Ruger GP100 .357 Mag Revolver Review

A proven rugged, reliable and accurate revolver, it’s a latter day classic!

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Certain guns just seem to roll on forever. This one hasn’t been riding along in Yankee holsters for all that long, but it has all the qualities that have made other guns classics. It’s strong, powerful, easy to use, and durable in the extreme degree. But above all else, Ruger’s GP100 is accurate well beyond the norm for revolvers of this class and price. As an avid Smith & Wesson revolver man, I had to keep my love affair with the Ruger GP100 out of the public view for two decades and then some, but I assure you that it started when I Ransom Rested the one you see here. That was in ‘85 or early ‘86.

rugerr1.gifRuger introduced the GP100 in 1985, but it was not their first DA/SA revolver. Back in 1972, the automatic pistol had yet to take over the police and personal defense markets. Revolvers with the typical twin trigger functions—cocking the hammer with the trigger, called double-action or cocking it with the thumb, known as single-action—were viable products. S&W dominated the market with fighting revolvers made on three frames, with Colt in second place. Ruger saw the potential here, particularly in the light of their well-developed investment casting process.

In ’72, they came out with the radically different Security Six series of DA/SA revolvers. Eventually this series included fixed sight Service Sixes and short-barreled Speed Sixes. All were based on the same rugged frame. Priced very competitively with the S&Ws and Colts, these new revolvers came to be respected for their quality.

Gun Details 
But Ruger was getting into the DA/SA revolver big time and developed some innovations that really demanded a completely new gun. Thus, the GP100 revolver was born, a lineal descendant of the Security-Six series of guns, but vastly improved in both strength and features. It is a medium-frame, six-shot .357 Mag revolver with adjustable sights and a unique butt section. The GP100 does not have a frame with a distinctive butt contour onto which grip plates of wood or rubber are attached. Instead, there is a grip tang that is integral with the frame. It extends down and away at an angle from the rest of the frame. Much smaller than most grip frames, the tang accepts a slide-on, one-piece rubber grip that is held in place with a screw running through ornamental grip plates. The small tang gives the grip makers plenty of room to do their thing, but I have actually seen very few GP100s with custom grips. I have a pair made by the late Deacon Deeson and they look and work great. Most GP100 shooters seem to stay with the issued grip, which has a very functional shape. 

The frame of the GP100 is made in one single piece of stainless steel, cast by the investment casting process. This is an ingenious system that permits the maker to produce complicated shapes with virtually no machining. Ruger has made an art out of the so-called “lost wax” method, realizing from the outset that there were major economic and structural advantages to using it. On the GP100 revolver, there is no sideplate in the style of contemporary Colt and S&W revolvers. The lockwork is ultra simple and comes out when the triggerguard is removed. In the GP100 design, the rod on which the cylinder appears to turn is really nothing more than a convenient handle to extract empties. It isn’t even centrally mounted in the cylinder. Since the gun is chambered for powerful magnum cartridges, it has to be strong. It was engineered for the new breed of hot .357 ammo, which has been known to raise hell with thin points in other makes of revolvers. GP100s have an extra thick barrel shank and cylinder stop notches that are not directly over charge holes. Even the cylinder lock is different. Locked at the rear with a plunger from the cylinder going into the standing breech, the gun has another lock at the front of the crane. It is in the form of a pivoting latch that snaps into a recess in the frame. It clears with pressure on the thumb latch on the left side of the revoler. This part is likewise unique. Rather than a latch that presses forward or pulls back, the Ruger GP100’s pivots inward. It is completely out of the way and directly behind the axis of the revolver’s cylinder.

Shooter amenities abound. The rear sight is sturdy and click adjustable for both windage and elevation. The front sight is a snap-in, snap-out type that could give a shooter the option of changing sights for the conditions. The colored polymer inserts made for the Redhawk revolver will fit in the GP100, but they are too high. I have shortened them for use in the GP100 and it works perfectly. Just handling the GP100 gives the impression of solid quality and ruggedness. Everything is strong and well made. Most models have a barrel with full-length underlug, which gives the gun a desirable muzzle-heavy heft. The trigger pull is on the heavy side, but relatively smooth. The action responds well to the attention of a competent pistolsmith. It is just an all-around fine revolver.

Range Time
That is, until you take one to the range, at which time it displays accuracy at a level that is hard to explain. I once did a survey article with four different GP100s, firing them with four different kinds of commercial ammo at 25 yards. I went twice around the cylinder with each load in each gun, 12 rounds. I used the Ransom Rest and the guns averaged 1.57 inches overall. On other occasions after that, I had occasion to shoot ten more GP100s. Every last one of them would produce at least one 12-shot group that was one hole and under 2 inches. More often than not, the average group size was right at 1.5 inches and that is with a wide variety of ammunition. With carefully tuned handloads, I have seen a dozen shots close to 0.50 of an inch. The GP100 revolver is exceptionally accurate. I have personally Ransom Rested 14 different guns over the years and they all shoot this way.

