Thursday, July 4, 2019

Xiegu G1M Transceiver Portable Remote

Raspberry Pi Portable Xiegu G1M Transceiver Controller


Here is a portable remote control for my G1M using flrig. Note that both the computer and G1M are portable and running off a small battery (Lithium w/6Ah 12V and 3A 5V USB output). All you have to do is hook the Xiegu USB cable into the rear of the rig's COM port and configure using the IC-7100 protocol - very easy!

What works: freq/band change, VFO A/B swaps, mode change (AM/LSB/USB/CW), Pre-amp, Split and PTT. I may look into changing flrig's source to include a more sparse G1M control layout:


Here is a short demo video showing how the Raspberry Pi and LCD touchscreen work with flrig:



The Raspberry Pi and flrig work well together! Now I have a portable controller for all my rigs!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Raspberry Pi Portable Panadapter for the Xiegu X5105

An Inexpensive Portable Pandapter for the Xiegu X5105 and Other Amateur Radio Transceivers


WARNING: The RTL-SDR radio dongle currently doesn't work with the new Raspberry Pi4 and the Buster Raspbian release. The only solution right now is to either use a Raspberry Pi3B+ or purchase a NooElec NESDR XTR+ Tiny Extended-Range TCXO-Based RTL-SDR & DVB-T USB Stick (RTL2832U + E4000)

GOOD NEWS, however, because the issue has been fixed and should appear in the next Raspbian update?:

look towards bottom of post from RPi engineer 

 https://github.com/raspberrypi/linux/issues/3060


The Xiegu X5105 is one of the newer rigs introduced by Xiegu for ham radio enthusiasts. One of the neat features of this self-contained QRP transceiver is the presence of an IF output port on the left side of the radio. This is unlike the Elecraft KX2, which does not have this feature (and which costs 3X as much!). Even better, you can use open-source software to display the information!

From the rig's manual, you can see that the port hosts an SMA jack:


This port outputs a first intermediate frequency signal for use with software-defined receivers, such as an RTL-SDR USB dongle. Using this port, which provides a 70.455MHz signal, you can get a spectrum display of signals coming into the receiver and a waterfall showing where the signals are located.

The simplest method for using the X5105's port is to connect an SDR dongle to the X5105 via an SMA male plug to MCX RG316 cable. These are relatively inexpensive:


Plug the male MCX into the X5105's port, then attach the screw-on SMA connector onto your USB SDR dongle and insert it into your computer. You can then run a program such as gqrx-sdr, using the 70.455 frequency. As you turn the X5105's VFO, you'll see any available band activity on the display.

Building a Portable Panadapter


Thanks to Derek Copsey, a member of a Facebook Xiegu forum, I was able to easily assemble my portable panadapter in less than half a morning. You'll need:

- a Raspberry Pi 3B+
- a case
- a 3.5" LCD to plug into the Pi
- an SDR dongle
- instructions from W7QT's github page:

panadapter manual

Configuring Your Raspberry Pi Display


First, get your Pi running with the LCD (which runs less than $20 online). Most folks use the script LCD_Show, found here:

https://github.com/goodtft/LCD-show

After getting your display working, you'll need to calibrate your LCD. This is important if you want to accurate tap menu items from the desktop's uppermost pane. To calibrate, install the xinput-calibrator package. Run the program from either the desktop menu (Preferences) or from the command line of a terminal window.

You'll be shown a graphical screen, and asked to pen touch four different points on the display. When done you'll be presented with a line of values representing your LCD's touch boundaries, such as:

"258 3966 3774 226"

Enter these values (as root) into the file 99-calibration.conf under the /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d directory. Here is my Pi's file:

Section "InputClass"
        Identifier      "calibration"
        MatchProduct    "ADS7846 Touchscreen"

        Option  "Calibration"   "258 3966 3774 226"
        Option  "SwapAxes"      "1"
EndSection


Reboot your Pi and you'll find a bit more accuracy in your touch points!  Unfortunately, the developer of LCD_Show not only left out calibration, but also an important step in touchscreen configuration: Proper setup for emulating a right-click using a touch pen!

