Gun Review: Charter Arms Chic Lady

“I am SO excited! My wife told me she wants to finally get her CCW License. She is going to be taking her class sometime in February. Today she went to a gun show with me. This was the first gun show she has ever attended with me and I was thrilled to have her along. She has narrowed HER choice down to two firearms. Her first choice is a ‘Pink Lady’ .38 spl made by Charter Arms.” You’ll see this same story repeated ’round the net: gun guy buys wife a brightly colored Charter Arms snubbie for personal defense. What you won’t see is what happens next. To quote the late Warren Zevon, it ain’t that pretty at all . . .

A few points to keep in mind about this video showcasing Charter Arms’ latest addition to their lineup of .38 revolvers, the Chic Lady:

Sam is no newbie. She grew up in South Africa, where she eventually stared down a home invader/rapist with her nine mil. These days, she shoots about once a week. More to the point, firing my Springfield XD-M or her Smith & Wesson 686, Sam can shoot a two-inch group at four yards without much bother. [Click here to see Sam fire the Smith at the same distance, using the same load.]

This was Sam’s first time shooting the Charter Arms Chic Lady. The second gun was a Charter Arm Undercover .38. Same weapon with a slightly longer grip (accommodates the pinky). Sam didn’t totally miss the paper; she nicked the top right corner of the left sheet. But there’s no getting around it: at close combat distance, Sam missed center mass ten times.

Now you could say this epic fail is not a condemnation of the Charter Arms Chic Lady per se. The 13 ounce, aircraft aluminum-framed Chic Lady is no better or worse than any other short-barreled lightweight .38; all examples of the breed kick like a mule and hurt like hell. With practice . . .  wait. Who’s going to practice on a regular basis with one of these? Here’s the rabbi firing the Charter Arms Chic Lady. Notice that he adjust his grip mid string. That, friends, is pain.

Actually, the Chic Lady is worse than the equivalent Smith or Ruger. The Charter Arms revolver feels relatively cheap, from the less-than-entirely precise way the barrel slots home (or leaves da house) to the spent cartridges clinging onto the barrel for dear life as you attempt to extract the brass. If you’re looking for a handgun that feels like it’ll last ’til the rivers all run dry, this ain’t it.

And? The Chic Lady costs a couple of hundred less than an equivalent high end wheelgun. Its buyers aren’t looking for a range toy or a self-defense system they can practice on a regular basis or a gun their great grandchildren will carry. The Chic Lady is the firearms equivalent of a doctor’s mask: one use and done. The fact that shooting the snubbie in an attack could lower an owner’s chances of survival—wasting precious time and pissing off the perp—is neither here nor there. It’s a gun! It’s pink! It’s a pink gun!

Never let it be said that I have anything against pink guns. (D’oh!) I totally get the concept: using bright dare-I-say girly colors to make a weapon more socially and personally palatable for people who are embarrassed about, or frightened of, firearms. Like . . . children. Yes, well, there is that. Suffice it to say, the parental advisory for the Charter Arms’ Chic Lady is no different than it is for any other gun.

I suggest that the more mature members of the fairer sex who demand a fashionable firearm listen to my Bill O’Reilly impression. CAUTION! You’re are about to enter THE no-hit zone. Buy the biggest, heaviest gun you can carry that won’t make you give up on the whole idea. Or give up on the whole idea. ‘Cause I’m definitely looking out for you.

Whatever else you can say about the advisability of carrying a lightweight snub-nosed revolver, the Charter Arms Chic Lady is a real gun that looks real pretty that shoots real bullets that conceals real easy that doesn’t cost a real lot of money. That’s what a large number of female buyers really, really want. And that’s what they get. Lethality? Not so much.

Ratings (out of five)

Style * * * * *
I’m not a huge fan of the overly-ornate script on the Chic Lady’s barrel, but people who love this gun, love this gun. I have to admit that it really brings out my eye color.

Ergonomics Carry * * * * *
The Chic Lady is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket. You can prepare for conflict (trigger finger-wise) while the revolver is still concealed and then shoot through your garment if it needs be. In summer, it’s grab ‘n go. In short (or shorts), carry-ability is why this handgun genre exists.

Ergonomics Firing
Good God no. Ouch!

Reliability * * * *
The things we do for you. Three hundred painful rounds without any probs. Final star withheld because it doesn’t feel like the Chic Lady can go the distance. It’s unfair, but the truth (i.e. unscientific speculation) hurts.

