Gun Review: A Pocket-Sized .44! Charter Arms 5-Shot Boomer

Charter Arms Boomer

Designed for concealed carry, the .44 Special Boomer from Charter Arms packs a powerful cartridge into a surprisingly small package.

Charter Arms Boomer (7)

The .44 Special Boomer is only a little bigger than a Smith & Wesson .357 Mag. J-Frame (below). It is a good size for daily carry or backup.

Charter Arms Boomer (8)

The difference between .44 Special (left) and .357 Mag (right) is obvious here.

Specs

  • Caliber: .44 Special
  • Barrel: 2 inch
  • OA Length: 6.6 inches
  • Weight: 20 ounces (unloaded)
  • Grips: Rubberized
  • Sights:Upper frame channel
  • Action: Double-action-only
  • Finish: matte stainless or black nitride
  • Capacity: 5 rounds
  • MSRP: $443

‘Speak softly and carry a big stick,’ — President Theodore Roosevelt

“Big Stick policy refers to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy: ‘speak softly, and carry a big stick…the exercise of intelligent forethought and of decisive action sufficiently far in advance of any likely crisis,'” explains Wikipedia.

Except for the speak softly part, that pretty much sums up Charter Arm’s new Boomer, a five-shot .44 Special snub-nosed revolver with a compact, snag-free ported barrel. The Boomer is an extension of their successful Bulldog series of revolvers and, like the Bulldog, this one has a big bark.

Big stick doesn’t refer to the gun, of course, which is quite compact and light for the chambering, but to the .44 Special cartridge. The .44 Special has been around for a long time, putting down bad guys from the days of the wild west to modern day Gotham. The staying power of this round is due to its excellent stopping power performance.

.44 Special vs. .45 ACP

OK, I can hear all you .45 ACP fans out there saying, “Why shoot an old cartridge when .45 ACP is cheaper and more readily available, especially when Charter Arms makes .45 ACP revolvers, too?” There’s no way I can settle the .44 Special versus .45 ACP argument. That’s been going on since 1904 when John Browning designed the .45 Auto for his new 1905 self-loading pistol and it’s not going away anytime soon. Just keep in mind that, although derived from earlier blackpowder rounds, the .44 Special was actually a new round developed just a few years earlier than the .45 ACP using a slightly lengthened case and smokeless powder. It has seen considerable improvements since then.

This round is obviously for the “bigger is better” following that believes that a larger, heavier round at lower velocity is a better stopper than a smaller, lighter round traveling faster. There are plenty of people who believe this, including the US Army when they decided .45 caliber was more effective against drug-crazed Moro warriors in the American-Philippine War than the .38 Special it was currently using.

Both .44 Special .45 ACP bullets are on the bigger side: .429 inches for the .44 and .451 inches for the .45. Not enough difference to argue over.

Loaded on the low end of performance with factory ammo, they both leave the barrel with around 300 foot pounds of energy. Depending on the charge, a hotly loaded charge can make as much as 828 foot-pounds for the .45 and 1,007 for the .44 given enough barrel. Either will get the job done.

While it may be more expensive, .44 Special ammo isn’t that hard to come by. If all else fails, you can still find it at big stores like Cabela’s  and Bass Pro Shop. It’s also readily available online in a range of loadings from cowboy loads with 240-grain lead bullets to defensive rounds like Hornady’s 180-grain XTP ammo. And it’s just as easy to reload as .45 ACP, which makes the costs comparable for reloaders. In fact, the bigger case capacity of the .44 offers more versatility for reloaders to customize loads from light plinking to heavy-hitting defense and hunting loads.

On paper, the .44 has a slight performance edge, even with factory ammo, but out of a 2-inch barrel, it’s inconsequential. Terminal ballistics are comparable.

When it comes to revolvers I prefer a traditional rimmed cartridge. You can obviously fire .45s in a revolver using moon clips to hold the rounds in place. Charter Arms even makes guns chambered for .45 ACP that don’t need moon clips. On the competition scene .45s rule because they are faster to reload with moon clips than with a speed loader. Ultimately I prefer .44 because the rimmed cases offer more reliable extraction which is crucial for self-defense firearms.

Charter Arms Boomer (3)

The US-made Boomer features recoil-reducing ports on its slim, sightless barrel.

Charter Arms Boomer (6)

When you’re on the business end, it’s like looking down a drain pipe!

