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Preview – Ruger GP100

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Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

The .44 Special Mouse That Roars

Let’s get this out of the way. We’re not revolver guys. You can now take whatever comes next with a suitably sized grain of salt, as for precisely 92.7 percent of what we at RECOIL use a handgun for, a semiauto is a better choice — they pack flatter, carry more rounds, and, in most cases, are easier to shoot.

That said, Ruger’s newest offering in their revo lineup sparked a lot of interest around the office when it was announced. Here was a medium-sized snubby, based on the hella-stout GP100, but chambered in the venerable .44 S&W Special cartridge. Now, big-bore, short-barreled revolvers offer an additional advantage in a self-defense handgun in that once their mediocre payload is expended, they’re heavy enough to make a decent war club. If all else fails, beat your opponent to death.

An Elegant Weapon For A Civilized Age
While it employs modern manufacturing methods and metallurgy, the GP100 harkens back to another era. In the late 1900s, Bulldog revolvers were carried by European and American gentlemen. Their five-shot, .44-and-up cylinders held big chunks of lead launched at leisurely velocities by moderate charges of black powder and for their time were considered effective greatcoat-pocket man stoppers. General Custer was rumored to have carried a pair, and their terminal ballistics were sufficient to dispatch President Garfield.

Rather than the blued or nickel finish of its predecessors, the GP100 is all stainless, save for its pebbled synthetic grips and adjustable sights. It’s also quite a bit porkier, as Bulldogs typically tipped the scales at around 20 ounces with a 2.5-inch barrel — like other modern-day Americans, this one’s gotten altogether bigger. Our test gun sported an additional ½ inch of barrel and almost twice as much steel in its construction.

gp100-44-special five-shot-cylinder

That extra beef can be found in the frame and cylinder that were designed from the outset for an unlimited diet of .357 Magnums, and since 1985, the GP100 has earned a reputation for being one of the toughest revolvers in production. The .44 Special version should be equally robust, as despite having bigger holes bored in it, there’s also one less of them. Going to five, rather than six rounds in cylinder means that the cylinder stop notches are offset from the thinnest part of the cylinder walls, which measure 0.062 inch at their skinniest point. Consider that an S&W M29, the granddaddy of the .44 Mags, comes in at 0.040 at the stop notches, and the extra 0.22 inch of material would appear to be overkill for the shorter cartridge.

Most snubby makers opt to lighten things up by fluting their cylinders. Not so in this case, adding to the overall impression of heft and durability. Its barrel is similarly beefy, with a full-length underlug and ¼-inch-deep rib up top. A 0.122-inch-wide fiber-optic front sight is dovetailed into it, complementing the square, nonreflective rear. Sight radius is 4.5 inches, about the same as most compact 9mm autos. Those sights, by the way, are top shelf, with a green fiber-optic front and fully adjustable rearsight.

The rest of the gun is likewise well built. Cylinder lockup was tight, timing was correct, and the trigger pull acceptable. While in stock form the Ruger’s double-action pull is nowhere near as smooth as a Smith, it’s perfectly usable, breaking at 11.5 pounds with some stacking at the end of the stroke. What grittiness there is can be attributed to the mainspring assembly, as it’s also present when thumb cocking the hammer; changing it out for a set of Wolff springs and spending a little time with a felt polishing wheel should work wonders. Single-action performance is on par with its DA counterpart, with a little creep before breaking at 3.75 pounds.

While it may sound like we’re being overly critical, or damning with faint praise, the gun is a good choice for those who want to carry a revolver. As a wheel gun for all seasons, it fills a lot of roles, especially if the owner chooses to handload for it. Looking at the Ruger’s vital statistics, its five-shot cylinder offers plenty of room to turn the weak-sauce .44 Special into something altogether more potent, yet still be relatively convenient to carry.


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