Charter Arms offers a full line of affordable double-action revolvers catering to the self-defense market, including the Undercover, a small-frame, five-shot revolver chambered for the popular .38 Spl. round and rated to handle +P loadings. Featuring a short, 2-inch snubby barrel and double-action/single-action operation, the Undercover is a reasonably traditional offering in this popular category of firearms. However, Charter Arms has thrown in a significant twist with one of its newer offerings, the Southpaw.
The Southpaw is a true left-hand mirrored version of the aluminum-frame Undercover Lite model, with a cylinder release latch located on the right side of the frame and a cylinder that swings out to the right. Apart from being a reverse version of the Undercover Lite, the Southpaw has all the same characteristics as its fraternal twin.
All stressed components of the Southpaw, such as the barrel, cylinder and internal parts are of 416 stainless steel, making for a hardy and rust-resistant pocket revolver. To keep the Southpaw as light as possible, the frame of the revolver is constructed from 7075 aluminum alloy with a glass-beaded matte finish. In addition to the lightweight frame, the Southpaw also employs a dull gray polymer trigger guard assembly and grip frame to further reduce overall weight.
The sights of the Southpaw are a notch rear machined into the top of the frame and a ramp front. The rear sight channel runs the full length of the top of the aluminum frame, and the front sight ramp, which is integral to the barrel assembly, features a smooth rear face. The barrel assembly also features an integral ejector rod underlug that fully protects the ejector rod when the cylinder is in battery, and the bore features eight grooves and a 1:18-inch rate of twist.
For added strength, the Southpaw employs Charter Arms’ three-point cylinder lock-up system. When the hammer is in the fully fired position, it locks the cylinder with the hand, the cylinder stop and the collar. Additionally, Charter’s transfer bar/hammer block safety system helps prevent unintentional discharges.
The transfer bar/hammer block system, actuated by the trigger, blocks full forward movement of the hammer against the frame-mounted firing pin unless the trigger is pulled fully to the rear. The transfer bar moves up between the hammer and the frame-mounted firing pin allowing the hammer to transfer its force directly to the firing pin. If the trigger is not pulled fully to the rear, the hammer will strike only the frame.
The polymer grip frame of the Southpaw is of a round-butt profile and houses the revolver’s coil mainspring. A Charter-branded synthetic grip with integral finger grooves and checkered pattern fully covers this grip frame and allows a shooter to get all three support fingers wrapped around the grip.
The cylinder release thumb latch, located on the right side of the frame, is pushed forward to release the cylinder and open the action out of the right side of the frame. The five-shot stainless steel cylinder rotates counter-clockwise, and the cylinder/yoke assembly sports a short, spring-loaded ejector rod system.
Operationally, the Southpaw is just about as simple as it gets. The trigger system is traditional double-action, meaning the exposed spur hammer can be manually cocked so the revolver can be fired single-action in addition to a longer, heavier double-action trigger pull to both cock and release the hammer.
We received a Southpaw for testing and were immediately struck by its light, 12-ounce weight. Matching the gun’s light weight was its trim and petite dimensions, apart from the somewhat bulky grip that no doubt helps tame the recoil of .38 Spl. +P ammunition. Fit and finish were reasonably good, and all controls worked smoothly. The double-action trigger pull produced no discernible stacking, coming in at 10 pounds. The single-action pull broke at an average of 4 pounds, with a slight amount of creep.
We took the Southpaw out to the range with a selection of standard .38 Spl. and one +P load to put the revolver through its paces. After a few rounds, our testers noted a good amount of lead “splashback” when the Southpaw was fired. The Southpaw was returned to Charter Arms for inspection where the forcing cone was relieved and the revolver promptly returned. Once it was back in hand, we took the Southpaw out again.
During the course of testing, there were no malfunctions. Recoil was stout in the lightweight Southpaw, particularly with the one +P load tested. Considering the intended purpose of the Southpaw and its rudimentary sights, we evaluated accuracy at 15 yards. It showed a definite preference for the Federal 125-grain Nyclad load.
For lefties looking for a small, light and handy defensive-style revolver well suited to them, the Charter Arms Southpaw should make for an excellent choice.