Charter Arms .380 autoloading pistol.
Although Charter Arms is an American company, their new little auto pistol is actually made for them in West Germany. When I asked a company representative about this, I was told that it was cheaper to make the gun in that country than here in the United States. This, of course, is in keeping with the company's policy of producing reasonably priced handguns.
The gun itself is officially called the Model 79K. It is a pocket-sized .380 double action, semi-automatic pistol. The .380 cartridge has recently started to enjoy a new lease of life, thanks to better designed, fast moving, lightweight expanding bullets. While such ammunition is not going to replace the larger calibers as a premier defense cartridge, it does fill a need for both the homeowner and those who have a legitimate need to carry a small easy-to-conceal handgun.
The Model 79K is certainly compact. In fact, when laid next to a PPK/S it is virtually the same size, being only about three-eighths of an inch greater in length. The gun itself in fact follows the basic PPK design, employing a similar action and lockwork. It has the same 7-round magazine capacity and is a straight blowback design that has the barrel fixed to the frame.
Being a double-action auto, the Model 79K has an action that allows the hammer to be cocked for the first shot simply by pulling the trigger. Subsequent shots are fired in the single-action mode with the hammer fully cocked.
Although the 79K employs the basic Walther action, there are some differences. The manual safety, for example, is located in the same position of the left rear of the slide. It is applied in the same manner by depressing it, and prevents firing by blocking the hammer so that it cannot come in contact with the firing pin. However, the application of the safety does not also lower the hammer as does the Walther.
To fire the first shot double action, the safety must first be applied. Then a loaded magazine is inserted and the slide cycled to chamber a round. The hammer is now cocked, and must be released with the safety still applied by pulling the trigger.
While it may be perfectly safe to drop the hammer once the safety is applied by snapping the trigger, I prefer to play it safe and lower it down gently under control of the thumb of my free hand. My reason for taking this extra precaution is not that I don't trust the firing pin block but just in case I do inadvertently forget to apply the safety. Regardless of how the hammer is lowered, it is most important to keep the muzzle pointing in a safe direction, because if the safety is inadvertently not applied, the gun may discharge.
the position of the magazine release is at the bottom rear of the grip, unlike the Walther, which is of the button type and located on the left side of the frame just above and behind the trigger. Pushing it to the rear releases the magazine.
The sights are adjustable in that the rear has a screw that allows lateral movement for windage adjustment. They are set low on the top of the slide yet protrude enough to provide a good clear sight picture. The pistol has an exposed hammer of the burr type to prevent snagging in clothing.
The entire pistol is constructed of stainless steel that has been given a satin silver finish. Checkered wooded grips with the Charter Arms medallion contrast nicely and help make the Model 79K a handsome, well proportioned little pistol.
One unusual feature is the dummy barrel bushing and recoil spring plug that are an integral part of the slide. As it plays no part in the actual disassembly of the pistol; it can only be there for cosmetic purposes.
The pistol takes down for cleaning and maintenance just like a Walther PPK/S. The first step is to apply the safety, remove the magazine, and pull back the slide to check if the chamber is empty. The slide is unlocked from the frame by pulling down on the trigger guard. This permits the slide to be pulled back and off the rails of the frame, then up and forward off the front of the barrel. The pistol is assembled in reverse order.
Although the pistol was small enough to almost fit into the palm of my hand, the grips were large enough for me to get a good grip on the pistol and I found it surprisingly comfortable to hold. The pistol also pointed well and the sights were clear and easy to pick up when the gun was brought quickly into the aim. The double-action trigger pull was on the stiff side. On the other hand, the single-action pull was reasonably light and very crisp.
On the range, Charter Arms' new auto performed very well. The ammunition I used in the test was Federal 95-grain full metal case and 90-grain jacketed hollow points. Testing was carried out a Wes Thompson's Juniper range in Canyon Country, which is located just north of Los Angeles.
The pistol proved to be very reliable when loaded with 95-grain full metal case ammunition. From the very start the pistol fed, fired and extracted this ammunition without one single stoppage. It also proved pretty reliable with jacketed hollow points, although I did experience a few feeding problems on the odd occasion.
Accuracy testing was carried out from a benchrest position some 15 yards away from an NRA 25-yard pistol target. In this part of the test, the pistol was shot single action. The pistol shot pretty much to point of aim and, thanks to its excellent trigger and good sights, the groups obtained were very tight. The best was two and three quarters of an inch, which is more than acceptable for a pistol designed solely for practical self-defense.
After the accuracy test I moved forward to the more practical distances of 7 and 15 yards and did some fast shooting on a metal combat plate. In this part of the test the first round was fired double action followed by a quick single-action one.
Because of the heavy double-action pull I had a few misses at first, but once I got used to it, hits became more and more consistent. I place my thumb very high along side the top of the frame when gripping a pistol and this caused me to experience some hammer bite to the web of my hand. This was cured by changing the placement of my thumb to a lower position. Apart from this, the pistol was comfortable and pleasant to shoot. There was very little recoil which made for fast recovery when shooting quickly.
The pistol I tested proved to be reliable, accurate and easy to shoot. The gun was well made and nicely finished. It is built around a proven design and should prove a popular addition to the Charter Arms handgun line. Its suggested retail price will be in the region of $375 and will be available in gun shops by the time this article appears in print.
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|Publication:||Guns & Ammo|
|Date:||Nov 1, 1984|
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