I have never really been a fan of Ruger firearms. They have never struck me as being quite right in my hands, and being more of an S&W fan, they just came across as being the second fiddle. My first handgun was a Ruger, a .22 caliber Single Six and I loved it. It was a great gun that taught me many valuable lessons about firearms ownership. I’ve never really cared for any Ruger arm or even really enjoyed shooting any Ruger since then.
Recently, we had a little gathering of friends in Utah. One fellow, Ben, brought in a small but impressive collection of some fine Ruger revolvers. Usually when I thought of Ruger Revolvers, I would think of either that little Single Six, or huge hunting hand cannons. My mental image of Ruger wheelguns was realized in three of the four guns. Large and heavy hand cannons with long barrels suitable for taking down charging rhinoceroses. At first, I had no real interest in them…but for one of the revolvers he had. The one gun that I really took to was Ben’s little bobbed SP101 in .357 Magnum.
This example of the SP101 family sported a nice trigger job that made the pull feel much lighter than it actually was and had soft Hogue rubber grips. These two things made firing the little magnum a real hoot, even when firing off some of Ben’s custom made hand loads. Lots of power in such a small package is generally unpleasant, but the SP101 delivered all the power without any trouble and put it right where I wanted it. The hammer spur was bobbed, making for a perfectly snag free gun suitable for concealed carry in just about any way one would think of packing it. With such a hammer one cannot thumb cock the gun to make a shot single action, but with the trigger being so smooth accurate shooting wasn’t affected at all.
I had always known Ruger wheelguns for being incredibly strong. During my police academy training, I witnessed a Ruger GP100, unloaded, being thrown up into the air, against a brick wall, being run over with a police Impala, parking a front tire on it and turning the steering wheel to lock. The gun was scratched and dinged up and had lost the rear sight, sure; but, it still worked and fired and reloaded with no problem. If that isn’t a testimony of strength, I don’t know what is. I had never really considered them to be anything more than just “rugged as hell.” I was incorrect. With a little trigger work, a Ruger can become quite a fine shooter. Thank you Ben for changing my opinion of Ruger revolvers!
I’ve overheard “Gunshop Commandos” say things like, “Revolvers are only for Old Guys,” and that snub nosed revolvers are “chick guns.”
There are a lot of snub nosed revolvers out there to choose from, but out of all of them, the Ruger is unique. It is arguably one of the strongest of the breed of small-framed snubbies. Strength is important, even in a small gun; but, with strength comes a little extra weight. Trust me, this is a good thing. Have you had the chance to fire off one of these ultra-air-light-feather-weight pocket revolvers? Using a full house .357 Magnum load? If you haven’t, do this; put your Concealed Carry Magazine down, stand up, walk outside to your car or truck and open the hood…and then slam it down on your firing hand. Quite unpleasant. The SP101 is made of good, old fashioned honest to goodness stainless steel, not something NASA mills space sprockets out of. The SP101 feels like a real gun when you pick it up, and when you fire it, it isn’t going to punish you for doing it. You can actually enjoy going through a whole box of ammo in one shooting session. Amazing. The SP101 isn’t even what I would call heavy. The two and a quarter inch barrel example weighs only twenty-five and a half ounces. Not enough to displace your spine from wearing it on your hip all day, or pulling a shoulder out of socket if you carry it in your purse; but, enough to give you courage when you hear your door being pounded on after midnight.
I’ve overheard “Gunshop Commandos” say things like, “Revolvers are only for Old Guys,” and that snub nosed revolvers are “chick guns.” These statements, while I’ve heard at different times in different gunshops in different states, are just not true. Sure, lots of ladies buy them. Lots of Old Guys appreciate them and still buy them too…but let’s look at those “Old Guys” for just a second. These are cats that have been there and done that, and with their age, experience and wisdom, they still select a Magnum Snubbie? That tells me something. These guns work.
The biggest fallacy about short-barreled guns is that they are not accurate. This is not true. It has been proven many times that barrel length has little effect on accuracy. This is why Thompson Center Contenders in rifle calibers are popular. They are indeed accurate while being a fraction of the length of a rifle in the same caliber. Sometimes more so. The fallacy is because a short barrel means a short sight radius and a short sight radius makes accurate shooting more of a challenge.
The SP101 is still relatively new to the world. Sturm Ruger rolled them out in 1993, so in gun years, they are still just puppies.
