Concealed Carry

Review: Charter Arms Bulldog .357 Magnum

charter arms bulldog revolver on table with ammo

The Charter Arms Bulldog isn’t a go-anywhere do-anything handgun like a four-inch barrel .357 Magnum or a Colt Government Model .45, but it is a great defensive sidearm.

For easy packing and as a bedside gun, these sturdy double-action revolvers have much merit. The name is an honorable one in revolver history.

The first Bulldogs were developed about as soon as we had cartridge revolvers.

The British Bulldog revolvers were typically small-frame revolvers with five-shot cylinders firing the .450 Adams cartridge, and later, the .455 Webley.

Back when the British were free people — ironically they are less free now than when under a monarchy — these revolvers protected Brits the world over.

The American Sheriff’s Model revolvers did not quite fit the bill, as most were six-shot revolvers on a large frame.

A true Bulldog should be relatively compact. There were also American Bulldogs, some chambered for smaller cartridges.

Charter Arms Bulldog Revolver
The stainless steel Charter Arms Bulldog is one burly revolver!

History of Charter Arms

Charter Arms made a name for themselves with the introduction of a lightweight steel-frame revolver in the 1960s.

Good guns were scarce, and the Charter Arms revolvers were available. In 1973, Charter introduced the Bulldog .44 Special revolver.

The frame of the Charter Arms Undercover .38 was lengthened, and the revolver fitted with hand-filling grips and a three-inch barrel.

The new Bulldog sold well.

The design featured an ejector rod that locked at the rear, but not the front, and the finish was not on a par with the old-line makers.

However, the modern revolver featured a transfer-bar ignition system. This is the safest of revolver systems.

revolver with open cylinder
It is uncommon to see a recessed cartridge chamber in any modern revolver. This is a good touch.

Bulldog Features

There is a big difference between inexpensive manufacture and cheap manufacture.

The Bulldog isn’t a copy of an old-line revolver made to sell more cheaply, rather, it is designed to offer a reliable, but affordable option.

The company designed a good handgun. The .38s are good guns as well, however, the Bulldog is my favorite of the Charter Arms revolvers.

The new Bulldog revolver features a shrouded barrel and ejector rod, tall front sight, and is available in stainless steel.

The modern grips are superior to the ones on the original handgun.

The new rubber grip design is a great aid in firing powerful cartridges, and the Bulldog is chambered for powerful cartridges!

revolver with ported barrel
Barrel ports help control .357 Magnum recoil.

Load Selection

The .44 Special was intended as a mild and accurate big-bore cartridge. The .45 Colt was the man-stopper and the .44-40 the outdoors cartridge.

Attempts to “hot rod” the .44 Special have worn out many good revolvers.

With a 246-grain RNL bullet at 750 fps, the .44 Special compared closely to the .455 Webley at 650 fps with a 265-grain bullet.

Both have a good reputation in personal defense. The newest Bulldog in the gun safe is a stainless steel version chambered in .357 Magnum.

The Magnum makes a lot of sense. With full-power defense loads, the .357 Magnum offers plenty of wound potential.

If you have a need for defense against animals, the superior penetration of the .357 Magnum cartridge is important.

The new Bulldog features modest barrel ports, which help control recoil.

The hand-filling grips make for good comfort even when firing full-power magnum loads.

The action of the new Bulldog is smoother than most revolvers on the market and smoother than any vintage Bulldog.

Modern CNC machinery makes for exact manufacture. The .357 Magnum revolver may also be fired with .38 Special ammunition.

In this heavy-duty revolver, .38 Special loads are mild and easy to control.

Yet, there are pretty impressive .38 Special loads that offer good ballistics.

Truth be told, the .38 Special is about all the power the occasional shooter may effectively handle.

With the .357 Magnum you have a considerable improvement in power.

As an example, the Remington 125-grain Gold Saber isn’t a full-power magnum load, but a powerful load intended for personal defense.

This is the ideal loading for the Bulldog.

For those not quite up to controlling this level of recoil, a quality .38 Special such as the Remington .38 Special Golden Saber or Remington 158-grain lead semi-wadcutter hollow point is ideal.

When hiking or spelunking, feral dogs and big cats are a concern addressed by a light but powerful revolver.

The .357 Magnum Bulldog makes a lot of sense.

Charter Arms Bulldog on Target with holes
Combat accuracy is excellent for those that practice!

Accuracy and Performance

When practicing with the Charter Arms Bulldog, the goal is to press the trigger smoothly and get a center hit, recover and press again.

A small group on the target with 10 or 15 rounds clustered never saved anyone’s life. Groups do not do the business in personal defense.

A fast center hit with a credible defense cartridge will save your life.

Practice getting on target, pressing the trigger smoothly to the rear, and getting a hit.

It doesn’t matter if the sight wavers a little, you cannot hold it completely still at all times.

But concentrate on keeping the front sight on target as the hammer falls. Stop the wobble just as the hammer falls.

As for absolute accuracy, the revolver will put five shots into a single ragged hole at seven yards.

From a solid benchrest firing position with the Remington Wheelgunner .357 Magnum, firing single-action with no timeframe, the piece put five shots into two inches and just a little over.

