Since the founding of Charter Arms in 1964 by Douglas McClennahan, the company’s series of affordably priced, compact, double-action revolvers has continued to grow in both its diversity of models and frame sizes. McClennahan had an innovative approach to revolver design that allowed Charter to make its guns lighter and less costly to produce, and the company’s recently introduced Professional is another fine example of this design philosophy.
Our test sample for this evaluation was the six-shot, .357 Mag.-chambered model of the Professional, however, a seven-shot .32 H&R Mag. variant is also offered. The Professional is a double-action revolver with an exposed hammer that allows it to be cocked for single-action fire. It employs the larger cylinder and frame of the Charter Bulldog XL, making it a mid-size option with a profile comparable to other middle weights, such as the Ruger GP100 or the Smith & Wesson 686. However, its partial aluminum construction reduces its weight by as much as half a pound when compared to all-steel .357 Mag. models of similar barrel length.
This version of the Professional incorporates the features that have kept the .44 Spl. Bulldog selling well for decades. The barrel, frame, cylinder and controls are all made of corrosion-resistant, matte-finish stainless steel. Unlike some other double-action revolvers, Charter Arms models do not have a removable sideplate. Instead, the firing mechanism is fitted into the one-piece frame from below, and held in place by the one-piece trigger guard and grip frame. This design has two notable benefits, the first being that the frame is stronger. Secondly, the trigger guard and grip assembly is a separate component, which allows it to be made from a different material, such as the lightweight, aircraft-grade aluminum that Charter Arms uses.
The one-piece 3" barrel shares the same profile as other Charter models currently in production. The bore is button-rifled with eight grooves, instead of six, to provide a better gas seal and reduce bullet deformation. The full-length, flat-sided under lug shrouds the spring-loaded ejector rod, while the front sight base is a milled extension of the barrel.
The topstrap of the receiver is deeply grooved with a square notch above the hammer to form the rear sight. The grooved cocking spur of the hammer is relatively short, which reduces the chance of it snagging on clothing. It is positioned relatively low to make it easier to reach with the thumb of the shooting hand. A frame-mounted transfer bar safety, located between the hammer and the firing pin, prevents the revolver from firing if dropped.
The cylinder’s yoke is fitted into a protective slot in the frame rather than being exposed along its front edge like some other designs. The cylinder is supported by a three-point lockup; it rotates clockwise and swings out to the left side when the flat, serrated cylinder release is pressed forward toward the muzzle. A cylinder stop on the frame is not required, which aids in quicker reloads when using a speedloader.
The rounded trigger guard houses a curved trigger with a grooved face. The double-action trigger pull of some revolvers can be 12 lbs. or greater with a rough or stacking trigger pull; the trigger of the Professional tested exhibited a smooth double-action trigger pull of 10 lbs., 2 ozs. Manually cocking the hammer for single-action fire resulted in a trigger pull of 3 lbs., 15 ozs.
As a member of the Professional line, this revolver enjoys a few upgrades not found on the standard Bulldog models. The entire gun has been treated to Charter Arm’s proprietary Blacknitride+ finish that increases the hardness of the surface for improved wear and scratch resistance. It also toughens the bore for an increased working life and reduces the friction between moving parts.
The fixed front sight blade is milled down and replaced with a bright green fiber-optic pipe in a square housing that preserves the sight picture formed with the square-notch rear sight. Many Charter guns ship with compact rubber stocks; this model ships with a fullsize, smooth walnut stock with bilateral thumb rests, a curved backstrap and finger grooves along the front.
Lightweight revolvers can be a handful when firing full-power .357 cartridges, and the Professional is no exception; however, the smooth walnut stock helps the gun to roll back in the shooting hand, which in turn works to help manage felt recoil. The cylinder yoke was a bit stiff to swing out, but the cylinder would spin freely once opened. The revolver proved to be utterly reliable with all of the ammunition tested, and it operated properly throughout testing with no mechanical issues or misfires.
The mid-size Charter Arms six-shot, .357 Mag. Professional is a rugged, simple revolver that is an affordably priced option suitable for concealed carry or home defense. The .357 Mag. chambering allows for the use of soft-shooting .38 Spl. cartridges for casual plinking or target practice, .38 Spl. +P defensive hollow points for more moderate levels of felt recoil or full-power .357 Mag. loads for use in the field. It’s a flexible option for those who are looking for the added power of a magnum revolver without the added weight of an all-steel frame—at a price point that nearly any shooter can manage.