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Gun Review: Charter Arms Off Duty .38 Special



Feature | Gun Review: Charter Arms Off Duty .38 Special | charter arms off duty

Why should you consider the Charter Arms Off Duty .38 special? For some gun carriers, the simplicity of a revolver is the best and only option for self-defense. Some people like to just point and shoot, without having to worry about such things as a safety, a slide, a magazine, feeding and ejecting problems. If you’ve never had a revolver because they were just “too old-school” for you, maybe you should rethink it. Some have said that revolvers are simple to use but difficult to master. One of the nicest things about the Charter Arms .38 special is that you don’t have to be a master in order to defend yourself against an attacker. You can literally pull the gun from its holster, point, and shoot.

A Review of the Charter Arms Off Duty .38 Special.


Easy to Use

Easy to Use | Gun Review: Charter Arms Off Duty .38 Special | charter arms off duty

Easy to Use | Gun Review: Charter Arms Off Duty .38 Special | charter arms off duty

Charter Arms makes a great revolver that only leaves my body when I strap a handgun with a high-capacity magazine to my waist. Even then, sometimes I use it as a backup. This particular revolver is chambered in .38 SPL and is called the Off Duty. It has a long, double action only trigger pull as a safety feature.

The trigger does take some getting used to and isn’t for everybody. I brought my wife to the range with me one time while shooting it and she wasn’t able to put that steady squeeze on it in an accurate fashion. The only way she was able to fire the weapon was with way too much finger on the trigger and she was inaccurate with it.

I do want to state here that my wife is not an experienced marksman but was able to accurately shoot a semi-auto pistol the same day.

What’s the point? You may have heard that double action only revolvers are great for women who’re starting out. While this may be true for some women, it isn’t true for all of them, and the best bet is for you to let her pick out her own gun.


Gun Capacity and Handling

Gun Capacity and Handling | Gun Review: Charter Arms Off Duty .38 Special | charter arms off duty

Gun Capacity and Handling | Gun Review: Charter Arms Off Duty .38 Special | charter arms off duty

The Charter Arms Off Duty revolver has a 5-shot capacity, so if you’re going up against an army of little green men from another world, you’re screwed. Then again, if it’s a self-defense sort of thing where you’re going up against an attacker or two, 5 shots of the moderately powered .38 should suffice.

Such a small firearm is a little uncomfortable for such large hands to shoot, but I was able to get by with head shots out to 15 yards. I did, however, drop a couple shots because of the uber-long trigger, but they were still on target. It is imperative, as with any firearm, that you practice shooting it, to know how it handles.

Speaking of handling it, rapid fire is tricky when you’re first starting out because the grip is small and you do all you can to hold onto it. Sometimes, the recoil forces your trigger finger to bang into the smaller-than-usual trigger guard, and on more than one occasion at the range, I ended up with a bloody knuckle. Not that big of a deal, but something to keep in mind.

Perfect for Concealed Carry

Perfect for Concealed Carry | Gun Review: Charter Arms Off Duty .38 Special | charter arms off duty

This little revolver is great for deep concealment for a couple of reasons. First, the barrel measures just two inches making it nice and short and easy to hide. Second, the factory grip is short also, aiding in concealability. Finally, the revolver’s hammer is internal so it doesn’t snag on anything while on the draw. You could literally get a Sticky Holster for it and drop it in your pocket. Because the overall empty weight is only 12 ounces, you’ll forget that it’s even there.

Because it’s so lightweight with a short grip, it can be a handful when shooting. That’s not the end of the world, because it can be adjusted a bit with the addition of an extended combat grip, available on the Charter Arms website. Let the records show that I do not have the combat grip, so I can’t really speak about it.

Gun Price

Gun Price | Gun Review: Charter Arms Off Duty .38 Special | charter arms off duty

One of the best aspects of this little Charter Arms stainless concealed carry piece is its affordability. Retail price for the one I tested is just $404, and I bought this one from my FFL for just $300. Since I bought it, it’s my main house carry piece because it’s so small and comfortable to carry. I forget that it’s even there whether I’m sitting at my desk or running around with my rugrats. It has also literally been all over the country with me on vacation and business trips.

Charter Arms does say on the website that their revolvers will handle +P ammo, but they don’t recommend it because the barrels are too short. I do think that +P ammo is great for the slightly under-powered .38 Special, but I must say that I’m not sure I’d want to shoot a higher-pressure ammo through a 12-ounce gun that already recoils. Maybe I’d change my tune with the combat grips.


If you’re interested in seeing me at the range with it, check out this video:

If you need an affordable option for self-defense, then Charter Arms may have what you’re looking for. There are other options out there, but if your gun store has one in stock, you really can’t go wrong with the quality and price of this firearm.

Did the Off Duty .38 special make it to your top gun choices for concealed carry? Let us know in the comments section below!

Up Next: What’s The Best Handgun For Beginners?

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Editor’s Note – This post was originally published in September 2016 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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  1. Brenda

    February 8, 2018 at 1:20 AM

    I have this little firearm piece and I love how it fits in my hand. I like how it feels. Now if I can just learn how to use it. But if I needed to protect myself I would point and shoot.

  2. Cynthia No-moreDrama Suber

    May 28, 2017 at 9:16 PM

    I bought one in the 1990′ s and carry it everyday, and leave the semi at home. People shoot themselves with 9mm!

  3. william C

    May 28, 2017 at 10:13 AM

    Not familiar with Charter Arms pieces, but I have owned and fired a S&W .38 police special in the past. I have a soft spot in my heart for revolvers for the same reasons many others do – simplicity, easy to master, easy to carry and to clean. However, these days I would prefer something with just a bit more kick (power). A woman friend of mine packs a .357 Ladysmith, and while it may seem a bit undersized for a .357, I have fired several rounds from this weapon and was very pleased, not to mention surprised, at its performance.

    • Outrider

      May 29, 2017 at 12:13 AM

      I have carried one I bought in the 70’s ever since. I usually carry it in the summer and a 1911 in the winter or a Glock.
      We were sold these as an off duty piece. First time I worked under I had it in my boot. I am notorious for gun trading and buying and selling guns.
      My Charter and my Smith model 19 and 1911 are sacred.
      For a belly gun and a dead on life saver it’s hard to beat.

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