Charter Arms Boomer (9)

Despite the relatively large .44 Special cylinder, the Boomer is quite a narrow gun.

Charter Arms Boomer (10)

The top of the frame features a channel that acts as the sighting plane. Even without a front sight, it is easy to shoot well at self-defense ranges.

This is a Self-Defense Revolver

When it comes to self defense, the single most important factor is not caliber or cost, it’s dependability. If you have a cannon that won’t fire, it’s as good as a rock.

Moon clips work great most of the time. You might use moon clips and never have a problem—but they can bend and they can break. No matter how unlikely, why take the chance when there’s a reasonable alternative? Revolvers were designed to fire rimmed cartridges including .44 Special. The simplest way to get the job done is generally the best.

Charter Arms Boomer (11)

Here’s a good size comparison from left to right: .357 Magnum, .44 Special and .45 ACP.

Light Platform, Heavy Round

One reason for the popularity of Charter Arms revolvers is that they are relatively light and compact, especially when it comes to a gun chambered for .44 Special. In fact, except for the width of the cylinder, the Boomer isn’t much bigger than a Smith & Wesson J-frame.

Charter Arms Boomer (2)

This is a good view of the tapered and ported barrel. The Boomer’s ejector rod is not housed inside an underlug.

Charter Arms Boomer (5)

While the Boomer uses an exposed hammer, there’s no hammer spur to snag. This is strictly double-action-only.

Designed to be Snag-Free

The Boomer has an exposed hammer without a hammer spur to eliminate snags. The snag-free philosophy is carried over to the barrel. Charter eliminated the front sight and tapered the barrel to ensure the smoothest draw possible. This gun is obviously meant as a last defense, close-up, stop-the-threat gun. In that mission it rocks. It’s fast out of the holster and onto the target and for me it was not difficult to put all rounds into center of mass on a silhouette at 7 yards.

I prefer a gun with a front sight, but if you’re concerned with snagging and see your daily carry as a last resort option, this may be exactly what you want. There are plenty of other Charter Arms .44 Special revolvers with ramped front sights. Either way Charter Arms has you covered.

The trigger pull measured right around 12 pounds on my Lyman trigger pull gauge. Some pulls it would register just under 12 pounds, the limit of the gauge, and sometimes would go over. Given that you hold the grip firmly to control recoil, the pull weight didn’t seem too high. The trigger is smooth, stacking until you feel a wall before it breaks. Of course, in firing drills you press right through and don’t notice it. The smoothness helps you stay on target though.

Charter Arms Boomer (14)

The full size grip and barrel ports help tame the recoil of the .44 Special out of such a small package. Like it’s sibling, the Charter Arms Bulldog, the Boomer has a pretty good bite.

Charter Arms Boomer (12)

Ammo used for evaluation included Hornady Critical Defense 165-grain FTX, PMC Bronze 180-grain JHP, and HSM Cowboy Action Cartridges 240-grain LSW. The target is the test target included by Charter Arms with each of their guns.

Charter Arms Boomer (13)

Typical target for me offhand from 7 yards. I must have slowed down a little for the second cylinder. The top five rounds were fired first. The lower five were fired from the next cylinder after making a slight correction for point of impact.

Recoil is Quite Manageable

When you’re slinging 240 grain bullets you have to expect some recoil. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be, though. In fact, it’s not as bad as the recoil from a slightly heavier J-frame loaded with .357 Magnum rounds. The full-size rubber grip does a good job keeping it under control. I have to admit that the porting really helps to reduce muzzle flip, although it does obstruct your vision a bit.

The Boomer has enough recoil to let know you are shooting a powerful gun without so much to make it uncomfortable.

Attractive Price Point

The suggested retail price is $443 and I’ve seen it for sale for well under $400. When looking at price I always consider the value.

The Boomer is an exceptional value with good parts fit and function. The finish (available in either stainless steel or black nitride) isn’t as slick as more expensive options, but it’s good enough to protect the gun and keep it running over time. Overall it’s a solid revolver that functions well. There were no problems at the range over the course of 200 rounds and I don’t expect any soon with Charter Arms’ build quality. And it’s 100 percent made in America.

Availability is Increasing

The Boomer is a new gun for Charter Arms and it’s only beginning to make its way through the distribution channels. If you’re looking for a big bore “get off me” gun on a budget, or just looking for something a little different, the Charter Arms Boomer definitely deserves a look.

