Los Angeles, 1983 — the two men had been watching the young woman lawyer for days. They knew which car on the street was hers, and they waited until she was fast asleep to remove the glass from the living room windows and enter her apartment. They quickly and quietly removed everything that was worth anything, including the television, and using the keys in her purse they opened her car and loaded their swag into it. But then they didn’t just leave. They moved to the bedroom door and opened it.

The lady lawyer woke in time to see the two strange men standing silently in the threshold of her bedroom, and screamed as loud as she could. Her neighbors responded to her with 2x4s and knives, and the assailants fled.

It was only when the two men were arrested a few days later by police that the potential horror of the situation was revealed. These two were not just thieves. They were serial rapists, with dozens of prior victims in the city. The young lawyer was shaken to the core. If her neighbors hadn’t responded, she might have shared the fate of those other women.

The next day, on the recommendation of her co-workers in the Courthouse, she bought a dog, and her first revolver: a Charter Arms Bulldog revolver chambered for the .44 S&W Special cartridge.

Gun Details

The Bulldog had been around since 1973, and was a favorite of Court employees. Designed to be carried a lot and shot a little, that revolver was a perfect example of a circa 1983 Bulldog. With a blue finish on the steel 3-inch barrel and five shot cylinder, the exposed ejector rod and case hardened hammer, the “Bulldog .44” was lightweight and easy to carry.

Shooting it was an entirely different matter. At 20 ounces empty, this dog loved to bark, and the muzzle flash and kick were considerable with heavy factory .44 Special loads. I doubt our female Attorney would even know that by the time she bought hers, over half a million Bulldogs were already in the hands of citizens who needed to defend themselves. Somewhere in the middle of the Bulldog’s history, quality control slipped at the factory, and the venerable big bore carry gun found its reputation floundering. New owners put it back on track, and the 21st century Charter Arms revolvers are better than ever.

By 2012, revolver design had advanced since those 1970’s models, and those changes have found their way into the. As it approaches its 40th anniversary, the Charter Arms Bulldog still holds the same five rounds of .44 Special as its predecessor, but that’s where the similarities end.

The current Bulldog comes in ten variations, from the standard blue model at around $400 to the top of the line Crimson Bulldog we tested here. The stainless, eight-groove barrel is now cut back to 2.5 inches long, but features an integral shroud to protect the ejector rod, and keep it from snagging when drawn from a pocket or handbag. The all American-made solid stainless steel framed revolver weighs in at 21 ounces empty, and comes with Crimson Trace Lasergrips activated by a button on the frontstrap.

With the Bulldog and a new Crimson Model in hand, we set out to see how the new Charter guns compared to the original. With a supply of factory .44 Special ammunition, we headed to a private shooting facility.

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