Charter Arms has been busily shipping affordably priced, compact, American-made defensive revolvers out of New England's Gun Valley for more than 50 years now. Although the Charter Arms catalog is chalk full of caliber and finish options, the first model that often comes to mind is the company's flagship .44 Spl. Bulldog. This year Charter Arms has released a trimmed down version of the Bulldog, dubbed the Boomer, which has been modified specifically for concealed carry and close-quarters defensive situations.
The Boomer provided for this review (Model 74429) is constructed wholly from 416 stainless steel with a natural matte silver finish. The frame, fluted 5-shot cylinder assembly, press-forward cylinder release and trigger guard are all lifted directly from the Bulldog model. The grip frame is also the same as the Bulldog which allows this model to be fitted with the same standard and compact grips.
The changes to the Boomer are found in the action and barrel. The exposed hammer is without a spur and the action has been converted from double-action/single-action to double-action-only operation. The trigger is more deeply curved with a serrated face.
The barrel has been shortened, tapered and stripped of the top barrel ridge, front sight and the under lug. These changes are intended to work in tandem with the bobbed hammer to give the revolver a no-snag profile for in-the-waistband and pocket carry. The frame's fixed rear sight notch and groove are still in place to use as a reference point for aiming. The top of the barrel features two 0.50" slot shaped ports to help mitigate felt recoil.
According to my trusty digital postal scale, the result of these various nips and tucks to the Boomer is an unloaded weight of just 17.9 oz. with the factory grip installed. After all this work to streamline the gun, I thought it was a curious choice on the part of Charter Arms to ship this gun with the company's full-size textured black rubber grip. On the one hand, this particular grip is hand filling, comfortable to work with and provides support for all three fingers of the shooting hand. However, Charter offers lighter, more compact grips that seem a better fit for the Boomer's intended application.
As part of the review process, the Boomer spent part of its time fitted with the ridged black polymer hip grip offered on the company website ($24.95) in place of the factory installed rubber model. The hip grip has a rounded extension on the right side that hooks over the belt when the revolver is placed in a waistband without a holster, much like the Clipdraw-style clips for semi-auto pistols. Installing the hip grip shortened the grip profile by 0.50" and reduces the revolver's unloaded weight to 16.7 oz. The grip extension will fit comfortably around the top edge of a pocket or hip holster, so it allows for all three types of carry.
Working the Boomer through the pre-range bench checks, I found it to be a solid, well-made little wheelgun. Charter revolvers do not exhibit the same level of exterior spit and polish found on more expensive models (it's one of the ways they keep product costs down). But the attention to detail showed up where it really matters. The double-action trigger was long and heavy, 11 lbs. 6 oz., while feeling nice and smooth. The cylinder dropped open properly when released and spun freely in the open position. The ejector rod was just the right length and ridged enough to handle getting “slapped” to pop out spent cartridge cases.
When I took the Boomer to the shooting range, and in order to make some comparisons, I brought along a Charter Arms Bulldog I purchased a few years ago. Yes, the Boomer is easier to conceal, especially for pocket carry when a smaller grip is used. In terms of felt recoil, the Boomer's ported barrel had a distinct advantage over the Bulldog. The little gun's kick with standard velocity ammunition was on par with a similarly sized .38 Spl. loaded with +P ammunition, while being less snappy. As expected, the Boomer's barrel ports did make it louder than the non-ported Bulldog but not so much as to be a game changer.
In regard to using +P (increased pressure) ammunition in the Boomer, Charter Arms' signals are a bit ambiguous. A feature description card attached to the gun's trigger guard when it arrives reads "+P Rated." However, the owner's manual does not explicitly state that the .44 Spl. models are rated for +P ammunition (it only lists the guns that cannot safely fire +P loads). Other companies that sell +P rated handguns, meaning the revolver or pistol can safely digest +P most or all of the time, have a +P stamped right on the barrel. The Boomer only says ".44 Special". So, I opted to stick with standard velocity ammunition for this test.
The Boomer loaded, fired and extracted the test ammunition without any hang-ups that could be attributed to the revolver. There was one instance of a bullet jumping the cartridge crimp just far enough to stop the cylinder from rotating. I can't say for sure what caused the problem because it only happened once and early on in the testing. It’s a good reminder that practice-grade ammunition topped with soft lead bullets is best reserved for the shooting range and should not be used for concealed carry.
Despite its big-bore chambering, the Boomer is a sub-compact handgun, so formal accuracy testing was conducted by firing five, 5-shot groups into targets set at 7 yards. A Lab Radar chronograph was used to measure bullet velocity from the short, ported barrel. Usually handguns are fired from a bench rest for this portion of the test, but this time I got off the bench and fired from a standing position using a two-handed grip. Because this revolver doesn't really have a sight system, I was curious about what kind of groups I would be able to produce in a defensive situation. Here are the results:
I must admit that I had to work at producing 3" average group sizes with this gun at 7 yards due to the absence of the front sight. During the informal warm-up, the groups were going high and wide because I was subconsciously looking for the front sight which in turn caused the tapered barrel to tip upwards. Once I broke that pattern and got back on center, the groups still hovered around 3". I'm sure there are other folks out there who can do better but that was the best I could manage.
Just to make sure I wasn't having an off day, I fired a 5-shot group from the same distance and stance using the Bulldog loaded with the Remington ammunition in double-action mode. The group size shrunk to 1.20". So, like other pocket pistols, the Boomer is definitely a close-quarters option.
The new Charter Arms Boomer offers wheelgunners a more portable defensive option that launches a .44-cal. bullet. Like the other Charter revolvers I've worked with in the past, the Boomer is solidly built and reliable. These American-made revolvers ship with a lifetime warranty.