Charter Arms Pitbull 9mm (Updated)

Charter Arms Pitbull 9mm

OK, let’s try this again.  If you saw my review of the Charter Arms Pitbull in .40S&W, you will understand the background to this review.

The sun actually came out for a while, so I headed to the range to put the 9mm version of Charter Arms Pitbull through its paces.

I had a variety of ammunition to try in it: Remington UMC 115gr FMJ, Remington 115gr JHP, Black Hills 115gr JHP, Federal Nyclad 124gr, Hornady 115gr and 147gr XTP hollowpoints.

The parts seemed to fit fine, and the trigger pull seemed slightly lighter than the .40S&W version.  So far, so good.

(more)

The barrel didn’t have the glaring defects that the .40 had, but was still a bit rough:

Pitbull 9mm barrel

The freebore at the end of the charge-holes was smoother than the .40, but still had circular striations from machining:

Pitbull 9mm Cylinder

When it came to loading the cylinder, it was harder to load than the .40S&W version.  The little tabs the allow extraction look like the same size as the ones in the .40, but since the chamber is smaller they take up more space proportionally.  I found that I had to push pretty hard and wiggle the bullets back and forth to get them to seat.  I wouldn’t want to try to reload this gun under pressure.  The extraction worked fine with snap-caps.

At the range, recoil was on par with a steel .38 snubnose.

Now, when the guys at Woodbridge Firearms gave me the gun, they showed me a target that the tech at Charter Arms fired using this exact gun, at 20 feet:

Pitbull 9mm @ 20′

My hope was that this gun would shoot somewhat to the point of aim, and that it would deliver acceptable groups.

I was disappointed in three ways.

First, while it didn’t shoot consistently to the left in vertical strings, it shot to the left and accuracy was sub-par.  The groups were large and inconsistent (here are the 2 best groups):

Pitbull 9mm Accuracy

I don’t have this problem with my Smith & Wesson revolvers (as I showed in my review of the .40S&W version), or with my Rugers or my Colt.  Nor with any of my polymer pistols.  Even my 1944 vintage Nagant revolver (which has tiny fixed sights) delivers better and more consistent groups:

Nagant Revolver Accuracy

Yeah, I can see a little leftward bias in my targets.  But is there some magic secret to shooting a Charter Arms revolver that makes it different from shooting every other kind of revolver?  If there is, I do not have it.

The second problem was repeated failures to extract spent cases.  It happened four times in the course of firing about 80 rounds through the gun, three times with Remington UMC and once with Hornady 147gr XTP ammo.  I had to use the baseplate of my Kahr magazine (and later I had to use the handle of a screwdriver) to smack the ejector rod and get it to compress and eject the casings.  This happened when the gun was pretty warm (but not hot), and also when I let the gun cool completely before firing a cylinder of ammo.

Video: FailureToExtract_final

The third problem was even more troubling.  I had 2 rounds left in a partial box of UMC ammo and I loaded them into the Pitbull’s cylinder.  I indexed the cylinder so that the first loaded chamber would come into firing position when I pulled the trigger, I put the sights on the target and squeezed…and squeezed.  The trigger went most of the way back, and the hammer was almost cocked, but it wouldn’t go any farther no matter how hard I squeezed (and I have pretty strong hands).  The gun was almost completely cooled off.  I opened the gun to make sure the rounds were flush in the charge holes; they were.  I closed it back up on the first empty chamber, got back onto the target and started pulling the trigger.  Click…Click…Click…Click…squeeze.  Happened again.  Here’s the video of me repeating it:

Video: Pitbull_FailureToFire

Well, there you have it.  The gun is at Charter Arms now, with copies of the videos to document the issues I experienced.  I will post an update when I learn more.

UPDATE:

Charter Arms tested several kinds of ammo in the gun, and they claim it works perfectly.

So I am left with the option of believing what I (and a witness) saw firsthand & what I captured on video…or what Charter tells me.  You, the reader of this blog, will have to make your own choice on what you believe.

The gun is on consignment right now, priced to move.  I don’t want anything to do with it.  If I wanted to buy a brand new gun that needed gunsmithing to make it function correctly, I would buy a Taurus.  Or a 1911, LOL!

WRAP-UP:

So, having tested both the .40S&W and 9mm versions of the Charter Arms Pitbull, what have I learned?

The design is clever.

Both guns were tightly assembled, but the parts (which I believe Charter Arms buys from subcontractors) showed some disturbingly poor craftsmanship.  That Charter accepted those parts from their supplier does not speak well of their quality control.

The .40 version was easy to load and always ejected spent cases, but shot awful groups.

The 9mm version was hard to load and often failed to eject spent cases, and shot poor groups when the action wasn’t locked up.

Maybe I got stuck with two rare lemons.  But two in a row?  Discounting this as “bad luck” is implausible.

This isn’t a hunting gun, it’s a self-defense gun.  And while the first rule of gunfighting is “have a gun”, the second rule is “have a reliable gun”.

Would I trust my life to either of these guns?  No.

 

 

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5 Responses to “Charter Arms Pitbull 9mm (Updated)”

  1. Nick says:

    I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of this gun. After reading your review I may wait awhile before buying one. Thanks.

  2. Logan says:

    I bought one, yes it shoots to the left ( I can handle that but the groups were terrible!) I also experienced a failure to fire- when the cylinder locks in some times the cylinder needs to be wiggled to actually lock in properly (you’ll see the cylinder release slide back about 1/8″ when it works properly.)

    Overall I’m suprised they would release something like that- they lost a customer that will never buy one of thier weapons no matter how much they improve.

  3. Gunnutmegger says:

    There is nothing inherently wrong in having subcontractors make parts (instead of a company making them in-house).

    But no matter who makes the part, you have to have high standards for quality control. And that is what was lacking in both of these cases.

    That such visible defects were permitted is not the subcontractor’s fault. It is Charter’s fault.

  4. Jason Burrell says:

    That stinks. I was prepared to like this gun & start looking for one. I’m one of those nuts that think a revolver chambered for the same cartridge as an auto is a neat idea.

  5. Wild Bill says:

    All those problems/issues can’t be chalked up to bad luck. Sadly its indicative of a management (and employee) situation that accepts unacceptable performance from their work and work product.

    When I was in the machining world we did a lot of contracting and subcontracting. The producer shouldn’t ship crap and the buyer/assembler should inspect their contracted parts. I know buyers inspected our parts and once kicked back a truckload (serious brown hit the fan!).

    To me the company may have been sued for good reason in the past.