 04-25-2011, 08:29 PM
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I had a mid-'80s one that was great, and a late '80s one that was not. No idea as to your date of make - pix might help, but I don't know of anyone who'd care enough to keep a SN list except maybe the latest incarnation of the company. Can't imagine that plus-P .38s would hurt it.
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Old 04-26-2011, 07:20 AM
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Ive been lucky so far I have 3 Charter .44s and actually they perform very well, one is in my truck console all the time. Then I have a little 3 inch .22 pathfinder with adjustable sights and its a great little gun. Not S&W's but good for what they are.
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Old 04-26-2011, 09:06 AM
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I'm no expert, but as I understand it, Bridgeport was the original home of Charter Arms, so yours is probably one of the older ones. I've got a Stafford, Conn gun, which is where the factory next moved to. To the best of my knowledge there is no real way to tell exactly when a gun was made, other than rough estimate.

Over the years Charter Arms has been bought and sold several times. The ones marked as "Charco" and "Charter 2000" are considered "hit and miss" on the quality (if not downright poor). The company once again is in the hands of the original family at this time, and although I've never shot one of the current production models, the ones I've looked at seem to be well made.

The one I've got shoots just fine but with those tiny wooden grips it will batter my knuckles bloody, even with wadcutter loads. I contacted Charter, and was told the current crop of neoprene grips will fit the older guns. They are a HUGE improvement. Yes, you give up some concealibility, but they're worth the trade-off. About $25.00 from Charter. They'll fit most any holster made for a J frame Smith.

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Old 04-26-2011, 01:28 PM
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I bought my wife a new 2" Charter Arms Lavender Lady .38 in December 2010 and we have been very satisfied with it thus far. +P ammunition can be a tad "brisk" though.

Kenny
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Old 04-26-2011, 04:37 PM
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bobell01ATaolDOTcom

E-mail Jim at the above address (substituting the proper symbols, of course) with your serial number and model and any other info you may have. He is compiling a Charter Arms Data base and will be able to give you an appx date. He has already written a book about H&R.

Adios,

Pizza Bob
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Old 04-26-2011, 06:04 PM
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i checked all the screws and i couldnt get them to turn any with the slightest force. the only one i am curious about is the one inside the cylinder housing. its tiny and it looks as it may come loose with some shooting, so i tightend it down a tad and then the clyinder wouldnt open. went to far. i think i may loctite it into place where it is able to get the cylinder open with ease. anyone else have to do this? ill post pics as soon as i get them uploaded. this little thing is pretty neat.
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Old 04-27-2011, 03:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CajunBass View Post
with those tiny wooden grips it will batter my knuckles bloody, even with wadcutter loads.
On mine, the thumb piece on the cylinder release would bite my thumb. I took it off - the gun works fine without it. You just pull the ejector rod forward to unlock the cylinder. This is only for the early models with the unshrouded ejector rod.
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Old 04-27-2011, 10:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowboy117 View Post
I have #4978**.Great revolver.No way to date it that i know of.I carry +p's,and shoot regular .38's from it.It's my 2nd. carry gun after my S&W.The later ones were hit & miss[no pun intended!].
1st Generation Charter Arms Corp. reached 500,000 pieces produced in August 1979. Your piece with s/n 4978xx (I hate those x's for research reasons, LOL) was probably made sometime during the preceding two months.
The UNDERCOVER and OFFDUTY models of that time were specifically not rated for +P ammo (stated in their catalogues) - the POLICE variations, 6 shot .38s made on the larger Bulldog frame were rated for +P, as this frame and cylinder combo was also chambered for 5 shots of .357 Mag or .44 Special.
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Old 04-27-2011, 11:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cussedemgun View Post
I have an "undercover 38 special" #25366, used & carried regularly since about 1968.

Steel barrel, cylinder, frame, with alloy trigger guard & gripframe.
Loaded with 158 gr. service ammo. it weighs 18 1/2 oz.

Finish is 20% or less, mechanical function is 100% as always. In 23 years of nearly daily carry, it has had no failures or breakages. None, zip, nada! Has been carried thousands of miles & shot thousands of rounds & definately my favorite.

