Ruger Eight-Shot 22 Long Rifle SP101: Stainless Steel Kit Gun Perfection


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

September 16th, 2011


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Ruger's eight-shot 22 Long Rifle SP101.



Very comfortable one-piece synthetic grip with wood inserts.





Cylinder release.





Excellent, fully adjustable rear and fiber-optic front sights.







When Ruger first introduced the 38 Special SP101 double-action revolver back in 1989, I immediately had high hopes for a 22 Long Rifle version for use as a trail gun, plinker, and general fun gun. Being basically a scaled-down GP-100, the SP101 was rugged and reliable, but still compact, and built like a Ruger. When Ruger did introduce the 22 Long Rifle version, I was disappointed. A 22 Kit Gun (generic term for a handy little trail, backpacking, woods-bumming gun) needs good sights. I like mine fully adjustable, to set the sight perfectly for a particular load, as sometimes the Kit Gun is called upon to make an accurate shot to put meat in the camp pot, or for other precision shooting chores. The rear sight on the 22 LR SP101 was an afterthought. It was a thin blade set into the top of the frame, adjustable for windage correction only. The SP101 deserved a better rear sight, and with the reintroduction of the 22 Long Rifle SP101, it has one.

The Ruger SP101 now has a sturdy, yet fully-adjustable rear sight. The sight is matte black, as it should be, and the blade is large and easy to see. The sight notch has ample width, measuring .14 inch, allowing plenty of light to be seen on either side of the front sight. The front sight is a squared-profile matte black post, with a green fiber optic rod insert. Both front and rear sights are, thankfully, made of steel. The balance of the SP101 is made primarily of stainless steel, and is finished to a satin sheen. The barrel measures 4.195 inches in length on my sample gun, and .68 inch diameter. Integral with the barrel is an underlug in which the ejector rod is housed for protection. The eight-shot cylinder locks at the rear with a steel pin into the frame, and also at the front, with a retractable pivoting blade on the crane locking into the frame beneath the barrel underlug. The cylinder is released to swing out to the left side by pushing in on the cylinder release, located on the frame at the rear of the cylinder, on the left side. Ejection of spent cartridges is accomplished by pushing rearward on the ejector rod, which has an ample stroke of over three-quarters of an inch, ejecting cases cleanly from the cylinder. The cylinder on the SP101 measures 1.585 inches in length, and is plenty long to accommodate the 22 Magnum cartridge, should Ruger decide to produce such a version. I hope that they choose to do so. Hopefully soon. I am usually a patient man, but I have got to have one of these in 22 Magnum! That is the way I am wired. I keep thinking, “Just one more gun will be all I will ever need”, and then something like this SP101 comes along. I am happy to have this one here, chambered for the most versatile cartridge ever invented, but then, it leaves me wanting to also add a 22 Magnum version. My appetite for firearms is never quenched, and I am doomed to wander the Earth in search of another, until my time here in this world is over! Anyway, enough about my human weaknesses, and back to the dandy little revolver at hand.

Specifications are listed in the chart below. Weight is listed in ounces. Trigger pull is listed as pounds of pressure. Linear measurements are listed in inches. The cylinder length does not include the ratchet nor the cylinder bushing. Height includes the sights, with the rear set at its medium adjustment. DA is the double-action trigger pull. SA is the single-action trigger pull.

Overall Length 9 inches
Overall Height 4.78 inches
Weight Unloaded 30.3 ounces
Barrel Length 4.195 inches
Cylinder Length 1.585 inches
Cylinder Diameter 1.343 inches
Barrel/Cylinder Gap 0.006 inch
Trigger Pull DA 11 pounds, 4 ounces
Trigger Pull SA 4 pounds, 14 ounces

For accuracy testing, I placed the SP101 into my Ransom Rest, with the target set at twenty-five yards. Accuracy was very good with most loads tested. Velocities were checked for each type of ammunition at a distance of ten feet from the muzzle. HP is a hollowpoint bullet. Solid is a roundnose bullet. Velocity readings were taken at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air temperature of ninety-one degrees Fahrenheit, with high humidity. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second (FPS). Accuracy was tested by firing eight-shot groups, with the average of the groups tested with each load listed in inches. Groups were measured center-to-center of the two farthest-apart holes in each group.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity Group Size
Federal Bulk HP 36 874 1.61"
Winchester DynaPoint HP 40 894 1.00"
PMC Match Solid 40 822 2.2"
Wolf Match Solid 40 909 1.75"
CCI Mini-Mag HP 36 913 1.25"
CCI Mini-Mag Solid 40 940 1.90"
Remington Hi-Speed Solid 40 1011 3.10"
CCI Velocitor HP 40 998 2.00"

The little Ruger proved to be very reliable, with everything feeding, firing, and ejecting perfectly, with the exception of the Wolf match ammo. It functioned very well, and was plenty accurate, but had sticky extraction. The Wolf was the only ammo that caused an extraction problem in this revolver. Everything else ejected with ease. I was really pleased with the performance of the Winchester DynaPoint ammo. It is one of my favorite 22 LR loads, and exhibited the best accuracy in this particular SP101 of any ammunition tested. The DynaPoint leaves the barrel of the SP101 at a decent speed, and is effective on small game without ruining a lot of meat.