Here's how to get right-click emulation:

- edit /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-evdev.conf to contain:

Section "InputClass"
        Identifier "evdev touchscreen catchall"
        MatchIsTouchscreen "on"
        MatchDevicePath "/dev/input/event*"
        Driver "evdev"
    Option "EmulateThirdButton" "1"
    Option "EmulateThirdButtonTimeout" "500"
    Option "EmulateThirdButtonMoveThreshold" "30"
EndSection


The next step is to install the software for your SDR dongle.

Panadapter Software Install


Follow the link to W7QT's install. I used the latest Raspbian release (Buster) at the time of this writing, and found a number of dependency errors using the Python script installs. I'd recommend using the apt-get approach, which are called 'install scripts' in the .pdf instructions

Next, get the rtl driver built and software installed. The steps outlined in the .pdf worked fine.  To start, you'll need to attach your dongle. Mine is an RTL-SDR (from the company's web page):



My version of this receiver was recognized as a Rafael Micro r820t under Raspbian Buster (not PIXEL!). You'll know when the dongle is ready for use (using dmesg to see kernel output), when you see:

usbcore: registered new interface driver dvb_usb_rtl28xxu

Next, run the panadapter package. The 3.5" LCD requires the 'FreqShow_Small' Python script. You'll be asked if you want to 'execute a script' via a dialog if you double-tap its desktop icon. Do so and you'll see the default screen as shown above in the title. The default frequency was a bit off for my SDR dongle, I had to touch the 'Set' button, then Clear, then tap in my X5105's IF frequency of 70.455. Being able to accurately tap the small 'buttons' (actually just words on the screen) and enter numbers is one reason to have your touch coordinates calibrated.

The required value for the IF (will be different for different rigs!) can be hardwired into the file 'model.py' under the FreqShow_Small directory:

self.set_center_freq(70.455000) # frequency in MHz of my 1st IF

Experiment with the different displays of the panadpater software. W7QT has done an excellent job of shoehorning a working program into a proper and compact display. Here's a video of my X5105 decoding CW with the panadapter, which is running off of a small lithium-ion battery with a 12V and more importantly, a 5V 3A USB port for the RPi 3B+ (and which will also work for the RPi 4!):




You can also adjust various display settings and if you click on the running display, it will enlarge and run full-screen - very nice! I also like that the adapter stores neatly away:


My Pi/LCD Panadapter is housed in a Pimironi Pibow PiTFT+:



Next, is another SDR client that works well on the Raspberry Pi. It requires a bit more configuration "out of the box" to work well, but the effort is worth it!

Making gqrx Work on a Raspberry Pi 3B


One of problems with Raspberry Pi 3B+ is a lack of CPU horsepower and RAM. This has been solved in the newer Raspberry Pi 4, especially the 2GB and 4GB versions. However, by properly configuring clients that require lots of CPU cycles, you can get acceptable performance with programs such as gqrx-sdr.

To get gqrx work under Raspbian doesn't have to be a black art. Conflicts between ALSA and Pulseaudio are legion, but here is how to get a working install:

Step One:


Install Pulseaudio using apt-get:

sudo apt-get install pulseaudio

Step Two:

Install gqrx using apt-get:

 sudo apt-get install gqrx-sdr

Step Three:


Reboot <-- This is important!

Step Four:


Attach your SDR dongle.

Step Five:


Run gqrx.

Step Six:


Select the correct attached Device, and critically, an Input rate less than the default. I found that 1200000 worked well. If the input rate is too high you will get 'stuttering' of the audio signal. This rate worked well for receiving commercial wideband FM radio stations using the stereo *mono* mode via the Pi's stereo audio jack (lower the gain settings in the receiver options tab and use the desktop's audio slider):



Step Seven:


To reduce CPU load, click the FFT Settings tab, then use a lower FFT size setting, such as 4096 (or lower), and a lower frame rate for the waterfall, such  as 15 fps, as shown here:



You can also reduce the windows size to display just the current frequency and part of the waterfall when you run the gqrx on your 3.5" LCD. This will make even a 15 fps waterfall run faster and reduce CPU load. And by using gqrx's View menu, you can get the window down to a bare minimum for a nice little radio display:


Here's the display on the LCD sitting on the desktop. I have ordered a 'mini' SDR dongle, so the entire package will be even smaller:


 So there you have it! Note that the gqrx program can also be used as a panadapter display if you select the 70.455 frequency after attaching your X5105 to the SDR's dongle.