Jim
s/n 25366 (I love full serial numbers for research purposes) is a very early piece - probably made during 1967 at the latest - production began in 1965, but I don't know exactly when and I don't know (yet) the volume produced during those early years. I would like to know where the serial number is stamped and whether the right side of the barrel has the "BRIDGEPORT CONN" stamp on it, please. This gun was made right around the point where that stamping was beginning to be used.
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Old 04-27-2011, 11:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Dude View Post
i checked all the screws and i couldnt get them to turn any with the slightest force. the only one i am curious about is the one inside the cylinder housing. its tiny and it looks as it may come loose with some shooting, so i tightend it down a tad and then the clyinder wouldnt open. went to far. i think i may loctite it into place where it is able to get the cylinder open with ease. anyone else have to do this? ill post pics as soon as i get them uploaded. this little thing is pretty neat.
That "little" screw is the ejector rod adjustment screw - kind of unique to the Charter Arms guns - it is used to take up slack and allow easy opening of the cylinder with cylinder release button. It should be adjusted so that it is just flush with the recoil shield. If you locktite it, you lose the ability to adjust the system as it ages.
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Old 04-27-2011, 11:31 AM
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Here is the data I have for Charter Arms, at this date. It will help defray some confusion and hopefully help CA owners somewhat:

The very first Charter Arms Corporation production began in 1965 in BRIDGEPORT CONN - earliest pieces - mostly Undercover model will have either NO address on the right side of the barrel or will have BRIDGEPORT CONN
Around 1974, address was changed to STRATFORD CONN - all pieces made after mid 1974 will be marked with that address on the right side of the barrel and all will have CHARTER ARMS CORP. as the first line. Sometime in 1991, Charter Arms Corp. ceased operations. This was the end of the FIRST GENERATION.
Around early 1992, the company was re-organized under new leadership and became known as Charter Arms Company - CHARCO, and was located in ANSONIA CONN. All second generation pieces will be marked on the right side of the barrel with that name and address in two lines. This is the SECOND generation and apparently the period which caused the most damage to the Charter name and reputation.
In 2000, the company was again reorganized as CHARTER 2000 and relocated to SHELTON CONN. All pieces made during this THIRD generation will be marked with the SHELTON address. Early production of this generation seems to have been spotty and reputation still lagged. About a year and a half ago, the company re-reorganized under the direction of MKS Marketing and seems now to be if not flourishing at least it is progressing in quality and market share.
From the limited data set that I have been able to assemble so far the following serialization seems to be valid: (NOTE: model name and caliber will be stamped on left side of barrel on all pieces)

FIRST GENERATION
0001 - <15000 Bridgeport 1964 - ? CHARTER ARMS CORP. right side of barrel marking only
~15000 - <315,000 ? - ~1965 CHARTER ARMS CORP. over BRIDGEPORT CONN .marking
~316,000 - <1,088,000 - ~1974 to 1991 - CHARTER ARMS CORP. over STRATFORD CONN. marking

SECOND GENERATION
>1,090,000 - ??? 1992 - 2000? CHARCO over ANSONIA CONN- marking

THIRD GENERATION
000001 - to date 2000 - 2011 CHARTER ARMS 2000 over SHELTON CONN marking.

This is the updated serial number info that I have - based upon around 800 data points
The earliest 1st Gen - ~0 to ~15,000 have NO barrel ADDRESS and s/n is on lower right corner on right side of frame. CA company founded in 1964, first production pieces of the Undercover model produced in 1965
Bridgeport CONN address - ~15000 to ~315,000 1967 - 1969
Stratford CONN address - ~316000 to ~1,090,000 1970 - ~1991
All marked as Charter Arms Corporation

2nd Generation - CHARCO, Ansonia Conn adress - 1,090,000 to ??? ~1991 - 1999

3rd Generation - CHARTER 2000 - Shelton Conn - 0 to where ever they are today.

