Gun Review: Ruger GP100 in .44 Special

Those of you old enough to have read Skeeter Skelton‘s columns know the old lawman loved the old .44. He loaded the .44 Special pretty stout, too, pushing a 240 gr. Lead Semi Wad Cutter bullet at 950 fps. Compare that to the “soul stealing” .45 ACP and you’ll soon see the .44 Special’s superiority. But the cartridge doesn’t have to be juiced-up. Mild loads — which describes most commercial .44 ammo — provide plenty of stopping power for defensive uses.

More than that, the .44 Spl. is cheap to reload, easy to shoot and plenty of bullet for the task. What I and other enthusiasts craved: a modern revolver dedicated to the cartridge and only that cartridge. A handgun without the extra frame size and barrel length required to shoot .44 Magnums. A smaller, more versatile gun. Ruger delivered.

The Ruger GP100 in .44 Special is a sizable, powerful-looking gun. It’s well executed, with no rough edges or gross tool marks. Although the stainless steel revolver features the Ruger family brushed satin finish, it’s a working gun look, without much fine polish. What certainly catches your eye: that big, unfluted cylinder.

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It’s a surprising choice for what is essentially an L-frame sized revolver. But what really sets this revolver apart from all of the other current GP100s is the fact that the smooth-sided cylinder only holds five rounds. Going to six wouldn’t have increased the size of the cylinder by much. But enough to require a larger frame or less metal in critical areas.

I’ve never heard anyone rave about the triggers on a Ruger GP100; there’s nothing to crow about here either. The double-action trigger pull measures eleven-and-a-half pounds. There’s a bit of grit, with a little stacking at the back of the pull. Fired single-action, the GP100’s trigger breaks closer to  four pounds, with the same grit preset.

The GP100 in .44 swpl. is perfectly capable of fast accurate shots. Standing from the draw. I scored five rounds inside an 8” circle at 15 yards in 3.19 seconds. (Bob Mundon I ain’t.)

There are a few things that make this GP100 a fairly quick, accurate revolver. Certainly a part of that is down to the gun’s handle.

I’m not a fan of rubber gripped revolvers, especially heavy magnums. I find wheelguns with G10 or checkered hardwood grips give me more control and less recoil than a rubber-handled equivalent. The GP100’s Hogue Monogrip doesn’t make me a believer but it’s a great shape, quite wide, devoid of finger grooves. It affords easy purchase with either one hand or two. I could get a solid crossed thumbs grip on the gun, helping to manage the .44’s recoil.

The other big speed-assisting factor: the GP100’s sights.

The revolver’s rear sight is a fully adjustable notch style, with an added white border along the inside edge. The front sight is a bright green fiber optic rod that stands out prominently over the GP100’s flat, serrated top. It proved an excellent combination for both speed and precision shooting.

Not so great: the pin keeping the rear sight in place kept drifting out after 30 or 40 shots. I could always see it before it completely came out, so just a press with my finger put it back in. Still, it was annoying.

The GP100 in .44 Spl. has all of the reliability that Ruger revolver fans have come to expect. The gun loaded, fired and ejected everything I fed it. That included 200 and 240 grain LSWC, LSWCHP and Jacketed Hollow Points from several manufacturers, as well as my own home cast boolits. I put 500 rounds through the gun, shooting both steel and brass cases, without cleaning. Not only did the gun cycle and fire without a hitch, it popped out the empty cases without any sticking or hanging.

The GP100 .44 Spl.’s accuracy ranged from average to very good. Most of the rounds hovered around the 3” mark for a five-round group at 25 yards off a bag. A feat performed by inexpensive Blaser 200gr HP’s. The bell of the ball: Federal 200gr Semi Wad Cutter Hollow Points. The round delivered a consistent 2” grouping at the same distance. It was easy shooting to boot; an ideal loading for home defense use.

I didn’t develop a pet load for this gun. My standard .44 Spl. plinking round scored 3”, as did a slightly beyond maximum pressure loading of a 240gr LSWC round on top of 7.6 grains of Unique. And with that loading, I started stepping beyond what I really wanted this revolver to do.

Like many Ruger revolvers, this GP100 in .44 Spl. is overbuilt. If you limited yourself to sub-900 fps 200 grain loads, this gun would likely shoot forever, with minimal recoil and very little, if any, maintenance needed. There’s a good reason why reloaders running Ruger revolvers and Thompson Center single shot pistols are rewarded with a separate section in most reloading manuals. Increased pressure loads!

That 240gr. LSWC bullet I cast at home on top of 7.6 grains of Unique is pushing right at 1,000fps. I put 20 of those through the gun with no ill effects. I would’ve gone faster, but leading would have become an issue. Instead, I put in a cylinder of Hornady’s 240gr HTP rounds pushed by 20.5 grains of H110. This was a stout, sharply recoiling load. Compared to the easy shooting 200gr factory Federal Load, the Hornady round made the GP100 feel like a different beast entirely.