Portable operations of the Raspberry Pi are possible with an inexpensive lithium ion power pack. Make sure to buy one with at least 3A output with a 5V USB port so you can use it with any new Raspberry Pi 4.

If you've wanted to try using a panadapter with your rig, there's no reason to shell out big bucks for a piece of hardware you may end up not using.  This approach provides a way to test the limits of portability and to provide a way to inexpensively experiment. You'll also get a little display that is portable in the field, also works as a wideband receiver, and can also be used to play music!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

GNU/Linux Dual-Boot Install on Windows 10 RAID SSD

How Not to Hork Your Windows 10 Install

I recently received a Dell Inspiron 14 5000 convertible laptop (you know, the one where you can fold over the screen and pretend it's a tablet). It is a nice convertible laptop with touchscreen... fast booting, and with 500GB of SSD storage.

Unfortunately, DELL shipped it with Windows 10 (ugh!) and the SSD configured as RAID. As more experienced users of free software know, the biggest hurdle in configuring a dual-boot system infected with Windows is swapping the storage management from a RAID configuration to AHCI. There are all sorts of bad web sites and posts with bad info regarding this issue. 

But it must be done because GNU/Linux cannot run its installer [specifically partitioning tools] for a dual-boot system on an existing RAID-configured Windows 10 system. The idea is to change the scheme, then use Windows to partion the disk, then run the GNU/Linux install.

Here's how to do the storage management scheme swap and not hork your Windows 10 install.


And fortunately, Dell includes a factory restore mechanism in its Inspiron laptops: If you do run into problems, recover this laptop to its original factory condition by pressing F12 at the Dell logo, then selecting the restore option.

Ok, to begin:

1. run msconfig.exe and set boot to Safe Mode
2. boot to Safe Mode, then reboot to the BiOS by tapping F2 at the Dell logo
3. scroll down to System Configuration, then SATA Operation and set to AHCI, apply and exit
4. boot to Safe Mode, and run msconfig.exe again to set normal boot
5. keep your fingers crossed (it worked on this Dell 14 5000)

Next, make room for GNU/Linux by using the Windows+X key, select Disk Management, select OS (C:) and shrink it (i used 200GB, which is more than enough for GNU/Linux).

My next step was to use Rufus to make a bootable Ubuntu USB using the very latest Desktop version (Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS, good thru 2023). I popped it into a slot, then rebooted to BIOS, went to General->Boot Sequence, changed the Boot order to the USB drive, applied changes and exited.

Booted to Ubuntu live. Everything worked: sound, network, backlight keyboard, display brightness, touchpad, etc.

Clicked on the install icon on the Desktop, then selected to install a dual-boot system, with Ubuntu installing the GRUB boot loader to offer GNU/Linux or Windows boot. The empty disk space was recognized as partition7 and I assigned it as root ('/') - no fancy partitioning schemes needed for me. And the Ubuntu installer automagically created a 2GB file swap on the SSD and activated it on first boot - very nice, and quite acceptable practice nowadays (no separate swap partition is needed for simple user applications).
 

GNU/Linux was then installed and rebooted; saw the GRUB bootloader screen with Ubuntu first and Windows second. Both work fine!

Hope this helps someone out there.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Review: Installing and Using the Volquartsen Firefly Bolt

The Volquartsen Firefly Bolt

UPDATE (August 2019): Volquartsen has announced that it is discontinuing the Firefly and is currently putting the remaining new stock on sale (this review is of a blemish-sale model [which had no blemish])

I like my Ruger 10/22 Takedowns. I have a stainless Takedown rifle and two Chargers, one with a stock barrel and the other with a stock-length Whistle Pig Acculite aluminum-sleeved barrel. The rfile and two pistols see a lot of rounds every year because they're so much fun to shoot.

This review is of one of my latest accessories: a Volquartsen Firefly Bolt, which enables you to cycle and shoot CCI Quiet (710fps) .22LR rounds through your 10/22.

Installing the Volquartsen Firefly Bolt


I was able to purchase the bolt, which normally retails for more than US$200, at a substantial discount due to a blow-out clearance sale (and a big 'THANK YOU' to the folks at rimfirecentral for the heads up). The bolt arrived in new packaging with little to no apparent wear or use. The package included the bolt, its attached charging handle, a recoil guide rod, a recoil spring, and a buffer pin (I make my own out of Delrin 150 rod). I'm going to assume that you should use this buffer instead of the factory steel pin to avoid wear  to the lightweight bolt, which is aluminum with a small steel slide plate on the bottom.



