In my estimation, Charter Arms is the leading producer of small, lightweight, big-bore revolvers. The company started in 1973 with the introduction of the Bulldog in .44 Special. This five-shooter emulated the old British Bulldog: a small revolver firing a big cartridge that became popular in the mid-19th century. About five years ago the Bulldog frame was used in a six-shot .357 Magnum called the Pug. A couple of years after that, the Pitbull was introduced on the same frame but in the rimless .40 S&W cartridge. Close on its heels was a 9mm version and then, late last year, Charter Arms brought forth the Pitbull revolver in .45 ACP.
Revolvers in .45 ACP date back to World War I when Colt and Smith & Wesson produced their large-frame service revolvers in the .45 ACP service cartridge due to the shortage of Model 1911 pistols for U.S. troops. Called the Model 1917, both revolvers required thin, steel, C-shaped “half-moon” clips that affixed to three cartridges and allowed them to be simultaneously ejected from the revolvers.
When Charter Arms introduced the Pitbull line, it didn’t use moon clips at all, but instead the ejector star/ratchet at the rear of the cylinder was made thick enough to contain small, spring-loaded plungers. When a cartridge is loaded into the chamber, the plunger is depressed and then pops back out to engage the extractor cut in the cartridge case. The round headspaces on the front of the cartridge case and, when the revolver is empty, the cylinder is swung out and the ejector rod pressed vigorously to extract the spent cases.
Like the previous Pitbull models, this new .45 ACP wheelgun is fashioned from 416 stainless steel, except for the grip-frame/triggerguard unit, which is anodized aluminum alloy. The finish is matte stainless. It’s a five-shooter, with a traditional double-action/single action (DA/SA) trigger, an exposed hammer, and the Beryllium copper firing pin is fitted in the frame. It has a 2.5-inch barrel equipped with a rib on the top and an ejector rod shroud on the bottom.
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As a concealed-carry handgun, it’s fitted with a serrated ramp front sight and a fixed notch rear sight. The grips are checkered neoprene that feature finger grooves and the Charter Arms logo; they cover the backstrap to help absorb recoil. Overall fit and finish was good. The SA trigger pull was crisp at about 5.5 pounds and the DA pull was over 12 pounds (I’d guesstimate at least 14 to 15 pounds) but fairly smooth.
Eyeballing the .45 ACP Pitbull alongside my Charter Arms Bulldog .44, I could tell the Pitbull was a bit larger. My dial calipers indicated the frame from just forward of the trigger to the upper surface of the topstrap was 2.08 inches on the Bulldog but measured 2.25 inches on the .45 Pitbull. The .44 cylinder was 1.45 inches in diameter, while the .45 cylinder was 1.62 inches. Sans the thicker extractor star, which would allow a slightly longer cylinder, a .45 Colt chambering could be possible!
I noted the ejector rod throw on the Pitbull was 0.63 inches, which lifts about two-thirds of the .45 ACP brass out of the chamber. Dyed-in-the-wool revolver shooters take note—unfired rounds will not just fall from the chambers on the Pitbull when you pop out the cylinder since they are held in place by the plungers. Consequently, cartridges have to be pushed into the chambers as the plungers prevent them from just dropping in.
Running The Big Dog
I wanted to cover the spectrum of bullet weights available in .45 ACP for my Pitbull shooting evaluation, so for the standard 230-grain bullet load I selected Federal Premium cartridges with the 230-grain Hydra-Shok JHP. Dropping down to 200 grains, I used the new Sig Sauer 200-grain Elite Performance JHP load. For an even lighter bullet, I elected to try the Glaser 165-grain Pow’RBall +P that has a hollow-cavity bullet with a polymer cap on the nose.
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For leather, I turned to a tried-and-true Alessi belt-slide holster I use for my Charter Bulldog. This high-ride, open-top rig had just enough “give” to allow use with the slightly larger Pitbull. For faster reloading than just using loose cartridges, I found the 44-45 size QuickStrip from Tuff Products worked just fine with the .45 ACP cartridge. The flexible material held the cartridge rims firmly yet allowed the cartridges to pull free during the loading sequence.
On range day, I first set up my Oehler Model 35P chronograph to see what kind of velocities I’d get from the 2.5-inch barrel and .45 ACP ammo. Not surprisingly, the highest reading went to the Pow’RBall +P load at 1,053 fps. I set up my target stand at 15 yards, given the sighting arrangements and short barrel of the Pitbull. I also used a generous-sized target to help compensate for my 60-year-old eyeballs. Three 5-shot groups were fired with each test cartridge, all in SA from the bench while using a sandbag rest. The best of the 15 groups measured 1.38 inches and was made with the Sig’s 200-grain JHP load. It shot to point of aim and also produced the best group average at 1.53 inches. The Federal and Glaser ammo also shot close to point of aim, and none of the group averages exceeded 3 inches. I judged this to be a very good performance considering the Pitbull’s sights and short sighting radius.
For some practical shooting, I set up a silhouette target at 15 yards and put on the Alessi holster. All three of the .45 ACP test cartridges were intermixed for this evaluation, and I loaded the Tuff Products QuickStrip and placed it in my right front pocket. Moving up to 3 yards, a friend who was helping me yelled “gun,” which was the signal for me to commence action.
I drew the Charter Pitbull and engaged the target, shooting DA and using the strong-hand only for five shots at center-mass. I then dumped the empties, reloaded using the QuickStrip and transferred the gun to my left hand and fired five more rounds. I next moved back to 7 yards and, on the same command, drew and fired two shots, kept the gun at a “high search” position and, on command, fired two more shots, returning to high search. On the third command, I fired one shot, reloaded and fired an additional shot.
Staying at 7 yards, on command I fired one center-mass shot and one to the head, then went to high search, followed by two shots to center-mass and one to the head. I then worked back to the barricade at 15 yards to reload under cover. On the next command of “gun,” I fired one round from the left side of the barricade standing, two from the right side while standing and two from the right side while kneeling. Out of a possible 250 points, I scored 234, with most hitting in the target’s 9 and 10 rings.
My first observation is that the Pitbull is a fairly lightweight gun at 22 ounces, and as such it has a good deal of recoil, especially with heavier bullets in .45 ACP. The neoprene grips help, but for extended range workouts, I’d recommend wearing shooting gloves. I decided my carry load on this gun would be the Sig 200-grain JHP. This gun is sensitive to unburned gunpowder and debris accumulation under the extractor star. For the best function, try to keep this area clean during an extended shooting session. Lastly, the QuickStrip worked well, but the cartridges still needed a fast circular digit-check once I’d dropped the loader, to assure they were properly seated. That alone points to the fact that you need to shoot and move, reloading under cover if at all possible while maintaining observation of the threat area.
So we now have an easily concealed revolver in .45 ACP. The Pitbull revolver performs well and is of good quality. For those aficionados of this cartridge, this is good news, or perhaps you have several autoloaders in this caliber and see an advantage in having a small revolver that takes the same ammunition. It could be you are in law enforcement and would like a .45 ACP backup gun to your .45 ACP service pistol. Whatever the reason, Charter Arms now has a big-bore dog that will definitely hunt.
For more information, visit http://www.charterfirearms.com or call 203-922-1652.