By Dave Workman
(Photos by Dave Workman and Scott Warren)
When Sturm, Ruger announced its newest incarnation of the rugged GP100 revolver in a big-bore caliber, the handgunning world paid attention.
Chambered for the venerable .44 Special cartridge, this hefty stainless steel wheelgun holds five rounds and by the time they’ve all been fired, you’ve got somebody’s undivided attention. I was joined at the Media Day at the Range by TGM associate Scott Warren, and we both put this rugged revolver through its paces, using Hornady ammunition.
The GP100 has always impressed me for its strong design and recoil-absorbing heft. It’s a serious business handgun chambered in .357 Magnum, and now with the new caliber, I can see this becoming a likely choice for people in bear country, as well as those looking for a defensive revolver that delivers the goods.
For whatever reason, there seems to be one of those cyclic resurgences of revolvers for personal protection in progress this year. This has been going on since the 1980s, when everybody seemed to suddenly discover high-capacity 9mm semi-autos. At the time, the wheelgun took a back seat in popularity as law enforcement agencies switched over for the firepower.
But revolvers didn’t give up the ghost. They came back again and again, as a fair number of shooters discovered that revolvers don’t jam, they aren’t designed with magazine disconnects, and they don’t need magazines to function. All one needs to make the revolver work is ammunition, and at the end of a shooting session, you’re not crawling around picking up brass.
The .44 Special is no slouch as a handgun round, either. It is capable of launching a 200-grain bullet at 1,000 fps with 444 foot pounds of muzzle energy. Using a lighter 180-grain pill adds 50 fps velocity and almost 100 foot pounds of additional muzzle energy to the equation.
With a 3-inch barrel that has a full shroud for the cylinder pin, the new Ruger GP100 in .44 Special has an adjustable rear sight, fiber optic front sight and a Hogue Monogrip. It is a terrific package that will stand up to the kinds of conditions one finds from the Gulf Coast to the Alaska Interior.
The barrel is cut with six grooves on a 1:20-inch right hand twist. The five-shooter scales at 36 ounces empty, and measures 8.5 inches overall. In a good holster, it will be an easy carry on the trail or on the street.
Ruger designed this revolver with a triple-locking cylinder that locks to the frame at the front and rear, and on the bottom. I did not notice a single bit of lead shaving or power residue out the sides or around the forcing cone, even after several rounds. It ejected all rounds easily without a hitch, and the Hogue grip filled my hand rather well, which helped spread the recoil out over a larger area.
For safety, it is designed with Ruger’s patented transfer-bar mechanism, and quite frankly, it’s as tough or tougher than my trusty Blackhawks, and I don’t think you could break one without a ball peen hammer. This transfer bar mechanism has proven itself reliable for decades. I have never been worried about an accidental discharge with any of my Ruger single-action sixguns, and I’ve got specimens in .32 H&R Magnum, .41 Magnum and .45 Colt. They all have quite a few rounds through them, all without a hitch.
That Hogue Monogrip is a piece of work in its own right. The textured surface allows for a firm grip even in wet conditions – I’ve fired various handguns fitted with Hogues over the years in some pretty rotten conditions and never dropped a single gun – and because of the material, it reduces felt recoil so that shooting this revolver is actually pleasant.
The double-action is smooth and I managed to stroke through it without a single hangup. The single-action trigger letoff is crisp and when you need for this new .44 to go “BANG!” it will do so with a roar of authority. The muzzle blast is enough to scare the beejezus out of anything that walks on two or four legs, and I’ll hazard to suggest that at night, the muzzle flash is impressive. Alas, we did all of our shooting in the daylight at a range some miles from Las Vegas, so there was no way to judge how much fire jumped out of the muzzle.
This can be said without fear of contradiction: Ruger’s GP100 in .44 Special is a keeper. It fires a cartridge that has a good reputation for stopping fights that dates back more than a century, and has found favor among handloaders, thanks to modern propellants and bullet designs.
In the back country, this handgun will hold its own, and for personal protection, this one will certainly get the job done.