But man, what I could feel behind the revolver was nothing compared to what was going on in front of it. That round was going 1,100fps, generating 700 ft. lbs. of energy.

To be clear, to be super abundantly clear, just because some redneck loaded a gun well beyond the SAAMI safe specification, it doesn’t mean you should. You should not. The numbers in the reloading manual are there to keep you safe. Follow them. The reason that I just couldn’t help myself  (other than a lack of respect for human physiology and simple Newtonian physics): a Smith & Wesson Model 29 chambered in .44 Magnum sat next to the GP100 on my bench.

Breaking out my old Brown and Sharpe calipers, I discovered that the S&W cylinder on the Magnum was 1.69 inches wide, while the Ruger GP100’s was 1.59. More importantly, the thinnest part of the cylinder on the interior walls was identical in width. The top strap of the Ruger in .44SPL was actually slightly thicker than the Model 29.

In short, there’ s a lot of steel on the Ruger GP100 for just the .44 Spl. cartridge, just about as much as there is on my Model 29. Of course, I really did this just as an experiment. Unless and until there is an approved loading beyond the current SAAMI specs for this revolver, there’s no need to push it. If you want a .44 Magnum, buy one.

Ruger put together a great gun. The GP100 is no exception. It’s built like a tank, and remains one of the easiest revolvers to disassemble and maintain (although most of users never need to). The five-shot GP100 in .44 Special would make a great all around revolver for a whole lot of people. It’s comfortable to shoot, not too big and provides plenty of punch with a variety of loads. For the hand loader, it’s absolutely ideal.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Model Number: 1761 Caliber: 44 Special
Grips: Hogue® Monogrip®
Front Sight: Fiber Optic
Barrel Length : 3″
Material: Stainless Steel
Capacity :5
Rear Sight: Adjustable
Twist: 1:20″ RH
Finish: Satin Stainless
Overall Length: 8.50″
Weight: 36 oz
MSRP $829.00 (found online for $618)

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RATINGS (out of five stars)

Appearance * * *
The grips are boring, but they work well. The finish is mediocre, and the pin coming out of the rear sight during firing was annoying. Props for the serrated top slide and unfluted cylinder.

Reliability * * * * *
It fired any and all rounds I put through it, including rounds that should have never been put through it.

Accuracy * * * *
The GP100 delivers OK accuracy with most rounds. Find the right load and you’ll be rewarded with better.

Overall * * * *
I’ve been a Ruger fan for a long time. The GP100 in .44 Special reminds me why

comments

  1. avatar Matt says:

    I could do without the skid mark on the side of the barrel.
    ..but at least your neighbor would know that you are shooting a gp100.

  2. avatar Tim says:

    One thing I’d read in some other reviews of this revolver is that, due to the smaller GP-100 frame, the forcing cone has significantly less metal compared to a .44 Magnum. The implication was that this was the weak point that would wear with really hot loads, rather than the frame or cylinder.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Yes, the forcing cone would become an issue with really hot loads over time. Especially Little Gun & H 110. That’s not what this gun is made for, but it’s nice to know that it can handle it.

  3. avatar Pwrserge says:

    Honestly, I’ve never seen the point in non-magnum caliber revolvers. You’re losing one of the major advantages of wheel guns (the ability to shooting ridiculous cartridges) and keeping most of the downsides.

    Then again, I’m the guy who will eventually buy a T/C Encore just so that I could shoot .30-06 out of a “handgun”.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Go with the Ackley Improved version. I have a business partner that has taken 200 African plains games animals with that combination. There is really much less recoil than you might imagine. Very manageable.

      1. avatar Pwrserge says:

        Oh, don’t get me wrong, if I get an encore, it will strictly be for dick measuring contests with the guys running .500 S&W Magnums and other such ridiculousness.

        The fact that that very gun (misidentified as a Contender) is the signature weapon of one of my favorite fictional characters is just an added bonus. It’s going to be one of those guns that just hangs on a wall most of the time.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Hangs on a wall? WTF happened to you? Hang it in your jeep. Cross country moose/elk hunting/backpacking goodness.

        2. avatar Pwrserge says:

          I have a fairly large collection of mil-sup bolt guns and absurd pistols. This thing would look awesome on the rack next to the Desert Eagle and the Raging Judge. I’m not looking for practical hand cannons. Most of the time, they tend to stand in for bolt guns that do the job a whole lot better.

        3. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          “mil-sup.”
          that made me hungry for cheese curds.

        4. avatar JG says:

          Kiritsugu Emiya?

        5. avatar Pwrserge says:

          All the badassitude of his son, none of the whining or borderline retardation.

