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Ruger SP101: The Best Old School Revolver on the Planet?

The Ruger SP100: It’s everything you could want in a revolver: simple, rugged, and reliable.

By American firearm manufacturer standards, Sturm, Ruger & Co. is not the oldest company in the gunsmithing business. Still, since the company’s founding in 1949 Ruger has managed to establish their reputation for excellence. They make a wide variety of semi-automatic pistols, and bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles that chamber rimmed and as well as centerfire cartridges. And while the company does manufacture a modern array of firearms, their revolvers are also a cut above the rest.

And one of Ruger’s most well-known revolvers simply does not disappoint for countless reasons. Yes, we are talking about the Ruger SP101.

Ruger SP100,  A History

Ruger’s SP101 made its debut with the Southport, Connecticut-based company in the late 1980s, and is a more compact offering from the company. Most of the revolvers in the SP101 lineup have barrel lengths of three inches or less, though there are a couple of models that sport 4.20-inch barrels.

The majority of Ruger’s SP101 revolvers are chambered in the iconic .357 Magnum cartridge, though there are alternative chamberings available, including the ubiquitous 9mm pistol cartridge. One of the benefits of shooting revolvers chambered in the .357 Magnum is the flexibility offered to the shooter in terms of loadings, as they can also fire the .38 Special, a shorter cartridge that fires a bullet of the same diameter as the .357 Magnum. This cartridge is generally more affordable than the larger .357 Magnum and also produces less recoil, offering shooters an inexpensive alternative cartridge that also produces less recoil.

One of the SP101’s more interesting chamberings is the .327 Federal Magnum cartridge, a rimmed pistol cartridge intended to provide nearly the same amount of power as the .357 Magnum cartridge with less recoil. Thanks to the .327 Federal Magnum’s smaller diameter, smaller revolvers like the SP101 can house 6-shot chambers, as opposed to only five rounds of .357 Magnum.

Alternatively, Ruger also offers an SP101 chambered in the small but ubiquitous .22 Long Rifle cartridge. Thanks to the .22 LR’s small diameter, 8 rounds can be chambered in the SP101’s cylinder, despite the revolver’s relatively compact size.

In addition to the standard SP101, Ruger also offers an accurized variant, the SP101 Match Champion that features a few optimizations and improvements. In addition to checkered hardwood grips, the lineup features “polished and optimized internals, a centering boss on the trigger, and centering shims on the hammer,” that offer shooters smoother and more consistent trigger pulls.

The variety of barrel lengths and cartridges offered by Ruger’s SP101 lineup ensure that regardless of what combination you could set your heart on — a full-powered .357 Magnum, a small .22 Long Rifle plinker, or something in between — there’s likely something to be found in the SP101.

Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer based in Europe. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

Written By

Caleb Larson, a defense journalist based in Europe and holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics and culture.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Rick

    May 25, 2021 at 11:44 am

    The clickbait article where a question is suggested that is more of an advertisement than an article with facts to support the claim.

    You have little knowledge of revolvers if you suggest that the Ruger is superior to, let’s say, the much, much older K-frame Smith and Wesson revolvers still in production.

    Go ahead and tell us which of those revolvers have been overwhelmingly favored and chosen by police as well as competitive shooters for decades; we’ll wait…

  2. Aaron

    May 25, 2021 at 2:26 pm

    It’s a cool revolver. I love mine.

  3. Ferd Burrfell

    May 25, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    Caleb, Clearly you haven’t shot a S&W revolver. While off-the-shelf Ruger revolvers are reliable, accurate pieces, OTS S&W medium and large frame wheel guns have much smoother actions and far superior ergonomics. Their Performance Center production revolvers are unmatched by all but the best custom shop tuned pieces at relative bargain prices. Ruger turns out nothing that’s competitive without a lot of tuning. I will say Ruger’s line of small, polymer grip, LCR pistols is innovative and employs a roller action that is smooth and fast. It’s available in .357 and if a person carries a 9mm auto, the 9mm version of the LCR makes an excellect back-up piece that’s much lighter, has a better double action trigger and is less expensive than a SP101. You really should hit a range and shoot some of the firearms you pontificate about.

  4. Ron Buckner

    May 26, 2021 at 8:21 am

    I’ve owned both the s&w k frame and now the sp-101, I prefer the sp-101. It simply fits my-fat wide hand better. Accuracy is good for both, and the action seems equal. It’s an individual thing.

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