I remember a time when every shooter that I
knew wanted a 357 Magnum revolver. These were the days before Dirty
Harry Callahan had everyone lusting after the 44 Magnum
Model 29. Even then, most of us were better served with a good
357, not needing the power of the big 44, as no one that I knew
ever went bear hunting, and around here, the 357 was all a man
needed for hunting deer and hogs, and it would also serve
perfectly for home protection, and could be loaded with 38
wadcutters for cleanly harvesting small game. When I did feel
the urge to get a 44, it was a Ruger
Super Blackhawk, but that is another story for another time.
I got my first 357 Magnum when I was sixteen
years old. I had reached the point to where I not only wanted a
357, but I needed one badly. I had worn the pages thin on every
gun magazine that I could find, studying closely every detail of
every 357 Magnum double action revolver available. Heading down
to the Sportsman’s Store on Riverside Drive in Clarksville,
Tennessee, I picked out a brand new Ruger Security-Six with a
four inch barrel. The store was having a “going out of
business” sale, as a fast food chain had bought the property,
and would be tearing down the Sportsman’s Store later that
month. Despite my friend Terry Murbach’s affection for their
culinary delights, I cannot step foot into a Wendy’s without
thinking about the one that replaced the gun store of my youth.
Anyway, with my father’s signature on the paperwork, I stepped
out of that store for the last time carrying that Security-Six,
a leather holster, and a box of cartridges, after parting with
$121. That seems like a great price, but that much money was
hard-earned and slow to come by in 1976 for a high school kid
sacking groceries at night and on Saturdays.
I soon discovered that 357 Magnum cartridges
didn’t come cheap, so I bought a used RCBS Jr. press, dies,
scale, powder hopper, and other accessories from a cousin for
sixty bucks, and taught myself how to handload ammunition.
Around here back in those days, loading your own ammo was
considered to be very close to witchcraft, and most of the
family thought that I would surely kill myself in a terrible
explosion, but I survived the experience with both of my eyes,
all of my fingers, and most of my eyebrows intact. Anyway, I
learned to handload on the 357, and doing so allowed me to do a
lot more shooting than I could have done using factory loaded
ammo. That Security-Six also taught me how to shoot a revolver.
It was a dandy sixgun; strong, powerful, and accurate.
In 1986, Ruger ceased production of the
Security-Six, and introduced the GP-100 as its replacement. The
GP had some unique features that made it even stronger than the
Six series of double-action revolvers. The GP-100 cylinder locks
into the frame at the rear just like most other double-action
revolvers, but in front it uses a latch in the crane to lock
into a recess in the frame, instead of locking at the end of the
ejector rod. This allowed Ruger to use an off-center ejector
rod, which left room to beef up the breech end of the frame
which supports the barrel in the forcing cone area. On most
double-action revolvers, this area is the weakest, but with the
GP design, Ruger was able to significantly strengthen this
section of the frame around the breech end of the barrel, and I
have never once seen a GP-100 with a cracked forcing cone.
The GP-100 featured here is a special limited
edition revolver with a high polish deep blued finish. This type
of finish is seldom seem on production revolvers today, as most
blued handguns now have a semi-matte finish. This GP-100 is
called the Royal Phoenix, and is only available through Lipsey’s.
Lipsey’s is a large wholesaler in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and
is one of the nation’s top Ruger distributors. Lipsey’s
often has special Rugers available, and this new Royal Phoenix
is absolutely the best-looking GP-100 that I have ever seen. All
of the exposed metal parts are highly polished, with the
exception of the sights, which have a standard satin blued
finish. The rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and
elevation correction, and the front is easily removed to replace
with a sight of another style, if desired. The hammer and
trigger are highly polished stainless steel. The hammer has a
checkered spur for easy thumb-cocking, and the trigger has a
smooth surface for controlled double-action fire. The trigger
pull was very good on this Ruger, with a crisp four pound, two
ounce single action pull and a very smooth nine and
three-quarters pound double-action pull.