    2. avatar Tile floor says:

      I agree. It’s nice having the option of shooting crazy full house magnum loads or tamer/cheaper rounds. 99 percent of the rounds through my .357 are .38, but I still like having the option.

    3. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

      I don’t see the advantage of giving up a ro und just to shoot a weaker cart ridge either. .357 has a great reputation for ending gunfights. Now if they were to find a way to stuff 5 rou nds of .41 magnum in a GP 100 I’d start counting the nickels in my change jar.

      1. avatar Vanbulance says:

        reedercustomguns. Com

        Under Revolvers, then Skorpion.

        5 shot 41 magnum. Expensive, but if you really really want it… there it is!

        1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

          If only my nickels were quarters…

    4. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “Then again, I’m the guy who will eventually buy a T/C Encore just so that I could shoot .30-06 out of a “handgun”.”

      Is this one on your “maybe one day” list?:

      http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2016/02/10/50-bmg-single-shot-handgun/

      One day at the range I laid down my 7″ Super Redhawk .44 mag down next to a beautiful blued S&W Model 29.

      The only thing that popped into my mind was “Man, that ’29 has got to *hurt* to shoot it.”…

      1. avatar Pwrserge says:

        Yeah… it’s nowhere near as badass as a break-action .30-06. Too “space-gun” looking. This picture alone makes me want to buy an Encore / Contender. Only downside of the Contender, is that you can’t actually shove a .30-06 round into it. .30-30 is about all you’ll get.
        https://rosesturnblog.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/kiritsugu-bang.jpg?w=1200

        1. avatar 16V says:

          The T/C Contender is/was available in .45/70 and it’s successor (way back when) the .444 Marlin. \

          Just sayin’…

        2. avatar pwrserge says:

          On screen it was shown as a .30-06 handgun. Unfortunately, shoving a .30-06 into a Contender is a great way to make a pipe bomb. The action is not strong enough.

      2. avatar Timmy! says:

        Geoff, that .50 BMG pistol literally made me quote Pam Poovey…

      3. avatar BearBow says:

        I have a beautiful S&W 629 V-Comp .44 magnum, it only starts to sting after a few cylinders of booms. That said, I’ve been lusting after a 4.2″ Redhawk .44 magnum because as much as I love my V-Comp (and I do LOVE it) I hate that it’s very limited in the strength of ammo I can shoot in it. For me standard strength 240 grainers are fine for most things, they are no slouch after all, but knowing you can’t shoot the BIG boom stuff without risking damaging or destroying it makes me crazy. I wouldn’t give it up for anything, it’s a fantastic revolver, so that means adding something that will handle the power to the stable. That is most definitely the Redhawk. No offense to Super Redhawk owners but I absolutely hate that barrel sticking out of a barrel thing they have going. Looks like a drunk plumber decided to add a longer barrel to his gun. That’s just me.

        As far as the .44 Special GP100 goes, I never really understood the love for the .44 Special for the longest time. Seemed like it was outdated after the .44 magnum was developed. However, after shooting my 629 for awhile and becoming a .45 Colt devotee, I finally learned why so many folks love a big, heavy bullet traveling at relatively slow speeds. They just plain work. Small, heavy bullets moving very, very fast work extremely well but there is a price to pay in recoil and wear and tear on the guns. Large, heavy bullets moving slowly also work extremely well but without the negatives that speed brings. I admire, use and load for both types but admittedly my preference falls toward big, heavy, slow moving chunks of lead for most purposes. The .44 Special being a perfect example of what they can do. I really like that GP100. I already own and love Ruger’s .357 mag GP100, I definitely need/want this “Special” version.

    5. avatar Accur81 says:

      I agree. This gun is so close to a .44 Magnum it might as well be one.

    6. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      A “magnum” load of many powders in a short-barreled .44 Mag (ie, CCW piece, with a 3″ barrel or so) is going to result in “not much improvement” in muzzle velocity or any other difference from a .44 Special, other than a huge muzzle bloom.

      In a CCW piece, you’re looking for a shorter barrel, lighter frame, utter reliability. The .44 Special can do that quite well. What is needed is a revolver that is well made, but is lighter than this piece or the S&W 696, which was another stainless revolver, 5-round, in .44 Spl.

      The .44 Special, if used as the basis for making a competent revolver, buys you the ability to shave weight due to the shorter cylinder you can achieve, along with lower pressures. Sadly, Ruger didn’t do that here (eg, no fluting on the cylinder), but it can be done. Ruger likes to build their revolvers to be very, very stout, and some of their single action revolvers in .45 Colt can be loaded to absurdly high pressure levels, and survive.

      What I’d really like to see in the .44 Special is something in-between the S&W 396, which is almost too light, and the S&W 696, which is about as heavy (or heavier) than this Ruger revolver. I think a 28 to 30 oz .44 Special 5-shot revolver is achievable without resorting to aluminum alloys in the frame.

