Over the past 142 years, the name Charles Daly has earned its place as one of the most recognizable and respected brands in imported firearms. Mr. Charles Daly and his partners got started in the firearms business in New York City in 1875. By 1889 they renamed the company Charles Daly and a great American shotgun brand was born. Charles Daly didn’t design or manufacture shotguns. Why should he when he knew the best ones were made in Europe by craftsmen with generational experience? Lacking that expertise, American gun makers weren’t producing many high-quality double-barrel shotguns and Charles Daly made its reputation on finding and importing the best of them for the American sportsman. A Daly led the firm until 1919, when the company was sold. It had only two more owners from then until 1976.
After 1976, Charles Daly changed hands several more times, before the trademark was purchased by firearms importer KBI Inc. in 1997. KBI greatly expanded the product line to include pump and semi-auto shotguns, and M1911-style handguns. In 2008, Charles Daly Defense was created to market American-made AR-15-style semi-auto firearms, but the core of their product line remained shotguns. By this time the brand had a long and prestigious reputation, but in many respects it achieved even greater acclaim under KBI stewardship. Unfortunately, financial problems largely unrelated to Charles Daly resulted in a bank foreclosure on the company and the sale of its assets early in 2010.
The Charles Daly trademark was bought and sold several more times until the fall of 2016, when it was acquired by Don Madole, the company’s former operations manager under KBI. Madole’s intent was to revitalize the historic trademark and restore its former standing as a premier brand of sporting arms. With over 30 years of shotgun sports and importation experience, Madole had the know-how to do it. Before coming over to KBI, he was the CEO of another firearms importer and major KBI competitor, Tri-Star Sporting Arms.
CHARLES DALY’S PATH to restoration was unconventional. After KBI’s unexpected collapse, Madole acquired the patent rights to a unique three-barrel shotgun and subsequently developed it for production with a Turkish manufacturer. In 2012, when he approached firearms industry innovator Rino Chiappa of Chiappa Firearms about marketing the gun, Rino agreed…provided that Madole would come to work for him as the general manager of Chiappa Firearms USA. Rino Chiappa wanted him to raise market awareness of his brand in America and sell product directly to distributors. Madole agreed. Four years later, Madole acquired the Charles Daly trademark and leased it to Chiappa Firearms. Madole took on the additional duties of sourcing, importing and marketing the new Charles Daly product line. Chiappa Firearms USA owns the Charles Daly inventory and is the exclusive distributor of the brand. It is an arrangement where all parties are striving to maximize the success of the brand and it shows in the quality and value of their product selection, which has expanded business significantly in the last two years.
During Madole’s tenure at Charles Daly in the KBI era, they continued sourcing guns in Turkey from various manufacturers. This turned out to be a key strategic move for the brand and the Turkish shotgun manufacturing industry. At that time, Turkey was dominated by cooperative factories, collectively owned by one or more villages. These vaguely socialistic entities were difficult to work with and slow to respond to requests for improved quality and design alterations. The prices were nice but the quality problems were a deal-breaker. Fortunately, there were still some privately owned gun makers in Turkey and Charles Daly forged relationships with them to develop products that would meet the quality expectations of American shooters. The result was a mainly value-oriented line of guns that delivered a lot of features at an affordable price point. In short, a Turkish Charles Daly shotgun was “a honey for the money” and over half a million were sold.
Today, Turkey is once again the source of Charles Daly shotguns. Madole sees Charles Daly as the brand of innovation that challenges their Turkish suppliers to excel. He worked with four different manufacturers to develop their current shotgun line that includes single-shots, side-by-sides and over/under doubles, triple barrels, pumps, and semi-auto models, including a brand-new bullpup and AR-style magazine-fed model. The shotguns cover all aspects of hunting and sport shooting disciplines, as well as tactical/home defense roles. Charles Daly imports 85 shotgun models. Most sporting models come with 3-inch chambers, screw-in chokes, matte black or blued and polished metal, and synthetic or wood stocks, usually fixed but in some cases adjustable. Some models, reflecting the tastes of contemporary hunters, come with Maxi-Mag 3.5-inch chambers, Realtree® camouflage, folding and/or adjustable stocks, pistol grips, Picatinny rails and rifle sights.
