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.