  4. avatar Shawn says:

    If Ruger did this in a six shooter…..

    1. avatar Frank in VA says:

      …it would be a Redhawk, and you may as well get the .44 magnum version to shoot specials out of.

      1. avatar DrewN says:

        I’d just get either of the S&W 69s if you wanted a smaller 5 shot .44.

  5. avatar James Earl Hoffa says:

    Back in 1990 I was working at a gun shop in Orlando Florida. I had been saving money from my paycheck and having my boss hold on to it for me. He was a family friend so no worries there. I was saving for a Colt Python with 4 inch carry Barrel in stainless steel or the royal blue. I had my money one day all together and I was going to have the owner of the shop order my Colt Python when lo and behold in walks the Ruger representative. Yeah this was awhile ago back when the gun rep actually came to the stores trying to sell their product to you and explaining to you why it’s better than the competitors boy I wish those days were still around you could actually voice your problems that you’ve had with another one of their products and they take that directly back to R&D or at least they did. So he asked me why I was ordering a cult snake gun and I gave him the normal quality firearm investment piece something that I could wear to BBQs LOL actually it was going to be at work gun for me when I was at the store. He goes you know we just came out with the new six shooter built off the security six but kind of rhe modified totally new gun but about the same size as the Security Six in 357 Magnum which what I was looking for he goes let me go out to the car and get a couple things I want to show you. You went out to the car and brought in a box and it had a few different model GP100 in it and he opened up every box and set them up on the counter then he brings out this gun that is mounted to a piece of plastic as a display piece and I noticed there’s a 3/8 inch Bolt stainless steel screw down into the barrel in the muzzle of the gun then he pops the cylinder out and pulls out and empty brass full load 357 Magnum charge an empty piece of brass and he says does that Barrel look messed up to you other than the bolt being screwed into the front of the muzzle? I replied no looks okay to me action on the gun worked cylinder rotated did everything it was supposed to do and then he told me that that empty cartridge was actually fired in that gun with that 3/8 inch bolt in the end of the barrel with a full 357 Magnum charge and it didn’t even blow the barrel up didn’t bulge it didn’t do nothing I was sold on the spot and it was much cheaper. I think I paid dealer cost in 1990 was this might have been 91 1991 as I remember now but I think it was $327 or $326 in change I was amazed I still have it to this day and I like to tell you that after about 5000 rounds through the gun the trigger become smooth as silk just from wearing the trigger in.

    1. avatar Anonymous says:

      …and then he told me that that empty cartridge was actually fired in that gun with that 3/8 inch bolt in the end of the barrel with a full 357 Magnum charge and it didn’t even blow the barrel up didn’t bulge it didn’t do nothing I was sold on the spot and it was much cheaper.

      Sounds like he fed you some bullshit, Hoffa.

    2. avatar James Earl Hoffa says:

      I now have about 7 – 10000 rounds through the gun a lot of 38 special when shooting matches and competitions but it least a third of that 357 Magnum full load 180 grain jacketed hollow-points. The only thing I’ve had to replace on the entire gun is the rear sight blade eventually broke partially and Ruger sent me another blade for free no questions asked. The gun is been magnificent and it’s handled some very heavy 357 Magnum handloads way hot. One thing Ruger does right with the revolver line is they build a brick shithouse it ain’t going to blow up the thing is rock solid strong just like they’re Blackhawk line and Super Redhawk line Bulletproof. I think after all these years I may have to purchase a new Ruger GP100 and 44 special. That looks like a nice gun.

    3. avatar RocketScientist says:

      “You went out to the car and brought in a box and it had a few different model GP100 in it and he opened up every box and set them up on the counter then he brings out this gun that is mounted to a piece of plastic as a display piece and I noticed there’s a 3/8 inch Bolt stainless steel screw down into the barrel in the muzzle of the gun then he pops the cylinder out and pulls out and empty brass full load 357 Magnum charge an empty piece of brass and he says does that Barrel look messed up to you other than the bolt being screwed into the front of the muzzle? I replied no looks okay to me action on the gun worked cylinder rotated did everything it was supposed to do and then he told me that that empty cartridge was actually fired in that gun with that 3/8 inch bolt in the end of the barrel with a full 357 Magnum charge and it didn’t even blow the barrel up didn’t bulge it didn’t do nothing I was sold on the spot and it was much cheaper”

      MAN, dude shoulda sold you some damn periods, instead of that line of BS.

  6. avatar Anonymous says:

    If you want a .44 Magnum, buy one.

    Exactly. I can always make some mild loads for the 44 magnum if wanted. Make some hot loads for the 44 spl? – not so much. The ruger gp100 looks like a nice revolver – but I wouldn’t get one in 44 spl.

