Searching for the best .38 special revolver under $400? Look no further than the Charter Arms Off Duty Model 53921 revolver.

While working undercover in the dark and dirt-bag filled world of illegal drugs, I carried a Charter Arms Under Cover. I carried my Charter Arms revolver in an ankle holster, in my waistband, in my pocket and on my belt. I cut some surgical tubing to fit the hammer and heat shrunk it to hold. In this way the hammer didn’t gouge me when I stuck it in the front of my pants. When I shoved it inside my waistband I had a gob, a scientific term, of rubber bands about the upper grip to keep the revolver from sliding on through down my pant leg and onto the floor. The “Off Duty” has an internal hammer alleviating the gouging and snagging and rubber grips to help from sliding down onto the barroom floor.

For you who are thinking a handgun would be nice for home defense, consider a small revolver. A handgun would be comforting while on the road. A handgun could come in handy if your wife and you are threatened. If you are thinking I am getting too old and slow to engage in fisticuffs, then a handgun could be the answer. I always say, it is better to have one and not need it, than to not have one and need it. The latter could have deadly results.

Henry Repeating Arms

I have a friend named Sonny. No not Sonny Crocket…but he could fit the bill if there was a sequel to Miami Vice. He likes reading and learning about different things. He likes reading my articles. I believe he is thinking about the possibility of owning just one handgun. He and his wife travel some visiting family and supporting their favorite college teams.

Now building on Sonny’s thoughts of buying just one handgun, I am making a suggestion. He will want a handgun which is easy to operate, easy to load, clean and keep safe. I believe the Charter Arms Off Duty is the handgun for him. It is light, easy to use and can be made easily safe for when the grandkids come visiting. The Off Duty is a perfect traveling partner as it takes up very little space.

Back in the day there was only one standard Charter Arms the, Under Cover model.  This made it easy on which model to buy. Today you can choose, by my count, 10 different versions of the Off Duty. The Charter Arms Off Duty is a five shot double action only revolver chambered in .38 spl. +P. It weighs 12 ounces so it is amazingly light. The Off Duty is not a combat gun, but it can handle some hostilities. The Off Duty is accurate but not a target gun and unlikely will not serve this function well. The Off Duty is a personal protection firearm. It could be used as a LEO backup firearm also a great CCW revolver. Backpackers, hikers and campers can also make good use of the Off Duty.

For survival in the mountainest wilderness, the Off Duty can shoot the deadly 38 spl. Shot-shells for snakes and small camp pests. It can shoot the +P rounds for larger, furrier, teeth and claw laden pests as well. With the Off Duty I was able to hit an 8 inch metal plate target at 20 yards. So it is accurate enough to hit a bears head at 10 feet. I rapid fired five Hornady .38 SPCL, 90 gr FTX lite in the Off Duty. At eight feet I had a group of about 1.125 inches. All were touching but one. The vast majority of gun fights with gun owners defending themselves, takes place between 2 to 10 feet.

On one outing, I took two young men to shoot the Off Duty. Between the three of us and one subsequent return to the range, 50 rounds of Blazer 125 gr .38 spl +P was fired. The Off Duty did not show any signs of stress or wear. All parts were as tight as it came out of the box. At the end of shooting the .38 +P it was nice to put this bad-boy revolver down. With the factory small compact rubber grips, the Off Duty will buck when firing the +P ammo. The Off Duty will shoot the +P ammo as fast as you can pull the trigger but I don’t recommend you fire +P for practice. I recommend lite loads for practice such as the Federal American Eagle 130 gr ammo and to carry the Hornady .38 SPCL, 90 gr FTX “Lite” for more serious work. The American Eagle 130 gr. shot superbly. There was not too much recoil with great accuracy. I also recommend you shoot the everyday carry ammo, such as the Hornady 90 gr FTX Lite, at least four times a year.


The Off Duty is a great revolver, professionally made by American workers in the USA. The quality is as good as it gets. The Off Duty shoots well with a stern but smooth trigger pull. It is accurate and ideal for “grab my 38 special, stick it in my pants pocket and walk out the door.” I have always had good luck with Charter Arms revolvers. If you purchase one I know you will too.

Hornady Critical Defense Lite, .38 SPCL, 90 gr FTX Five Shot Average.
Federal American Eagle 130 gr ball ammo Five Shot Average.

Grouping is at Combat Range of 10 feet rapid fire.

Round Velocity Grouping
Hornady .38 SPCL, 90 gr FTX 909 fps 1.125 inches
Federal American Eagle 130 gr 722 fps 1.187 inches

Charter Arms Off Duty Model 53921 Specs

  • Barrel length: 2 Inches
  • Caliber: .38 Special +P
  • Capacity: 5-shot
  • Weight: 12 ounces
  • Hammer: Internal Concealed
  • Barrel material: Highly polished stainless steel
  • Cylinder: Highly polished stainless steel
  • Finish: Black and Hi-polish
  • Frame: 7075 Aluminum
  • Grip: Small compact rubber

MSRP: $436.00
Can be found for around $375.00

Charter Arms

Hornady Ammunition!/

Federal Premium American Eagle 130 gr.

Ruger Firearms