A double action revolver is a great starting point for those just entering the arena of serious self-protection, whether at home or on the street. The revolver is about as close as you can get to a foolproof defensive firearm.
Charter Arms manufactures (entirely in the USA) a wide line of small snub nose revolvers for defensive and sporting use, all of which are the same size as the famed Smith and Wesson J-frame, but are lower priced and a bit more innovative in certain ways than those offered by Smith and Wesson.
Charter Revolvers have the ability to be field stripped down to their basic component parts (cylinder, barrel and frame, and trigger group assembly) for detail cleaning. This is possible in part because the Charter uses a solid frame sideplate design. Charter revolvers were among the first revolvers to feature frame mounted firing pins, made of unbreakable Beryllium copper. They have always had a bank vault-tight cylinder lockup. Charter revolvers are cheaper than some of their competitors because of their easier-to-manufacture design and a lower level of exterior polish (most models have a matte finish). The finishes are useful and rugged and designed to hold up during rough use.
Charter Arms Pathfinder
The Charter Arms Pathfinder is the variant available in .22LR or .22 Magnum, with two-inch fixed sight snubnose or four-inch adjustable sight target versions as options. Both calibers feature six-round capacity and solid stainless steel construction, including the one piece barrel and shroud. I received the two-inch snubnose version in .22LR for testing. Why .22LR? Not everyone can handle harder kicking rounds in revolvers this size. I would much rather have somebody learn quickly to be extremely accurate and comfortable with a .22, than to be apprehensive and marginally accurate (or worse) with a .38. I want them to enjoy shooting their carry gun, so that when they do have an opportunity to practice with it, they won’t make excuses not to. The .22 LR can be an effective defensive tool, and as the old adage goes, “a hit with a .22 is better than a miss with a .45.”
Carrying Spare Ammo
When one carries or keeps a defensive gun ready at hand, spare ammo is needed. When the gun of choice is a .22 revolver, take extra care when carrying of spare ammo. While there are cylindrical speed-loaders available which could be carried in the pocket, .22 rimfire ammo is not as sturdy as centerfire ammo, and most of the bullets are outside lubricated, and will pick up gunk when carried loose in a pocket.
TUFF Products™ has a wide line of speed-loaders known as Quickstrips™, which allow flat, discreet carry of spare rounds. Quickstrips are also available for rifle and shotgun rounds. TUFF makes double pouches that can carry two strips conveniently in your pocket or on a belt.
In .22LR, the strips hold ten rounds. Thus, in a very small space, you can pack 20 spare rounds with you. For me, this is the way to go with any concealment revolver.
The two-inch Pathfinder weighs in at 19 ounces, and recoil with the Pathfinder is undetectable. I had forgotten how fun a .22 can be. In fact, I changed out the oversize rubber grips that came with the gun for an old set of original wood grips from a .38 Undercover™ I had owned years ago. They look great, make the gun more compact, and are snag free.
Testing at the Gun Range
Shooting the Charter Arms Pathfinder revealed one surprise: I had intended on recommending Remington Yellow Jacket™ semi-wadcutter hollow point loads as a good defensive round for the Pathfinder. However, my test revealed that half of the Yellow Jacket rounds struck the paper target sideways. Conventionally styled CCI Mini-Mag and Federal high velocity hollow points struck the paper square on, thus illustrating why one should always test fire any load they intend to carry in a defensive firearm beforehand. Other than that, function, ejection and firing went off without a hitch.
With an MSRP of $369, the Charter Arms Pathfinder is a great option for those who want a compact, reasonably priced and easy shooting defensive (or trail) gun. It fits in almost any holster made for J-frame Smith and Wessons, and will provide a lifetime of service.