From the 26 pieces in my collection (all 1st Gen) and from dozens more that I've had the opportunity to observed and fondle, I'd say that around s/n 600,000 the finish was made a lot finer - although the integrals (lock work, action) was at least as good as the earlier ones. I have or have read magazine articles that cover pretty much of the production life of the 1st Generation, and during that period (around late 1980, early 1981) it seems that CA attempted to capture more of the market by doing so, also in April of 1981, they introduced Stainless Steel revolvers into the mix, for the first time. Some of the articles lamented that the earlier pieces, although rough finish, were rather inexpensive (~60-65% of S&W) and when CA began their "modernization" process, the finishes got better but the prices increased to about 85 to 90% of the S&W line for comparable models.
During the 2nd Generation, the CHARCO (Charter Arms COMPANY), under new management and reorganized, the quality was definitely more spotty and haphazard. I've seen CHARCO produced guns with Stratford marked barrels, obviously using up old stock.
The earliest CHARTER 2000 pieces I had the opportunity to handle (some fairly early 4 digits s/ns - were uniformly, poorly fitted and finished and had some horrendous and gritty actions. That seems to have been rectified under MKS's (circa 2008) new leadership and the most recent pieces I've handled - s/n's in the high 100,000 range have been "decent" but not as fine in finish and action as the mid years of the 1st Generation. This is simply my studied opinion based upon experience.


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Old 04-27-2011, 11:48 AM
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Jim, for what it's worth, the one I have pictured above, wears S/N 406940. Don't know if it helps you any or not.

Thanks for your research.
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Old 04-27-2011, 03:34 PM
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Cajun -
Thanks for the s/n - it fits into an area where I don't have good dating info. Estimating it was made in mid 1977, based upon 500K being made in Aug 79. Every bit of info helps - do you have any date references?...box (should be yellow with brown)?...papers?
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Old 04-27-2011, 04:58 PM
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then im not going to locktite that screw then. great info by the way.
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Old 04-28-2011, 12:10 AM
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Cajun -
Thanks for the s/n - it fits into an area where I don't have good dating info. Estimating it was made in mid 1977, based upon 500K being made in Aug 79. Every bit of info helps - do you have any date references?...box (should be yellow with brown)?...papers?
No Jim. Sorry. I bought the gun last summer/early fall maybe, used, off the rack at my local dealer. Wish I had more info.
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Old 05-02-2011, 05:33 PM
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I had one about 25 years ago, same description as yours. I shot just 148-grain wadcutters through mine, but might be convinced to try +P ammo. Mine seemed pretty sturdy, but I never did try those, if they were even around then. (?) I say, if you believe yours will tolerate them--give it a try!
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Old 06-14-2011, 11:07 PM
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32 M
Just bought a first gen S/N 75716x what DOB would you give it
Thanks for info on cyl. latch adj screew also found mine lose and did the same as Dude did
Thanks for all your time
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Old 06-14-2011, 11:31 PM
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then im not going to locktite that screw then. great info by the way.
I used just a tiny dab of blue loctite on mine....I had two....three cylinder fulls of 44 spl and it would be a bear to open....I don't shoot it enough to worry about adjusting it from wear...I need it to work for 5 rounds...that's it....if it does that, then that is all I ask of it.....
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Old 06-15-2011, 10:15 AM
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Grip frame size stayed the same so grips can be interchanged between the .22s, .38s, and .44s. (I've swapped them between a .44 and a Pathfinder myself.) Pachs aren't hard to find, but you can also find Eagle and other brands of wood grips made to fit Charter frames.

I've had several of the .44s, and still have a 3" Pathfinder that I paid 150 dollars for (in 2007 or so) that I can't see ever getting rid of given price vs performance.

The old blue coated Federal Nyclads - at standard pressure - used to be a popular load for the small Charter snubs.
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Old 06-15-2011, 01:40 PM
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I bought my first CA Undercover in the late 70's. I couldn't find a stainless steel S&W anywhere. I shot it a fair amount with mostly wadcutters. I gave it to my daughter years ago and she still has it. The quality was first rate. I had the opportunity to get a used blued model Undercover a few years ago. The quality, fit and finish is excellent. I picked it up for a song. It rides in the truck with me every day. I've never regretted buying the Charter Arms revolvers. I did hear that the quality of more recent productions could include a lemon on occasion, but some S&W model 66's I saw in the early 80's were of spotty quality (bad sights, poor machining, etc.). I have heard that Charter Arms has a very good service dept. and backs up their guns. I'll take a Charter Arms over a Taurus or Rossi revolver any day.
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Old 06-15-2011, 02:38 PM
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I've always wondered about the durability of the crane (yoke) of that design. Looks like it could spring easily or work loose. The Smith yoke looks so much stronger.
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Old 06-16-2011, 07:55 AM
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I once had one of the 9mm Federal Charter Arms with the short barrel. No problems.

