Ruger GP100 Review: The do it all revolver

Handgun Review: Ruger GP100

Ruger GP100 Review - 1

Ergonomics

The overmolded rubber grips of the standard models provide just enough give for a shooter hands to feel grounded without any awkward elements. The wood grips for dealer exclusives are similarly well sized for medium to large hands. The nice point is that for such a “bulky” looking gun, even slighter hands can get around the grips without feeling like they can barely hold on. Further, the push button cylinder release is easy to manipulate without having to hold the front of the frame like the Smith/Taurus models.

Accuracy

Slower moving heavy rounds will always be more accurate, but the rifling in Ruger allows for respectable groups even with high velocity defense and hunting rounds. While the smoother pulls of the Smiths may lead to better results, but over time the Smith can shake loose. Ruger’s lock up is one of the best on the market for an out of box gun, and if really desired, the trigger can be worked on. But one can dare this gun to shake loose after thousands of magnum rounds.

Reliability

The Ruger GP100 are super tough, reliable and dependable. As stated above, they are tanks. The gun is made rock solid for extended and continuous use. To that end the one word that can be used to describe it may very well be “overengineered.”

Customization

Grip options are available, as are sights and scope options, along with grip mounted laser sights. For an “old time” design, it is surprisingly accommodating to modern gadgets.

Looks

The design has not changed in over three decades, so Ruger must be doing something right. To be sure it is a bit on the heavy looking side, but for the larger calibers this is a welcomed feature more often than not: easier recoil even with magnum or 10mm Auto rounds. That it looks solid when firing those rounds is not really a minus, is it?

Price

For an American made service grade revolver, the Ruger is priced typically lower than its US made counterpart. The difference is probably most often felt in the trigger pull and balance with the Ruger feeling heavier in both sections. If the long game is being played, however, the Ruger will continue to serve and lock up as well as the day it was made after its competitors were traded in for being a little worn out.

Too many kids these days associate wheel guns with rotary phones, gas lamps and a lack of indoor plumbing (by cracky!), but the revolver continues to offer features that “Wonder 9s” and modern pistol design cannot match: ammunition versatility and unbeatable reliability.

While new pistol calibers come close to mimicking the power capable from .357 and .44 magnum revolvers, semi automatics have more moving parts dependent upon the pressures those rounds generate and can be jammed by anything from under powered cartridges to “limp wristing” (not holding the gun firmly enough to allow the action to cycle).

Follow up shots from a revolver rely on mechanics rather than physics, and it does not matter if once chamber is loaded with a magnum +P and the next a low recoil wadcutter: the gun will fire (assuming that the cartridges are good and the gun is rated for such loads, of course), reliably and without complaint.

For training or simplistic reliability, the revolver remains a competent, and often wise choice for people both in and out of the field. And for those, that are leery of changing gun laws, the revolver will not likely be gelded by magazine restrictions.

Sadly, the days of the Colt wheel guns are long past (the modern XXXX hints they may return, but thus far, it is but a hope): sad because Colts in their heyday up until the 1970’s-80’s were solid, locked up like tanks and had crisp clean triggers.

There is a reason the older models command such prices. But to take one into the field and use causes pearl clutching anxiety. Modern Smith revolvers maintain their good reputation for triggers, but to many their prices are prohibitive, and they often do not have the solid “feel” of the old Colts. The closest modern maker that is a S&W alternative is Ruger. They may not feel as elegant as the modern Smith revolvers, but – there is no other way to say this – the Ruger GP100 series are tanks.  

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Ruger GP100 Review:
What it Has

The Ruger GP100 was introduced in 1985 as a replacement for Ruger’s Security Six line in the common .357 magnum / .38 Special chamber. In addition to this caliber (now available in 7 as well as 6 shots), to date the gun is also available in .327 Federal Magnum (7 shot), 10mm Auto (6shot), .44 Special (5 shot) and .22 LR (10 shot). It is available in blued carbon steel as well as stainless, and barrel lengths of 3”, 4 (4.2”) and 6” with occasional variations in finish and barrel lengths available through dealership exclusives such as TALO. Obviously it is one of the most versatile revolver platforms around.