But what wasn't included in the package? This is where Volquartsen missed the mark:

There are no included, nor published installation instructions for the Firefly bolt!


WTF? Do a little research on the web and you'll see post after post of queries regarding this issue. 

The Firefly Bolt

The Firefly Bolt is an interesting 10/22 accessory. As you can see it has the charging handle built in:



The underside has the 'normal' bolt channels, but also a metal (steel i'm going to assume) plate screwed and machined flush into the bottom of the bolt:


The rear of the bolt shows the rounded edge where the hammer resets and also the round end of the firing pin, which is captive and has little to no chance to wander during operation:


The forward end of the recoil spring guide rod slide into a channel hole on the side of the bolt. Also note the round business end of the firing pin:


When installed, the rod and spring look like this:


Installation


So here's how I installed the Firefly in four steps. There were no instructions, so I just went with my own guesswork. It's a pretty simple process, actually.

Step One


Remove the charging handle, which is built into the bolt, by unscrewing it counter-clockwise. Since Volquartsen didn't include a clue about how to do this, I initially clamped the handle in a small bench vise, first protecting it with a fold of leather:




Then twisted the bolt as a lever and it unscrewed right away:



However, the more convenient and proper way (thanks to 'Dr Heckel' on rimfirecentral) is to use a 1/8" Allen hex key:


This will avoid any damage, and makes tightening the handle a lot easier after bolt installation.

 Step Two


Hold the guide rod in the recoil spring, then hold the spring centered in the bolt hole and stand the pointy end of the guide rod in its notch in the receiver, and press firmly down while moving the bolt into position in the receiver channel:



Don't be surprised if the bolt seems 'sticky.' It's new:



 If the bolt sticks, simply nudge it forward - don't force!

Step Four and Finish


Then re-attach the charging handle. I may suggest using a bit of medium threadlock to avoid loosening during use:




The 'stickiness' of the bolt meant there was some friction somewhere along the receiver channel. I'm wondering if the design of the non-captive guide rod and spring, along with the rod hole means there may be some break in? Anyway, after install and a few dozen back-and-forth slides, there was evident wear alongside the charging handle side. Compare to the previous out-of-the-box pic:


 My solution will be to shoot the piss out of this new bolt. I'm guessing at least a couple hundred rounds may work. But in the interim, I used a little gun oil on the wear spot and sides of the receiver channel.

The final piece is the buffer. Here is a pic of the Volquartsen buffer. However, it was too soft and too large and would not install properly, so I reverted back to my Delrin rod. (One suggestion by 'DGF' on rimfirecentral is to use a fine emery board to knock off the edge on one end.)  At any rate, I would recommend a buffer other than the factory stock steel, as it could (just guessing) harm the aluminum bolt:



Frankly, I think installing this bolt is easier than installing a stock bolt. Dunno why Ruger didn't go with this approach. But as the old farts say, "The proof is in the pudding." So I'll update on how well the bolt works after a range session next week.

Range Report for the Firefly Bolt


Went to the range and ran 200 rounds of CCI's 'Quiet' 710fps .22LR LRN. Used a cheap red dot at 25 yards. The first 25 rounds seemed all over the place - i think the ammo is really just for plinking... but after more than 100 rounds the shots seemed to be settling in. Could also be due to a combination of barrel, bolt, and the dolt holding the pistol:


The off-groups above were me getting used to a new barrel slapped on the Charger. I also found that while the charging handle loosened a bit, I don't think you need to threadlock it, as unless you have a really long and extended range session, there is no way the handle can unscrew all the way - it's up to you, of course. And as you can see, I did remove the bolt for cleaning. However, there are a few tips and potential traps.

Firefly Bolt Removal


If you compare the Firefly with a 'normal' factory 10/22 bolt, you'll quickly see that the Firefly is somewhat longer. However, the Firefly is notched to match the receiver and install, so it goes in easily. But when you go to remove the bolt, you may find that the Firefly can catch on the receiver notch inside the channel. This notch and the bolt on my Charger had a tolerance that was close to not allowing the bolt to be removed. Here is a pic of the notch on my Charger's receiver:


One tip: You can either lightly sand the notch *before* installing the bolt, or if you're having trouble removing the bolt, push it all the way back (you did remove the buffer, right?), then insert a thin dowel into one of the buffer holes and push up to slightly elevate the bolt. It should then come out.

