After giving TTAG readers the heads-up on Charter Arm’s forthcoming Bulldog Classic, I decided to shake the company’s media tree and see what else fell out. As you might expect from a small manufacturer dedicated to customer service, the woman on the end of the phone put me straight through to Charter Arms owner Nick Ecker. Ecker revealed that his peeps are preparing to launch a .40 caliber revolver. “It will make a terrific cops’ back up gun,” Ecker told TTAG. “They can keep it on an ankle holster or wherever, and they don’t have to worry about shooting different ammunition.” Nor safety, over-much, as revolvers are your basic don’t need to jack the the slide to know what’s in the chamber, point-and-shoot, if it fails pull the trigger again, self-defense option. A fact that hasn’t escaped the company’s considerable population of female buyers . . .
Women continue to make up a significant percentage of Charter Arms sales. They go for brightly colored handguns, like the new-for-2010 two-tone (pink and stainless) .38 Special Cougar (shown above). Yes, Cougar. (For women who don’t already own a Pink Lady, presumably.) Question: why, then, does Charter boast that there’s “No stud to hold cylinder in place when open–only US manufacturer to feature”? I digress . . .
Ecker says that older buyers—I mean, buyers of a certain age—are helping keep the company’s bottom line healthy. Hence the return of the classic Bulldog .44.
“We decided to re-introduce the model after last year’s NRA convention,” Ecker says. “A lot of the people we met said they used to own the old Bulldog and wished they hadn’t sold it.” Ecker does a steady business with this “born again” revolver community: gun owners who “went through their semi-automatic phase.” And he works hard to keep ’em.
“Guns are complex mechanical devices. Guns do break. Not often, but it happens. If one of our customers sends us a gun to repair, we’ll have it back to them in one week. You send a gun to Smith & Wesson and see what happens . . . once customers switch from Smith & Wesson to Charter Arms, they stay here.”
Them’s fighting words! And here’s some more:
“We sell a stronger gun than Smith. They use an add-on side plate in the frame. Ours is a solid frame. Their crane arm is held in place by a small screw. Our frame holds the cylinder in place.”
So is strength really that big a big deal? “Failure is a big deal,” Ecker replies with characteristic sang froid. Yes, well, what about forged (Smith) vs. cast (Charter Arms) metal? “Forged is stronger,” Ecker admits. “By about 1.5 percent.”
And cast is cheaper; an important consideration for a company that value-prices it products. As does Taurus, whose weapons are Charter’s main competition, positioned as they are between Charter and Smith. Ecker doesn’t think much of Taurus’ quality. Suffice it to say, we went off the record on that one.
“We’re doing fine,” Ecker reassures. “We sell about 35,000 guns a year. We’re profitable on that and we’ve got an extremely loyal customer base.” Will the new old Bulldog and the .40 revolver win new friends for the company? Ecker worries that they won’t be able to keep up with demand. It’s a good situation for a gunmaker to face. No doubt Charter will face it well.