  7. avatar Madcapp says:

    I’ve seen some ballistics tests of modern .44 spl… and they just suck. This is why you take your decades old books on topics such as .44 spl, pistol hold techniques, and Massad Ayoob with a grain of salt, a lot has changed over the last 30 years and you need to keep up. I appreciate Ruger for being nostalgic and all…but that’s the only reason to ever buy it. Fact of the matter is that if you buy a full size revolver, smart money is on purchasing a .357 gun. There are just too many cartridges in .357 and .38 spl…you can’t begin to touch that lever of choice in any other rimmed revolver caliber. Plus, you get an extra shot in the same size package, and its cheaper to shoot…and you can find it.

    1. avatar James Earl Hoffa says:

      The 44 magnum was developed by a man named Elmer Keith. He designed it from a 44 special I believe it was an L frame 5 shot with 6-inch barrel he was using and hand loaded it until the ballistic became very very good for hunting. The same thing dick Casull did with the 45 Colt turning it into the 454 Casull cartridge these were all 45 Colt cartridges before Dick Casull made it into the actual link cartridge that you have today he started with the 45 Colt and by loading it and overloading it he came up with the ballistics he wanted and then either Smith & Wesson or Ruger designed a cylinder for it for him. Same thing with Elmer Keef he showed a couple of these gun designers what he was getting out of the 44 special and they built him a frame and a cylinder to handle the pressure and then took it into from being a wildcat cartridge to a 44 magnum cartridge what Ruger is trying to do here is take a 44 special build it like a tank so that you can get higher pressure levels with a smaller framed package so you’re not carrying around a Model 29 Smith & Wesson but you’re getting very close ballistic with a hot loaded 44 special just like Elmer Keith did when he was designing the 44 magnum cartridge years and years ago.

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Thanks. I had to cut a whole lot about the history of the 44 special and 44 magnum, as well as reloading for the 44 special to make the article a readable length.

        1. avatar Stinkeye says:

          I have but two words to say about anyone who would complain that a gun review was too long because it contained a bit of discourse about Elmer Keith: fuck ’em.

      2. avatar Specialist38 says:

        Elmer developed his heavy 44 loads in Smith and Wesson N-Frame Triple-Locks and Hand Ejector as well as the Colt Single Action Army. He switched to the 44 after he blew-up a 45 SAA with a hot load.

        The L-Frame Smith did not exist until the mid-1980s. The L-Frame Smith is similar in size to a Colt Trooper or Official Police (at one time called the 41 Frame).

        Keith “hot” load was pretty mild by toady’s 44 magnum standards. Typically a 240 Grain SWC (Keith Style of Course) at 1200-1250 fps. Good medicine for a variety of chores one ight want a heavy sixgun to perform.

        Smith and Wesson built the 1st 44 magnum and Ruger followed fast with the Flat Top Blackhawk.

        Keith and Phil Sharpe were much more involved with the development of the 357 Magnum which was a pet project of Doug Wesson.

        Keith and Skelton were also involved in the development of the 41 Magnum for law enforcement and hunting. The limited loads, heavy recoil, and large frame were the downfall of the 41 Mag for LE.

        A frequent repeat – cops want a powerful round and then find it kicks and is harder to control than a medium bore handgun. Then they switch back to a medium bore with less power.

    2. avatar Dave M says:

      I agree on the .357 Magnum; has to be the most versatile center fire handgun cartridge. Everything from powder puff .38 Specials to fire breathing .357 Mag Bear Loads, not to mention Shot Shells, etc. Throw in a Ruger 77/357 Bolt Action Rifle and you have a combo that is hard to beat. That 77/357 is totally indifferent to the ammo it is fed, unlike lever guns that I have had.

      1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        Considering that the .357 has taken every North American game animal from a han dgun many times over, yeah I’d say that qualifies as versatile.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          The .357 Mangum is a great caliber, but “has taken every North American game animal from a handgun many times over” is a stretch beyond anything close to reasonable. I’ve found one example of a .357magnum handgun taking an elk, an immature cow elk at 50 feet. It took multiple shots. South Dakota’s game regulations https://gfp.sd.gov/hunting/docs/BigGameRegs.pdf require a minimum of 1,700 ft lbs of energy at the muzzle for elk. The .357 doesn’t come near half that.
          Moose? Brown bear?

          As far as which is the more “versatile” caliber, according to my reloading manuals, the .44 Magnum/Special takes the cake. But it is very much a reloader’s cartridge.

        2. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

          You forget that for 2 decades the .357 magnum was ‘the most powerful han dgun in the world’ (as inspector Callahan used to say). Once the larger magnums came about they were of course much better options. But a 200gr. hard cast will penetrate into the vitals of any animal in North America. If you’re looking for large and dangerous game intentionally and successfully hunted with a .357 you may have to go back prior to 1956. Maybe it’s just legend, but what han dgun would you have carried in brown bear country in 1948?