And if you like the idea of picking up a light .44 Special handgun but aren’t sold on the front-sight-free, low-drag design, there are plenty of other affordable options from Charter Arms out there. They also offer guns in more common chamberings including .38 Special, .357 Magnum, moon-clip-free 9mm Luger, .40 Smith & Wesson, .45 ACP and of course, .22 Long Rifle.

Learn more about Charter Arms revolvers at CharterArms.com: http://www.charterarms.com/

Shop for Charter Arms revolvers on GunsAmerica.com: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.htm?T=charter+arms&pagenum=1

{ 32 comments… add one }
  • Charlie B August 13, 2016, 4:44 pm

    I sold guns, retail at local range/gunshop, from about 1982 to 1994 or so. At that time, good God, Charter Arms was having problems.
    Now I’ve got a Pitbull .45 and a Police Bulldog (.38sp on a .44 frame, six shot, 4″ barrel). Both in stainless. Both run great. Had a little problem with the Pitbull .45, called Charter, got a prepaid mailer, and got the gun back and working great. The problem was being able to “overcock” the hammer.
    Anyway, from what I can see, in their online video and photos, they’re now using some modern automated manufacturing machines, still only employ about 60ish people total, and are a pretty tight group. Owned by Nick Ecker, his wife Dee answers the phone when you call, and she knows her stuff too.
    From the other two I’ve got, I’ve got zero issues ordering up a Boomer, like the old Larry Kelly/Mag-Na-Port Backpacker, without the EDM graphics.
    As someone said, wicked concealable, barely bigger than a J frame (smaller than K). Actually, the Pitbull .45 is the largest Charter frame, and it fits in all the K frame holsters I’ve got.
    So, for all the folks who know the “old” Charter, the current stuff is really pretty nice. Both of mine got really smooth with a little dry firing. Just got a Governor from S&W, and frankly… the Charters are nicer in the SA pull, and about the same smoothness, but lighter in the DA pull. Ol’ Doug McClenahan who designed the Charter revolvers did some interesting things, some copied by Colt on their later Trooper MKIII successor guns (King Cobra, Anaconda, etc).
    Not really a fanboy, got lots and lots of handguns, but hate to see them not get their fare share of good reports when its due.

  • Bryan A July 25, 2016, 4:49 pm

    I would love a Bulldog with a 3inch barrel in 10MM.

  • Magic Rooster July 6, 2016, 4:59 pm

    People that bash a Charter Arms pistol by saying “moved up to at least a Taurus” don’t know jack! For every one Charter you own, you’ll need at least 6 Taurus(s). ( one to carry and 5 in various stages of factory/warranty repair) LMBOAO!

  • W July 5, 2016, 5:33 pm

    Charter Arms makes a relatively decent pistol.. Taurus makes a relatively decent pistol.. S&W, Colt, or Ruger there all brands that have been around for a while..While it is true to a certain extent you get what you pay for.. There is no reason not carry a Charter Arms or a Taurus rather than a Smith, Colt or Ruger… With the following caveat/provisos .Here my protocol for defensive arms (you can make up your own if you want of course).Unloaded Safety function check.. Then a complete disassembly and inspection…. lubricate and reassemble.. Fire 1000 rounds thru it.. and repeat the first steps…Until any an all bugs are worked out..At that point fire another 300 rounds with a zero failure to fire/function rate for any reason.. Field Strip clean inspect and lube then fire another couple magazines or speed loaders full thru the weapon . Punch the barrel (Clean without stripping or any parts disassembly).. Now carry the weapon.Now your carrying a weapon about a reliable as you can get it..If at anytime in the 1000 round process you begin experiencing problems you have to solve them then repeat the entire process..
    Only then should you begin the final 300 round cycle which is your proof of reliability..Why does one shoot the weapon after the last cleaning and only punch the bore/cylinders & Lube.. because the weapon at that point has achieved the maximum reliability and you have proved there has been no errors in it\’s reassembly.$400-$500 is enough money to get oneself into a reliable sidearm.. new or used.. Myself I would prefer a used Smith, Colt or Ruger to the new ones of the others previously mentioned.. however if the weapons passes the above proofs.. Pretty good chance it will work when you need it.Just for consideration.. BTW when one considered the cost of a true function test… the probability of problems with the less expensive arms.. Time, energy and effort to correct problem you can see why so many people do buy the more costly arms up front.. But that still does not excuse them from following a break in/ testing protocol..Lots of Lucks

  • Richard July 5, 2016, 4:43 pm

    I get it people like big guns even if they might not be practical. When I chose between the bulldog & the 2″ Rossi 44mag. It was all about power and it being $60 cheaper.

