Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ruger GP100


Ruger GP100

The Ruger GP100 is by far the finest ‘bang-for-your-buck’ double action revolver. Even at todays prices, the GP100 is a solid contender against some of Smith and Wesson’s more expensive revolvers. Some would argue that Taurus beats out Ruger on price for what you get, but I will have to disagree in that, while some Taurus pistols may be cheaper, the quality of the Ruger at its price cannot be matched. Its durability, reliability, & accuracy is impeccable. Ruger revolvers are built so strongly that they will last you decades without having to replace a single spring. Available in 3”, 4” and 6” barrel lengths in .357 Magnum as well as .327 Federal Magnum, The versatility of the GP100 is endless.

Photo copyright Point-of-Aim Productions, 2013



A History...

Ruger made a name for themselves in the revolver market in the mid 1970’s with their Security Six line of pistols. Until then, a shooter was limited to either a Smith and Wesson or a Colt and even back in the 70’s those were not cheap guns. The Security Six gave shooters a budget revolver that still packed the strength and reliability needed to handle the powerful .357 Magnum round. The Security Six revolvers used mostly investment cast parts to keep production costs down, but Ruger was able to perfect the process and make the guns incurably strong. The Security six was the first revolver to incorporate a new transfer part safety feature instead of an exposed firing pin. What also help the popularity was the fact that many police departments and government organizations adopted the Security Six as their standard sidearm. In 1979 Ruger introduced the incredibly powerful Ruger Redhawk to compete with Smith and Wesson’s Model 29, that was designed for the new .44 Magnum cartridge. This revolver included many improvements over the Security Six such as a new spring system, higher strength steel, and a new locking system for the cylinder to handle to increased pressures of the .44 Magnum. Ruger saw that they could further reinforce the Security six with the features but decided to change the revolver completely instead of just add them to the existing line. The Security Six was discontinued in 1988. 
Three years before hand, Ruger introduced the new GP100. It took all of the new features of the Redhawk and put them into a smaller frame gun for the .357 Magnum. The revolver was a instant hit. Like the Security Six, it used a solid frame design instead of a side plate design like the Colt and Smith and Wesson aiding in its strength. Barrel lengths were available in 3”, 4”, and 6” variations with both full under lug or half under lug. The half under lug was usually kept for the .38 Special chambered versions. The GP100 has continued to be a popular revolver today and has gone threw very few, if any at all design changes through its life. The most noticeable a change was in grip designs. 


Performance

The GP100 is a tank. It is one of the most robust revolver designs on the market. One of the biggest reasons for this is the fact that it uses a solid frame design. Well what does that mean? A solid frame pistol is milled out from the inside to accommodate a trigger group, hammer, and yolk for the cylinder. Once everything is locked up, it is, as stated before, one of the most durable revolvers on the market today. Unlike a Smith and Wesson or a Colt, the Ruger’s assembly consists of a single screw which take down the grip, everything else is pinned in place or uses a captive spring. 
It would be unfair to compare a Ruger GP100 to a Colt Python as the Python is really the Cadillac of the revolver world. All other revolvers pale in comparison to Colt’s “snake” line of pistols. We can compare a GP100 to a Smith and Wesson 686 however as that would be its closest competition. So what is the difference? Both are double action revolvers. Both are chambered for the .357 Magnum. Both come with full under lugs. Both have multiple barrel lengths. Both have six-shot cylinders. The biggest difference is the way they are built. The Smith and Wesson uses a side plate design that uses four screws (or five depending on year of manufacture) instead of the solid frame design of the Ruger. The 686 also has more internal redundant safeties and a different cylinder lock feature. Some can argue that the 686 is held to tighter tolerances. There is no rattling in a 686 when you shake it where there is in a Ruger. Here is my argument to that: The floating transfer bar that Ruger has used sine 1975. The GP100 is a heavier gun than the 686, but in return, helps with recoil of full power magnum loads. Newer GP100’s have much smoother triggers than older ones. Some of the older GP100’s had rough and very heavy double action triggers with not so crisp single action triggers but those made within the last decade have certainly risen the bar. My GP100 I picked up in 2010 had a smooth, yet heavy 10 pound double action trigger while the single action is VERY crisp at 3 and 3/4 pounds. Smith and Wesson trigger are much smoother and the single action almost feels like a hair trigger. You can make arguments for both but what it boils down to is how much do you want to spend? 
Velocities out of my 4” GP100 were modest if not down right impressive. My 158gr Soft Jacketed Hollow Point .357 Magnum hand loads left the barrel at a hair under 1200FPS. Remington, Federal American Eagle, and Hornady Critical Defense all performed flawlessly out of the Ruger and accuracy was beyond top notch. My only small gripe with the pistol is the fact that the front sight is just black. If it had a red or white insert to help with visibility in low light, it would just be the cherry on top.

Photo courtesy of OldSkool Photography, 2012


Final Thoughts

Looking to get a solid double action revolver but don't feel like spending the money on a Smith and Wesson 686 or even a used Colt Python? Look no further than the Ruger GP100. These days they sport 3”, 4”, and 6” barrels in both stainless steel and blued. The GP100’s are also available these days in a seven-shot .327 Federal Magnum version which is very intriguing to me. Custom options aren't very readily available aftermarket wise. Sights, grips, and springs are really the only think you can do on one of the GP100’s. 
MSRP on the newest GP100’s will run you about $730 but you can usually find them in shops for $650 or less. Compare that to a Smith and Wesson 686 which runs $829 MSRP or a USED Colt Python that would set you back $1200 in FAIR condition. Even though the Ruger is more of a budget revolver is doesn’t skimp on features, construction, reliability, and accuracy. Definitely one of my favorite pistols of my collection.

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