Charter Arms’ 9mm revolver, called the Pit Bull, uses a common pistol cartridge in an uncomplicated wheelgun design—an elegant set up for many concealed-carry shooters who prize simplicity and reliability over all else.
For many shooters, revolvers are easy to operate compared to semiautomatic pistols. Pull the trigger of a revolver and it goes bang, and if it fails to fire, pull the trigger again. With a semiautomatic, if the trigger is pulled and the pistol does not fire, the user usually must go through a procedure to get the pistol back online. Or, drop a magazine in the snow, mud, or tall grass, and a semiautomatic can be put out of action. In contrast, a revolver’s cylinder holds the cartridges and is attached to the frame. Nothing to drop, nothing to lose. Revolvers also don’t leave empties rolling around on the floor.
The revolver by design — and the Pit Bull in particular — is a weapon that requires minimal training to be used effectively in defensive circumstances. Training should be at the top of any shooter or concealed-carry user’s list, but the basic simplicity of the revolver allows the user to concentrate on the threat and not on safeties, de-cockers and other assorted levers, as on semiautomatic pistols.
Typically, rimmed cartridges like .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Special, .45 Colt (or as some prefer, .45 Long Colt to differentiate the round in casual conversation from the .45 ACP), and others are used in revolvers. Semiautomatic cartridges like the 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and others are rimless. (Technically, they are not “rimless,” but instead have a rim that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the case.) To work in a revolver, rimless cartridges need some sort of device to hold the cartridge in the chamber of a revolver’s cylinder. Combat revolvers used during WWI, like the M1917, used half-moon clips that held three .45 ACP cartridges in the revolver’s chambers. These clips allowed rimless cartridges to be used in revolvers. The Charter Arms Pit Bull uses a different design. The Pit Bull incorporates a spring-loaded lip of steel that makes full contact with the rim of the rimless cartridge. This allows the insertion and retention of the 9mm cartridge in each chamber of the cylinder. The system also allows the user to quickly eject the empties. There is no need for any half- or full-moon clips. The chambers of the cylinder are also stepped so the case mouth of the 9mm bottoms out or headspaces on the step and does not fall through the chamber.
The Pit Bull, like other Charter Arms revolvers, is strong, lightweight, and reliable. Charter Arms has been perfecting economical and reliable compact revolver for decades. They and Ruger are the only major U.S. manufacturers of double-action revolvers that use a one-piece frame. Smith & Wesson and Taurus double-action revolvers have a sideplate that, once removed, allows access to the mechanism. The mechanism for the Charter Arms revolver is accessed after removing the trigger guard. A one-piece frame makes Charter Arms revolvers strong, and that is important, especially when the revolver is chambered in .38 Special +P, .357 Magnum, and .44 Special cartridges. The Pit Bull uses the same frame as the iconic .44 Special Bulldog, and since the frame and cylinder are nearly the same, the shorter 9mm bullets travel about 7/8ths inch in the chamber before it reaches the forcing cone and then the rifling.
The ejector rod is housed in a shroud that blends with the gun’s lines and is long enough to fully push out the empty cases. Push the cylinder latch forward to swing out the cylinder. The cylinder snaps back into the frame in place with a confident sound. The serrated hammer gives a sure grip cocking and decocking the revolver. The firing system uses a transfer bar, which will not allow the revolver to fire even if it is dropped on the hammer. The firing pin is built into the frame. The hammer slams the transfer bar, which in turn pounds the firing pin into the primer of the cartridge.
The checkered black-rubber grip does a nice job of filling the space behind the trigger guard. The texture feels secure, without being sticky like some rubber grips. The grip completely surrounds the frame. There is no metal backstrap showing through the grip to slam into your palm when shooting hot loads. The finger grooves, too, are comfortable for the average-size hand. The grip and the smooth-surfaced trigger work together to produce a smooth, DA trigger pull. The overall finish of the Pit Bull is a generally uniform matte stainless.
A revolver chambered in 9mm Luger (or 9mm Para or 9×19) may sound odd, but it makes sense because the 9mm cartridge is extremely popular and common with civilians and law enforcement and the military. Many shooters may already own a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, so if the shooter adds a Pit Bull to his lineup, there is no need to buy different ammo. The Pit Bull will chew through anything you feed your 9mm Glock, Beretta, SIG, or S&W M&P.
