If you’re looking for a .357 revolver that can fire an unlimited number of full power Magnum rounds without issue, the Ruger GP100 is the gun you’re looking for.
The GP100 is a line of double action revolvers manufactured by Sturm, Ruger & Co. The standard model is produced in .357 Magnum, but .44 Special, .327 Magnum, 10mm Auto, and even .22 LR variations are also available.
It’s also arguably the most durable revolver in its class that the marketplace has to offer today.
In this review, we’ll discuss:
1) How the GP100 came into existence
2) The primary features of the GP 100
3) The top reason to consider going with the GP100 over other double action revolvers on the market.
History and Development of the GP100
Ruger is one of the most notable American gun manufacturers in the industry today. They produce everything from revolvers to semi-automatic pistols to shotguns to bolt action rifles to AR-15s.
If there’s one thing that all Ruger guns are known for, it’s strength and durability. The GP100 is no exception. In fact, the GP100 came into existence because of Ruger’s desire to create a more durable version of their earlier Security Six revolver.
Ruger originally entered the firearms scene in the late 1940s with the Mark I .22 LR pistol, designed by company founder Bill Ruger. It also became the bestselling pistol in its class and is currently in its fourth generation.
The company then immediately entered the revolver market by releasing the single action Blackhawk. The Blackhawk was a strengthened version of the famous Colt Peacemaker and available in calibers such as .44 Magnum, .45 Long Colt, and .357 Magnum. The .22 caliber version, the Single Six, followed afterwards.
The Blackhawk and the Single Six are well made guns and both sold very well to civilians. But again, both were single action revolvers and therefore inherently obsolete as duty weapons in an age where double action revolvers were the standard sidearms of most American law enforcement officers.
As a result, in the early 1970s Ruger decided it was time to release a duty double action revolver that would appeal to American police departments.
This was a major financial risk for Ruger because, at the time, the double action revolver market was dominated by Colt and Smith & Wesson. Few in the gun industry believed that Ruger could build something that would compete with the established (and widely cherished) brands.
Nonetheless, in 1972, Ruger went ahead and introduced the Security Six series of revolvers. This included the base model Security Six (adjustable sights with a square grip) and the Service Six (fixed sights with a square grip) and the Speed Six fixed sights with a round grip).
As a result, the Security Six series of revolvers became an immediate success for Ruger. It’s not hard to see why: the Security Six was rugged, reliable, well-made, and available for much less than the competing Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers of the day.
The Security Six was specifically built on an investment cast one piece frame, which allowed Ruger to build them at a lower price point, They were roughly the same size as a Smith & Wesson K-Frame .357 Magnum (such as the Model 13 or Model 65). They also came with Ruger’s trademark push button cylinder release.
Over a million and a half of the Security Sixes were produced and sold, illustrating their success. Numerous law enforcement departments across the Untied States adopted the Security Six as their standard issue sidearm, and many were exported to serve as the sidearms of departments in other countries as well.
The Security Sixes were certainly fine revolvers, but they weren’t flawless. As with the Smith & Wesson K-Frame, the Security Six could have a difficult time handling the hottest .357 Magnum loads (the cylinder or hammer could have timing issues when the gun got hot, for instance).
Ruger decided to build a successor to the Security Six that would be constructed on a larger frame. It was Bill Ruger’s intention from the beginning to craft a revolver that could literally handle an unlimited number of the hottest .357 Magnum loads without any problems.
The idea was that people who frequently practiced with hot .357 Magnums would not have to worry about their guns wearing out.
The result was the Ruger GP100.
Features of the GP100
The GP100 began production in 1986, and two years later, production of the Security Six line officially ceased. The GP100 has remained in continuous production by Ruger since its initial release, and represents the company’s flagship .357 Magnum offering.
The fact that Ruger has never had to update or create a successor to the GP100 since its release says much about the quality of its design.
The GP100 differs from the earlier Security Six in many respects. First and foremost, the gun is built on a larger frame akin to the L-Frame Smith & Wesson 686 or the Colt Python. It’s built out of more durable steels, and has more such steel in the frame, barrel, and cylinder. The grip frame is also redesigned, and the triple locking cylinder provides more ruggedness to the action.
For many years, the GP100 was released from the factory with a distinctive rubberized grip with wooden inserts. This grip alone gave the GP100 a very unique look over competing revolvers. In the 2000s, Ruger began releasing the GP100 with rubberized hogue grips. However, the older style of grips can still be purchased from aftermarket companies such as Altamont.
As with the Security Six, the Gp100 is built on a one piece frame. It has a heavy full lug barrel (half lug variants were initially produced but no longer are available from the factory with the standard models) along with an offset ejection rod to clear spent cartridges from the cylinder.
Many of these new design features used in the GP100 were borrowed from Ruger’s .44 Magnum and .41 Magnum Redhawk revolver, which was released in 1980.
In essence, the GP100 is a significantly beefed up version of the Security Six.
Variants of the GP100
There are many variants of the GP100 available. The gun is traditionally offered in either stainless steel or carbon blued steel, and in 3 inch, 4 inch, or 6 inch barrel lengths.
The base model of the GP100 is the .357 Magnum version in any of the above finishes or barrel lengths. Variants with barrel lengths of 2.5 inches or 5 inches have been made available by Ruger in limited production.
In 1989, Ruger unveiled a compact version of the GP100 called the SP101, which remains in production to this day as well. The SP101 is built on a smaller frame and subsequently has a five round cylinder in the .357 Magnum version. The SP101 can be best compared to the Smith & Wesson Magnum J-Frame, such as the Model 60 or the Model 640.
In 2014, Ruger released the Match Champion model, which comes with a half lug barrel, a contoured cylinder, wooden grips, and fiber optic sights. The Match Champion is available in .357 Magnum and 10mm Auto.
In 2017, Ruger released a 5-shot GP100 chambered in .44 Special. This version offers the user greater power out of the GP100, but at the expense of less ammunition.
In 2018, the 7-shot .357 Magnum and .327 Magnum versions of the GP100 were unveiled. The cylinder in the 7 shot version is slightly larger (and the overall weapon slightly heavier) in order to accommodate the extra round.
Why Own The GP100?
Simple: if you want the most rugged and durable .357 Magnum on the market today, the GP100 is the gun you need to own.
While there are many other quality larger-sized frame .357s on the market, like the Smith & Wesson 686 or the recently re-introduced Colt Python, the GP100 is simply more robust since it has more steel in the frame, barrel and the cylinder.
Remember, the GP100 is designed to eat up as many magnum rounds as you can put through it. If you’re looking for a .357 that you can shoot all day and not have to worry about, the GP100 is arguably the best option on the market.
Beyond being a fun handgun to shoot at the range, the GP100 is an excellent sidearm to carry on your hip while hiking or hunting out in the woods as a defensive weapon against dangerous game. The GP100 is also a perfectly viable option for home defense for protection against intruders.
The GP100 is generally a bit big and heavy for concealed carry, although the shorter barreled versions can be used for this purpose if you so desire.
All in all, there’s a reason the GP100 is one of the most popular and successful .357 Magnum revolvers on the market today. It’s tough, robust, and durable. It’s the type of revolver that you can own and use for your entire life and then pass on down one day to younger generations.