Gun Review: Charter Arms Off Duty .38 Special

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

July 16, 2018 / Comments (6)

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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.

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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.

6 Responses to :
Gun Review: Charter Arms Off Duty .38 Special

  1. william C says:

    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.

    1. Outrider says:

      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.

  2. Cynthia No-moreDrama Suber says:

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

  3. Birdo says:

    I chose this one as I found it one the lightest revolvers within the .38 caliber. I have a separate brand revolver, black in color, but I wanted to try out having a silver colored one, so I chose this one. I really like this one and am satisfied, for the price. The advertisement reads 12 oz, the booklet it came with from Charter Arms read 14 oz, but when I weighed it on my scale at home it was 13.37 oz, still a very light weight. Speed-loaders fit. The cylinder has a tight and clean fit onto the gun/frame, with little gap, and very little toggle or wiggle.

    As the handle/grip is short, I purchased a replacement grip, wooden, longer – which now allows for the pinky to grip, whole. The wood grip I bought is very smooth and would not snag, adding to the good utilization personal carry to me.

    Not a range gun per se, but for personal protection and concealment, it met my needs.

    Trigger – I like it, strong, sturdy, consistent. Not as smooth as some higher priced of same caliber, but it does the job and feels reliable. I dubbed it a “Jeep like” trigger.

    Ammunition – I have six different brands of .38 Special bullets. All of them fit this model, except for Hornady FTX, hallow point, Critical Defense, because the rim/back of the base casing is thicker, it will not allow the cylinder to close, and I fear could damage the gun if I were to try to force it shut. I have to extra careful not to carry or load this Hornady into this Charter Arms model. Some advertising and a vague note which came in the box case, refer to being able to use + P bullets, but I need to look that up to confirm, and I am not convinces yet that it can accept, so I will hold off, to reduce chance of damaging the gun, I can do without +P and it is not worth the risk.

    Trigger Guard – It feels like a strong metal, but there is a light grey rubber coating all around it. At first it looked cheap, but it is good strong quality, and feels good to the touch. I’m new to arms, and am trying to figure out why the builder placed the rubber coating on the guard. On the down side, rubber can snag onto clothing. On the plus side, when drawing and preparing to hold and shoot, the texture of the guard vs. the actual metal trigger differ, so the shooter can feel and sense where their finger is, when holding the gun with the finger off the trigger, vs finger on the trigger, which to me seemed like an interesting feature, and I wonder if that was what the maker had in mind, for safety’s sake.

    The Cylinder Latch – was the most concern for me; Mine was stiff, and I am not sure how to fix it myself. It is not stuck, it works, but requires a lot of force by one’s thumb. The sales worker thought it would loosen over time, I sure hope so. I oiled it. Awaiting if it improves. On the plus side, emergencies are rare, and having to reload after five shots in an emergency even more rare. If it persists I might ask my local gun store to try to repair it or send it back to Charter Arms for improvement on it. To open the latch, one pushes it forward, and because mine was on the tight side, I never had to worry about accidentally opening the cylinder.

    Overall, I am very satisfied with this one.

  4. Brad says:

    I love my CA Off Duty model. It’s my new EDC as I carry it in a pocket holster everywhere I go. I leave the sub compact semi-autos at home most of the time, because the Off Duty is so much lighter and more
    convenient to carry. The only time I take one of the others is when I have to go into the big city.

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