The fighting revolver has a long and storied history as an effective self-defense tool. But from the old days of cap-and-ball wheelguns until today, people have been looking for the perfect mix of attributes to make such a gun even better. Now Charter Arms is adding a new chapter to that history with the release of the PROFESSIONAL — a seven-shot revolver chambered in .32 H&R Magnum and sporting a 3-inch barrel.
Now before all you ammo snobs get angry, demanding to know why a .32, take a deep breath. The .32 H&R Magnum is every bit as effective as the .38 Special. In our gel tests, we got almost equal penetration, and the .32 actually expanded a bit better than the .38. Keep in mind that a .38 Special is not a .38-caliber projectile; it is a .357-caliber projectile. So, when shooting the .32 H&R Magnum, you are starting with a bullet that is only about 3/100th of an inch smaller. While that 3/100th of an inch doesn’t make much difference when putting holes in bad guys, it makes a world of difference when boring holes in a steel cylinder.
The smaller round means the cylinder can safely hold seven rounds in the exact-same-sized package that typically holds five. Where the Charter Arms Undercover holds five rounds of .38, you get an extra two rounds of .32 in the PROFESSIONAL.
The new gun also carries a 3-inch barrel, which helps wring out even more performance from the .32 H&R Magnum. You might not believe it, but adding that extra inch of barrel can sometimes add as much as 100 feet per second to the velocity of the bullet at the muzzle. Often you will see that .38 Special JHP rounds fail to open up when fired from a 2-inch barrel. The longer barrel really does not make the PROFESSIONAL any more difficult to conceal, but it does add an extra inch of sight radius to help with accuracy.
Speaking of sights, the PROFESSIONAL has a neon-green light pipe front sight and a fixed rear sight of 0.2 inches wide. The sights are easy to acquire, accurate for combat shooting and certainly very low-profile. In shooting this revolver, any accuracy issues were mine and mine alone. My initial tests at 15 feet showed fine performance, so I just started shooting it faster. The light recoil of the .32 H&R Magnum combined with the all-steel frame and full lug under the barrel ensures this revolver is ultimately controllable during rapid fire.
Did you catch that reference to an all-steel frame? Yes, indeed, the PROFESSIONAL is built on an all-steel frame, but it is a small frame so it is not overly heavy. Being all steel, the entire gun is coated with Blacknitride+, a proprietary finish that is nearly indestructible. The Blacknitride+ not only protects the steel but also seems to work as a lubricant coating, meaning there is no actual metal-to-metal contact on the coated parts. A double bonus is that Blacknitride+ is also very easy to clean.
Working our way to the back end of the little revolver, we find a contoured walnut grip called the “Backpacker.” This is what a fighting handgun grip should be: slender yet robust. It is smooth, the way Bill Jordan liked his grips, but offers a very solid shooting platform. The contours of this grip make the gun seem much like a round-butt revolver when it comes to comfort and concealability. If you don’t think the combination of cartridge, weight and grip makes this an amazingly comfortable gun to shoot, I don’t know if there is much more I can do for you. You might not like anything.
The PROFESSIONAL on the Line
When it comes to shooting the PROFESSIONAL, putting rounds downrange gives an entirely new image to what it means to fire a fighting revolver. The sight picture, even for my old eyes, is amazing. Recoil is negligible. I fired the gun only in the double-action mode, as is common among people who use revolvers for self-defense, and I had no trouble at all rattling off seven headshots in five seconds at 15 feet. I did not do any sandbag tests or shoot for accuracy at 25 yards. None of that stuff matters to me when I am talking about a fighting handgun. The PROFESSIONAL quickly and reliably put rounds on target at combat distances out to 25 feet. I fired more than 200 rounds during the testing and, as expected, had no trouble. At one point, I did put a single drop of lubricant on the center of the cylinder star, but that’s all I did to the gun after taking it out of the box.
I know that some people reading this are aghast that I didn’t completely clean the revolver before taking it to the range for the first time, but I was hoping to test the gun under the worst possible circumstances, and I figured the best way to replicate three months of holster carry was to simply pull the gun right out of the box, load it and shoot it dry.
True dyed-in-the-wool revolver shooters will have a legitimate question about reloading. Since this seven-shooter is so new, I have not yet been able to find a speedloader for the gun, but I did get my hands on speed strips for the .32-caliber rounds, and they work just fine for stuffing six more rounds into the cylinder. Yes, just six more. But if you are in a jam that requires more than 13 rounds to get out of, you likely have bigger problems than reloading a seven-shooter during a gunfight.
Punching Above Its Weight
The Charter Arms PROFESSIONAL fills a real need in the world of fighting revolvers. I’ve taken to calling this gun a middleweight because it has all the punch and power of its larger cousin but carries those elements in a manner that makes that power a bit deceptive. The two extra rounds of ammo in the cylinder surely add to the comfort level of anyone carrying this revolver, and the sum of the parts that come standard on this shooting iron make it a nearly perfect piece of emergency livesaving gear.
If you are looking for a revolver that is easy to carry, smooth to shoot and offers you 40 percent more ammo than a traditional five-round snub-nosed revolver, consider going pro with the Charter Arms PROFESSIONAL. You’ll be glad you did.
by Kevin Michalowski
.38 Special vs .32 H&R Magnum
In the old days, when the debate turned to whether or not a certain cartridge was suitable for self-defense, I would always ask, “Would you let me shoot you with it?” That typically ended the conversation but not the debate.
I have apparently grown less violent in my old age. Now I simply ask, “If I were pointing a gun chambered in (name the offending cartridge) at you, would you shoot me?” Funny how people are much more willing to agree to shoot me than to have me shoot them.
So, let’s talk about this .32 H&R Magnum for a bit. Developed back in 1984, the round really does fill the gap between .32 S&W and .38 Special. And that gap is not as big as you think. The .38 Special, through quirks of ammunition-naming conventions, is actually a .357-caliber bullet. But let’s not focus on that. Let’s focus on performance.
In our bare gel tests with the Clear Ballistics FBI Block, the 100-grain .32 H&R Magnum penetrated only marginally less than the much heavier .38 Special we were testing against. And, as you know, according to the FBI Protocol, penetration is everything.
The FBI seeks penetration because the Bureau has come to realize that no handgun round of any caliber has the energy needed to create those mythical “lightning bolt” stops you see in the movies. The one that comes the closest might be the 125-grain .357 Magnum (and the .357 SIG of similar weight and ballistics), but in reality, a good guy needs to put lots of holes in the vital areas of a bad guy to stop the life-threatening behavior.
A couple different manufacturers are making .32 H&R Magnum rounds, which gives you the choice between a lighter projectile and a heavier projectile. There will be no discernible difference in accuracy, so you should choose the one you are most comfortable shooting. The lighter round, regardless of caliber, will give you less felt recoil, but the .32 H&R Mag is already such a smooth-shooting little number that none but the most experienced shooters will be able to tell the difference.
The .32 H&R Magnum works. It is as simple as that. In the new PROFESSIONAL, you get two extra rounds per cylinder, but I really don’t think you will need them all. A well-placed double tap will very likely make your attacker rethink his decisions, and the round will give you all the penetration and expansion you need.