    P.S.you can shoot 44spl in a 44mag. Just like 357 & 38

  • Grey Beard July 5, 2016, 3:38 am

    I bought one of the very first 3″ Bulldogs sold in town right after they were First released for sale. Made my choice from several in the case and picked the tightest lockup. Shot full power loads a couple of times and then hand loaded some down just a bit to help tame recoil with the 240 grain LSWC Keith. I’m not planning to shoot it at 50 yards, although I have, so not too worried about losing a few fps at belly gun range and I do like the idea of a quicker follow-up shot or 4.

  • Dr Duke July 4, 2016, 10:42 pm

    I thought Charter had a great idea with the 9mm Pitbull revolver. It started out as a 6 shooter but they changed it to 5. That is a deal breaker for me. I hear Charter used to be good guns but a guy on a local chat group had his Pitbull break 3 times in the course of a few months. I forgot the problem but it was the same thing each time and it totally disabled the gun.

    I know every manufacturer makes mistakes. The fact that they can’t fix it is what scares me.

    I hope they get things under control. They are one of the few affordable American made revolvers. I love revolvers and hope there will always be affordable options out there. S&W’s Revolvers are great, I own one. But they are getting harder to find used for reasonable prices and the new ones are out of my price range.

  • john D July 4, 2016, 4:08 pm

    I have owned one of these for 7 years, liked it so well I purchased a Ruger Black Hawk in same caliber

  • Reinhard July 4, 2016, 3:18 pm

    This is a remake of the Charter Arms Bulldog. the original had a three inch barrel which I would much rather have. Don”t belittle the effectiveness of the .44 snubbie. It was the gun used by David (Son of Sam) Berkowitz, the “.44 caliber Killer.” Not one person he shot survived. I would like sights, too. The Bulldog came with them. As for porting short barrels, I had a S & W model 19 2 1/2 inch done and it improved control with .357 loads remarkably. I would rather buy a used Bulldog than the Boomer for the barrel length and the sights. I can always have it ported if I wish.

    • Bernard Johns December 1, 2016, 11:39 am

      If I am not mistaken, Jody Valenti, Carl Denaro, Rosemary Keenan, Donna DeMasi, Joanne Lomino, John Diel, Sal Lupo, Judy Placido, and Robert Violante were all survivors of Son of Sam shootings.

  • Max Hoyle July 4, 2016, 12:38 pm

    What a foolish idea! For me, I wouldn’t pay $20 for an revolver with no front sight! I could live with no REAR sight, maybe but the bullet comes out under the front sight, in case no one told the people at Charter Arms.

    • puz July 5, 2016, 8:25 am

      Excellent point. And something any prosecutor would have a field day with as your leaving the courtroom in handcuffs!!

  • Chars Sny July 4, 2016, 11:20 am

    What’s the purpose of the ports?

    • Ken July 4, 2016, 11:36 am

      To double blind you at night.
      Naw really it’s to help tame muzzle jump and recoil.
      I don’t see it helping so much on a snubbie.

      • ejharb July 6, 2016, 4:08 am

        Ports work well when you have a high pressure round but not as well with a low pressure round like 44spl. If you had one with no ports and compared them the difference would be little

  • Bammer July 4, 2016, 10:43 am

    I love it!
    I am having a vision…. I see…. One of these in my future!

    My primary carry gun is, and almost always has been, a Charter Arms Bulldog in .44 Special. Wicked concealable, light, reliable and barks as loud as I tell it to! The holster market is a little thin, but where there’s a will, there’s a way!

    I have been loading, carrying and hunting with .44 specials for my entire life. Colts, Rugers, Smiths (I love my 6” 624) and yep, Charter Arms! Loads from dinky tin can plinkers to 240 gr Remington JHPs over a (ahem) ‘healthy’ dose of Unique (we have put many a white tail deer in the freezer with that elixir)… Sorry, I love the .45 ACP, but it aint no .44 special! *Skeeter smiles… and nods in agreement*

    Thanks for the great read!

    • ejharb July 6, 2016, 4:12 am

      I bet if you ever accidentally put one of those deer rounds in your bulldog you didn’t do that again,lol

      44spl is to my judgment the funnest revolver round to reload.

