Range Report: Charter Arms .22 Pathfinder

Charter Arms with a box of Winchester #12 ammunition

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.

Charter Arms with a box of Winchester #12 ammunition
Winchester #12 shot is a great short range pest load, good for safely ridding the garden of rodents and small snakes. Maximum effective range is perhaps ten feet.

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.

Charter Arms Pathfinder .22, Smith and Wesson 442 .38, and Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Special revolvers
Top to bottom: The Charter Arms Pathfinder .22, Smith and Wesson 442 .38, and Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Special. The .22 is the most fun!

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.

Bob Campbell shooting a Charter Arms Pathfinder two handed.
The Charter Arms Pathfinder is a joy to fire. It is easily controlled and accurate.

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.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (18)

  1. I purchased a .22 WMR.Iave had nothing but trouble with it.! Please send me the paperwork to return it to the factory. It’s too expensive to be a paperweight

    1. The MSRP is normally higher on the majority of items. Also, prices change over time. However, we are not able to go back and update every article with every price change. That is why we do not normally print an MSRP. The Pathfinder is linked to twice in the text. The first time is in the first line of the article (Charter Arms in red text). THe second is the the fourth paragraph (.22 caliber Pathfinder in red text). ~Dave Dolbee

  2. I have a Hi- Standard 9 shot for my fishing gun. I had a 6 shot Charter 38 Arms with C/T grip, and let get away. I wish I had back. Hindsight is 2020.

  3. I had experience with two Charter Arms. The first I bought new in the 80’s for an on duty back-up and off duty. It was the stainless 38 snubbie. It would fire a few rounds before getting too tight to function. This happened repeatedly. I got rid of it. The second experience was mid 2000’s with an “as new” .22 snubbie. It functioned reliably but at 10′ keyholed into the target with the several brands of ammo I tried. I’ll pass on the Charter Arms. I’ll take a Taurus over a Charter Arms, heck I’ll even take a Rossi over one.

  4. The .22 cal, short barreled revolver is what the article describes….a good little unit to take fishing where there are a abundance of venomous snakes…raccoons and/or pesky critters that might be rabid.
    The short barrel taxes accuracy….the small caliber lacks any energy so whatever threat you might encounter will need to be close. I would opt for a .22 mag with a 6″ barrel. Anyone that has not used a .22 mag would be surprised at how much punch it packs.

  5. Bob,
    Nice review of a nice piece of hardware. Naysayers and curmudgeons notwithstanding, a review of a “classic” is a good way to broaden the knowledge base and interests of those who are newer to the shooting sports than we. How is a twenty-something neophyte to find information about, or a review of such a gun, sans archival research or gun shop anecdotes.
    Sometimes we all need a refresher or reminiscence of a great gun, either from days gone by, or a classic which is still in production.
    As to .22s as a concept, I believe they should be as common in the household as ash trays were in the ’50s and ’60s. You just cannot have too many. I know I have my share. Don’t have a Charter Arms yet, but may add one, just for flavor.

  6. The Taurus poly pt-22 has been a great addition, though it’s a semi-auto. My NAA .22 LR in its folding pocket case is an all around universal gem. How about a little positive inspiration and positive “animo” on this thread…!!

  7. The main advantage is that the Charter is a new gun and readily available.
    We seldom review classics. And a Kit Gun is a two inch not a six inch barrel. Might add that the Charter has a transfer bar ignition and also a warranty.

  8. @Jim

    It seems your confused about the term “Review” which this artical is. I don’t happen to think this platform is being touted as “new”, “best”, or “better than” by Bob but simply another choice one might be interested in and not know much about or a more in depth explaination of and about this preticular firearm.
    I’m pleased your H&R has served you so long and well as I’m also sure that Bob didn’t write this review with just you in mind or to make you bored.
    I don’t post much any more mostly because of these kinds of disaffected, and simply snotty comments that seemingly look down on good writing and reporting by others.
    If your so ho hum about the subject perhaps you could put some of your negative energy into write a review or blog on something of interest to you that some of the rest of us might like to read? You will find its not as easy as you might think.
    It is my right to disagree with you but my privilege to defend your right to your opinion. In that train of thought, I think you are sactominous and snide but I will defend your right to be so. I’m equally sure that Bob needs no defense from me either, he’s quite capable in that area I’m sure. For my part, your comment spoils the exchange of good information between the writer and those who are interested. Your comment from my POV comes across as snide, ignorant and arrogant.

  9. Bob,
    What does this means – “The Charter Arms Undercover .38 used aluminum around a steel frame for a lighter mass weight and strength.”
    We would surely appreciate a more technical description of this.’


    1. A steel sub frame enclosed by aluminum hence a steel frame, whereas the Smith and Wesson Airweight has an aluminum frame, the Charter act actually has a steel frame. But it is still lightweight.

    2. And the Airweight is not fun to shoot, even after changing stock grips. After 5-8 rounds, the web between the thumb and finger HURTS…..

  10. I have a S&W .22 mag that goes every where I go, it stays in my bag pack that I take every where. I love it, it’s light holds 7 rounds and it looks cool to.

  11. Is this a long rifle cartridge or magnum? You said ” Winchester Super X 40 grain so I take that as a .22 long. But is this pistol made in .22 mag also? I don’t want to just pi$$ off someone if used for defense. ( Not for my use, but the mother-in -law ) she is 4 foot 10 and weighs 95 pounds wet and is 72 years YOUNG. ( I don’t say “old” anymore if I want not not get shot!!!!)
    She just can’t pull back the slides on any semi-autos.Thanks for any replies

  12. Ho-hum. Another kit gun. What exactly makes this gun any better than the H & R 9 shot DA .22 LR revolver with a six inch barrel that I have had for the past 35 years?

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