Gun World - - Contents - By Pa­trick Sweeney

Not ev­ery­one wants a high-ca­pac­ity 9mm hand­gun for self-de­fense. Some want a re­volver—prefer­ably one that de­liv­ers big chunks of lead. Char­ter Arms de­liv­ers with this mod­ern-carry re­volver cham­bered in .45 Colt.

Not ev­ery­one is en­am­ored of hi-cap pis­tols. Or 9mm pis­tols. Or even pis­tols. Some want re­volvers, and they want big chunks of lead as the de­liv­ery sys­tem for self-de­fense ap­pli­ca­tions.

For a long time, Char­ter Arms was giv­ing them that in the orig­i­nal Bull­dog, cham­bered in the .44 Spe­cial.

Well, the orig­i­nal frame and cylin­der size, made for the .44 Spe­cial, were just a smidge too small to be adapted to the big­ger .45 Colt. So, Char­ter Arms de­signed and started mak­ing the Bull­dog XL frame—one large enough to hold that clas­sic car­tridge. At around the same time, Char­ter Arms in­tro­duced the Mag Pug, us­ing the same XL frame, cham­bered in .41 Mag­num.

Now, I am a great fan of big-bore re­volvers, but I’m here to tell you that I do not an­tic­i­pate ever test­ing the Mag Pug .41 Mag­num model.

Why? Sim­ple: weight. Or rather, the lack of weight. The Bull­dog XL .45 Colt model tips the scales at 22 ounces, and the Mag Pug .41 Mag­num is 23 ounces. I’ve fired mag­num re­volvers in that weight class, and do­ing it back then was plenty good enough for me. The .45 Colt is a lot more man­age­able.

There’s also the mat­ter of am­mu­ni­tion sup­ply. I love the .41 Mag­num and the .45 Colt, but you only have to pe­ruse the am­mu­ni­tion shelves at your lo­cal big-box store or gun shop to no­tice that you have a lot more choices in .45 than in .41. Ditto for com­po­nents, if you want to take up reload­ing. The gun shop that stocks reload­ing com­po­nents will have so much in the way of .45 bul­lets that they might be us­ing ex­tra boxes of them as doorstops. The .41, not so much.

Which is why, when given a choice, I asked for the new Bull­dog XL .45 Colt ver­sion. Shortly after­ward, one ar­rived on my doorstep.


The Bull­dog .45 Colt is a clas­sic de­sign of a dou­ble-ac­tion re­volver. The cylin­der latch is be­hind the cylin­der, on the left side. Press­ing it for­ward un­locks the cylin­der, and you can then tip it out to the left. The ejec­tor rod ex­tracts the rounds, loaded or fired, and they can then fall out. The com­pact­ness of the Bull­dog means that the ejec­tor rod stroke can’t be long enough to fully lift the cases out of the cham­bers. That is of­ten not a prob­lem, be­cause the .45 Colt op­er­ates at such a low cham­ber pres­sure that the emp­ties will of­ten fall out due to their own weight if you sim­ply in­vert the open cylin­der. But we’ll cover the best way to reload at the end.

The cylin­der holds five rounds, and this is done for two rea­sons: First, mak­ing it hold six would re­quire in­creas­ing the di­am­e­ter of the cylin­der just to hold the rounds. Sec­ond, the lock­ing notch in the cylin­der would then, sim­ply due to geom­e­try, line up with, or be very close to, each cham­ber. This means the cylin­der has to be bumped up just a bit more in or­der to leave enough steel be­tween the lock­ing notch and the cham­ber.

With five rounds in the cylin­der, each lock­ing notch is off­set and in be­tween the cham­bers. You can then make the cylin­der as small as geom­e­try al­lows (with thick-enough side­walls) and not have to worry about the lock­ing notch.