        3. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

          Looks like it was Doug Wesson that started the legend.

          http://www.handgunhunt.com/promo/membership/features/readNewArticle.php?oid=65

        4. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Not legend, pure myth. I’d bet that maybe 2 more elk have been killed with the .357 magnum handgun than were killed by unicorn horns.
          By the way, you know what handgun the .357 Magnum replaced on the “world’s most powerful..” scale? The Colt Dragoon, which it barely beat. The .44 caliber black powder pistol reigned supreme for 50 years.
          As far as bear country, I’d carry then the same thing I do today. A rifle.

        5. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Well Doug Wesson is dead and can’t defend himself so I’ll let you take that up with him in the hereafter. But if people hunt large bears with bows and arrows, why not .357? Also, I’d bet at least a hundred elk have been killed in this country by 9mm pis tols, although I doubt legally. Probably a few with 22LR too.

          It would be a dangerous assumption to believe that any rifle/bullet combination would be preferable to the .357 in bear country. That .30-06 might have 4 times the m.e. of a .357, but if you’re shooting a 150gr cup and core bul let you’ll be lucky to get 15″ of penetration in gel – less in bear muscle. A 6″ .357 loaded with Double Tap 200gr hardcast will probably penetrate 4′ of gel. Shoot a bear with an underpenetrating load and you’re libel to just piss him off. The other possibility, especially in brushy country is that you might not realize there’s even a bear in the area until you’re on the ground getting mauled. The rifle is pretty much useless in that scenario. Granted, a .44 mag or larger would be preferable but with the full pressure stuff, a 6″ GP 100 or 686 packs about the same punch as .44 mag out of a 2-1/2″ Redhawk Alaskan for the same weight (less with am mo).

        6. avatar Anonymous says:

          I don’t know guys – but I’ll tell you guys this: I’d much rather have a 357 mag than a 44 spl.

      2. avatar Specialist38 says:

        If I could only have one gun, it would be a 357 revolver.

        1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

          If you could afford just one more it should also be a .357 magnum.

      3. avatar BDub says:

        Also a fantastic carbine round. 357 is a keeper.

  8. avatar FedUp says:

    Am I correct in remembering that the reason the 357 and 44 magnums are longer is to prevent chambering them in weak 38 and 44 special pistols, not to gain powder capacity?

    If so, what’s wrong with a 38 or 44 special length cylinder, in a shorter, stronger frame, with a slightly longer barrel, firing full house magnum loads, as opposed to a magnum length frame and cylinder with a correspondingly shorter barrel of the same overall firearm length?

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Liability.

      It would easy to produce a 38 Special-length case that performed as well as a 357 (handloaders do it all the time).

      The problem would be someone loading a cylinder of these into an aluminum airweight or 100-year-old revolver.

      Charter Arms and Federal came up with 9mm federal which duplicated 9mm pressure and ballistics. Unfortunately, it would also chamber in a 38 S&W cylinder which produces about a third of the pressure of a 9mm.

      No Bueno and No Mas.

    2. avatar Mark N. says:

      Yes,. it is for liability/safety reasons. To add to what Specialist says, the .38 was originally a black powder cartridge, and if reloading with black, they get full enough to compress the powder. But for the same performance, there is a huge amount of airspace beneath the bullet. The same is true with .45 Colt. I t easily loads 35-40 grains of black powder (by volume), but is fully loaded to 750-850 fps with only a .7 cc Lee dipper.

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        “The same is true with the 45 Colt.”
        The .45LC is probably the most underpowered cartridge used today. For a straight walled case, the case is merely a gasket. It can be loaded to be far more powerful than the stoutest .44 Magnums.
        Beyond,http://www.customsixguns.com/writings/dissolving_the_myth.htm

        1. avatar Alex says:

          250g Hornady XTP over 25g of Lil’ Gun in a 45 Colt case will give you an average fps of 1434 with a 7.5″ barrel on a Super Red Hawk chambered for 454 Casull/45 Colt. I only ran three as a test after reading that Lil’ Gun could have very detrimental effects on the forcing cone. Rather not ruin a gun just to shoot a hot load.

  9. avatar Brian says:

    Where in is the 4.2″ version?

      1. avatar Brian says:

        In Iowa, I have to have a 4″ barrel before I can take it hunting. Until they come out with the 4″ version I will be on the sidelines. When they do bring it out, I will have one to go with my Marlin 1894P.

  10. avatar justin says:

    There is just something special about smooth non-fluted Cylinder on a revolver.

  11. avatar Mr.Savage says:

    that would be great, if ANYONE sold .44 special ammo within a 50 mile radius of me, hence why I’m getting a .44 magnum.

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      you do have the interwebs, no? and a mailing address?

