The new Charter Arms Boxer is a spicy little 6-shot that is smooth-shooting and more accurate than you would anticipate

by Bob Campbell

Among my longest-serving revolvers are a couple of well-worn Charter Arms models. These are affordable handguns, not show pieces, and they always work as designed and do the business as well as more expensive revolvers.

Charter Arms began manufacture during the Vietnam War. Good-quality revolvers were difficult to come by. Even when available, the choice was limited. There were either Smith & Wesson or Colt revolvers (very good quality) or the bottom feeder junk guns. There just weren’t any middle-of-the-road revolvers for working folk on a budget. Charter Arms changed the face of the revolver market. Taurus came later, and so did Ruger. I remember the Charter Undercover selling for as little as $108.00. This was a bargain, and they still are at just under $400.

Charter Arms revolvers feature construction that seems innovative even today. The yoke is rugged but doesn’t require the hand fitting of revolver yokes that meld into a formed opening in the frame. The revolver uses a steel frame — kind of a skeleton — for strength while much of the revolver is made of aluminum. This means the Charter Arms revolvers are lightweight but feature a solid platform for strength. The revolvers also feature a transfer bar ignition system. When at rest, the hammer cannot possibly contact the firing pin. When the trigger is completely pressed to the rear, the transfer bar rises into position and as the hammer falls it smacks this bar. The bar strikes the firing pin and the revolver fires. Primer flow is eliminated as a reliability concern and the system is quite safe. The revolvers lock up by the ejector rod only at the rear. This has proven sufficiently strong for long service.

The newest Charter Arms revolver to cross my path is the Boxer (Model #53620). Following the Bulldog and Pitbull, the Boxer is a six-shot .38 Special. The Undercover frame accommodates a five-shot .38 Special cylinder. The Boxer is on the deepened .44 Special frame but rather than a five-shooter, the Boxer is a six-shooter. Five shots is cutting it short in gunfight and another round is a good thing to have. This is a compact revolver that compares favorably to most five-shot small-frame revolvers. It actually slips into soft leather or fabric holsters designed for the J-frame type revolver.

The revolver is mostly stainless steel. When worn close to the body in inclement weather, the Boxer sheds moisture or perspiration without harm.

The Charter Arms Boxer is only slightly larger than a five-shot J-frame revolver, top.

A great advantage of the Charter Arms Boxer is the grip design. This pebbled grip is a hand-filling design that creates a barrier between the metal of the revolver and the hand. This makes for good comfort and aids control. I fired several heavy loads and tend to abuse working guns in that manner at times. The handgun and the shooter did not creak or moan. For a 16-ounce handgun chambered in .38 Special, this revolver is comfortable to fire.

An advantage is a fiber optic front sight. Many revolver sights simply disappear in bright light. The Charter Boxer’s front sight calls your attention to exactly where your focus should be!

The double-action trigger is reliable in operation. The trigger arc is short. When this revolver was designed, it wasn’t a warmed-over clone of a big-name revolver but an original effort. Today, we have modern CNC machinery making for good consistency. The action isn’t vintage-revolver-smooth but controllable in double-action fire due to the design. It is practically as smooth as any revolver manufactured today, save for perhaps a Colt.

Revolvers are popular handguns and represent a goodly portion of sales at any shop. Folks want a gun like grandfather’s. But many recognize the simplicity of the action and its advantages. A revolver is simple enough to operate. Manipulate the cylinder release and swing the cylinder out of the frame. Load the individual chambers and close the action. To fire, simply aim and press the trigger. The revolver is seen as safer than a self-loader to leave about the home loaded.

Recoil is noticeable but easily controlled by a trained shooter.

True safety is between the ears, but the revolver is comforting to many people. Most folks let the adversary get too close during a home invasion or other attack. If the attacker grabs the victim’s revolver, there is little leverage in the case of a snub nose revolver for the attacker to wrest the gun away. On the other hand, the large grip gives the victim plenty to hold onto. The revolver may be pressed into the attacker’s body and fired repeatedly.

This is important in animal attacks. Feral dogs attack low while the big cats go for the neck. A revolver may be pressed into the animal’s body and fired repeatedly. This makes the revolver a superior choice in many scenarios. Another advantage is that the barrel of the revolver may be rested on a door jam or other cover as the revolver is fired. Accuracy is increased. Just be certain to keep a firm grip or the barrel will recoil away from the brace. Also, the short barrel and large grip make for a fast presentation from concealed carry.

Firing from a rest, the Boxer was more accurate than expected.

I fired the Charter Arms revolver with a wide range of ammunition. Some included a 148-grain wadcutter at 680 fps, others a 158-grain RNL at 720 fps, and several ‘outdoors loads’ using a 165-grain SWC clocking 846 fps from the Charter’s short barrel. I also added PMC’s 130-grain FMJ loading.

The Charter Arms Boxer is never uncomfortable to fire. Some loads have more push, but they do not sting — it simply takes a bit longer to recover from recoil. Get a good sight picture and sight alignment, press the trigger smoothly to the rear, and you have a hit. There are several decent defense loads from Black Hills, Federal, Fiocchi, Hornady, Remington, and Winchester using a 125-grain jacketed hollow point. Often we must take what we can get, but most modern loads with a 110- to 135-grain bullets perform well. Speer’s 135-grain Gold Dot, as an example, is a purpose-designed short-barrel load. A favorite I have tested extensively is the .38 Special 120-grain Punch from Federal. If I have the choice, I will take the Punch offering over any other .38 Special defense load.

That is twelve rounds, fired double action, at seven yards. This dog will run!

Firing the revolver double-action at man-sized targets provided good results. Press the trigger smoothly to the rear as you hold the front sight on target and you have a hit. Firing from a solid rest, I was surprised at the revolver’s accuracy potential. At a long 20 yards, it fired a bit low — easy to allow for — but put five shots into less than two inches. Short-barrel revolvers sighted to fire to the point of aim at seven yards often fire low at 20 to 25 yards. It is the nature of the beast. The Charter Arms Boxer is accurate enough for some trail chores and certainly accurate enough for personal defense. It is also controllable, smoother than expected, and offers a reliable, proven system.

We cannot ask for more.

What I Like

  • The finish is good, and the Boxer is light enough for daily carry. The action is smooth enough for good shooting. The fiber optic sights are good. The grips, though, are the outstanding feature, with a design that makes the 16-ounce Boxer comfortable to fire and to use.

What I Don’t Like

  • There really isn’t much not to like. I would favor a stronger lockup, but then the revolver would cost more.

Compared To:

  • The Boxer is lighter than Smith & Wesson six-shot revolvers and doesn’t have the ridiculous safety lock. The Charter’s performance is comparable to the Colt Cobra but at much less cost. Taurus revolvers give the Charter a run for the money and are comparable to the Charter Arms. The Ruger LCR is a little top-heavy but slightly smoother and kicks more than the Charter. So, you pay your money, and you take your pick.

Charter Arms Boxer Model #53620 Specifications

  • Chamber: .38 Special
  • Action: double-action revolver
  • Capacity: 6 rounds
  • Frame: 7075 aluminum
  • Frame Finish: anodized
  • Barrel: stainless steel
  • Barrel Length: 2.2 inches
  • Weight: 16 ounces
  • MSRP: $406

Bob Campbell holds a degree in Criminal Justice and has authored over 10,000 articles and fourteen books for major publishers. Campbell has served as a peace officer and security professional, has taught the handgun professionally and is a competitive shooter. He is currently teaching his grandchildren not to be snowflakes.

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