THOUGH THE BRAND was more recently known for its value-oriented guns, Madole is reaching up and down. Charles Daly now has entry-level guns for the occasional shooter or beginner on a tight budget, and top-quality guns for the high-end sportsman. In principle, Charles Daly offers guns in field, superior or empire grade, but as a practical matter, no gun is offered in all three grades at this time. For example, single-shot shotguns are entry-level guns for American hunters, so all Charles Daly 101 models are field grade. The 101 synthetic is a five-pound 12-gauge, with 28-inch barrel, 3-inch chamber and Beretta/Benelli® Mobil threaded choke. It comes equipped with a modified choke tube. The black synthetic stock is adjustable for length-of-pull. MSRP is $176 but lowest online price I found was an ultra-bargain $141!
Perhaps the most outstanding value in the Charles Daly line is the Model 601 gas-operated semi-auto shotgun. It was co-developed with the factory specifically for the American market. This 12-gauge has a 28-inch chrome-lined ventilated rib, barrel with 3-inch chamber and comes with Mobil chokes (three are included – improved cylinder, modified and full). Overall length is 49 inches and it has a 5+1 capacity. The receiver is milled from a solid block of aircraft-quality aluminum and it weighs 7.2 pounds with a black synthetic stock or 7.3 pounds with a laser-checkered walnut stock. This is a well-balanced, graceful and very handsome gun despite its simple matte black finish. On top of that, it is not at all finicky about ammunition. MSRP is $309 with black synthetic stock and $325 in wood. The lowest online retail for the wood stock Model 601 was $259. The cheapest I could find a Remington 1187 autoloader, with a synthetic stock, was $457. If you argue that the Remington is better, and that’s a tough argument to make, it’s certainly not $200 better than the Charles Daly 601.
The superior grade side-by-side double-barrel Model 500 shotguns come stocked in beautiful checkered Turkish walnut with a bright receiver and blued barrels (28 inches long in 12-gauge with 3-inch chambers, and 26 inches long for 20-, 28- and .410-gauge). The barrels are threaded to accept Rem Choke screw-in chokes (included are five chokes – skeet, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified and full). All models have extractors with a single selective trigger. These are light and quick handling guns. The Model 512 28-inch barrel 12-gauge is only 45 inches long and weighs 6 pounds. MSRP is $905 but the lowest online price I found was under $700, which is simply amazing for a quality double-barrel. This year a sleek .410 (Model 536) was added to the line that weighs only 5.4 pounds.
The unique Triple Crown three-barrel shotgun is a Charles Daly exclusive and was designed to be the ultimate hunting shotgun. All hunting models have white receivers, blued barrels and checkered walnut stocks (standard or Anatomically Designed with a higher comb and lower drop at the heel for ladies or youth). Fit and finish is superior grade. The top barrel has a ventilated rib and fiber optic front sight. Since most states limit shotguns to three rounds, the three-barrel design maximizes the speed of delivery and versatility of those three crucial rounds. No shotgun can fire three rounds faster. The barrels are threaded for Rem Choke screw-in chokes (a set of five are included) and fire in order (right, left and top) with a single, non-selectable trigger. A quail hunter can set his chokes for improved cylinder, improved modified and full and bag three birds out of a covey, getting the closest as they rise with the right barrel and taking his last shot at the farthest bird with the full choke top barrel. They are available in 12-, 20-, 28- and .410-gauge, in 28-inch and 26-inch barrel. All barrels have 3-inch chambers, with the exception of the 28-gauge, which is 2¾-inch only. There is also a 12-gauge Magnum version with 3½-inch chambers and checkered synthetic stocks camouflaged in Realtree Max-5® for waterfowl hunting. The slim 26-inch-barrel, 41-inch-long .410 is 6.8 pounds and the 28-inch-barrel, 45-inch-long 12-gauge is 8.7 pounds. The 12-gauge is slightly heavy compared to other guns of this gauge, but the extra weight does make the balanced gun swing nicely and helps absorb recoil. The MSRP on the Triple Crown is $1,929. The lowest online retail I could find was $1,328, which is easily $800 less than your best deal on a Browning Citori over-and-under.
The triple barrel is also available in an 18.5-inch-barrel, 35.5-inch-long home defense model called the Triple Threat, in 12-, 20- and .410-gauge. Perhaps due to its awesome intimidation factor, it turned out to be a hotter seller than the full-length hunting version and generally costs more on the actual retail level as a result. In response to the consumer trend favoring compact tactical/home defense shotguns we’ve seen in the last few years, Charles Daly Defense released a pistol grip version of the gun in 12-gauge and .410 as part of their Honcho line.