      1. avatar Mr.Savage says:

        and pay hazmat + shipping, and wait forever? na I’ll just buy my ammo from the store till I have a couple hundred peices of good brass, then reload it till it’s dead. plus if I have the wild hair I can run the .44 special rounds thru the same revolver. same reason I won’t buy a .38 spl. I’ll just get a .357 so I can run both if I so choose. either way, it’s not an edc weapon, it’s for hunting and killing paper for me.

        1. avatar FedUp says:

          Hazmat is for powder and primers.
          Loaded cartridges are ORM-D material, needs a sticker on the box so that nobody decides to stick it on an airplane.
          Some places like Academy will ship free with a $25 order, some others like Target Sports ship free in case lots.

        2. avatar Russ H says:

          Pay hazmat, shipping and wait forever??? I don’t ever buy ammo at a store unless it’s an emergency. It’s way cheaper to order it. I can buy a case (1000 rds) of decent brass new 5.56 for 29 cents a round (I refuse to shoot nasty steel russian crap) with either free shipping or maybe up to $15. It arrives on my doorstep in a week or less. No hazmat fees.

  12. avatar Todd P. says:

    Love the 44spl.

  13. avatar zoss says:

    Love the gun, like the cartridge.

    that being said-

    20 grains and about 100fps more then a standard .45 auto load isn’t that impressive. Especially if you consider that a 230gr +p .45 auto can deliver more, -and- from a platform that in single stack configuration (1911 for example) holds 2+1 more rounds then the 5 in this weapon here( not to mention the double stack .45’s from Glock, S&W, Springfield, etc that are prevalent today).

    It is a gorgeous revolver, but the .44 special is not screaming past the .45 auto, they are about similar in ballistic signature and when you compare a 5 shot revolver to a double stack auto, the latter wins hands down.

    JMHO.

  14. avatar Aaron says:

    How’s it compare to the Charter Arms 44 spcl?

    Not a sarcastic question. But the Charter Arms are also made in the USA, appear to be smaller than the GP100 44 spcl, and are cheaper.

    The MSRP for a 3″ barrel 44 spcl from Charter Arms is $436 blued, and only $475 for a 4.2″ barrel in stainless.

    There would need to be some magical quality to convince me to spend twice the money for a Ruger GP, were I in the market for a 44 spcl.

    1. avatar zoss says:

      AFAIK the Charter guns are not meant for hot loads and if you do run ’em hot it’ll decrease their service life post haste. Ruger revolvers, OTOH, are tanks and you can likely run ’em hot as you want.

      I have a Charter Undercover and like it so much I sure wouldn’t mind its bigger sibling.
      This Ruger may be what I get instead.

      All depends on price and availability.

      1. avatar Aaron says:

        thanks

    2. avatar Specialist38 says:

      My experience with 2 Charter Bulldogs is:

      Brutal to shoot with anything resembling a defensive load. (Hollowpoint at 950 fps).

      Wont’ hold up. Both of mine lost their cylinder-thumbpiece (even with locktite).

      I have never liked Charter stuff. YMMV.

      1. avatar El Duderino says:

        Yeah, I think the preferred load for the Charter Arms Bulldog is a 200gr at about 750fps.

      2. avatar Aaron says:

        thanks

      3. avatar Ardent says:

        I have Smith Model 10s from the 60s that I shoot all the time, even with +p loads, and a model 64 that I believe could handle anything commercially available for .357 if it could chamber it. I’m good to guns, but I do expect them to work, hard at times. I’ve somehow managed to destroy a .22 Charter Arms revolver, a .38, and a .44 special, on the same diet and mantainence as those SWs.

        These aren’t bad guns, and they serve a purpose, but they aren’t nice guns, and they don’t have the longevity of nicer guns.

  15. avatar JC says:

    I’ve got one of these. The Ruger triggers…. well, they stink compared to a decent S&W. Even after lots of polishing and shimming, it’s not in the same league.

    But… Model 24s are hard to find. This gun is not. And it really tames heavy .44 spc loads. It’s quite pleasant to shoot, but I’ll never be able to compete with it due to the trigger. (And yeah, I shoot competitions sometimes with short-barreled revolvers. Why not?)

    I like it. Though my rear sight pin also kept coming out. Easily fixed with Loc-tite. And the fiber front sight is perfect, if you happen to be in exactly the right lighting. Otherwise, it stinks for making precise shots (think “indoors at home” or “indoor range”).

    Revolvers are still the right gun by the bed. No safeties or controls to fumble with, and no risk of accidental discharge fumbling around half asleep. Five shots is plenty to get me to my shotgun.

  16. avatar El Duderino says:

    Of course the S&W 29’s cylinder was wider…it holds 6 vs. 5 in the Ruger!

    1. avatar JDF says:

      But the 29s just a S&W. Can’t think of any reason to want one of those before a Ruger.

      1. avatar Jeff K says:

        My thoughts exactly. I would pay for a Ruger rather than accept a free SW if I had to keep it and not sell it.