Here’s another bit from my police academy training regarding short revolvers. When I was getting geared up to go, the gun I elected to take was a short-barreled S&W Model 10, commemorative of the California Highway Patrol. Sure, it garnered some chuckles from the other police cadets in the class when I drew it out for the first time on the firing line. All the others were using Glocks and SIGs and Berettas, and here’s a snub nosed revolver? “He’s going for Detective a little early!” The snickering turned to respect when I outshot the entire class with it. The snub forced me to concentrate on the basic shooting fundamentals and focus very hard on the front sight post. That was the difference. That’s also why so many people say these guns are inaccurate. Truth is, if you can’t shoot one of these well, you can’t shoot well. Face it. No, stop crying about it, suck it up and go out and practice harder. The SP101 is indeed a very accurate little gun. At about 10 yards, I was able to keep all five shots almost within the same hole. You can’t tell me that isn’t good enough for a snubbie…or any handgun.
The SP101 is still relatively new to the world. Sturm Ruger rolled them out in 1993, so in gun years, they are still just puppies. With guns like the 1911, the Single Action Army and the P35, all still very popular; the SP101 is going to be around for a very long time to come…as long as it isn’t sentenced to an early death by either some corporate suit at Ruger or some liberal Senator finally passing an asinine piece of garbage he/she calls legislation.
One of the reasons the SP101 is going to be around for so long is that it gives you a lot of options. You can get your own SP101 in a number of different barrel lengths, 2 1⁄4 inches out to 4. Different calibers; .22, .32H&R Magnum, .38 Special, 9MM and of course .357 Magnum. Fixed or adjustable sights. These options give you guns suitable for a wide variety of tasks. Of course, with all these options, you still have two solid facts. 1. You still have a small 5 shot revolver. 2. You don’t have to dig out your old chemistry class book to look at the periodic table to know what the gun is made out of. Uh, the .22 and .32 guns are 6 shots, not five…oh never mind.
One of the things I like about the Ruger double actions is the latch mechanism to unlock the cylinder. Most double action revolvers use a push forward type latch like what S&W uses. I’ve had small magnums, using this type of mechanism, unlock on accident during recoil when the latch met my firing hand’s thumb. Colts use just the opposite and you pull it backwards to unlock the cylinder. Ruger uses a push in (not forward) latch that is easier to use in my opinion. I also like the looks of the frame and the way the barrel and shroud is contoured to match. There are very clean lines. They give the small powerful little gun an almost elegant look.
If you want serious horsepower in your gun, Ruger has a new snubbie out now, the Super Redhawk Alaskan in .454 Casull and .480 Ruger. These are perfect for those living in areas where they might be mugged by a polar bear. I can’t image what touching off a super powerful .454 Casull out of 2.5 inches of barrel…I think I’ll go slam my hand with the hood of my truck to see what that might feel like.
For the rest of us living in the lower 48, I think a .357 magnum would fit the bill just fine. .357 Magnum has held a solid reputation for a long time as being a potent fight stopper. Some would argue that fact, but you can’t really argue against a .357 Magnum. Well, you could but you would end up bleeding a lot. There are still a number of police who opt to carry a magnum revolver over a “new fangled ottermatic.” Accuracy and reliability are advantages often debated in many a gun forum and gun shop.
Flexibility in ammunition is one thing that you cannot debate. Just take a look at all the ammo options that you can fire through a .357 Mag revolver. These include super light target loads, shot shells, heavy hunting loads using bullet shapes and types of all sorts…you just can’t shoot this kind of stuff out with an automatic and have the gun actually cycle as it should. A revolver doesn’t care about any of that. You can even fire primer powered wax bullet loads and they won’t affect reliability. This is why revolvers remain the favorite sidearms of most serious outdoorsmen today. Of course, for the majority of Concealed Carry Magazine readers, such specialized ammunition is not the concern. Trusting that your defensive weapon will work at that dire moment when you need it…that is the concern. Everything else is a secondary consideration. You want something that is accurate, concealable and as rugged and reliable as possible? Then consider a Ruger SP101.
[ George Hill is an NRA Certified Pistol and Personal Protection instructor and the writer and publisher of MadOgre.com. Visit his web site for more information on Mad Ogre. (http://www.madogre.com) ]
Photography by Deveni.