Reviews

Review: Charles Daly 601 Defensive 12-Gauge Shotgun

muzzle end view of Bob Campbell shooting a Charles Daly 12 gauge shotgun

Charles Daly is among the oldest names in American firearms. While the company has changed hands many times, the original premise remains in place. The company imports affordable firearms at a fair price. Among the more interesting shotguns I have tested lately is the Charles Daly 601.

This shotgun is a product of the Charles Daly Defense line. Like many affordable shotguns today, the 601 is manufactured in Turkey. The 601 is apparently a copy of the Beretta system. A successful self-loading shotgun is a good place to begin when designing a defensive shotgun.

Charles Daly Defender 12 gauge shotgun right, profile
The Charles Daly shotgun is a good buy in today’s market.

Charles Daly 601 Features

The Benelli/Beretta shotgun system is big on reliability and low on maintenance. With a system very similar to — if not a direct clone of — famous Italian shotguns, the 601 should be reliable. The 601 has a magazine capacity of four shells — more than adequate for most adventures.

The 601 is lighter than most semi-automatic shotguns. This Charles Daly shotgun doesn’t use choke tubes. The 18.5-inch barrel is cylinder bore. There isn’t a front bead sight. Instead, it is rather a rifle-like post sight. The sporting guns feature different sights and offer choke tubes.

The furniture is black synthetic with a one-piece forend. Sling swivels are supplied — one on the magazine cap and the other in the rear stock. The stock and forend feature useful checkering.

The magazine loading port is large enough for easy loading. The Benelli system requires the shotgun be un-cocked to rack the bolt and load from the magazine. This is a free moving bolt in technical terms. In other words, if kept at home ready, the bolt should be unlocked.

If you rack the bolt while the hammer is cocked, the shotgun will not load from the magazine. Not a drawback but something the shooter must familiarize themselves with.

Charles Daly Defender 12 gauge shotgun with forend removed
The internals were no surprise and exhibited no tool marks.

I loaded up my bargain-rate Benelli clone with several brands of 12-gauge shotshell during the initial testing. Keeping with the affordable theme, I used both Jet and Rio shotgun shells. The Jet loads were double-aught buckshot the Rio was used in both double-aught and #4 buckshot.

I lubricated the bolt and began the firing test. The shotgun is easily loaded. Load the shell into the magazine in a positive manner and allow the magazine to catch the shell rim. Then, follow with another shell.

The shotgun is easily loaded to the four shell capacity. Rack the bolt and load the chamber. The safety, located in the rear of the trigger guard, is positive in operation. Trigger compression is smooth but a little mushy.

Charles Daly Defender 12 gauge shotgun synthetic stock
The stock is well designed for fit and features a credible recoil pad.

The front post seems to offer an advantage over a simple bead front sight in rapid aiming and accuracy. I began firing the shotgun at a typical engagement distance of 7 yards. Using a target normally used for sighting a rifle in at 100 yards, the buckshot loads centered on the X.

As I have often noted, buckshot travels in pairs. The buckshot pellets paired up producing a tight pattern. Moving to 10 yards and firing at man-sized targets, the shotgun showed excellent control.

While the 601 defense shotgun only weighs 6.6 pounds, recoil wasn’t difficult to master. The shotgun comes on target quickly and swings quickly. This is an ideal size shotgun for home defense.

15-yard target showing multiple #00 buckshot holes
Hornady Critical Defense #00 buckshot provided a good pattern to 15 yards.

Accuracy and Reliability

The Charles Daly 601 Defense proved reliable in testing firing over 40 buckshot shells without any failure to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. I also fired a number of birdshot loads with good results. Moving to a longer 20 yards, I explored the possibilities of inexpensive buckshot patterns.

At this range, the Jet-branded buckshot placed two of the nine pellets on target. This isn’t a hunting shotgun suitable for deer-sized game or predators. For those pursuits, you need a long barrel 601 with a good choke for that duty.

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While some buckshot loads hold a tighter pattern, the open cylinder 601 and inexpensive buckshot loads are a good choice for home defense. At 7–10 yards — a long engagement range in home defense — the pattern is cohesive and would prove effective. Don’t limit yourself with birdshot or similar small shot with inadequate penetration for personal defense.

A load made to cleanly kill a small bird that you can hold in your hand isn’t effective for personal defense. Either #00 or #4 buckshot is a good choice for home defense.

Bob Campbell shooting the Charles Daly Defender shotgun
All controls including the bolt release are positive in operation.

I also tested the Hornady Critical Defense load with much better results, keeping most of the pellets on the target at 15 yards. I also fired two Remington slugger slug loads. These slugs were touching each other at 10 yards, about 1.5-inch below the point of aim but dead on for windage.

Charles Daly Defender — Specifications

12 gauge
4 Shells in magazine plus one in chamber
18.5-inch barrel
Open cylinder choke
Post front sight
Weight: 6.6 pounds
Gas Operation
3-inch chamber
Synthetic stocks

Conclusion

Retailing less $300, I find the Charles Daly 601 reliable, fast handling, effective, and a solid choice for home defense. The pattern the shotgun is built on is simple enough with a good reputation. The execution by Turkish makers seems good. This is a formidable defense shotgun with much to recommend.

There is not much variation in defensive shotguns, but the Beretta has managed to stand out from the competition, so a quality clone at a fraction of the price tops many shooters’ list. Are you one of those shooters? What are the features you look for in a defensive shotgun? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Bob Campbell at a high ready holding a Charles Daly shotgun
  • 15-yard target showing multiple #00 buckshot holes
  • Two double aught buckshot holes in a paper target
  • Charles Daly Defender 12 gauge shotgun right, profile
  • recoil pad on a shotgun stock
  • muzzle end view of Bob Campbell shooting a Charles Daly 12 gauge shotgun
  • Charles Daly Defender 12 gauge shotgun synthetic stock
  • Bob Campbell shooting the Charles Daly Defender shotgun
  • Charles Daly Defender 12 gauge shotgun with forend removed
  • Checkering on the Charles Daly Defender 12 gauge shotgun

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
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
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 (4)

  1. Best Shotgun ever made is The Remington 870 Wingmaster. Not Express,
    But The 870 Wingmaster, I have collected them for over 60 years. Tight tolerances, great Steel and real Bluing on all Steel parts expect SS Bolt and Carrier.
    Beautiful Walnut Crafted Fore End and Stock. No other Shotgun ever built with the quality and Beauty of an 870 Wingmaster.

  2. Matt
    That hasnt been my experience

    Of course thee modern company and guns are a different company, different make that those a decade or so ago

    .

  3. If I’m not mistaken, Charles Daly is actually an umbrella Company that roll-stamps firearms from various manufacturers with their branding. Thus, a model made at some factory from the Philippines may possess a different quality from a different model made by a completely different manufacturer located in Turkey.

    Charles Daly isn’t like Ford, it’s more like Android (where many manufacturers have entered the market).

    One CD-branded firearm could be a real winner while a different model may prove to be a dog. It dpends entirely on the model, not the Charles Daly branding.

  4. The worst shotgun I ever owned was a Charles Daily Semi- Auto. It broke on me during a hunt after the second time I had used it. Sent it back to be repaired at Charles Daily and it took them 9 months to fix it a return it back to me.

    The following year, it broke again. I will never purchase a Firearm from Charles Daily

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