Range Evaluation: Ruger GP100 w/3" Barrel

 

After several months of trying to find a clean S&W Model 65 at the right price, I found a GP100 (Catalog Number KGPF-330) at a sale price and had my dealer order one.  This is the 3" barrel w/short shroud. It has fixed sights.

 

The Gun: The GP100 in this configuration weights in at 35 oz. and has an overall length of 8 3/8". The black front sight is a serrated ramp that is pinned to the heavy barrel.  Rifling is 5-groove, right hand, and at a twist of 1:18.75". Grips are rubber with rosewood inserts. Finish is a "decent" polish on the side and the top of the barrel has a slight grooved rib.  The trigger face is smooth and polished. The fluted cylinder rotates counterclockwise and holds the traditional 6 shots.  It swings out to the gun's left ala S&W and ejects fired cases via an ejector star that lifts when the spring-loaded ejector rod is pressed rearward.

 

Case rims can be seen when the GP100 is loaded. Not the smallest grip, the short GP100 grip is compact enough for concealment and still offers very good purchase.  I have large hands and found it extremely comfortable with full-house loads. Note that the cylinder release is pushed inward, not forward as on the Smith & Wesson. Should the owner want to have a spurless hammer, it's obvious that the Ruger's lends itself quite well to such. The yoke or crane is locked to the frame via a spring-loaded tab and seems quite a sturdy setup.

 

Ammunition Used: Not intended to be a "round up" of every available .357 Magnum load available, this revolver was fired with the following full-house loads: Remington 125-gr. SJHP, Federal 125-gr. JHP, and Winchester 145-gr. STHP. One mid-range .357 load was tried as well: Remington 125-gr. Golden Saber. As more than a few folks buy .357's, but load them with .38's, the following .38 Special ammunition was fired: Magtech 125-gr. +P Guardian Gold JHP, Federal 147-gr. +P+ Hydrashok (Law Enforcement Only Load), and Remington 158-gr. LSWCHP +P.  One handload* was used.  It consists of a Rucker hard cast SWC loaded over 7.0-gr. Unique in a new Starline case and ignited with a Winchester small pistol primer. This is not a maximum effort load, but one that provides "sufficient" recoil for practicing with .357's and has proven pretty accurate in other revolvers.  Velocity is usually around 1100 ft/sec in snub .357 Magnums.

 

Average velocities, extreme spreads, and standard deviations were obtained from 10-shot strings of fire in which the muzzle was approximately 10' from the chronograph screens.

 

Ruger GP100 3" Chronograph Results:

 

357 Loads

Low Vel ocity (ft/sec)

High Velocity (ft/sec)

Average Velocity (ft/sec)

Extreme Spread

(ft/sec)

Std. Deviation

(ft/sec)

Rem 125-gr. GS

1189

1253

1212

65

19

Fed 125-gr. JHP

1244

1334

1296

90

28

Rem 125-gr. SJHP

1205

1319

1281

114

39

Win 145-gr. STHP

1163

1224

1197

62

17

158-gr. Handload*

1125

1177

1154

52

17

38 Spec Loads (+P)

 

 

 

 

 

Mtec 125-gr. JHP

970

1020

988

50

15

Fed 147-gr. (+P+)

913

986

940

73

22

Rem 158-gr LHP

878

924

894

46

14

 

Shooting: Paper targets were shot at distances of 10, 15, and 25 yards.  5-shot groups were fired single-action standing and using a two-hand hold.  The 25-yd. Target was fired seated with wrists supported and also in single-action.  10-yard groups were fired double-action using a two-hand hold.

 

15 Yards: The first groups of the day were fired at this distance and were fired standing, single-action, and in slow-fire using both hands.

 

I used a dead-on hold with these targets. In the first group (upper left), I pulled one shot and it is so noted on the target. Each group consists of 5 shots.

 

25 Yards: One group was fired at this distance. A rest was used and I was seated while shooting. Each shot was fired single-action and in slow-fire.

 

Noting that the CSWC handload struck a bit higher at 15 yards than the full-house .357 125-gr. JHP's, I used a 6 O'clock hold at this distance, "sitting" the black bullseye atop the front sight. This worked out about right.

 

10 Yards: As revolvers with this length barrel are often associated with self-defense scenarios (as well as just being darned handy when in the woods), I fired double-action as quickly as I could get a sight picture. I was standing and using both hands.

 

Remington .357 125-gr. SJHP ammo was fired as quickly as I could obtain a sight picture for a total of 18 rounds or 3 full cylinders for the chest hits. 5 more shots were fired at the head in double-action after reloading. The gun heated up nicely and continued to work perfectly. The full-house magnum load was used to see how the revolver handled at speed with the harder recoiling loads.