  • Dave Hicks July 4, 2016, 10:18 am

    I received my first Charter Arms Bulldog 44 special in 1985 as an salesmens award for selling Charter Arms products for a retail gun store.Needless to say I was very happy and still carry it,I am and always will be a fan of the 44 Smith & Wesson Special cartridge.That doesn’t mean I dislike the Colt 45 auto .I also use a government model Colt 45.The Charter Arms 44 is easy to carry,mine has a 3 inch barrel and all 5 rounds touch at 25 feet,I can’t ask for more and made in the USA

  • Chuck F July 4, 2016, 9:26 am

    Now’s my chance to own the Backpacker I always wanted from the late 1970’s. I’m surprised it took Charter Arms this long to introduce this model.

  • GKJ July 4, 2016, 9:12 am

    I have a lot of practical uses for it. I patrol several hundred acres of private property and this one is perfect for me. I have several 44 Mags, 357 Mags, and 45 ACPs. All of the 44’s are mag-na-ported which is the very first thing I do when I buy one. My Desert Eagles are not ported, but the recoil does not bother me with those.
    In any case, neat little gun and I will be getting one.

  • Bob Steele July 4, 2016, 9:10 am

    Why would anyone trust their life or the lives of others to a piece of crap like a Charter Arms revolver? It may fly apart in your hand before the first cylinder of ammo is dry. For God’s sake, at least step up to a Taurus.

    • Alan July 4, 2016, 10:40 am

      And you’ve owned how many?
      I know of one such Charter that is now over 40 years old, and still going strong.
      I’ve sold(for a living) and owned both, and cannot say for a fact that one is so much better over the other based on returns for warranty work or repair.
      Please, share your expertise.

      • Ken July 4, 2016, 11:30 am

        Back in the ’80s I gave my wife a Charter Arms 38 snub. I liked the little feller , all stainless and fun to shoot with a set of Pachmyers.
        One day I loaded up some target loads , put the pistol in my back pocket and walked out the door to my shooting range 100 yards from the house.
        I took the gun out of my back pocket and loaded it up.
        I stretched out my arm to take aim and I just kept tilting my wrist upward trying to get a sight picture.
        I never fired a shot , I went back to the house and got the front sight blade out of my pocket, I unloaded the gun and put the sight blade in on of the chambers and traded it off.

        No I wouldn’t trust my life to a Charter Arms.
        That right there stopped me from wanting a Bulldog for myself.

        • Richard July 5, 2016, 5:34 pm

          Looks like they fixed or have up on that sight problem

  • Mark Johnson July 4, 2016, 8:42 am

    Sounds like an interesting gun, and a worthy addition to the market. I feel the itch to correct one statement against the .38, let me just quote from Wikipedia:
    “The .38 Special was introduced in 1898 as an improvement over the .38 Long Colt which, as a military service cartridge, was found to have inadequate stopping power against the charges of Moro warriors during the Philippine–American War.[9]”

    Thank you.

  • Scotty July 4, 2016, 8:31 am

    GREAT Job….good bang for your buck.
    Thanks Charter Arms, how about a 10mm like the boomer, and leave off the moon clips.

  • Paul V July 4, 2016, 7:38 am

    Actually, the 45acp replaced the Army issue revolvers that were in 38 Long Colt, not the 38 Special. Not a big difference performance wise, but for historical accuracy it was the 38 Long Colt, not the 38 Special that was being used.

    • ejharb July 6, 2016, 7:09 am

      And 38lc sucked for stopping dangerous people

  • roger July 4, 2016, 6:54 am

    Really sweet. Reminds me of the custom Charter arms 44 back packer. Nice belly gun. Great retail price only $443.

  • shrugger July 4, 2016, 3:33 am

    Well now, that’s quite ugly. I LIKE IT!
    Isn’t 44spl the ballistic equivalent of 45acp?

  • Martin B June 12, 2016, 6:48 pm

    There is only one problem I can see with this revolver. Used in the most rapid manner, being fired from inside a jacket pocket, there is every chance you will set your garment afire, with the muzzle ports spitting flames. Probably a secondary concern if an enemy is drawing down on you. The quickest draw is when you don’t draw.

    • Al July 4, 2016, 4:40 am

      The muzzle blast would do that anyway; and from inside a coat pocket it would snuff itself out. Since there are no sights, this tells it’s a belly gun for bad breath distance (which is point and shoot anyway) – pretty effective caliber though.

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