The trigger pull is necessarily heavy on double-action rimfire revolvers. It takes a pretty good hit to set off the 22 LR priming mixture, but even at over eleven pounds, the double-action pull on the SP101 is butter-smooth, and the single-action pull very crisp.

The grip on the SP101 fits my hand perfectly. The synthetic rubber grip is compact, but amply big enough for even a large hand, offering shooting comfort and excellent control, even with wet hands. The checkered wood grip inserts are both functional and beautiful, really dressing up the little revolver.

I heard of this SP101 over a year and a half ago, when Mike Fifer of Ruger sent a computer rendering of the proposed new SP101 to me, and I have been wanting, somewhat patiently, to get my hands on one ever since. Over that period of time, I have had the chance to handle and shoot a prototype, but did not receive this production version until just a few weeks ago. Since receiving that first sketch in early January of 2010, I have spent a lot of time looking at it, and it has been residing above my desk ever since. Then back in April of 2010, I received a picture of Mike holding the first prototype of the new gun. It seems that Mike was as anxious as me to have the perfect 22 Long Rifle revolver for a trail gun. The difference is that he has a foundry and two whole factories at his disposal to build such things, and I do not! However, Mike knew how much I wanted to see this happen, and I am thankful to him for keeping me up to date as the project progressed.

Finally, at Gunsite a few months ago, a half-dozen or so writers were allowed to handle a pre-production version of this SP101, but as with the early sketches and photos, we were all sworn to secrecy, and most of us honored our word on that. It has been a hard secret to keep, but the folks at Ruger wanted to make sure that everything was ready before letting the word out on this new revolver. The production gun that I have here is pretty darn close to that original drawing, except for the use of a square-notch rear sight blade instead of the originally-proposed V-notch, and much better-looking grip inserts. I like the square notch sight better, and it was a good decision to go with that. The front sight still works well with the rear notch, as the front is a square profile blade, which is excellent for target work. In addition, the green fiber optic insert works very well in low-light conditions, and can be seen much easier than a plain black blade in the woods.

The little SP101 fit snugly but worked very well in a couple of different J-frame size holsters. One of my favorites for a Kit Gun is this cross draw shown here, given to me by my good friend and Yooper, Al Anderson of Michigan. I was in the U.P visiting with Al a couple of years ago, and admired the trim little cross draw on his belt, so he had one made for me. It was built by Dennis Peterson of Gwinn, Michigan, and it carries the little SP101 very well. It has a long strap to retain the revolver, and is very well-crafted. The little holster carries the SP101 handily. I especially like a cross draw such as this when seated on an ATV, Rhino, tractor, or in a car or pickup. It places the weapon within easy reach, and does not dig into the ribcage when seated.

After seeing the first drawings and handling a prototype many months ago, I had high hopes for the 22 Long Rifle SP101, and my expectations were exceeded. The new little Ruger is a dandy trail gun. It is light enough that it rides easily on the belt, but has enough heft for accurate shot placement in the field. This new Ruger 22 SP101 is exactly what a good Kit Gun should be, and it is what the 22 SP101 should have been years ago. Ruger has upgraded the original SP101 with much better sights, better balance, and by putting two more chambers in the cylinder, added a 33 1/3 percent increase in firepower. I am glad to see that Ruger has chosen to reintroduce and greatly improve the 22 Long Rifle SP101, and I highly recommend it.

Check out the SP101 and other Ruger firearms and accessories online at

To locate a Ruger dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR at

To order the SP101 online, go to

To order quality 22 Long Rifle ammunition, go to

To order a Dennis Peterson holster, call 906-346-9396 or email

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Ruger CEO Mike Fifer, holding the first prototype of the new eight-shot SP101, like a proud Papa with his new child!





Early computer drawing of proposed SP101 22 has been hanging above Jeff's desk for almost two years.



SP101 (right) compared to S&W Model 63 (left).



SP101 (right) compared to Ruger SP101 in 327 Federal Magnum (left).





The SP101 fits snugly into this Dennis Peterson J-Frame holster.



Accuracy was tested at 25 yards using a Ransom Master Series machine rest.



CCI Shotshell pattern at typical "snake distance" - six feet.