CHARLES DALY DEFENSE offers just about all the Charles Daly sporting shotguns in tactical/home defense models, typically adding pistol grips, front and rear sights, Picatinny rail, breacher choke tubes and sometimes adjustable buttstocks depending on the model. The aforementioned Honcho line of compact, 27-inch-long, bird’s head grip, 14-inch-barrel shotguns was introduced last year and proved to be a solid seller. In addition to the three-barrel gun, the line includes a pump; spring-assisted pump; a detachable, five-shot, box magazine-fed, spring-assisted pump; and a semi-auto. Gauges include 3-inch shell 12 and 20, as well as .410. The Honcho .410 spring-assisted pump weighs a scant 4.1 pounds. Its MSRP is $369 but lowest online retail was $283. The 12-gauge pump model had an MSRP of $309 and a lowest online retail of $244. A Mossberg 590 Shockwave will cost you $100 more.
This year Charles Daly Defense is releasing its first bullpup shotgun, the N4S, its first AR-style shotgun, the AR12S, and its first .410-gauge AR-15 compatible upper receiver group. That .410 upper receiver group comes complete with flip up sights and its own magazine and allows you to turn any standard AR-15 platform into a semi-auto, five-shot, 2.5-inch .410 shotgun. The 19-inch cylinder bore barrel is completely enclosed by a carbine length quad Picatinny rail handguard in the rear, and a ventilated, cylindrical perforated heat shield in the front that terminates with a breacher style cut at the end covering the muzzle and acting as a flash hider. MSRP is $399. This gauge recoils about as much as a .223 round in an AR platform and has excellent home defense possibilities.
The N4S Bullpup is a semi-auto, five-shot, box magazine-fed 12-gauge that can handle 3-inch shells. It comes with one magazine and flip up sights. Its 19.5-inch barrel is threaded for Mobil Chokes. It comes equipped with modified choke. Overall length is 29.75 inches and weight is a hefty 9.3 pounds. It may not be light, but is very compact on the business end, ideally suited to defense in close quarters and easy to handle in rapid fire.
The AR12S semi-auto shotgun has a more conventional AR layout, including a carry handle rear sight and raised front sight tower. It likewise has a 19.75-inch barrel threaded for Mobil Chokes and comes equipped with a modified choke. The five-round box magazine has longitudinal slots so you can see how much ammo you have left. The buttstock has an adjustable comb. It is 37.5 inches long and weighs 7.5 pounds. MSRP is $517.
A Charles Daly quality control inspector test fires all their shotguns in Turkey to insure proper function before they are accepted for importation. All shotguns carry a five-year conditional warranty.
IN ADDITION TO its many and varied shotguns, Charles Daly also offers Italian-made 1911 pistols in .45 ACP and 9mm, and an AK-style pistol in 9mm called the PAK-9 made in Romania. Their full-size, 5-inch-barrel 1911 is all steel, uses a forged frame and slide, and features an eight-shot magazine, ambidextrous extended safety, front and rear slide serrations, extended beavertail grip safety, extended commander-style rounded hammer and skeletonized trigger with over-travel adjustment. The Superior Grade model has walnut checkered grip, fiber optic front sight and fixed combat-style rear sight. The Empire Grade model comes with target adjustable sights, relieved ejection port, and custom VZ Operator II Black G10 grips. The 1911 Empire Grade’s MSRP is $829 and the Superior Grade’s is $699.
The PAK-9 is a more unusual bird, best described as a sheet metal AKM 9mm semi-auto pistol. Like the 1911, this is not a new gun to the line, but it only started to hit retail stores in 2018. The reception was uniformly positive for this rugged pistol that accepts Beretta 92 magazines. At six pounds it is rather heavy to shoot as a true pistol, but Charles Daly now offers a package with an adapter to allow the fitting of an AR buffer tube, and by extension, an AR pistol-style arm brace. The addition of the arm brace greatly stabilizes the pistol when shooting. This new package also comes with an adapter to accept Glock® magazines. With a laser sight and flashlight clamped to either side of the front Picatinny rail, the PAK-9 has practical value as a personal defense weapon. Add in the Glock® magazine well adapter so you can use a 50-round drum and you have some truly awesome firepower. The PAK-9 has a 6.5-inch barrel, is 14.37 inches in overall length, has a fixed rear sight, an adjustable front post sight for elevation and comes with two 10-round Beretta 92 style magazines. MSRP is $559 but lowest online retail was $430.
This article is too brief to examine the full scope of Charles Daly products, especially since they are continuously adding new ones and improving old ones. For more information visit the company website at charlesdaly.com and contact them for the location of a dealer near you. This legendary brand seemed to disappear for a few years, but they have come back strong and in some unexpected and very innovative ways.
Story by Frank Jardim