Is this a real prob­lem? In a word—yes. Back when I was gun­smithing, I saw more than a few .357s on which ov­er­en­thu­si­as­tic reload­ers had bulged the cylin­der at the lock­ing notch due to over-pres­sure ammo. Cu­ri­ously, I didn’t see that prob­lem with larger cal­ibers, and I sus­pect it’s sim­ply a

mat­ter of re­coil. By the time you load, say, a .44 Mag­num hot enough to bulge the cylin­der at the lock­ing notch, the re­coil has be­come so oner­ous, you can’t stand to shoot it. But that’s not the case with the .357.

I also don’t an­tic­i­pate this be­ing a prob­lem with the Bull­dog in .45 Colt. Long be­fore you could over­work the cylin­der, you will quit due to re­coil.

But, I di­gress.


The trig­ger is your clas­sic dou­ble-ac­tion-re­volver op­tion. You can fire the Bull­dog by ei­ther stroking through the trig­ger in one mo­tion or by thumb-cock­ing the ham­mer first and then press­ing the trig­ger. The first method ro­tates the cylin­der and then drops the ham­mer. The sec­ond ro­tates the cylin­der when you cock and then drops the ham­mer when you press. It might seem overkill to ex­plain this, but a lot of shoot­ers these days have only ever grown up with, and shot, striker-fired pis­tols

with hi-cap mag­a­zines. A re­volver could well be new to them.


Re­peat ei­ther of these meth­ods as needed, and once you’ve fired your five, open the cylin­der, eject the emp­ties, reload and re­peat.

The ejec­tion is sim­ple, and you can do it one of two ways. The first (and, again, this is for the shoot­ers new to re­volvers; but it is also for any re­volver shooter to get to the top of their game) is to thumb the cylin­der latch for­ward and use your left hand to swing the cylin­der out. Let go with your right hand (a left-han­der’s reload is more com­pli­cated and would be an ar­ti­cle unto it­self) and clutch the Bull­dog with your left­hand fin­gers through the open space in the frame, hold­ing the cylin­der. Use your left thumb to de­press the ejec­tor rod while you point the muz­zle di­rectly up.

The ad­van­tage of this method is that your right hand can be reach­ing for your spare ammo at the same time.

The sec­ond method is to hold the re­volver the same way but use the palm of your right hand to slap the ejec­tor rod down briskly, eject­ing the emp­ties. The ad­van­tage here is that there is no way any empty will stay put, even with the ejec­tor rod stroke be­ing shorter than the case length.

Reload­ing? Un­for­tu­nately, the clas­sic reload­ing speed­loader, the HKS, does not yet make a model for the Bull­dog. This com­pany makes one for the .44 Spe­cial Bull­dog, but the rims of the .45 Colt are too large to fit into it. You can, how­ever, use the Bianchi Speed­strips, which hold six rounds but work just fine with a five-shot cylin­der.


Shoot­ing the Bull­dog XL in .45 Colt was a bit of an ad­ven­ture. We are, af­ter all, talk­ing about a stan­dard bul­let weight of 250 grains out of a 22-ounce re­volver.

Just for gig­gles, I cal­cu­lated what the com­pa­ra­ble weight would be for a bul­let out of one of my other .45 Colt re­volvers—a S&W 25-5 Clas­sic. That one tips the scales at 42.5 ounces, and I’d have to be launch­ing 483-grain bul­lets to have the same weight-to-weight ra­tio. One shud­ders to think.

With that in mind, I was just a bit hes­i­tant to touch off the first round. I needn’t have been. Oh, you’ll know you’ve shot some­thing with a big-bore, but it won’t make you pay for the ex­pe­ri­ence as do the big mag­nums. When it comes to am­mu­ni­tion choices in .45 Colt, you have three op­tions. You can first go with the clas­sic load, one that has been putting bad guys to rest (and the oc­ca­sional good guy, as well) for 145 years, and that is a lead bul­let of 250 or 255 grains, some­times with a flat point on it.