 

Observations: When using a new fixed sight handgun, revolver or automatic, I'm always anxious to see if the sights are properly regulated at the distances I'm likely to use that particular handgun.  I was pleased to note that the Ruger was, but was disappointed that at distances greater than probably about 20 yards, a 6 o'clock hold will likely be needed for bullets heavier than 125-grains at velocities similar to those obtained today. As this revolver was obviously intended not for longer distances, but for up "close and personal", that's not really much of a flaw. At distances of 50 to 65 yards, bouncing sticks did required the lower hold with the cast SWC handload and the 145-gr. Silvertips, but the faster 125-gr. magnums were pretty well on and the targets were hit most of the time.  When they were not, it was not the gun's fault, but mine.

 

While I continue to prefer S&W revolvers, I think that this one has found a home. Slightly larger than the K-frame S&W Model 65 that it's pitch-hitting for, its felt recoil is similar to that of the S&W L-frame revolver having a 2 1/2" barrel.  I guess this is not surprising as they both weigh in at about 35-oz, though the S&W is about a half-inch shorter LOA.

 

I do like the sight picture produced by this revolver's serrated black ramp front sight in conjunction with the rear notch.  In fact, I prefer this gun's to that of the fixed sight S&W Model 65.

 

The front sight contributes to a clean, crisp sight picture and one I found more than adequate.

 

Here you can see the rear sight notch, but it's not evident how good this sight picture is.  This "goodness" is subjective, but does remain a strong point for this revolver for me.

 

I liked the smooth, polished trigger face and found the double-action very usable as the revolver came from the box. It was not as constant as is that of the S&W, but neither was it "bad."  I found it no problem and suspect that a trigger job would make it extremely easy to use well.

 

The double-action trigger pull was quite good, but not so smooth as the Smith & Wesson's. It did seem lighter, but I cannot prove that, as I didn't have a trigger-pull gauge. The single-action pull was not as good as the S&W.  It did not break quite as cleanly as I'd have liked and was a bit heavier than what I'm used to. Were I going to shoot this gun primarily single-action, I'd definitely have a trigger job done and very well may do that anyway; the gun is that good in my opinion.

 

Not as elegant as some grips, these were very easy to handle in rapid-fire with full-house magnums and I found them comfortable.  I have no plans to replace them.

 

Recoil was milder than expected with this revolver and the heavy barrel and shroud evidently dampened muzzle flip.  In other words, this stout little thing handled the .357's tried easily with regard to felt recoil and control. Were I using this gun for serious purposes, it would be loaded with something in the 140 to 158-grain range if full magnums were being used. If recoil levels were too high with such loads, I'd just drop on down to the Remington 158-gr. LSWCHP +P and call it good. The gun is a "cream puff" with them and most inexperienced shooters shouldn't have a problem with them at all.

 

This revolver has the earmarks of being tough as nails and one that can handle quite a lot of shooting with the "real deal" and not reduced loads.  I believe that as it comes from the factory it is a very decent self-defense revolver and can be made an excellent one with trigger work and perhaps lightly chamfering the cylinder chambers for quicker reloads. That it disassembles so easily for cleaning rates highly with me as well.

 

Nearly, but not quite! Slowly depressing the extractor rod will not separate the fired cases from the gun! The rod must be depressed briskly to do this. (I don't know if the 3" barrel guns having the longer shroud have a slightly longer extractor rod or not.) That said, extraction was always smooth with zero sticking. Cases showed no signs of swelling unduly near the rims.

 

As can be seen, the primer is struck adequately and pretty well in the center. There were no light primer strikes. The Ruger's firing pin is frame-mounted with a transfer bar raising between it and the hammer when the trigger's pulled rearward to fire the gun.  The system worked fine in my limited experience and seems to have been well proven based on the popularity of the GP revolvers.

 

In my eyes, the GP100 is not so elegant and beautiful as the Smith & Wesson's lines, but neither is it ugly.  It is businesslike and appears tough as nails.

 

The 3" GP100 would make a fine house or car gun and could be used for serious concealed carry with a good gun belt and holster.  I think it would be fine for camping, hiking, as well as just tagging along when hunting.

 

As I've used the gun more and more, I've become more fond of it despite Ruger's spare parts policy that can be problematic. The company frequently will not sell replacement parts to an individual nor even a gunsmith, forcing the owner to ship a broken or defective gun back to the company.  It's a liability thing to protect the company and while understandable, one that doesn't make me very happy.  Hopefully, that will change.

 

If you happy to be looking for a .357 in a medium size that's reliable, accurate, tough, easy to clean and disassemble, shoots straight, doesn't have an integral lock, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg, you might consider the GP100.  I think this shorter shroud version's been discontinued with only the full shroud versions being produced, but short versions can still be found, I'd suspect.

 

These are darned good revolvers.

 

Best.