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    Gun Test: Charter Arms Professional .32 H&R Magnum

    The Charter Arms Professional is a small-frame revolver with a three-inch barrel, hand-filling grips, double-action/single-action mechanism, good sights, seven-shot cylinder, and a nice finish. Open the cylinder by pushing the cylinder release forward, and you will see a seven-shot cylinder chambered in .32 H&R Magnum. The pistol uses the classic Charter Arms steel frame, but the finish is a modern black nitride. I cannot see any problem with the durability of this finish.

    Charter Arms Professional .32 H&R Magnum revolver right profile
    While lightweight, the Charter Arms Professional proved easy to use well.

    I have used Charter Arms revolvers for more than 40 years. Charter was introduced in the 1960s and armed many honest Americans at a time when good guns were scarce. The Charter Arms design features a transfer bar ignition for safety and was among the first revolvers to do so.

    The frame is steel, but it is enclosed by aluminum to save weight. The revolvers have always been available with well-designed grips. The sights are wide, which makes picking up a sight picture quickly an easy chore. Quite simply, you get your money’s worth with the Charter Arms, and perhaps then some. The Charter Arms .44 Special Bulldog is the most famous product but revolvers in .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum, .32 Smith and Wesson Long, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, and perhaps a few others, have been offered. The revolver illustrated is among the most interesting.

    The rear sight is wide and broad like all Charter Arms revolvers while the front sight is a fiber optic insert. This green insert is high visibility and easily acquired for speed shooting. Despite the light 22-ounce weight, the Charter Arms Professional has proven a light kicker with standard loads. The action is as smooth as any modern production double action revolver. In single-action mode, the trigger breaks at 4.5 pounds. I like the revolver a lot and after firing more than 400 cartridges, I have formed a good opinion of the revolver.

    The .32 H&R Magnum, left, compared to the .38 Special, right.
    The .32 H&R Magnum, left, compared to the .38 Special, right.

    The primarily loading has been the Black Hills Ammunition cowboy load, a lead bullet with modest recoil and good accuracy. I have also used the 85-grain JHP at 1,055 fps. The revolver is very easy to use well and to fire quickly. A trained shooter will find a neat group of cartridges on the target, well centered at 7 yards.

    The revolver tended to fire slightly low. I accounted for this by holding the front optic sight slightly higher than the rear sight, resulting in the bullets homing in on target. The revolver is more than accurate enough for filed and camp use, exhibiting five-shot groups of 2 to 2.5 inches on paper at 15 yards—when carefully benchrested. Frankly, I went overboard on both time and ammunition budget goals with this revolver. It is simply a fun gun to shoot.

    As for a comparison to .38 Special recoil, the .32 Magnum kicks much less than the .38 Special. I can place seven .32 Magnums into a man-sized target in the same time—approximately—I can place five .38s into the target. The .32 H&R Magnum isn’t as powerful as the .38 Special but then accuracy can often make up for power. The reverse is seldom true. The .32 H&R Magnum offers reasonable power for the light recoil. As an example, the Hornady Critical defense at 1,040 fps penetrated well past 12 inches in testing and expanded well.

    Charter Arms Professional revolver and three upset bullets
    The author fired a Critical Defense bullet into soft mud, left, into water jugs, center, and that is a 100-grain Hornady XTP fired into water, a Buffalo Bore loading.

    It is difficult to separate the cartridge from the handgun, and a look at the .32 Magnum is wise. The .32 Magnum, it seems, was originally intended as a crackerjack field round. For small game, the .32 is a hand loaders dream—economical, accurate, and effective on small game. For personal defense, the .32 Magnum is more problematical.

    As we grow older, we are more sensitive to recoil, the skin is thinner, and the joints ache. A .38 Special revolver, particularly a lightweight version, stings and may just be too much for many shooters. The .32 Magnum is a reasonable alternative. Most 85-grain jacketed hollow point loads will clock 1,000 to 1,100 fps from the Charter Arms Professional’s three-inch barrel. This is approximately .380 ACP class, perhaps a bit more energy, but less expanded diameter. The .32 revolver with standard loads offers light recoil. It is a tradeoff but a reasonable one. The .32 Smith and Wesson Long, as an example, pushes a 98-grain RNL bullet to a miserable 690 fps!

    I liked the revolver enough to experiment with a couple of loads from Buffalo Bore. We are introducing extra recoil into a package that was designed to offer lighter recoil, but we are also increasing wound potential substantially. If carrying the revolver for defense against feral dogs or the big cats, the Buffalo Bore loads change the equation. The 100-grain JHP is surprisingly fast at 1,220 fps.

    Buffalo Bore 100-grain JHP, top, and the Hornady Critical Defense, bottom
    The Buffalo Bore 100-grain JHP, top, and the Hornady Critical Defense, bottom. These are good loads with excellent performance.

    The point of impact is raised, and the revolver is dead on the money at 15 yards. This load is closer to the .38 Special in recoil but offers excellent penetration and expansion. The 130-grain flat point, hard cast load breaks 1,190 fps. This is a stout load that sometimes offers sticky extraction and should be used sparingly. Recoil is there with this load. Buffalo Bore designed this loading to penetrate the skull of a bear in a last-ditch effort to save your life. It will penetrate 40 inches of gelatin or more. These loads offer another option in the field for those wanting a lightweight but credible protection handgun.

    Loaded with standard loads, seniors and inexperienced shooters will have a revolver they can use well. Accuracy can make up for power, the reverse is seldom true, and the Charter Arms Professional .32 H&R Magnum has plenty of power and accuracy.