Charles Daly is among the oldest names in American firearms. While the company has changed hands many times, the original premise remains in place. The company imports affordable firearms at a fair price. Among the more interesting shotguns I have tested lately is the Charles Daly 601.
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This shotgun is a product of the Charles Daly Defense line. Like many affordable shotguns today, the 601 is manufactured in Turkey. The 601 is apparently a copy of the Beretta system. A successful self-loading shotgun is a good place to begin when designing a defensive shotgun.
Charles Daly 601 Features
The Benelli/Beretta shotgun system is big on reliability and low on maintenance. With a system very similar to — if not a direct clone of — famous Italian shotguns, the 601 should be reliable. The 601 has a magazine capacity of four shells — more than adequate for most adventures.
The 601 is lighter than most semi-automatic shotguns. This Charles Daly shotgun doesn’t use choke tubes. The 18.5-inch barrel is cylinder bore. There isn’t a front bead sight. Instead, it is rather a rifle-like post sight. The sporting guns feature different sights and offer choke tubes.
The furniture is black synthetic with a one-piece forend. Sling swivels are supplied — one on the magazine cap and the other in the rear stock. The stock and forend feature useful checkering.
The magazine loading port is large enough for easy loading. The Benelli system requires the shotgun be un-cocked to rack the bolt and load from the magazine. This is a free moving bolt in technical terms. In other words, if kept at home ready, the bolt should be unlocked.
If you rack the bolt while the hammer is cocked, the shotgun will not load from the magazine. Not a drawback but something the shooter must familiarize themselves with.
I loaded up my bargain-rate Benelli clone with several brands of 12-gauge shotshell during the initial testing. Keeping with the affordable theme, I used both Jet and Rio shotgun shells. The Jet loads were double-aught buckshot the Rio was used in both double-aught and #4 buckshot.
I lubricated the bolt and began the firing test. The shotgun is easily loaded. Load the shell into the magazine in a positive manner and allow the magazine to catch the shell rim. Then, follow with another shell.
The shotgun is easily loaded to the four shell capacity. Rack the bolt and load the chamber. The safety, located in the rear of the trigger guard, is positive in operation. Trigger compression is smooth but a little mushy.
The front post seems to offer an advantage over a simple bead front sight in rapid aiming and accuracy. I began firing the shotgun at a typical engagement distance of 7 yards. Using a target normally used for sighting a rifle in at 100 yards, the buckshot loads centered on the X.
As I have often noted, buckshot travels in pairs. The buckshot pellets paired up producing a tight pattern. Moving to 10 yards and firing at man-sized targets, the shotgun showed excellent control.
While the 601 defense shotgun only weighs 6.6 pounds, recoil wasn’t difficult to master. The shotgun comes on target quickly and swings quickly. This is an ideal size shotgun for home defense.
Accuracy and Reliability
The Charles Daly 601 Defense proved reliable in testing firing over 40 buckshot shells without any failure to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. I also fired a number of birdshot loads with good results. Moving to a longer 20 yards, I explored the possibilities of inexpensive buckshot patterns.
At this range, the Jet-branded buckshot placed two of the nine pellets on target. This isn’t a hunting shotgun suitable for deer-sized game or predators. For those pursuits, you need a long barrel 601 with a good choke for that duty.
While some buckshot loads hold a tighter pattern, the open cylinder 601 and inexpensive buckshot loads are a good choice for home defense. At 7–10 yards — a long engagement range in home defense — the pattern is cohesive and would prove effective. Don’t limit yourself with birdshot or similar small shot with inadequate penetration for personal defense.
A load made to cleanly kill a small bird that you can hold in your hand isn’t effective for personal defense. Either #00 or #4 buckshot is a good choice for home defense.
I also tested the Hornady Critical Defense load with much better results, keeping most of the pellets on the target at 15 yards. I also fired two Remington slugger slug loads. These slugs were touching each other at 10 yards, about 1.5-inch below the point of aim but dead on for windage.
Charles Daly Defender — Specifications
12 gauge4 Shells in magazine plus one in chamber18.5-inch barrelOpen cylinder chokePost front sightWeight: 6.6 poundsGas Operation3-inch chamberSynthetic stocks
Retailing less $300, I find the Charles Daly 601 reliable, fast handling, effective, and a solid choice for home defense. The pattern the shotgun is built on is simple enough with a good reputation. The execution by Turkish makers seems good. This is a formidable defense shotgun with much to recommend.
There is not much variation in defensive shotguns, but the Beretta has managed to stand out from the competition, so a quality clone at a fraction of the price tops many shooters’ list. Are you one of those shooters? What are the features you look for in a defensive shotgun? Share your answers in the comment section.