        1. avatar Ardent says:

          I’m curious as to why the preference for Ruger over SW? I find everything about an SW revolver to be more refined, especially the trigger. However, I’ve never owned or spent any time with a Smith revolver newer than the mid 1980s. Is this a new Smith problem, Ruger Fandom, what gives?

  17. avatar Hannibal says:

    The good news about the trigger on Rugers is that they aren’t that hard to ‘fix’ yourself if you have a few hours to spend getting intimate with your revolver. Buy a few spacers, some 1000 grit sandpaper, polish, maybe a new set of springs… gun feels new.

    That said, while I like .44spl I like guns that can do both (just like I would prefer own a .357 magnum to a .38 only).

  18. avatar Dale says:

    So you wanted a revolver that was 44 special, “without the extra frame size” required for 44 Magnum.

    Smith and Wesson model 69 is smaller than this GP100, and *is* a 44mag. Seems that might warrant a mention in the article??

  19. avatar Ardent says:

    What’s this superiority to .45ACP? I did the math, and some commercially available .45ACP ammo including the Black Hills lawman exceed the energy of Skeltons ‘hot’ .44 spl loads.

    I’m getting 481 ft lbs of energy at the muzzle for these amazing .44spl loads of 240 grains at 950 fps. I’m also getting 491 ft lbs from 200 gr .45ACP at 1050, the stated velocity and weight of the black Hills stuff above. In a more common caliber, that’s cheaper to shoot generally. Given that 10 round mags for .45s isn’t uncommon anymore, I think one can safely say that not only does the .45ACP outperform the .44 special, but a gun full of it more than doubles the potential power delivery of this 44 Special. In fact, these hot .44s of Skeltons are only marginally more powerful than relatively common commercial defensive loads for .45acp. Am I missing something? When I think one shot power from a handgun, .44spl isn’t on the list, and then I think tool for personal defense, I don’t look for something with less power and half the capacity of a 1911, unless it’s far lighter and smaller, and designed to be easy to carry.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      The beauty of the .44SPL is that it isn’t a magnum. More isn’t always better.
      That said, Black Hills Ammunition disagrees with you. No round on their website equals the weights and speeds you have listed. Not a single .45ACP round they have, even as light as 185gr, moves as fast as 1050fps.
      http://www.black-hills.com/product-category/new-pistol-ammo/
      Skelton’s load produced more energy than the hottest load in the Black Hills catalog. Looking online, it also produces more than the hottest loads from Winchester, Speer, Remington, Hornady, and Buffalo Bore. I can find plenty of +P rounds that beat the standard .44SPL, but then to compare apples to apples we need to compare the .45ACP+P to the .44SPL+P, which gets us into the .44Magnum loading, and nothing in the .45ACP+P line touches that.
      But you can also find many loads slower, lighter, and more mild than those, which is what many, if not most, people actually need.

  20. avatar Frankie says:

    As Hannibal said the trigger fix is easy.
    I polished the trigger group to a mirror finish in a half hour with help from a Youtube video
    https://youtu.be/O0jFwUq_-VU.
    The trigger is now smooth as silk.
    Polishing the whole gun is a lot more work but it is enjoyable if you have the time, especially when the finished product becomes a thing of beauty.
    My 357 is now so pretty I almost hate to shoot it.
    Now I just need to fit a silencer on it like I saw George Kennedy do in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot the other night.

  21. avatar Scott says:

    Has a few others have said, love the 44 SPL round too so glad to see guns still being made for it. It is though a reloaders round as it’s not easy to find and when you do find it, it’s expensive. A pussycat to shoot when loaded mild and the recoil is still manageable when loaded warm. Still Prefer the 44 mag guns as the capability of firing both magnum and Special ammo however the 44 special firearms can be had in lighter guns (Charter Arms) if one wanted to CCW since the gun is very lite weight and small. Carried one owb few years back with speed loader in my front pocket and never felt undergunned. The bulldog prefers mild to medium loads.

  22. avatar Russ H says:

    What’s funny to me about ALL these reviews is how people attack the gun being reviewed. “It shoulda, coulda, woulda…” Jesus people, it is what it is! Yes, this is a forum but always so much negativity. Then you’ve got the braggarts. Then the tacticool guys. With that said (LOL)…

    I am really glad to see Ruger produce this pistol. 44 spec is such an outstanding round – for those who have fired a 44 mag next to a 44 spec, you know what I mean. I just wish S&W would produce an L frame 44 spec. I had a mod 29 with a 6.5″ bbl and it wasn’t very fun to shoot 44 mag rounds after about 6, especially with the wood grips (Hogue’s or Pachmayr’s are a must). Anyway, Ruger could clean up that trigger a bit but still, kudos for having the guts to produce the GP100 44!

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