The Royal Phoenix wears a superb set of Hogue
wood grips that have finger grooves that are perfectly placed
for my large hand. This is a very comfortable set of grips. Even
after firing a lot of ammo in a short time while testing this
weapon for reliability and chronograph readings, there was never
any pain, even with the 180 and 200 grain ammunition. The 357
Magnum is not very punishing to shoot in most revolvers, but
there are some now on the market can begin to wear on the
shooter in short time. The Royal Phoenix is not one of them. It
is a very easy-to-shoot revolver, and the grips are the most
comfortable that I have ever used on a GP-100.
The Royal Phoenix has a heavy-profile barrel
with a full underlug. The barrel length measures 4.18 inches,
and is rifled one turn in 18.75 inches, with a right-hand twist.
The Royal Phoenix weighed in at 39.8 ounces on my scale, but the
weight might vary a bit by the density of the wood in the grips
of each particular revolver.
I tried every type of 357 Magnum ammunition
that I had available to me in the Royal Phoenix. All of it was
high performance premium ammo, along with one of my favorite
cast bullet handloads for general use. This handload is a
moderate one, but uses the excellent Mt.
Baldy 173 grain plain base Keith semi-wadcutter bullet with
six grains of Hodgdon Titegroup powder. The accuracy of the
Royal Phoenix was tested using my Ransom
Master Series machine rest. The Ransom eliminates human
error when set up properly, and the Royal Phoenix proved to be
exceptionally accurate with a couple of different loads, and
acceptably accurate with everything else tried. The chronograph
and accuracy results are listed in the chart below. JHP is a
jacketed hollowpoint bullet. SP is a jacketed soft point bullet.
DPX is a homogenous copper hollow nose bullet made by Barnes
Bullet Company, and loaded by Cor-Bon. Glaser is a specialty
jacketed bullet with a compressed pre-fragmented core. PB is Cor-Bon
Pow’RBall. HC is a hard-cast lead bullet. Keith is the
aforementioned semi-wadcutter cast lead bullet. Velocities were
recorded at a distance of twelve feet from the muzzle, and are
listed in feet-per-second (fps). Bullet weights are listed in
grains. Accuracy results listed are the average of the five-shot
groups fired at a distance of twenty-five yards, listed
center-to-center of the widest apart bullet holes in each group.
Group sizes are listed in inches. Testing was done on a calm day
with an air temperature in the fifty-five degree Fahrenheit
range, at an elevation of approximately 541 feet above sea
|Buffalo Bore JHP
|Buffalo Bore JHP
|Buffalo Bore JHP
|Grizzly Cartridge HC
As can be seen in the chart above, every load
tested performed well, and a couple of the loads were
match-grade accurate from the barrel of the Royal Phoenix.
Besides those two loads which grouped under the one inch mark,
several more were plenty accurate, and shows the attention to
detail that went into the production of this sixgun. The
barrel/cylinder gap measures a very even six one-thousandths
(.006) of an inch. Cylinder/barrel alignment was near perfect,
and standing beside the sixgun while firing it in the Ransom
Rest showed no signs of spitting out the barrel/cylinder gap.
Cylinder lockup is very tight, with little discernable side play
and no fore-aft movement at all. Ejection was smooth and easy
with all ammunition tested.
Coming up on its twenty-fifth anniversary,
the GP-100 has proven to be a rugged, reliable, and accurate 357
Magnum revolver. It is a very durable design. It does not need
re-timing and rebuilding every few years as do some 357 Magnum
sixguns. The GP is built to be used. It can withstand a steady
diet of 357 Magnum ammunition and still remain accurate and
tight. The heavy barrel gives the weapon a nice forward balance,
and it is easy to control under the effects of recoil.
While most of the world has laid down their
sixguns in favor of autos which hold a fistful of cartridges,
the 357 Magnum is still as powerful as it ever was, and can do
double duty as a weapon for hunting and for personal defense. In
the case of this GP-100, it can also serve admirably as a target
The Royal Phoenix is a fine weapon, as good
or better than any double-action 357 that I have ever fired. It
is beautiful, accurate, reliable, and powerful. It is built with
quality materials, built right, and built in the USA. I like it,
and highly recommend it.
For a closer look at the GP-100 Royal
Phoenix, or to locate a Ruger dealer near you, go to www.lipseys.com.
To look at the extensive line of Ruger
firearms and accessories online, go to www.ruger.com.
To order any of the high performance
ammunition shown here, go to www.cor-bon.com,