This Stratford one pictured below is a .38 spcl undercover. It works great...no negatives here. Its very small, light, and accurate. Its one of my favorite pocket revolvers. I changed it to DAO only with a replacement hammer from CA.




This one is .22 lr pathfinder...favorite .22 shooter.

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Old 06-16-2011, 08:56 AM
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I would say they are the American version of Taurus. You get a group that says they are good or great and then you hear they are junk. You get a group that says they trusted them for years and then you hear they are junk. You get a group to say they are accurate and then you hear they are junk. You get a group to say they are decent quality for the price paid and then you hear they are junk. I would just treat it like any other used revolver and check the timing, end shake, and normal revolver wear areas. And I don’t use any +P in any older revolvers. I slight bump in velocity of +P from a snub is so minimal I don’t see the continued desire. A good soft lead expanding hollow point like the standard pressure offerings we have to choose from will be fine for your gun, your hand, and some BG’s torso should the time come. My two cents.

32Magnum - I love the "pocket hammer" gun you posted. I don't know why more of the big names didn't do this option. I know Colt did one like this on the Cobra and Detective Specials, but every other bobbed hammer I see can't be thumbed back at all. I much prefer that option on a snag free design. It's too bad the current incarnation of Charter can't copy that into some new guns.

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Old 06-16-2011, 10:58 AM
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I appreciate Jim's knowledge and observations. It looks like the stainless model I bought must have been in the early 80's. The 1st series, marked Stratford Conn. blued one that I now have is serial numbered 609XXX. The roll marks and finish are really nice, like Jim observed. The finish compares to early S&W revolvers. I've owned 3 of the first series revolvers and all were of very good quality and dependable. Like all small alloy framed revolvers, I consider them a carry a lot and shoot little guns.
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Old 10-23-2011, 01:31 AM
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well i cant thank everyone enough for all the input. i been shooting my snubby for a few months now and no problems at all. ive decided to avoid using +p ammo since the barrel is so short and i dont really want to potentially stress the gun.

this thing shoots great for a snub. ive been feeding it lots of 158 gr. hornady xtp's. gunna try the 125's to see what it likes better.

finally got around to picking up a holster for it today, its a de santis speed scabbard. couldnt find one made for it at my local shop so i picked one up for a S&W J frame. fits just fine.

been checkin gun broker for some more of these and they seem to be getting harder to find. and more expensive.
Thanks for the input agian guys.
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Old 10-23-2011, 05:43 AM
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I walked into my LGS a month or so ago, and spotted this one on the rack. It's an Undercover 38, with a 3" barrel. It was still oozing packing grease, even when I took the picture. A Bridgeport gun, with a fairly low serial number (22xxx), I'm pretty sure it had never been fired. It has now. I've been told by someone who knows more about them than I do, it dates to 1966.





Went back a few weeks later, and they had another identical one, with a S/N three digits off this one. I've got that one on layaway now. I don't know why. Because.
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Old 10-23-2011, 07:58 AM
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Nice catch, don't see too many 3" .38s. Early offerings were very good quality guns and enjoyed a reputation as such. I've also heard good things about the more recent versions. It's the Charco and Charter 2000 guns that had on again off again quality issues. From what I've seen/read it sounds like the current owner is really trying to step up the quality and turn their reputation around.
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Old 10-23-2011, 10:41 AM
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thats a nice find. honestly, id prolly do the same thing. i dont see very many of the bridgeport guns in general, especially the 3" models. yesterday when i bought my holster the store owner was admiring mine. although mine is got some nicks and dings, i still love it. im going to try and find a few more as well.
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Old 03-18-2012, 12:48 AM
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Jim, thanks for all the great information. I was thinking about buying one of the new Ruger polymer .38's for my wife and ran across an old Charter Arms .38 Undercover Special at the pawn shop today. I had never heard of the company before and the shop clerk didn't know the difference between a "semi-auto" and a "revolver" so he obviously couldn't tell me anything about the gun or the company. I could tell as soon as I picked it up that it was well made, though and it has the best trigger I've ever felt on a revolver. Everything is tight and smooth. It has obviously been well used and fired many shots, but looks to have been well cared for. Haven't fired it yet but will do first thing in the morning.
It has CHARTER ARMS CORP. BRIDGEPORT. CONN. on right hand side and
UNDERCOVER .38 SPL. on left.
S/N is 299430 so, based on your information, I assume it was made sometime between 1965 and 1974.