When cleaning the Firefly, I did note at least one area that received a bit of wear - it was opposite the charging handle side of the bolt. I'll just keep shooting this bolt to break it in:




Firefly Bolt and Shooting .22 Shorts


Found an interesting modified Ruger BX-1 magazine on the evil Internet auction site. It has a roll pin angled through the feedlips/extractor, which allows you to load and cycle .22 shorts! This section details my experiences with a variety of .22 short loads. Please note that accuracy wasn't the focus here - it was function, and I deem this experiment a success!

Here is what the magazine looks like:



The pin is aligned just below the lips at a precise angle:



For a first test, I used one of my Charger pistols with a factory bolt because I also wanted to shoot some Aguila SV later on. Using CCI CBs, which have a spec of 710fps, I ran 20 short rounds through the magazine at the range with no failure to feed or extract - although I had to cycle the bolt manually. I was a little excited at first, so the rounds were kinda all over the place at 25 yards:


During the next range session, I installed the Firefly Bolt in my other Charger pistol, then ran the same CCI CBs. Only two out of 10 CBs would cycle with the Firefly bolt - bummer! But then I ran CCI CPRN shorts, which have a spec of 1,080 fps (purportedly outside the Firefly's comfort zone, but hardly by much). The standard velocity .22 short round-nose rounds worked perfectly. Success!


Finally, I ran some CCI CPHPs, which are deemed 'high velocity' at 1,105 fps. As expected, these ran well with no malfunctions.



All in all, I like my Firefly bolt, and now that I know how to easily install and remove it, and how it functions with a variety of .22LR and .22 Shorts, this gives my shooting sessions a bit more flexibility and fun with my Charger!



Saturday, March 30, 2019

Review: Charter Arms Mag Pug High Polish 3" .357 Magnum Revolver

Initial Impressions of the high-polish Mag Pug


This past month I've splurged on a couple new Charter Arms revolvers: a new and unique no-moon-clip Pitbull in .380ACP, a nice complement to my Sig Sauer We The People P238, and now a high-polish Mag Pug in .357 with a 3-inch barrel and adjustable rear sight for elevation and windage.

I like stainless revolvers, and a polished stainless revolver is especially appealing to me. I know some folks don't like the fingerprints, but i just wipe mine down. I don't worry about scratches or dings or dents - I think those things just add character. But it's nice to know that with a Charter you're not handling a shelf queen - these revolvers are meant to be used and used hard!

I took mine right out to the range after purchase, but first gave it a thorough check-out and cleaning.

Loading up with some reman .38SPL 125gr FMJ, I first tried 5 yards:


 The revolver was shooting high, so I consulted the included manual regarding elevation adjustment:

The top of the rear sight's blade has a large 'E' with an arrow pointing counterclockwise. Most other sights use the word 'UP,' but I guess this was done to save letter space? Anyhow, I'm going to assume the 'E' stands for 'E'levation. Anyhow I gave the screw a few turns that way and tried again, this time at 7 yards:
Since this was my first 50 rounds through the revolver, I think I'll need a couple more range sessions to get it dialed in. There is little recoil when using .38SPL.

On its second outing, I adjusted the elevation - unfortunately it's still shooting high even with the rear sight lowered all the way, so my sight picture has the tip of front sight at the bottom of the rear sight - not a real problem, but maybe i'll buy some spare rear sights and modify a few to lower the picture. Anyhow, I'm still happy with the wheelgun after another range session:



I'm pretty happy with my new Mag Pug and look forward to many more range sessions!

Grip Change?


Note that the grip is unlike others I've seen on Charters. They are not the small wooden ones used on the smaller frame, nor the nice rubber ones used on most large-frame Charters (and AFAIK, there are only two frames sizes for Charter's revolvers: small and large). While these grips work OK for .38SPL, I'm not sure I'd want to use them when shooting .357mag - I'll give them a try anyway some time in the future.

Cleaning Observations


I must add that when I got home and did a more thorough cleaning I found the inside of the gun absolutely filthy, and also found a number of nooks and crannies on the exterior that still contained polishing grit. It doesn't look like Charter does any ultrasonic cleaning of its revolvers before leaving the factory.

