It is hard to believe but Charter Arms—the new company in America making revolvers—has been at the game for over 50 years. The company was founded by Douglas McClenahan. He had engineering experience at several large companies and set out to manufacture an affordable revolver for the American public. His timing was perfect.
During the Vietnam War, good guns were hard to come by. Smith and Wesson could barely keep up with demand from police agencies, and Colt was no longer a player on many levels. The Charter Arms Undercover .38 used aluminum around a steel frame for a lighter mass weight and strength. It also adopted a transfer bar system. Double-action revolvers universally use this system today.
In many ways, Charter Arms was a trendsetter. Charter Arms revolvers offered a smooth double-action trigger press and sights that were wide and easily picked up. The revolver did not lock up the ejector rod under the barrel but neither did Colt. The Charter Arms revolvers were a success story.
Later came .357 and .44 Special revolvers. The famous .44 Bulldog is a legendary defensive revolver. But a bread and butter revolver from the onset has been the .22 caliber Pathfinder. The Pathfinder is a light, accurate, reliable revolver that fires an affordable low-recoil cartridge.
As a kit gun or fishing gun, the .22 revolver is an American classic. There is little muzzle blast or recoil, and the revolver is useful for those who cannot tolerate heavier recoil. You just have to have a .22 revolver in the bug out bag, and this revolver is more compact and affordable than most.
The example tested is stainless steel with an attractive Matte finish. The cylinder holds 6 rounds. The Pathfinder is typical Charter Arms construction with no sideplate and a cylinder release that slides forward to open the cylinder. The action uses modern coil springs. The Pathfinder uses the same transfer bar system pioneered by Charter in the 1960s.
The double-action trigger is smooth rolling at 12 pounds. This is the minimum for proper ignition with .22 rimfire ammunition. The Charter is reliable with a wide range of ammunition cracking the priming compound of everything tested. The single-action trigger is pleasant to use, breaking at a crisp 3.5 pounds. I like this as the revolver is intended for use while hiking or fishing, and it will be used against reptiles and perhaps to take small game.
The crisp trigger and broad useful sights are an aid in this pursuit. As for personal defense, the Pathfinder would not be my first choice, but it is better than no gun at all. It is a pleasant revolver for practice and plinking but if pressed into service minute-of-eye-socket accuracy is there and would serve.
The best way to test the handling, trigger action, sights, and grip of a revolver is in personal defense drills. I fired the Charter Arms Pathfinder at man-sized targets at 5, 7, and 10 yards. I used the Winchester Super X 40-grain load—an accurate and clean burning combination. The 37-grain hollow point was also fired. The hollow point load breaks 879 fps from the Charter’s 2-inch barrel.
The revolver is smooth and the double-action trigger allows good hits in the double action mode to at least 10 yards. I have seen skilled shooters connect with steel targets at a long 50 yards with double-action shooting. The snubby Pathfinder isn’t quite up to that type of shooting but it is an excellent handgun for those that aspire to learning to use the handgun.
The Pathfinder weighs but 19 ounces. That isn’t a lot of weight for a steady target hold, but just the same the revolver gave excellent accuracy in practical shooting. At the 7-yard line, firing single action, I was able to place 5 rounds of the Winchester load into an inch. At 15 yards, firing off hand, several 3- to 4-inch groups were fired. This is credible for off-hand fire with a snub nose revolver. All in all a pleasant experience. The Charter Arms Pathfinder is a neat little gun sure to put a smile on your face.
Revolvers are hard to beat, but many prefer semi automatics. .22s are an exception to the rule though. Share your preference for a kit or fishing gun in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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