You Can’t Do That! So I did …

47

The Rock Island M200 .38 (left) and Charter .45 Colt Bulldog both
delivered excellent, well-centered groups at 10 yards after Roy’s
work on them.

Let’s just say it and get it out of the way. I think too many people underrate Charter Arms and Rock Island revolvers. They are what they are: relatively simple designs made to meet a price point. So, just as we don’t compare a $120,000 Mercedes with a $20,000 Kia, we shouldn’t do the same with guns like this and guns costing five or six times more. But shooters do. Ask Hi-Point.

A key thing to remember is most name-brand guns need to meet at least minimum standards of build quality. The steels are good, the springs work, the design is essentially fine, and most are accurate enough for defensive or plinking use. So check those boxes. Where things start to suffer is in the cosmetic, final finish and assembly and fitting departments. You have to save money someplace, and that’s where they do it. But if the bones are solid, then, like custom work done to a simple car, why not try it on guns like Charters and this Rock Island M200 .38?

So I did.

The RIA (L) after crowning and the Charter before
re-crowning the factory bevel.

Bobbing the hammer spurs and milling the rear sight cut right
or left to adjust the windage helped make both guns handier
to carry and shoot to point of aim.

The Basics

I started first with my Charter Arms Bulldog in .45 Colt, a stainless gun. As-is, it worked fine, but the action was on the rough side, and the sights shot well to the left and low, and I felt it could be more accurate. Chamber mouths were sharp-edged, so loading was fumbly at times, and some of the edges here and there were sharpish. I could see plenty of room for improvements, which would have been done by Charter, but for an additional $300 or $400 cost at retail.

The Rock Island M200 is a gun I’ve had and as-is, shot pretty well (although a few inches to the left at 10 yards). But like the Charter, edges were sharp, the muzzle crown average, forcing cone pretty rough and the action a bit gritty and slightly heavy. All of which is fair on a gun priced for well under $200 in most places. But like the Charter, I felt the bones were solid. So I went to work on both of them.

A soft bead blast, light melt and touches like a polished
trigger face and decorative cuts in the trigger guard were
just a few custom touches done to the RIA M200.

Customization

I know, I know … call me crazy, but remember, I’m the fellow who does $1,000 worth of custom work on Ruger Wrangler .22s. But the results I saw doing that work — the significant improvements in handling and accuracy — made me think the same could be accomplished with these two. Both the Charter and the RIA received essentially the same work.

After detail stripping and taking good photos to remind me how things went back together, I looked things over carefully. Overall, I felt the Charter was a grade or two above the Rock Island but also costs quite a bit more, so that’s expected.

Both got re-cut muzzle crowns and forcing cones. That often adds a huge amount to accuracy by gaining consistency and squareness. I did modest “melts” on both to get rid of the sharp edges that poked. I worked both actions over by polishing contact points, getting rid of burrs inside the frames and generally tidying things up. I also massaged the springs a bit to lighten the load.

I bobbed both hammer spurs and polished the trigger faces and sides. I also made some mill cuts in the bottom of the trigger guards and ejector rod housing of the RIA just for grins. I think it looks swell. Chamfering the chamber mouths made loading easier and polishing the ejector rod bodies and other bits helped to make cylinder operation smoother. Note here: Don’t take a Charter cylinder apart unless you know all the secrets to getting it back together. Also, the trigger spring takes some finesse and knowledge, so keep that in mind if you tackle this yourself.

A slight bevel on the cylinder front makes holstering easier, and polishing the chambers makes both loading and ejecting spent cases easier, too. I also used a series of stones to flatten and polish some areas, like the breech faces, to both get rid of surface imperfections and to help the cylinders close more smoothly. Keep in mind, don’t take off metal here — you’re just polishing.

A “fine” grade hard Scotchbrite wheel makes “melting”
a much easier and faster proposition than hand filing,
sanding and polishing.

Roy’s medium-sized milling machine made quick work of
decorative/lightening cuts in the trigger guards of both guns.

Final Results

Once the work was done, I assembled the guns and targeted them. Both guns shot tighter groups at 10 yards, which is about the range I expect to use guns like this. I made note of elevation and windage changes needed then returned to the shop. I milled a bit off the front sight of the Charter to raise the point of impact and also milled the rear slot on the right side to “move” the rear to the right. Ditto on the RIA to move the POI right.

I re-targeted them and made adjustments until things were spot-on. It’s possible to adjust fixed sights if you have the tools and knowledge. Once dialed in, I stripped the guns again. I did a nice soft bead blast finish to the Charter, and Parkerized the RIA. The stock RIA guns are Parked at the factory, but it’s a much darker gray, and the finish I use is lighter, which I think looks better. The bead blast I did also helped to smooth the surface, so the RIA Parkerizing looks pretty good.

I did this more as an exercise to see what can be done with guns like this. To actually pay a pistolsmith to do this work might cost upwards of $500 to $800 depending on the specifics. So, I suspect people who buy price-point guns won’t want to spend that money. But the lesson here is maybe just a few things like light action work and some muzzle crown work can really turn a simple gun into something more accurate, reliable and just plain nice to shoot. Something to think about here, eh?

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