Some General Cautions about Charter Revolvers


I also found a splotch of red threadlock in the extractor rod channel. Threadlock is applied to the crane screw, cylinder latch release screw, cylinder latch screw, and hammer screw on these revolvers, and you would be wise to pay attention to at the the latch release and cylinder latch screws. If the former backs out or in too far, you won't be able to unlatch the cylinder, and if the latter backs out, you risk the loss of the entire cylinder latch assembly: plunger, spring, washer, cover washer, latch and screw - which happened to me after I had a Pitbull 9mm come back from the factory - but a quick email to Charter and I got the replacement parts free of charge in the mail.

I'm much wiser about these issues now, and trust these revolvers implicitly when they are properly serviced - by me, of course.

Charter Maintenance Videos


Unlike other gun manufacturers, Charter Arms has been kind enough to release three videos on its revolver maintenance. These three videos cover just about everything you need to know to keep your revolver in tip-top shape:

Charter Arms Revolver Latch Assembly

Charter Arms Revolver Cylinder Assembly

Charter Arms Revolver Cleaning

You would be wise to download these videos and keep them on separate media. I find them infinitely helpful, and Charter is to be commended for producing and releasing them.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Review: The Quintessential Ruger SP-101 .357

 I like stainless wheelguns, and have them from NAA, Charter, and in just the last month or so, Ruger. As luck would have it, right after I bought a Wiley Clapp version of the SP101, I found a plain-jane version locally for several hundred Simoleans less. So I subsequently blinged the pair out with a pair of grip inserts from Chig's Grips:



The Wiley Clapp SP101 has Novak sights (brass bead up front, drift rear). It shoots pretty good, with a now-smooth trigger after some polishing. Very tight to disassemble at first, but it's getting easier every time. I like that it shoots point of aim for me:



And just had to have this one. It was barely used (less than a box of 50 rounds) with $50 off for $429:


This is a sweet-shootin' little tank! Took it out for a spin this morning, and let loose with some 125gr FMJ .38SPL range chiclets in double-action:


As mentioned they were dressed up with a set of grip inserts from Chigs Grips. Here's my Wiley Clapp SP101 .357 with another set of grip inserts:


And just the other day I found this one, but in 4" which comes with adj rear sight and optic front sight. Here's a target from its first run of 125gr JHP:


Ammo Caution


I recently purchased several boxes of PPU 158gr semi-wadcutter for use for range practice. From the very first round it seemed like I was shooting black powder: large billows of smoke, terrible accuracy, and keyholing. But that wasn't the worst part.

When I got home and went to the bench to clean my revolvers, I discovered large swaths of lead deposits in the bores of both wheelguns. It took me three hours of soaking in Ed's Red, bronze brushing, brushing with and old bore brush wrapped with strands of copper from a Chore Boy pad, and multiple swab sessions with some Birchwood Casey lead remover to get the lead out of the barrels - and all this after only 25 rounds through each gun!

The next day I ran 100 rounds of the ammo through an old S&W snubby with a bobbed hammer that I inherited. Here is a pic of just a few of the pieces I was able to dislodge after soaking the 2" bore for several hours with a shotgun patch soaked with Ed's Red:



Bottom-feeder Ammo


I also tried a single round of some new ammo that AFAIK just hit the market: CCI's Big 4 Shotshell. I bought a box in .38SPL/.357 Magnum and a box in 9 mm. Looks like this stuff would work pretty well for larger rodentia or the squamata order of reptiles. Here's a shot from 9 feet of a single round:


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Review: Charter Arms Pitbull .380ACP No-Moon Clip Revolver

Why Have a Charter Pitbull?

This is a review of my new Charter Pitbull .380ACP. I really like my Charter Pitbull in 9mm, even though it had to go back to the mothership for some work. Charter has great customer service, and getting the revolver repaired due to a poorly machined crane and timing issue was fairly easy, with a turnaround time of only three days. Everything was fixed, and I have subsequently run nearly 1,000 rounds of various ammo through it with no problems.