That is more than accurate enough for defense use.

Conclusion: Charter Arms Bulldog

With the .357 Magnum Bulldog, the power-for-ounce factor is high, the piece carries light and is reliable.

It is a classic defensive revolver appreciated by those that understand the reality of personal defense.

What do you think of the Charter Arms Bulldog? Let us know in the comments below!

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 (12)

  1. I packed a .44 Bulldog for several years. The bulldog grips were removed and replaced with a Chief’s Special left side and a Barami belt hook grip on the right.
    Perfect fit in Mexican carry.
    Always had a handloaded shotshell for first shot, followed by four Winchester Silvertips. Any thug who would look at those apples and not leave would be dealt with appropriately.

  2. I bought a modern .357 Pug with the ported holes a few years ago . It shaved bullets & powder hit me in the face every time i shot it . SOLD it ( yes I could have dealt with customer service , but didn’t want to deal with any poss. hassle) . Now , this didn’t turn me off to C/A . ( My Dad has an older blued one in .38 , & I have always liked it ). So , I looked for the non ported .44 Bulldog , found one with the humpback frame, stainless (Concealed hammer ) . Love it , lighter than it looks for it’s size , Pahmayr Compac grips fit my hand well . I try to keep two guns for any caliber I own & recently , I found a nice .44 Bulldog , Older, Blued , 3inch bbl. I liked it better than a FA Earl mini revolver i had , so I traded it + some $ for it . LOve it too . It’s thinner and lighter than you expect . It has that 1970 undercover detective look/feel to it . Same grips (Compac). Great pointer . All I added was some bright orange nail polish to the slope face of the front sight .

  3. The .357 model is the Mag Pug, not the bulldog. The bulldog is chambered in .44 special and I happen to have one of the more rare .45 Colt versions. The Mag Pug is only .357.

  4. I bought my Charter Arms Bulldog .357mag back in the early 80’s when I got out of the military. I carried it as my off duty weapon and thank God, never had to use it. I fired it every time I went to the range to keep up proficiency with it. To this day, I still carry it. Other then my 1911, my Bulldog will always be my backup weapon. I trust it with my life…..

  5. I had a Charter arms Bulldog 44 that was my first gun. I sold it in early 90’s for a 40 cal auto. I missed that gun and tried to find it. I just bought the 2020 Mag pug to replace it . Due to ammo shortages I decided to use the 357 so I can also use .38. And have more options. The Mag pug is so light . That is my carry gun now.

  6. Two things prevent me from owning a C/A .44 Bulldog these days; can’t find one & ammo shortage. I ought to have bought one 5 years ago , but the scarcity of .44special ammo then stopped the buy. Should have bought it and shopped for ammo.

  7. Anything with barrel porting[aka muzzlebrake]will magnify muzzle sound.For me,its easier to have a longer barrel and heavier projectiles

  8. I have the new Charter Arms Professional in 357 Magnum with 3 inch barrel 6 shot. It is my everyday carry personal defense and all around handgun. It is very accurate and easy to carry/conceal. It comes with a very nice finger grooved wooden grip that I found a little diminutive and slippery even with small hands. I replaced it with Charter’s standard rubber combat grip as on the Bulldog featured in the article. Now I have the ultimate carry gun. I have fired 38 special and 357 magnum full power loads of many different types and it is easy to control the recoil for follow up shots. In my opinion, Charter Arms products are well made, reliable, fairly priced firearms. I would love one in 45acp, which requires no moon clip by the way.

  9. I’ve owned a Bulldog in 44 special for over 30 years, mine came with wood grips and a alloy frame. The gun weighed about the same as the five rounds it took to load it.

    I made the mistake of loading some warmer hand loads and managed to loosen up the frame to the point it rattles a bit.

    With a pachmayr grip and lite hand loads in 180 xtp hollow points, it’s a bear and accurate well past 50 yards.

    Defense at home or in the woods it is a great choice in a hand gun. I carry mine as a back up pistol when hunting, loaded with a shot shell first up for snakes and other small critters.

    Great hand gun

  10. Have a ,44 Bulldog, and found C/A handguns to be better than most people think. As an “old timer”. found that a .357 – 3″ revolver at ~20 ounces, loaded with .38 +P ammo, is almost ideal. Only need to add a Laser Grip to complete the package. Of course, the .44 also works, just requires some effort to find the right carry load.

  11. Years ago I owned a Charter Arms Pathfinder 22lr revolver with, I believe, a 3 inch barrel. It was a good hiking gun until the front sight fell off! Turns out it was glued (epoxied?) in place. I contacted Charter Arms for repair. They sent me a small amount of brazing material to take to a local gunsmith and paid for the repair. I thought it a bit odd, but their customer service got the job done.

    I recently bid on an older model Bulldog 44 on Gun Broker. I gave up when the price exceeded $800. Not what I’d call inexpensive!

  12. You’d better war hearing protection if firing that 357Mag 125jhp,ditto shades in a dark situation.Did that once with a Security Six snubby.Never again.If using the the 38 Special use 148gr full wadcutters
    I’ll go for the southpaw Bulldog with semi bobbed hammer in 45Colt or 44Special[or 45ACP]

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