From a coat pocket or conceal-carry rig, the Pit Bull can be quickly brought into action. The sights do not snag. The ramp front sight and the groove rear sight are large and make target acquisition easy. The Pit Bull is no target pistol, nor does it pretend to be. Like its name implies, it’s a fierce package that’s made to be used in close quarters.
Shooting a Pit Bull at the range recently, I was able to consistently group six holes within 4 to 5 inches at 15 yards from a rest. In single action, the trigger broke cleanly and crisply at 4 pounds 6 ounces, on average. Its double-action pull was heavier than 12 pounds, though it felt lighter. I was able to shoot DA quickly and accurately using a two-hand hold.
I used an assortment of factory-loaded ammo—Speer and two types of Winchester ammo—and handloaded ammo. The 124-grain Speer Short Barrel ammo had nearly the same muzzle velocity as the 115-grain Winchester Super X. The felt recoil with the Speer rounds was more pronounced than either of the Winchester loads.
All in, the Pit Bull was a comfortable gun to shoot. In fact, I used up some old reloads to break-in the Pit Bull. I had no difficulty ejecting the empties, but after about 200 rounds of mixed fodder—factory and reloads—residue built up in the Pit Bull and one or two of the rimless 9mm cartridges stuck in the cylinder. The Pit Bull is not designed for sustained fire like I was using it. The stuck cases were easily knocked free when I tapped the cylinder on the shooting bench.
I stored the Pit Bull in a Galco SOB (Small Of Back) holster for a week before I traded my everyday carry rig for the SOB and the Pit Bull. For a few weeks I carried the Pit Bull in the Galco holster, which placed the small revolver behind my right hip and at the center of my spine. This type of carry arrangement offers good concealment, even if your shirt accidentally flies open.
The downside of small-of-back holsters is they are uncomfortable to sit down on. When sitting, I noticed the SOB rig came between me and the chair back or vehicle seat. Thus, for extended periods driving a vehicle, a small-of-the-back holster is not recommended. Depending on your activities, the SOB is best suited for those who are on their feet most of the day. When covered with a button shirt or loose-fitting polo, it was easy to hide the Pit Bull from sight in side and rear views.
The Galco SOB is made of old-school leather that’s molded to the shape of the revolver. A tension screw is used to adjust the hold on the weapon. There is no security strap on the SOB. I liked the fact I could re-holster the Pit Bull with one hand since the mouth of the SOB stays open. The Pit Bull was also easy to reholster with the sharp edge of the front of the cylinder chamfered and the front edge of the barrel shroud rounded so the Pit Bull did not snag.
Charter Arms has made it easy and simple for a revolver to coexist with the 9mm round. The Pit Bull is easy to use, easy on the wallet, and easily chews through 9mm ammo with good consistent groups.
Charter Arms 9mm Pit Bull Rimless Revolver
- Velocity measured 15 feet from the muzzle by a ProChrono digital chronograph
- Accuracy numbers result of three 5-shot groups fired at 15 yards from a benchrest
|9mm Luger||Muzzle Velocity||Best Group||Average Group|
|Winchester Super X 115-gr Silvertip HP||1,100 fps||2.75 in.||4.25 in.|
|Winchester (white box) 147-gr JHP||876 fps||2.0 in.||3.0 in.|
|Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 124-gr GDHP||1,090 fps||3.25 in.||3.63 in.|
|Charter Arms Pit Bull, MSRP $465|
|Barrel Length||2.2 inches|
|Overall Length||6.75 inches|
|Weight Unloaded||22 oz.|
|Sights||Fixed, ramp front, groove rear|
Share your thoughts about the Charter Arms Pit Bull revolver with us in the comment section.
Robert Sadowski has written about firearms and hunting for nearly 15 years. He is the author of four gun books, editor of three others and is a contributor to numerous gun-enthusiast magazines, including Combat Handguns, Black Guns, Tactical Weapons for Military and Police, Gun Tests, Personal and Home Defense, Gun Hunter, SHOT Business, and others. He has a personal affinity for large-caliber revolvers and the AR platform.
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