I don't like the idea of moon clips. I suppose they work OK, and from what I understand aren't even necessary if you're willing to poke out shells after emptying a cylinder. On the other hand, the Pitbull has a unique extractor:



This extractor enables easy extraction of shell casings:



When I saw that Charter brought out a .380ACP version of the Pitbull I knew I just had to have one. These revolvers fall in line with my plan to maintain a simpler inventory of ammo for both semiautos and revolvers. My focus is on smaller calibers. For example, my current pairings are:

.22LR - Ruger Charger and 10/22 Takedowns, Ruger MkIII, various .22LR autos, and a NAA Sidewinder, Ruger SP101 and Smith and Wesson Model 317-3

.380ACP - Sig Sauer P238 and now a Charter Pitbull .380ACP!

9mm - Kel-Tec Sub-2000, Browning Hi-Power, and Charter Pitbull 9mm

I also happen to like wheelguns. They are fun, reliable, easy to clean, and require less maintenance. I think overall, wheelguns are also a lot less picky about ammo, which makes them good candidates for reloads, and for testing out various bullet weights.

Charters are also less expensive than most, but as you'll see you give up fit and finish for that low price. On the other hand, they are made in the USA, and Charter has better customer service than say, Taurus, which also happens to sell inexpensive revolvers but has terrible customer service and won't sell parts.

Pitbull .380ACP Revolver - Initial Impressions


The Pitbull, like all Charter revolvers, came in its requisite plastic box w/foam inserts and literature. I brought some 'Realistic Snap Caps' with me to test out of the extractor and timing, lock up, and firing mechanism. The caps are so realistic that I made sure to give them to my LGS to check out before using them. The Pitbull passed its initial test with flying colors. Cases extracted easily.

Hint: Read Charter's Pitbull instruction insert! The Pitbull extractor is meant to be used and works best with the revolver inverted!

I then went directly to the range, set up at the bench, and did a careful swab and clean of the revolver before loading. Always clean any new weapon before first use!

Inserting rounds was as with the 9mm version: Cant the round outbound, then push into each chamber. 

Taking careful aim, I fired off a cylinder in single-action using my forearms braced on my range bag at a target 5 yards downrange. The pattern was two inches low and to the left, which is what I've experienced with my other Charter revolvers - indicating to me that I'm an old shooter with poor motor skills and shoot low and to the left. What I was looking for was consistency (also a function of the reman rounds I was shooting) and how the revolver cycled and handled the loads.

After finishing the cylinder, I inverted the revolver and pushed down on the extractor rod - very smooth and easy, and all rounds dropped out with no problem. After about 40 rounds and getting my sight picture dialed-in, one or two of the reman rounds needed a gentle push from the chambers. Once I switched to factory ammo, S&B FMJ, all rounds extracted with no problem - this is what I was hoping for and I wasn't disappointed!

As you can see, the revolver has a decent accuracy. The target pic above is from this first session and was at 21 feet.

Some Things to Consider


Fit and finish on Charter revolvers is not that good. In fact, sometimes it's downright sloppy. This was the case with this Pitbull as you can see deep machining marks on the right side of the revolver frame's cylinder guard:



I did find a small twist of curled metal inside the grip around the ball end of the hammer mainspring guide rod (part #47).  Like my other Pitbull, the crane seems to have crude machining, but is adequate:



I don't know why Charter Arms accepts such sloppy machining, but remember, this is a $400 revolver, not a $1,000 finished and polished revolver - I can only assume that 'good enough' suffices. And in that regard, my new Pitbull is otherwise in great working condition.  

Sight Picture Tips for the Pitbull

Charter sights are crude on its line of snubbies and most revolvers. Unfortunately, no one seems to make an aftermarket upgrade for Charter revolvers, most likely because Charters have poor resale value: These aren't shelf queens and are meant for hard use. A dab of paint can help improve the sight picture tremendously. I got my sight paint from Wally World:


Touching up the front sight just takes a second, and the paint can be easily removed:


Note the crude finish at the base of the sight. Once painted, you'll get a nice sight picture:



Unfortunately, I have yet to find a good holster for this Pitbull. Charter offers an inexpensive and nice leather holster for its snubby revolvers, but this Pitbull has a longer barrel than others. Charter says it is 2.2", but it is longer, even using the below wrong measurement of a revolver barrel; the proper measurement is using a dowel from the muzzle to the beginning of the chamber, and using this method, the barrel length is 3":


So there you have it. I'll keep this page updated with more info as I put more ammo through my new little doggy, a .380ACP Pitbull!