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Charter Arms’ 3-inch .32 Magnum shoots smooth

Can you describe the perfect revolver? 

It should be easy to carry, smooth to shoot and provide suitable firepower, but not so much that it is uncomfortable to shoot. Charter Arms offers just such a gun with their .32-caliber Professional; a seven-shot revolver chambered in .32 H&R Magnum and sporting a 3-inch barrel.

         Ballistics snobs might get angry claiming that a .32, even the .32 H&R Magnum is not enough gun for self-defense. But let me ask you this: Would you shoot me if I was pointing it at you? If yes, then you believe the .32 H&R Magnum to be capable of causing death. That’s the basis for use of deadly force in self-defense. The .32 H&R Magnum is every bit as effective as the .38 Special. In gel tests you will see nearly equal penetration and the .32 actually expands a bit better than the .38.  Keep in mind that a .38 Special is not a .38 caliber projectile; it is a .357 caliber projectile. So, when shooting the .32 H&R Magnum, you are starting with a bullet that is only 3/100th of an inch smaller, which doesn’t make much difference when putting holes in bad guys, it makes a world of difference when talking about cylinder capacity. Smaller bullets means you get more of them in the cylinder. That’s a good thing.

Smaller Caliber equates to More Capacity

The Charter Professional can safely hold seven rounds in the exact same size package that typically holds five rounds in the Charter Undercover. The Professional also carries a 3-inch barrel which helps to capture even more performance from the .32 H&R Magnum. Adding that extra inch of barrel can sometimes add as much 100 fps to the velocity of the bullet at the muzzle. Occasionally .38 Special JHP rounds fail to open up when fired from a 2-inch barrel. The longer barrel really does not make the Professional any more difficult to conceal, but it does add an extra inch of sight radius to help with accuracy. We call that a win-win.

         Speaking of sights, the Professional has a neon green light pipe front sight and a fixed rear sight of .20 inches wide. The sights are easy to acquire, accurate for combat shooting and certainly very low profile. In shooting this revolver any accuracy issues were mine and mine alone. Firing at 15 feet showed fine performance, which meant I could be shooting faster. The light recoil of the .32 H&R Magnum combined with the all-steel frame and full lug under the barrel ensures this revolver is ultimately controllable during rapid fire.

Neon Green Light Pipe Front Sight

Did you catch that reference to an all-steel frame? Yes indeed, The Charter

 Professional is built on an all-steel frame, but it is a small frame so it is not overly heavy and being all steel, the entire gun is coated with BlackNitride+, a proprietary finish that is nearly indestructible. The BlackNitride+ not only protects the steel, but it also seems to work as a lubricant coating meaning there is no actual metal-to-metal contact on the coated parts. A double bonus is that BlackNitride+ is also very easy to clean.

The grips on this little revolver are contoured walnut, called the “Backpacker” by the folks at Charter Arms. This is what a fighting handgun grip should be: slender, yet somehow robust. It is smooth, the way Bill Jordan liked his grips, but offers a very solid shooting platform. The contours of this grip make the gun seem much like a round-butt revolver when it comes to comfort and concealability. And, as a double bonus, you can even buy the “Backpacker” grips for your other Charter revolvers, if you feel so inclined. The way I see it, you have to love this combination of caliber, weight and grip. The Professional is exceedingly comfortable gun to shoot and carry.

Shooting this gun gives new meaning to the idea of firing a fighting revovler. The sight picture, even for my aging eyes, is amazing. Recoil is negligible. I fired the gun only in the double-action mode, as is common among people who use revolvers for self-defense and I had no trouble at all rattling off seven headshots in 5 seconds at 15 feet. I did not do any sandbag tests or shoot for accuracy at 25 yards. I want a fighting handgun to come out of the holster and put rounds on target quickly at close range. I was more than happy with my shooting out to 25 feet. It seems any well made gun offers more accuracy than I am capable of. The Professional did not disappoint.  I fired more than 200 rounds during the testing and, as expected, had no trouble. At one point I did put a single drop of lubricant on the center of the cylinder star, but that is the only thing I did to the gun after it came out of the box.

Some of you might be asking why I didn’t completely clean the revolver before taking it to the range for the first time, but I was hoping to test the gun under the worst possible circumstances and I figured the best way to replicate three months of holster carry was to simply pull the gun right out of the box, load it and shoot it dry.

True dyed-in-the-wool revolver shooters will have a legitimate question about reloading. Since this is a seven-shooter, I have not yet been able to find a speedloader for the gun, but I did get my hands on speed strips for the .32-caliber rounds and they work just fine for stuffing six more rounds into the cylinder. Yes, just six more. Most gunfights use only three rounds. So if you are in a jam that requires more than 13 you likely have bigger problems than reloading a seven-shooter during a gunfight. My suggested loadout for everyday carry would be a cylinder full and six more in the speed strip.

The Charter Arms Professional fills a real need in the world of fighting revolvers. You might call it a middleweight with all the punch and power of a bigger fighter, but carrying those elements with easy speed and smooth.. Well… grace. The two extra rounds of ammo in the cylinder surely adds to the comfort level of anyone carrying this revolver and the combination of all the features that come standard on this gun make it a nearly perfect piece of emergency live-saving gear. If you are looking for a revolver that is easy to carry, smooth to shoot and offers you 40 percent more ammo than a traditional five-round snub-nosed revolver, consider going pro with the Charter Arms Professional.

In case you were wondering

.32 H&R Magnum Vs .38 Special

Let’s talk about this .32 H&R Magnum round for bit. Developed back in 1984, the round really does fill the gap between .32 S&W and .38 Special. And that gap is not as big as you think. The .38 Special, through quirks of ammunition naming conventions, is actually a .357-caliber bullet. But let’s not focus on that. Let’s focus on performance.

         In bare gel tests with the Clear Ballistics FBI Block the 100-grain .32 H&R Magnum penetrated only marginally less than the much heavier .38 Special we were testing against. And, as you know, according to the FBI Protocol penetration is everything.

         The FBI focuses on penetration because the Bureau has come to realize that no handgun round of any caliber has the energy needed to create those mythical “lightning bolt” stops you see in the movies. The one that comes the closest might be the 125-grain .357 Magnum and the .357 Sig of similar weight and ballistics, but in reality a good guy needs to put lots of holes in the vital areas of a bad guy to stop the aggressive behavior.

         A couple different manufacturers are making .32 H&R Magnum rounds which gives you a choice of bullet weights. There will be no discernible difference in accuracy so you should choose the one you are most comfortable shooting. The lighter round, regardless of caliber, will give you less felt recoil, but the .32 H&R Mag is already such a smooth-shooting little round that none but the most experienced shooters will be able to tell the difference.

         The .32 H&R Magnum works. It is as simple as that. In the new Charter Arms Professional, you get two extra rounds per cylinder, but I really don’t think you will need them all. A well-placed double tap will very likely make your attacker rethink his life choices and the round will give you all the penetration and expansion you need.