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Charter Arms Pathfinder .22 LR Revolver
Handguns, I decided after years of fooling with them, are good for having something better than a rock, club, or knife when I need to take small game or send a varmint to its last reward. The real value of a handgun for me has always been as a backup to my rifle or shotgun, or as something convenient to wear if I thought I might need a firearm.
I’ve owned and tested a number of handguns over the years including single and double action revolvers, muzzleloaders, semi-autos, break action single shots and those odd, bolt action jobs that are too big and awkward to be a handgun and too short and awkward to be a rifle. Really, if I have to carry around a set of shooting sticks to hit anything more than fifty yards away, how is that more convenient than just carrying a good carbine in the first place? The handguns I now have are all revolvers with barrel lengths of less than 5”. They are holster guns intended for short range work.
Of all the handguns I’ve ever owned, the one I carried the most and seemed to be the most practical, was a High Standard nine-shot .22 LR double action revolver called the “Marshall.” I bought it brand new back in the mid 70’s for the princely sum of $57 and carried it for nearly ten years. It was a nice little revolver. It wore well at the belt line without getting in the way, fit neatly in the glove box of my truck and was reasonably accurate. A .22 revolver or semi-auto pistol is inexpensive to shoot, highly portable, and practical. The .22 Long Rifle round doesn’t lose an excessive amount of velocity when fired through a handgun barrel. The round is also unobtrusive. Recoil is very manageable and the round is pleasant to shoot. It is an excellent beginner’cartridge. My High Standard .22 accounted for any number of varmints, rattlesnakes, rabbits, crows and even one especially unfortunate coyote. I had my truck broken into at a cattle auction and some crud ball decided he needed it worse than I did.
I replaced the .22 with a .38 Special, then over the years moved up to 9x19's, .44 Magnums, .45 Long Colts; the big single shots in .30-30, .45-70 and even a bolt action handgun in .243 Winchester. I still carry a .45 single action revolver when I’m hunting hogs or camping in bear country, but a .45 or even a .38 is really too much gun for most of my needs. I decided to move back to a .22 LR for casual outdoor use on the farm, in camping situations and for general carry. I wanted a good one that would prove to be dependable for years of moderate to heavy use.
The most practical of moderately priced .22 handguns are probably the good semi-autos. Ruger, Browning, Walther and Sig market some excellent models. I looked at each of them very seriously before deciding that the Ruger Mark III was probably my best option. I also looked at revolvers by Ruger and Taurus. I’ve owned and used both revolver brands in the past and consider them to be solid and dependable. It was then that I ran across a Charter Arms Pathfinder. I carried a .38 Spl. Charter Arms Undercover when I was in law enforcement, so I had good feelings about the brand. The version I handled had a 2” barrel, which I didn’t want. When I learned that the same revolver was available with a 4” barrel, I became interested.
The 4” barrel .22 LR Pathfinder is a 6-shot double action revolver. It comes only in stainless steel and weighs 20 ounces. It has Charter Arms’ full hammer block safety system, which uses a transfer bar to prevent hammer impact against the cartridge unless the trigger is pulled. It has decent adjustable rear sights that are easy to see and use. The ejector rod is housed in a protected slot and the trigger guard is roomy. It has functional and comfortable rubber grips that fit very well in my slightly larger than average hands. I can comfortably manage double action trigger control without getting my finger pinched. Also, the Pathfinder’s double action trigger is not especially heavy and travel is fairly short. From the point that the double action shooter feels trigger resistance, the pull-through to hammer fall and cartridge ignition is quite fast. This improves double action accuracy. There are a lot of fairly expensive revolvers with heavy double action triggers. It is difficult to shoot them accurately at ranges of 50 yards without going to single action mode.
Why is this trait important especially when a hunter is probably going to take his first shot from the single action mode? I like it because my backup shots can be very quick. If I take a crack at a jack rabbit on single action trigger pull and either miss or fail to deliver a debilitating shot, I can take backup shots very quickly with a double action revolver without significantly altering my sighting orientation. A semi-auto is much better for this situation than any revolver, but I don’t believe that a semi-auto is as accurate for the first round. Also, some semi-autos have radically different trigger pulls from first round to second. I used one 9mm semi-auto that I felt was dangerous because of the significantly lighter second round trigger pull. Double action revolver trigger pull does not change from one round to the next. I consider a revolver to be safer for casual carry than a semi-auto.
Another consideration involves the nature of rimfire ammunition. Rimfire rounds are not as dependable as centerfire. .22 rimfire rounds are more prone to becoming lodged in semi-automatic shell ejection mechanisms than centerfire rounds. If a round fails to fire with any revolver, it is a simple and natural movement to cycle the next round through. That same round must be cleared by hand from a semi-automatic. While I believe this trait is more crucial with a self defense handgun in the hands of an average user who might panic at a misfire, it can be important when hunting.
Finally, I like a .22 double action revolver because I can check the condition of the ammunition by simply opening the cylinder. While I can pull the magazine on a semi-auto, I can only inspect the top round and I must work the ejector to expel a round from the breech. I am more comfortable with a revolver in my truck or on my belt.
I was able to shoot very good off hand 25-yard groups in both single and double action modes (one inch and four inches). Holstered in an Uncle Mike’s Cordura holster, the Pathfinder rides high against my right kidney off my pants belt and is very comfortable. It is a most pleasurable carry gun and I’m sure it will be my constant outdoor companion through the winter.
I carry a rifle or shotgun for every hunt and use a revolver for backup or when the caliber or gauge of my primary firearm is too great for the shooting opportunity. The real value features of a .22 LR handgun involve economy, practicality and convenience. Those same three features apply specifically to the .22 LR Charter Arms Pathfinder. It has a nice balance of price versus quality.
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