When I was working as a gunsmith, Charter Arms revolvers didn’t often cross my threshold. They had a rep back then as not being all that good. I found it curious that they sold like hotcakes, but I saw few of them for repairs. Since then the Charter Arms name and product has been rebuilt. There are a lot of shooters who still cling to their old attitudes, but you should not pay much attention to them.
We have here for your consideration the exemplar of a carry gun a lightweight, five-shot, double-action .38 Special revolver. Such a snubbie has gone to just about every location on Earth, save perhaps Mt. Everest and the Marianas Trench. And for good reason The performance-to-weight package of a lightweight snubbie makes it a valued tool in emergency situations. This one, the Charter Arms Pink Lady, is your basic five-shot snubbie with a twist. The frame is made of 7075 aluminum alloy, and the barrel, cylinder and moving parts are made of stainless steel. The result is a 12-ounce package that is rated for +P ammunition. The name is a big clue; the aluminum frame is anodized pink.
Now, the rage for women shooters of late is to make things pink. Handguns, rifles, grips, all various shades of pink, for fashion and to make a statement. Guys, pay attention The pink does not rub off. In fact, if anything, it is an aid to cleaning. Powder residue that would not show on a blued gun will stand out on a pink one, and you’ll be able to do a better job of maintenance.
Now, all is not wine and roses here, but the drawbacks are not the fault of Charter Arms. Rather, they are inherent in the package.
First, a lightweight revolver is not easy to shoot. Feed it +P ammo and it becomes even less easy to shoot. You’re going to have that problem with any lightweight snubbie. Second, the short barrel means a short ejector rod. The Pink Lady ejector rod is enclosed in the barrel shroud, to protect it, but it is still short. You won’t have the empties fully punched out of the cylinder unless you eject them vigorously. So, eject them vigorously, and don’t be surprised if you still have to wipe one or two empties away on the reload. That’s life with a snubbie; get over it.
Charter is proud of its one-piece barrel, sight and ejector lug shroud, and it should be. Charter also employs button rifling, claiming that the process produces more accurate barrels that have a better seal to the bullet and thus more velocity. That may be so, but with a barrel that is only two inches long, you are not going to get everything out of a .38 Special that something with a longer barrel would. The short sight radius makes aiming more difficult, but again, that’s life with a snubbie.
I shot the Pink Lady over the course of a month of range trips. I simply left it in my gear bag and made sure I had a selection of .38 Special ammo along on each trip. When I was done with the day’s work, I pulled out the Pink Lady and turned ammo into empties. I tried a variety of loads through it, from wimpy reloads to match and defensive ammo, and did not find any that failed to work as advertised. They all dropped in the chambers cleanly, fired and ejected without incident. Which is the expected level of performance with a revolver. Once done each day, I dropped it back in the bag for the next trip, not giving it any cleaning or any particular care. Despite benign neglect as a maintenance regime, the Pink Lady never failed to work.
And, as you’d expect from a 12-ounce revolver, the load used had a big effect on the experience of shooting. With wadcutters or 158-grain RN lead loads, recoil was mild, the accuracy very nice and the session pleasant indeed. With high-performance defensive ammo, the revolver barked and jumped a lot more, and the shooting became less plinking and more work. When fed +P loads, no lighweight snubbie is truly pleasant to shoot. The rubber grips, with molded-in Charter Arms logo, took out a lot of the sting, and I would not look forward to shooting the Pink Lady with wooden “boot” grips.
However, one of the benefits of a revolver is the ability to function with a wide variety of loads, and thus you can work up to the hard-kicking ones, getting accustomed to the blast and jolt. Start with the target loads and finish each practice session with something stronger. In a short while you can start with the standard stuff and finish with the +Ps. A lightweight revolver, fed wimpy target wadcutters, is a very low-stress way for a novice to learn just how much fun shooting can be.
Holsters? No problem. Anyone who makes rigs for any snubbie has one that will fit the Pink Lady or one of the other Charter Arms five-shots. Some might list Charter specifically, while others will list it as one of a whole raft of five-shot snubbie brands and models that will fit their holster. In any case, you will not lack for choice.
In the course of shooting the Pink Lady over that month, I had several club members wander by to see what was up. (For some reason they expect me to have unusual or interesting guns to look at. Go figure.) They all liked the weight, they all were impressed by the performance, but not all of them were enthusiastic about the color. “That’s a gun you really want to keep concealed,” one remarked.
Well, considering that brandishinga firearm in many states will get you in trouble, yes. But I think he was making a statement more about his security and identity than state law. Hey, if pink on your defensive equipment is cause for you to be hesitant to use it, that’s fine. I am more interested in what works.
If pink is not your thing, Charter offers lightweight snubbies in red, lavender, silver, gold and black. If you need more weight for recoil control, you can have all-stainless Charter Arms models. But for whatever reason, you may not want pink. Too bad, for you’re turning down a nice little blaster. Of course, you can look for one of the other colors, but I have to warn you There is a vigorous market demand for carry guns.
Lots of people are looking to pick up a snubbie for protection. Charter Arms is working as fast as it can to keep up, but if your dealer says, “I’ve got something for you” and pulls a Pink Lady out of the case, don’t be put off. You’re looking at a reliable, lightweight carry gun, not a fashion statement. And it will cost you half what other snubbies might.
Besides, you Neanderthals can always have it painted camo.