Ruger SP101 .357 Magnum Range Report from a Top Expert:
I am quite fond of Ruger brand revolvers, especially their GP-100 in .357 Magnum, and their Redhawk in .44 Magnum.
One that’s high on my list is the P90 in .45 ACP, though we’re taking a look at wheelguns.
One Ruger that made the “5 Best Snubnosed Revolver Guns On Planet Earth” and “5 Best Concealed Carry Revolvers” is Ruger’s entry into the snubnose double-action (DA) revolver, the SP-101. It’s time to give the SP101 her individualized moment in the spotlight.
Ruger SP101 History and Specifications
Sturm, Ruger & Co. introduced the SP-101 in 1989, to serve as a smaller-frame counterpart to the aforementioned GP-100, and also in conjunction with the GP-100, a successor to the firm’s long-standing Security-Six series, and lastly, as a competitor to Smith & Wesson’s J-frame snubby series.
Initially offered in .357 Magnum and .38 Special +P, Ruger soon followed up by producing the gun in 9mm Parabellum, .22 LR, .32 H&R Magnum, and .327 Federal Magnum options.
As stated by the manufacturer’s official info page, “Strong and reliable shot after shot, all Ruger SP101 Revolvers have solid steel sidewalls (no side-plates), making them rugged, reliable, and dependable.”
Is it a mere coincidence that “Rugged” and “Ruger” both start with “R-U-G?”
Another major reason for the strength and durability of Ruger revolvers compared with their competitors from S&W and Colt is the use of investment casting in the manufacturing process.
Barrel length options for the SP-101 are 2.25 inches, 3.06 inches, and 4.2 inches; arguably that third option would negate the gun’s status as a true snubnose and instead puts it more into the full-size service revolver category. Both blued and stainless steel finishes are available.
The ultracompact 2.25” bbl. iteration of the SP101 has an overall length of 7.20 inches, a weight of 25 ounces, and a cylinder capacity of 5 rounds.
Personal Shooting Impressions
My first hands-on experience with the SP101 was back in 2002, when I purchased a stainless steel 2.5-incher from the now-defunct Marx Armory Gun Fun in Panama City, Florida, when I was a 2nd Lieutenant stationed at Tyndall AFB. It was the first and only snubby I ever owned. I fired roughly 1,000 rounds through it before selling it a year later for partial trade-in value toward one of my beloved Beretta 92Fs/M9s.
To reiterate what I’ve said in the past about that SP101 ownership experience, I didn’t consider it to be truly “fun” or “pleasant” to shoot, but the little Ruger came closer to meriting those descriptors than any other competitor, thanks to the ergonomically friendly factory rubber grip that took a lot off of the bite of the recoil. One caveat though: the edges of the trigger face eventually gave me a damn blood blister!
That said, after the passage of 20 years, I wanted to perform an up-to-date range review for the purposes of this article, so it was off to Continental Arms indoor range in Timonium, Maryland, as they’re the only range within reasonable driving distance of my home that has an SP-101 available for rental.
This particular range has a totally lame-ass “No Head Shots” policy, so I had to adjust my course of fire with the Official USPSA/IPSC Practice Targets as follows:
—25 rounds at 7 yards, all DA
—25 rounds at 25 yards, all single-action (SA)
Ammo used: New Republic .357 Magnum 158-grain full metal jacket flat-point (FMJ-FP).
Verdict: though the gun functioned flawlessly and accurately, I’m reminded once again why snubnose revolvers are meant to be “carried a lot and shot a little,” and why I have no desire to own another one anytime soon (I’ll stick with my beloved Makarov and Glock 26 for CCW purposes, thank you very much). Still not fun to shoot, but at least I didn’t get a blood blister this time, and it was still more comfortable to shoot – relatively speaking – than a J-frame Smith with wood grips.
Accuracy-wise, at 7 yards, all 25 rounds stayed in the A-Zone, which amounts to a perfect score, though admittedly two of my rounds strayed to the very far left of the scoring area and barely cut the line for scoring purposes. At 25 yards, 18 hits in the A-Zone and 7 in the C-Zone, with one of my rounds barely cutting the line of the latter zone.
DA trigger was a bit stiffer than I’d expect from a Ruger, but then again, I was still spoiled by the smoothness of the 4” Smith 686 I’d fired a few days prior. SA trigger was plenty crisp.
Want Your Own?
Current MSRP is $919.00. True Gun Value states that “A RUGER SP 101 pistol is currently worth an average price of $716.29 new and $577.70 used. The 12-month average price is $696.94 new and $577.70 used.” Buds Gun Shop currently lists seven specimens for sale, at a price range of $666.99 to $746.49, depending upon barrel length and caliber. Meanwhile, Cabela’s lists a stainless .357 SP-101 at $729.99, and Omaha Outdoors currently has 15 available in different barrel lengths and calibers, starting at $559.00; the two most expensive options, at $914.17 and $965.99, carry that extra-hefty tariff due to fancy custom engraving.
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.