Since its introduction in ‘85, a lot has happened in the world of fighting firearms. At that point in history, about half the nation’s cops were carrying wheelguns. You would have to look hard to find a department that issues them today, so the GP100 is a classic case of too late. It is a magnificent firearm in the performance sense, but when the company also makes guns like the 17+1 SR9 9mm autopistol, an old-fashioned 6-shot .357 Mag just isn’t going to make it. Over the quarter-century of production, the GP100 was made in both blue and stainless versions, with 3-, 4- and 6-inch barrels, both heavy and light. I found out that there was also a short run of 5-inchers made for Davidson’s. The 3-inch GP100 came with fixed sights and either a short or long underlug. I had them, too. They shoot like they wanted to go to Camp Perry. The GP100 is a great Yankee firearm that goes unappreciated in a world gone mad over volume of fire. 

There is one more quality that I haven’t mentioned. In all those shoots where I was Ransom Resting one GP100 or another, I was also chronographing them. With no exceptions, the GP100 in any barrel length will get a little more velocity than a comparable Colt, Smith, Taurus, Wesson, or Rossi. I can speculate as to why but I don’t really know for sure.

For more information contact: Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc., Lacey Pl, Dept CH, Southport, CT 06890; 203-256-3860; www.ruger.com.


 

  • Joe Malone

    The first handgun i purchased was a GP100 in early 86. I used it as a reserve deputy for 4 years. It is still accurate and powerful. One time i shot a 5 shot group at 25 yrds that i could cover with my thumbnail. YES, virtualy one hole fired standing without a rest. I stopped shooting and left the rest of the guys amazed. Every now and then a man performs above his usual abilities. That was 15 years ago and i will never duplicate the feat…but the guys at the ranged did not need to knw that! Great gun one day my son will own it then maybe a grandson. It will work after I have gone to see my savior.

  • http://JMEEK1@SBCGLOBAL.NET JIM MEEK

    LOOKING FOR RUGER SPEED SIX MODEL 207

  • stantheman

    You can collect Colts, collect S&W’s, but I choose to both collect AND shoot my Rugers! Not saying Colt and Smith can’t shoot, but Ruger has been around long enough that a guy like me can begin to collect some of their “vintage” stuff like early Six revolvers, and Mini 14′s AND have fun shooting them all I want! I can’t buy a minty S&W Model 65 and shoot the daylights out of it with a clean conscience, but my old 1974 Speed Six will take a day at the range with hot .357 and ask for more.

  • Danny3572

    Thanks Guys great comments they helped me make up my mind,I’m sold on Ruger!!!Cant wait to pick mine up! Thank you very much.

  • Stephen Ohr

    I too am sold on the Ruger GP100 357 Mag. I am only waiting for my gun permit so I can buy one. I
    have read many testimonials about the GP100 and it is a well regarded revolver, and it’s made in the good old U.S.of A.

  • Dave

    I just bought one for my daughter and I respectuflly suggest that the author review a new specimen. The trigger on her new GP100 is very nice, right out of the box. If fact the same is true for the prior three Ruger handguns I have purchased ( 2 New Vaqueros,and a 50th Anniversary BlackHawk 357). Great Article!

  • http://Tactical-life.com Dave Peltier

    Just bought gp 100 love it have been a ruger fan since my first single 6 in 1972.Had a model 66 s&w back in the day but this is a stronger gun and better bilt.In Canada we have a restriction, barrels have to over 4 inch. Ruger just started building a 4.2 inch I bought one as soon as they came here.Can’t say enough about ruger.I guess size does matter.

  • http://yahoo.com Marshall Boyer

    Had chance to buy a GP100, and took it. Love the handling and weight of gun, & looks. Have only had .22 cal. hand guns before. Am waiting for my carry permit so can go shooting. From all reportsI have read on the gun, it is a great gun, so I will probably not be disappointed.

  • Nathan

    I’ve owned my GP100 since 1990. I have purchased and own many handguns. Not one of the other handguns that I own either revolver or auto feels as good or shoots as good as the GP100. It’s a true classic.

  • Tim

    I wish Ruger would stop putting girley hand grips on their single actions. my hand is four plus inches wide, this is my only gripe about ruger. come on guys. How about a uberti single action grip.

  • Jim Mullin

    Just picked up a new Ruger GP100 blue,4″ in 38 special for 340 dollars NEW!!!! I have another GP100 SS, 6″ in 357 mag. Use speedloaders.I carry with 2 to 4 speedloaders,that gives me 30 shots.Great guns the GP100.

  • Jim Mullin

    The revolver says police officer,the semiauto says stormtrooper.Those were the good old days when if a cop made a mistake and shot the wrong person,the person would not have a hundred holes in them.Too much emphasis on speed shooting in police and permit qualifications.Better to make the first shot count and to not empty a magazine into a “suspect” ( suspect= innocent till proven guilty )