Overall Rating * * *
I’m of two minds here. The Chic Lady is excellent value for what it is, but I don’t like what it is. Let’s split the difference and round it up a half star, ’cause Charter Arms are nice people who build guns in America.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

24 Responses to Gun Review: Charter Arms Chic Lady

  1. avatarLance says:

    So, in short, TTAG wants the Chiappa to come in with a pink snub nosed Rhino, with the trigger upgrade of course.

  2. avatarMartin Albright says:

    Robert: I still have to take the wife's S&W 642 out to the range for a proper trial but our milk-jug-shooting experiences from a few weeks ago lead me to believe the flaw may not be with the Charter per se but with the whole lightweight snubby class of weapons. Without giving too much away, I'll put it this way: Wife was anticipating finally getting a chance to shoot her new gun and now we're putting it up for sale.

    • avatarJim C says:

      Change the grips . We have three revolvers , a 32 , 38 and a 44 . The 38 and 44 , with the stock wood grips are rather ouchy ,especially for my girlfriend . I wasn’t crazy about them either especially with the 44 , they just don’t feel good . But replace the stock grips with pachmayr or similar soft grips and big difference . She unloaded the 44 rapid fire with no problem other than staying on target , it still jumps , but no pain and she actually enjoyed shooting it , same with the 38 . As far as the 32 , you could shoot it at an assailant or throw it , it would be as about effective either way .

  3. Just like anything practice makes perfect. Once she decides on the gun that she wants to practice with on a regular basis, I am sure that she will get better. Putting the later on is also a great idea, but make sure that it is used just to get the hang of it, and not being relied on.

  4. avatarwcgreen says:

    I carry a S&W 638 and yes, I'm female, and yes, it took some practice to get accurate with it. I take it to the range monthly to make sure my grip and aim are still good. I selected it because it felt the best in my hands and I could carry it concealed with most of my Floridian wardrobe.

    No way would I carry a pink gun. Copper is my favorite color.

  5. avatarKen Carden says:

    Right gun, wrong caliber. After my Dad died earlier this year, the family bought my Mom a Lavender Lady in .32 H&R magnum. Mom's 82 and has arthritis. Right out of the box the trigger was smooth and the gun accurate. I did your seven yard, double action test, and all five were in the ten ring. Mom took the Texas CHL test and shot 188 out of 250. This is a very easy gun to shoot and is quite accurate. And if you want to just plink, use .32 S&W long. It's almost like shooting a .22. She absolutely loves it, but what is important is that at 12 oz, she carries it.

  6. avatarDave says:

    I had a very diffrent result with the Charter Arms I have, Here is my review http://www.cheapjungleboots.blogspot.com/

    I have now had the gun about 8 monthes and have put over 600 rounds through it. It still locks up tight and the trigger has smoothed out even more.

  7. avatarJohn says:

    Paris Hilton would buy a pink pistol. But do most grown women really want pink guns??

    • avatarcassie says:

      I can’t speak for most, but if you’re new to shooting and really girly it actually can be really appealing; especially on the rare occasion they get it right looks-wise. And I have seen a lot of ugly pink guns. I bought mine based solely on looks. It’s still a gun and you still know you have to be smart and responsible with it, but holding something pretty and lightweight that seems made with you in mind is a lot less unsettling than being handed a dark, heavy, masculine looking piece of metal. It really helped me ease into the hobby. That being said I am going for practicality on all future gun purchases and should I ever go for my CCW I will not be carrying a “pretty” gun.

  8. avatarDelena Ellis says:

    My husband bought me the pink lady dao(hammerless) as a Christmas present. I shot it three times and handed it back to him. I couldn’t even pull the trigger one handed and it kicked like a mule. I am a small woman but he isn’t and he didn’t even enjoy shooting this gun. We sold it back to the gushop he bought it from 4 days after Christmas. Definatley not made for a “real” woman. Btw….I am an experienced and knowledgable shooter and can shoot a 357 all day long. I’m not a dainty little girly girl but I am not a “butch” either.

  9. avatareverett walker says:

    Friend got a rimfire version of this for snubnose practice. It’s called Pathfinder but doesn’t resemble the original kit-gun-like version. This one came with something wet in it but it wasn’t apparently lubricating oil. The da trigger started out hard and eventually the gun seized up entirely. Real oil brought it back online but it hit two feet high and some to the left at 25 yards and notably away from point of aim at closer distances. The chambers were rough and applying a moderate bump to the ejector would unseat the cylinder from the circular spring that holds it to the crane with the result that the cylinder would fall out. Ive seen early Charters that would work reasonably well but this one did not.