These are also known these days as “cow­boy” loads, for Cow­boy Ac­tion Shoot­ing. The orig­i­nal load had a “book” value of more than 900 fps. Maybe, with the full charge of black pow­der in the 19th cen­tury, and from an SAA with a 7.5-inch bar­rel, it might have. But not to­day. I’ve had op­por­tu­ni­ties to chrono .45 Colt ammo in re­volvers with longer bar­rels, and you re­ally have to work with hand­loads to get the 900-plus fps of the old days. Most mod­ern, de­fen­sive-ori­ented loads do a step bet­ter than .45 ACP in weight and speed, which is not a bad thing.

The sec­ond choice is the Hor­nady FTX. The FTX line is Hor­nady’s “good deed” to shoot­ers. It uses the same bul­let tech­nol­ogy as in Hor­nady’s Crit­i­cal Duty FlexLock, but it is not loaded “to the gills,” so to speak. This is the com­pany’s Crit­i­cal De­fense line.

The de­sire by many to max out the score on the FBI bal­lis­tic test leads to top-end ve­loc­i­ties. That is what it takes to make bul­lets per­form their best in the FBI tests. Not ev­ery­one wants that re­coil, and not ev­ery­one needs the bar­rier pen­e­tra­tion it brings.

So, in the .45 Colt, Hor­nady loads the Crit­i­cal De­fense loads to less ve­loc­ity—not be­cause it is look­ing to sell those “ex­tra fps” to some­one else, but to save you the work of shoot­ing more than you need. And, the FTX bul­lets are de­signed to


ex­pand at their ve­loc­i­ties—not at the higher ve­loc­i­ties of the Crit­i­cal Duty loads. You get jack­eted hol­low-point per­for­mance with­out the ex­tra re­coil.

Last are the no-holds-barred de­fen­sive loads. These fea­ture nearly full-weight bul­lets at the top ve­loc­ity that the .45 Colt can de­liver them. The old-school load here is the Winch­ester Sil­ver­tip, which has been around al­most as long as I’ve been work­ing in gun shops. It has an alu­minum jacket over a lead core. The oth­ers are the SIG V-Crown and the Winch­ester PDX1. Both are de­signed with FBI bal­lis­tic/bar­rier tests in mind.

And yes, there is some re­coil. How­ever, do not let the ap­par­ently low ve­loc­i­ties of the cow­boy loads lead you to un­der­es­ti­mate them. The Hor­nady and Winch­ester loads are ac­cu­rate and rel­a­tively mild. Yet, they still de­liver a 155 Power Fac­tor (PF). In fact, a 255 at slightly more than 600 fps is the his­tor­i­cal power of the .455 We­b­ley (and the Bri­tish main­tained an em­pire on that car­tridge). The Black Hills cow­boy load has a 177 PF—the high­est of the crew—and if you re­ally think a 250-grain lead bul­let at 708 fps is some­thing to be ig­nored, you are mis­taken.

If you want a jack­eted bul­let, and thus less bore and cylin­der clean­ing, the sil­ver­tip is a softer-in-re­coil choice there. With a PF of “only” 153, it is not that hard to shoot.

At the up­per end of power, there is the Hor­nady FTX, the SIG V-Crown and the Winch­ester PDX1. These are go­ing to get your at­ten­tion—and cer­tainly the at­ten­tion of whomever or what­ever you award one of these to­kens. They range from a 162 PF (the PDX1) to a 170 PF (the V-Crown), with the Hor­nady in the mid­dle.


Just out of cu­rios­ity, and not to start some sort of ex­treme .45 Colt bal­lis­tic test, I dragged a cou­ple of blocks of Clear Bal­lis­tic syn­thetic gel to the range to test the Bull­dog. I used the Hor­nady cow­boy load, be­cause it had the low­est ve­loc­ity. I set up a block, took a shot and no­ticed an ex­plod­ing clod of dirt on the back­stop. The .45 Colt 255 lead bul­let had gone clean through the 16-inch block.

