It has now been twenty-two years since Ruger
introduced the dandy little SP101 compact revolver. Unlike most
small five-shot revolvers, the SP101 is made primarily of
stainless, giving the handgun enough heft for easy
controllability, yet it is still compact enough for comfortable
carry. The little SP101 is one of the most durable revolvers
ever made. I once made a huge mistake in handloading for a
SP101, using a powder that I should not have tried. I had to
beat open the cylinder with a hammer, and use a punch to hammer
the empty case out of the chamber. That load would have
destroyed a lesser revolver, but the little SP101 held together,
and I still use that dandy little
revolver to this day. I go to a lot of gun shows, but seldom
see a used SP101 for sale. Those who buy them tend to keep them,
and for good reason. The SP101 is reliable, compact, accurate,
and built to last forever.
The SP101 has always been marketed as a
compact defensive revolver, and it serves that role very well.
However, now available with a 4.2 inch barrel and
fully-adjustable sights, the role of the SP101 has expanded
greatly, and in this configuration, it is an outstanding hunting
and trail gun, filling the role of a great multi-purpose
revolver for the outdoorsman.
The new configuration of the SP101 makes it
very useful as a compact, general purpose 357 Magnum. The four
inch barrel is able to take advantage of the capabilities of the
357 Magnum cartridge much better than can the shorter barrels.
The sights on the four-inch SP101 are also a great improvement,
with the adjustable rear allowing the revolver to have the
practical accuracy needed for field and hunting use. The front
sight has a square post profile, with a fiber-optic rod insert,
presenting a bright dot for use in low-light situations.
The 357 Magnum SP101 is a good choice as a
trail gun for those who need more power than is available from a
similar-sized rimfire 22 caliber revolver. The 357 Magnum,
properly loaded, has enough power for cleanly taking whitetail
deer and similarly-sized game, and will work well also as a
defensive handgun against predators, as well as a good defensive
handgun for distasteful social conflicts.
The Ruger SP101 carries very well in a good
belt holster, such as the Simply Rugged Cattleman shown here.
The Cattleman carries the revolver snugly against the body for
good concealment, yet makes the handgun readily accessible when
Specifications are listed in the chart below.
Weight is listed in ounces. Trigger pull is listed as pounds of
resistance, as measured using my Lyman digital scale. Linear
measurements are listed in inches. The cylinder length does not
include the ratchet star. 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.
|Trigger Pull DA
|9 Pounds, 9 Ounces
|Trigger Pull SA
|4 Pounds, 12 Ounces
For accuracy and function testing, I tried
every type of 357 Magnum factory ammunition that I had available
to me in the SP101. The ammo consisted mostly of high
performance ammunition, along with one of my favorite cast
bullet handloads that I use as a general purpose plinking and
“do everything” loads. This moderate handload uses the
excellent Mt. Baldy 173 grain plain
base Keith semi-wadcutter bullet with six grains of Hodgdon
Titegroup powder. The accuracy of the SP101 was tested using my Ransom
Master Series machine rest. 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. This is also the same style of
bullet as loaded into the Buffalo Barnes load, but at a
different bullet weight. 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 33 degree Fahrenheit range, at an
elevation of approximately 541 feet above sea level, and
relative humidity of ninety-six percent.
|Buffalo Bore JHP
|Buffalo Bore JHP
|Buffalo Bore JHP
|Buffalo Bore Barnes X
|Buffalo Bore 38 Special
|Grizzly Cartridge HC
The SP101 shot very well, and displayed
impressive velocities, especially with certain loads. I
particularly like the Buffalo Bore load using the excellent
all-copper Barnes XPB hollow nose bullet. This bullet expands
well, penetrates deeply, and stays together. From the barrel of
this SP101, the 140 grain bullet registered an average of 1552
feet-per-second, twelve feet from the muzzle. For a good
all-around load with lower recoil, but still very good
performance, I like the Buffalo Bore 38 Special +P load that
uses the 158 grain hard-cast Keith bullet. This ammo proved to
be exceptionally accurate from the SP101, grouping a
cylinder-full of ammo into one and one-half inches at
twenty-five yards. As can be seen in the chart above, most ammo
tested exhibited very good accuracy, with others delivering
average performance. The ammo that delivered the worst accuracy
also had the widest variation in velocity spread, and that is
certainly no fault of the revolver. I handload most of my ammo,
but if sticking with only factory ammunition, I could certainly
make do very well with those two Buffalo Bore loads listed
above, as they would cover every possible need for such a
handgun as this SP101.
This SP101 has a very comfortable grip that
is hand-filling, yet compact. The trigger pull in double-action
mode is smooth, and the single-action pull crisp. The SP101
functioned perfectly, firing every cartridge. With the heaviest
Buffalo Bore high-performance ammunition, the extraction was a
bit sticky, but not enough so as to present a problem.
This latest version of the Ruger SP101 is
perhaps the best version yet produced in the long life of this
excellent little revolver. The gun is reliable, compact,
powerful, and weighs almost three-quarters of a pound less than
its comparable six-shot big brother; the GP100. The SP101 is no
longer just a great defensive revolver, but is now an excellent
general-purpose trail and hunting gun. It fills the roll well of
what is known as a “Kit Gun”, which is a relatively light,
handy, and accurate handgun that can always be at one’s side
in the outdoors, while camping, hunting, fishing, or just
bumming around the woods. The SP101 has always been a dandy
little revolver, but this new version is the SP101 perfected.
Check out the entire line of Ruger firearms
and accessories online at www.ruger.com.
For the location of a Ruger dealer near you,
click on the DEALER FINDER at www.lipseys.com.
To order the SP101 online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.
To order Simply Rugged leather, go to www.simplyrugged.com.
To order quality 357 Magnum and 38 Special
ammunition, go to www.buffalobore.com,