  10. avatarOpinion Killer says:

    This article is nothing more than an opinion, my wife has had one of these since they first came out. Its a great defensive gun, she uses it quite often at the range. Maybe if you cant handle the kick, you should by a Mossberg plinkster. We have put 1000 rounds through this gun ,and no problems at all. Its a great little firearm.

  11. avatarMAGNUMBOSS says:

    My hubby bought me a CA Pink Lady (hammerless) for Christmas. We went to the range for the first time yesterday and I handed it back and shot the seni-auto he brought instead. Horribly disappointed. He got it at a gun show NEW paid a little more than he probably should, but still comparable to online prices. We promptly left the range and went to the gunsmith who shot a few round of our ammo, then a few Federal and a couple +P rounds. The cylinder wouldnt cycle, the rounds had abrasions on 3 of 5, the primers were raised after firing… blah blah blah… Numerous probs!! Ammo was in pristine condition when fired thru several test guns. Definite probs in the seating… ANY one else have these errors? Also the trigger pressure was horrible. I hand to use two hands on several occasions to even fire it let alone be accurate. Is there any type of spring that would lessen the pressure needed to fire? Prior law enforcement experience with S&W and Taurus 357 never had any issues….

    • avatarRobert Farago says:

      Return the gun.

    • avatarcassie says:

      We had to send mine in for the trigger pull; I can’t remember what it weighed in at but even Charter Arms said it was heavier than it should’ve been for the model. I can pull the trigger just fine now, but it doesn’t always fire. A gunsmith we know dumbed it down for me b/c I am definitely clueless when it comes to the inner workings, and said that now it basically isn’t putting enough force to actually fire the bullets out every time. And it is so uncomfortable on my hands that I do not enjoy target practice when it does fire.

  12. avatarJOHN says:

    Seriously you are basing this on your lack of interest in this gun, maybe you got the bad apple but the one I got for my wife has no issues and although it does kick a little more than desired i can outshoot most anyone with it. You need to stop trying to change peoples minds before they get to experience it on their own. My wife shoots it like a pro as well by the way

  13. avatarJason says:

    Hey there just bought my wife the pink lady in .32 I noticed that 32 H&R rounds are very hard to find what i was wondering if anyone knew a good place to buy bulk and or how well 32 SW long work with the gun. Thanks for the input

  14. avatarTom says:

    My wife and I both tried the Charter Arms Undercover…..and didn’t like it, and also didn’t trust it. She still prefers her old 2-inch Colt Cobra with rubber grips…..and the results she continues to get. I like the S&W Model 36. After years of experience with them, we know that we can hit what we need to hit and the gun(s) will continue to work.

  15. avatarcassie says:

    My only requirements for my first gun were that it was pink, a revolver, and I could fire it. My husband was so happy I wanted a gun that he didn’t balk at my choice. I liked the coloring (not pepto, not on the grip where it just looks filthy after handling in the store) and the fact that it had an internal hammer option (I tend to pinch my thumb), but now I have major buyer’s remorse. It is uncomfortable to fire, has already been shipped back to Charter once, and after some recent target practice we discovered it only actually fires a whopping two out of five times now. And this is what I’ve been relying on for protection? We bought the thing NEW! Looks like I’m getting a Ruger LCR 38 Special this weekend.

  16. avatarken frishkorn says:

    I have owned a 38 special undercover since 1976,shooting hundreds of rounds through it and have not encountered any problems. I would recommend this weapon carried on and off duty. I feel this is a very fine weapon and recommend it to anyone who would ask.

  17. avatarMichael says:

    Gee, I have owned to Charter Arms revolvers. I have lost count on how many times they have been returned for work. The last to times I had to pay shipping myself. I managed to sell one to some sucker and other is being sent back tomorrow with instructions that they can keep the POS. I will never own another. My brother bought one. His had to go back. Junk.

  18. avatarCindy Michalak says:

    This is a GREAT gun! It is very accurate, lightweight and not much in the kick department. I’m a woman, I love my Chic Lady Pink hi-polish stainless gun and recommend it to any woman wanting to get into target shooting. It really ROCKS!

  19. avatarMike says:

    My wife owns the charter pink lady. She likes it. The recoil is ruff. But the accuracy is dead on. Got a larger grip for it & it’s even better. I shot it out to 50 yrds & got paper all day long. Up close 5″-20″ 1″-2″ groups. So I don’t see why all the negative talk.

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