I set up a sec­ond one be­hind it and shot again. Twenty-two inches is how far it pen­e­trated. So, the mild-shoot­ing, slow-and-heavy bul­let of the Hor­nady cow­boy load will al­most cer­tainly put a .45-inch hole through and through on a mis­cre­ant. If that’s not good enough for you, you can move up in re­coil if you wish.


Tak­ing the Bull­dog apart for clean­ing is easy: Open the cylin­der, un­load it, and start clean­ing. If you re­ally have to take parts off, use a screw­driver to re­move the grip screw. Then use a screw­driver to re­move the crane screw, which is on the front of the frame. That’s it.

If you want to pack a re­volver for de­fense (al­ways a good choice), the Char­ter Arms Bull­dog XL in .45 Colt is cer­tainly a vi­able choice. Hol­sters will not be dif­fi­cult to come by; and, with a cou­ple of speed­strips in a pocket, you will have 17 rounds of emer­gency ser­vices at hand.


This is a Black Hills .45 Colt bul­let out of the Char­ter Arms Bull­dog that pen­e­trated 22 inches of Clear Bal­lis­tics gel. Im­pres­sive! We do have one old bit of lore to dis­pose of: dura­bil­ity. I have read from time to time that “Char­ter Arms re­volvers don’t stand up very well.” Hmm.

I’ve got a .44 Bull­dog in the safe that came my way some 30 years ago. I can’t say that I have (as I’ve done with a raft of other hand­guns) shot a lit­eral ton of bul­lets down the bore. But I have shot it, and I’ve shot other Char­ter Arms re­volvers thor­ough the years. None of them ever quit on me. As a gun­smith, I saw a lot of busted guns back in the old days, and the num­ber of Char­ter Arms guns that came in bro­ken were no­table by their ab­sence. Darned few, in fact.

Can we ex­pect a 22-ounce re­volver cham­bered in .45 Colt and sell­ing for a mere $433 to stand up to a life­time of shoot­ing? Per­haps not. But con­sider the value. Let’s per­form a thought ex­per­i­ment, as Al­bert Ein­stein used to do:

Can you buy an equiv­a­lent S&W? No. You could, if you wanted, buy a 25-5 and then pay a gun­smith such as me to shorten the bar­rel and round-butt the frame. (In fact, I did ex­actly that 30-plus years ago.) You will not own that re­volver for less than $1,500, and it will not weigh fewer than 35 ounces. For that money, you could buy three Char­ter Arms Bull­dog XLs in .45 Colt and not have to carry al­most an ex­tra pound all the time.

With that said, if you want to have a big­bore de­fen­sive re­volver for daily carry, the new Char­ter Arms in .45 Colt is an ab­so­lute steal. GW


I The new Char­ter ArmsBull­dog in .45 Colt is on a big­ger frame than the .44 Spe­cial model, and yet, it is still a com­pact, big­bore wheel­gun.

The Bull­dog in .45 Colt comes with rub­ber grips—all the bet­ter to deal with the re­coil of heavy bul­lets at mod­er­ate ve­loc­i­ties.I

By go­ing with a fiveshot cylin­der, Char­ter Arms was able to make the Bull­dog as com­pact as pos­si­ble and also get the lock­ing notches off cen­ter from the cham­bers.I

The cylin­der latch is be­hind the left-side re­coil shield. Push it for­ward to un­lock the cylin­der.I

Left to right: Hor­nady FTX, Hor­nady Cow­boy, Winch­ester PDX1, Winch­ester Sil­ver­tip, Winch­ester, Black Hills, SIG Sauer V-Crown.

Tak­ing the Bull­dog apart for clean­ing is sim­ple. A cor­rectly fit­ting screw­driver(so you don’t man­gle the slot) lets you un­screw the crane screw—and voilà! You‘re ready to clean.I

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