When most people think of 9mm revolvers, they probably think of small guns like the Ruger LCR. Many people opt for a compact revolver that shares ammo with their primary carry gun. However, where these guns are most popular is in the realm of competition shooting in the hands of dedicated degenerate revolver enthusiasts.
Why 9mm Revolvers Rule Competition Shooting
While there are certainly other options for competition shooting, revolvers chambered in 9mm tend to rule the roost. Focusing specifically on the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) and Steel Challenge, a 9mm revolver offers considerable advantages. If you want to be competitive in these sports, you’re going to want an 8 shot gun, especially for USPSA. Although a 7-shot revolver will work for Steel Challenge, more rounds is more better, right? Both Ruger and Smith & Wesson offer revolvers in 9mm that hold 8 rounds. They also offer 8-shooters in .357 Magnum. However, a 9mm has a significant advantage over a gun running .357 Magnum or .38 Special in moon clips. The shorter overall length of the 9mm round makes it faster to perform speed reloads, an essential skill for victory at USPSA.
Breaking Down the Big Two: the Ruger Super GP100 9mm
First up is the Ruger Super GP100 in 9mm. This revolver was released shortly after Ruger released their Super GP100 in .357 Magnum, and it’s probably the better choice for USPSA shooting. As mentioned above, 9mm rounds load faster into the cylinder than longer .38 Special rounds. Additionally, 9mm factory ammo will reliably make the minimum power factor requirements for competition shooting.
The Ruger Super GP100 comes from the factory in a lovely presentation case with laser cut foam, three moon clips, and a de-mooning tool. Definitely use the tool when removing spent brass from your moon clips, otherwise you’ll bend the clips and render them useless. The factory wood grips are OEM from Hogue, and are perfectly serviceable. You could replace them with different grips from VZ Grips that provided a bit more traction, which is nice when you’re trying to shoot fast. The Super GP100 accepts grips designed for stock GP100s, but won’t fit in holsters for the regular sized GP100. That’s because the Super GP100 is closer in size to a Super Redhawk, but with a slimmed down frame and shortened cylinder.
Option 2: Smith & Wesson 929
S&W’s entry in the world of 8-shot 9mm revolvers is the 929, a colossal N-frame that is obviously chambered in 9mm. Fun fact: the 929 and the Super GP100 have the same cylinder dimensions, so moon clips are interchangeable between the guns. The 929 didn’t come with as many extras as the Super GP100, and the box wasn’t as nice, but out of the box the trigger was marginally better. Most serious revolvers shooters will give their guns an action job, and both the Ruger and the S&W have benefitted from that. The S&W gun also comes with a screw on compensator that can be replaced with a barrel weight if you don’t want to get bumped into open division.
One of the advantages of the S&W 929 over the Ruger is that thanks to considerable aftermarket support, a competent armorer can improve the N-frame’s trigger considerably. Our test gun tips the scales at under 5 pounds after installing a new main spring, and an Apex competition rebound spring. The Ruger’s trigger is a hair heavier at 6 pounds, but it required assistance from Cylinder & Slide to get there. The S&W additionally comes with a titanium cylinder, making it a bit lighter than the Ruger.
Which of the Two 9mm Revolvers Should You Buy?
Both the S&W and Ruger are great guns. Really, the answer depends on how much you like to tinker with your guns. You can get a pretty good trigger in the Ruger with a spring change, but you can get an amazing trigger in the S&W if you’re willing to learn how to take the revolver’s side-plate off. If price matters, the Ruger is about $500 more expensive than the S&W offering. $1700 and change will bring the Ruger home, on the other hand the S&W 9mm is downright affordable at $1269.
Again, both would be a great choice for USPSA shooting, as well as Steel Challenge. If you’re interested in just Steel Challenge, you could open the floor to include S&W’s 7-shot 9mm revolvers, notably the 986 Pro Series, which as of this writing isn’t currently for sale. Ruger doesn’t have a 7-shot 9mm revolver, sadly.
Lastly, 9mm revolvers that use moon clips aren’t legal for IDPA, but revolvers chambered in 10mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP are allowed in that sport. We’ll cover those in a later post!