Thanks again for the information, it was extremely informative and very helpful.

trying to attach photos. Hope it works.
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  #38  
Old 03-18-2012, 08:59 AM
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I have an old Bridgeport Undercover. She ain't too pretty but she has been a faithful companion.

I recently picked up a Bridgeport Bulldog that looks a little nicer than my Undercover.

As soon as they come out with the 9mm and .45ACP revolvers, I'd like to try those, too.
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Old 03-18-2012, 11:35 AM
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I bought SN 356 in early 66. It was the only off duty gun I could afford back then. Still got it today. It is a very accurate and reliable weapon. It is still in its original box as I got a raise that year and bought a Chiefs Special. I recently bought a Charter .327 mag, 2.5" barrel and it is also a very good weapon. Bought it because I did not want to hazard a lot of cash on what might become a extinct caliber, guess no worries there now. It is POA/POI at 20 yards with 100 gr JHP American box loads. And it seems to pack a punch.
In my early Undercover I used 158 GR SWC ammo almost exclusively and it is still as tight as the day I bought it.
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Old 03-19-2012, 04:56 PM
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My Stratford Conn. Undercover is one of my all time favorite small revolvers to carry. I'm sure its not as expensively made as my J-frame S&W's but the cylinder lockup on The C-A is much tighter than the S&W J's.

It shoots good and carries well in my J-frame holsters. Plus, a J-frame Tyler T-grip fits it right in my hand.

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Old 03-19-2012, 05:47 PM
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Bought a Bridgeport Undercover for an off-duty weapon when I was a new patrolman in the early 70's. Couldn't afford a S&W and found the Charter for a great price at a discount store in a clearance sale. Shot it quite a bit and it was a good shooter and weighed only 16 oz. as opposed to 19 oz. for a S&W j-frame. The wood grips were very small though and replaced them with Herrett Shooting Ace which compromised concealability a bit but were comfortable. In 1974 finances were a little better and I bought a new S&W m36 and never looked back.

Sold the undercover to a fellow officer who, along with me, is now retired. He still has the little charter and it still shoots fine. I still have the m36 too and it has served me well.
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Old 08-21-2012, 03:34 PM
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Anyone else a big fan of William Peterson, as a FBI Profiler
in MANHUNTER?

He uses a .44 Bulldog with Glaser Safety Slugs.
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Old 08-25-2012, 09:51 PM
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i still shoot the snot out of mine and it shoots rather well.
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Old 10-02-2012, 11:17 AM
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Just inherited this one from my father (RIP).

No address, SN# 560. Was told by CA customer service it dates to 1964.

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Old 10-02-2012, 12:17 PM
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I had an Undercover briefly, and really liked it. I let someone talk me into selling it to him for considerably more than I paid for it, or I would still have it.
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Old 10-03-2012, 09:56 PM
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I have one I got in 1965. SN 369, that's right 3 digits. They must have gone all out on the first batch because it is a very good weapon. 2" barrel, blue. I bought it because its sights were far better than the S&W snubs of the day.

I have fired just about everything through it, including Super Vels, which were real +Ps, but not so designated. It is still chugging along, and is the most accurate snub I have ever owned. Also got a pair of the "bulldog" grips which make handling much better. Don't pack it any more because I don't want to ruin whats left of the finish, but it sits loaded under my desk in my home office. Still got the box too.
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