Long before we had semi-automatic handguns capable of holding 15, 17, even 20 rounds that we could conceal under a light jacket, there existed one type of gun that one could always depend on: the revolver. From its origins in the late 1930’s, all the way to present times, the .357 Magnum cartridge has earned its reputation as a fight stopping, deer dropping, health and hearth defending round. It is commonly referred to as “The King” when it comes to stopping bad guys in one shot. It traces its roots back to the ubiquitous .38 Special, which enjoyed great popularity. However, the power just wasn’t there for back country enthusiasts and hunters, so a man by the name of Elmer Keith set about improving the .38 Special. After experimenting with hot handloads (and destroying a few revolver cylinders in the process) Keith extended the .38 Special brass by 1/8th inch to accommodate the higher powder charges and Smith and Wesson gave him a stronger revolver to use in his developments. Thus, the .357 Magnum was born. Police departments and civilians alike received the round with open arms. Law Enforcement personnel were much more comfortable with the .357’s increased power, especially when compared to the .38’s of the time.
Ruger’s 7 shot, steel GP100 builds on the legacy of earlier Ruger models like the Security 6. The classic GP100 has enjoyed a reputation of being a stout workhorse that can handle a steady diet of full power .357 Magnum rounds, while also being capable of firing the soft shooting, and less expensive .38 Special ammunition. Ruger currently produces the 7 shot GP100 in 3 barrel lengths: 2.5″, 4.2″, and 6″. I have the 4.2″ and consider it to be the best of both worlds for a general purpose revolver that I may occasionally conceal, but more often will be worn during back country excursions.
Let’s take a look at the specs:
- Barrel length as reviewed: 4.2″ (2.5″ and 6″ also available)
- Made out of stainless steel
- Grips are rubber with hardwood panel inserts
- Weight is 40 OZ unloaded
- Capacity is 7 rounds
- Finish is a satin brushed stainless
- Barrel twist rate is 1:18.75″ right hand
- Cylinder lock up is in three places: front of frame, rear of frame, and at bottom of cylinder
- MSRP is listed at $899
For me, the first thing I noticed when I picked the GP100 up is its weight. At 40 ounces unloaded, it is hefty firearm, and solidly built. The finish on the gun is a brushed satin stainless that I find very visually appealing. It seems to be the perfect balance of aesthetics and function. It should resist elemental degradation well, and has held up well in the time I’ve had it, despite having been on my side during some sweaty weedeating sessions and other yard maintenance activities. Not to say that the blued version of the gun would fare any worse, mind you, I just prefer the stainless look.
The sights on the revolver are great for most uses. You get a fully adjustable rear sight, which is a necessity if you plan on using varying bullet weights or different hand loads, as the point of impact can vary significantly with different powder charges and projectile weights. I only had to do some minor tweaking to go from 158 grain semi-wadcutter .38 Special loads, to 110 grain semi-jacketed hollow point .357 Magnum rounds. The front sight is a fiber optic affair that comes with a green fiber optic “rod.” The sight is manufactured by HI-VIZ sight systems and you can order different color fiber optic inserts to replace the green one if it isn’t what you like. The inserts are reasonably priced as well. As you can see in the picture below, the front sight is kind of difficult to see when indoors, or lacking sunlight. If this were going to be a defensive pistol, I would most certainly swap the sight out for a tritium/ fiber optic combo sight, to ensure I could get a good visual on the front sight in every lighting condition.
If there’s anything the GP100 does well, it’s shooting. Admittedly, I am not a revolver expert, or expert marksman by any means. However, this gun is as accurate as any handgun I have ever shot, and if I do my part, I have no doubts that the GP100 will do hers. When shooting full powered .357 Magnum rounds, one begins to appreciate the heft the gun brings to the table. The weight of the firearm certainly soaks up the recoil, and even after an afternoon of shooting nothing but .357 Magnums out of it, my hands were no worse for wear. Shooting .38 Specials out of the GP100 is even more enjoyable. Very mild recoil, and less concussive report. The double action trigger pull is long and heavy, as one would expect, and clocks in at 12 lbs. The single action trigger is delightfully crisp, and comes in at 4.2 lbs. 7 round speedloaders made for the S&W 686+ by HKS also work flawlessly with the 7 shot GP100.
It is in shooting the gun that I did notice one issue. While I don’t believe the gun is to blame, it is still noteworthy. When Ruger added the 7th round to the GP100’s capacity, it necessitated the rounds being held more closely together in the cylinder. With some ammunition brands, I encountered case rim discrepancies in size that prevented loading the cylinder to full capacity, as the case rims would not sit flush and would prevent the cylinder from closing if you tried to proceed with 7 rounds anyways. I encountered this with Tula’s steel cased .38 Special, Remington’s green and white box .357 Magnum, and UMC’s Bulk .38 Special ammo. It didn’t happen every time I would load the cylinder, but certainly enough to mention. I did not have any issues with Federal ammunition, or Hornady ammunition.
While the MSRP for these guns is listed at $899, I have not seen them for that anywhere. I have found them typically priced between $600-790 and for what the gun delivers, I think it a fair price to pay, even at the upper end of that price range. This is a gun sturdy and reliable enough for most tasks I can think of, and it has earned my trust for outdoor activities. Here are some links to Ruger’s website, and HI-VIZ. Thank you for reading, stay safe and keep shooting!
HI-VIZ sights: http://www.hivizsights.com/
Ruger GP100 accessories: http://shopruger.com/GP100/products/3120/
Gun as reviewed from Ruger: https://ruger.com/products/gp100/specSheets/1771.html