This is largely in part of the design’s very strong and safe action: instead of having the firing pin on the hammer it rides in the frame, the hammer and pin never touch directly: a transfer bar rides on the trigger and only connects the hammer and pin when the trigger is pulled.

For strength, the crane is locked into the front and back of the frame from the bottom when fired. This eliminates the need for a side plate so the frame is a solid block of steel that the cylinder is barred into, which is why Ruger is perhaps the only modern revolver that can compete with the height of Colt’s revolvers in lock up.

How Does it Compare?

The other modern revolver manufacturer is Smith & Wesson with Brazilian maker Taurus/Rossi making up the balance. There are others, such as Charter Arms, but for 4” and 6” revolvers, Ruger, Smith and Taurus are the most common and easily found.

Assume for the moment Taurus is a Smith clone (the “story” is the company originally made their guns off left over Smith machinery in Brazil anyway), the common comparison will be Ruger v. S&W.

The Smith & Wesson Model 686 and 586 are nice looking guns, they also balance well and come in attractive “skins.” Shooters will instantly find that they are lighter and for the most part, S&W still knows how to make decent triggers: even the double action is smooth and there is a crisp clean break. However, even when new, revolvers from Smith have a little wiggle in lock up.

Smith & Wesson Model 686

Smith & Wesson Model 686

Rugers just LOOK heavier (actually the half lug 6” GP100 and the Smith 686 reputedly weigh the same: about 44 ounces, but the more common full lug Ruger is a “staggering” 2 ounces more). They can feel heavier too with a heavier double action pull.

The numbers seem to support an approximate equitability between the two. But the Ruger seems to beat Smiths in lockup almost every time.

Consequently, the Smith may appear a more elegant revolver while the Ruger is a brute. Perhaps that is why Smith’s retail about 10% more than Rugers and are harder to find on sale: a look into production numbers may prove or disprove that Smith’s premium pricing may be based on reduced supply to keep demand high. If that is the case: if one wants a revolver for an investment and limited use, the Smith makes a lot of sense. If the revolver is going to be carried and [ab]used, the Ruger seems a better choice.

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Is it still Dependable?

One thing that the “brute” GP can claim is rugged reliability. For the dollar, anyone who plans to have a revolver and use it (a lot) and plans on keeping it, not as a prized heirloom but a trusted tool, the Ruger GP100, like the Security/Service models before it, are still merrily blasting away when shooters are ready for a “real” gun.

Put it another way: a salesman used to say one could shoot the Ruger GP100 all six times then use the empty gun to beat a bear to death, reload and shoot another 6 times: the same could be done with a Smith, but after the bear and before reloading it, the Smith should be checked by a gunsmith.

Can it be accessorized?

The GP platform has several grip options available from both Ruger and third party makers such as Hogue. A grip mounted laser is also an option. The adjustable sight revolvers can also have night sight or fiber optics installed, and for those looking to have some magnification on their handguns, a full length Picatinny rail can be mounted on the rear sight mount.

Aesthetics

This is always a matter of taste, but given that the design has been in constant production with little to no change to the profile of the “standard” 4 inch and 6 inch models in 35 years, there has been apparently little complaint on the general looks of the gun.  The TALO versions are a little more “sporty” looking to be sure.

Cost

Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of the Ruger GP100 in 357/38 is a little over $800. Sale or online prices hover more around $700-750, though as low as $650 can be found. This is about par with S&W, though they tend to be a little bit more unless there are extenuating circumstances (distributors are looking to liquidate). Given the strength of the GP model however, this is a revolver that will likely survive a nuclear war and be ready for more. It is a gun that will never owe the owner anything but work indefinitely.

Ruger GP100 Review

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Conclusion

If one is looking for a .357 revolver (or any of the other calibers the Ruger GP100 is available in), they are generally looking for a hard hitting or hard working gun. Ruger answers both of those needs in the same gun. The only place it may come up wanting is in the trigger pull or the balance: its competitors come in at a bit more for price for that difference: why Smith revolvers are used in competitions more often than Ruger. Outside of competition: in the field for defense or hunting, the trigger pull is actually an additional safety. Its weight and rugged construction also means it will handle abuse in handling with little detriment to its function.  

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