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(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details.)

By Paul K

Ruger is renowned for their extremely robust revolvers. By robust, I mean nearly indestructible. They make the kind of sidearm you would want to take on your next hunting trip…even if it happened to be to the Underworld to put one round in each of Cerberus’s heads. The arch nemesis to Ruger is without question Smith & Wesson. What the Ruger offers in indestructibility and price, Smith and Wesson make up for in trigger refinement, weight reduction, and overall finish. But enough about those higher priced safety queens (see: trigger lock key). We’re here to talk about a real American battle axe of a revolver, the Ruger SP101 . . .

The SP101 is a very good pistol for any new shooter or gun owner who doesn’t get caught up in the details of a pistol’s fit and finish. If you’re looking for a gun to introduce a girlfriend, wife, or all-around novice into the world of firearms, the SP101 is a perfect choice (or any other double action revolver for that matter).

If you’re someone who wants their gun to work after having drug it behind a truck down a gravel road, then you shouldn’t be allowed to own nice things, but the SP101 will still suit your needs. If you’re the type of pistol owner who is looking for a little more refinement and finesse, then the SP101 can be a bit of a diamond in the rough. All gun owners have room in their safe for a Ruger revolver.


From the factory, the SP101 has some areas that require attention to really make it shine. The first stop is the grip. While the short grip is nice for concealment, it’s not so nice when it comes to firing off .357 magnum rounds. I will give Ruger a plus for putting rubber grips on with plastic side panels. This makes the pistol stick in your hand without sticking to your shirt. Unfortunately, two fingers is not enough of a hold to control these man-stopper rounds, so I recommend a decent Hogue mono grip. You can get them in rubber or wood. The rubber costs about $20, while the wood runs closer to $80.

The next stop is the trigger. From the factory, the trigger has a 14 lb. trigger spring and is pretty gritty for a double action only gun. To fix this, you just need a Wolf 10 lb. hammer spring, and a new trigger return spring to lighten that pull up a bit. You can find several tutorials online that show how to disassemble the SP101 to replace the springs. While you’re there, you can also find walk-throughs on how to buff up the various internal parts to eliminate all of that trigger grit. Once that’s done, the gun has been completely transformed from a baseball bat with nails in it to a 6′ Claymore.

Do note, however, that by installing a 10 lb. hammer spring, you run the risk of having a light primer strike on ammo with hard primers. From what the internet has told me, this is seldom an issue. And it has to be true if it’s on the internet, right? This modification is to be done so at your own risk.

When comparing the Ruger SP101 to a Smith & Wesson, it seems the engineers at S&W tried to shave off as much weight as possible to make it easier to carry. Meanwhile, the folks at Ruger said, “Wait a second, this only holds five rounds. What happens when you run out of ammo? You can use the pistol as a club!”. They consequently added as much weight to the design as possible. The result is an extremely solid pistol that seems to use some ancient magic (discovered in Tutankhamen’s tomb, placed there by aliens) to harness the recoil energy of the .357 Magnum round and put it back into the propelled projectile. Or maybe it’s just so heavy it absorbs the recoil well. Either way, it’s very easy to shoot the SP101. Much easier than a light weight .357 caliber revolver.

Installing the Hogue Monogrip completely changes the way this gun fires for the better. The Hogue grip seems to somehow create a covalent bond between your hand and the rubber. With the deep finger grooves, it feels like the gun is now an extension of your arm, almost akin to Mega Man. This makes controlling magnum rounds extremely easy. It’s unfortunate that smaller caliber pistols are the go-to purchases for first-time female pistol buyers because it is assumed they cannot control faster and more potent rounds. The SP101 turns this preconceived notion into a myth, busted by making it easy for a person of any size to fire full-power .357 through such a small revolver.

Sights on the SP101 are pretty minimal. They do work, but they aren’t as quick as a 3-dot. You can get a fiber optic, or tritium front site for the SP101 if you please. Keep in mind, short barreled revolvers are really for typical defensive gun uses where the contact distance is seven yards or closer. At that distance, sight accuracy becomes a moot point because point shooting is more than likely what will be happening in such a high stress scenario. It’s not recommended you try to take a 50 yard head shot with this pistol, though the .357 round is more than capable. Besides, if you’re carrying a five-shot revolver, odds are pretty good that you’re not Jack Bauer.

s3 s4


Since this is a women’s gun, (literally my wife’s gun), I will discuss what I feel is the best female CCW option. Considering my rank of Special Internet Commando Operations Armchair General, I would say the best way I would recommend to carry this gun would be in a small pocket book, with an extremely long and strong strap. Preferably one with studded spikes on the outside. I think you know where this is going. There are times when women need to defend themselves from terrible people who want to do terrible things to them.

Those times require five rounds of hell’s fury and fireballs directly injected into the offender’s groin at 1500 FPS. There are other times when sloppy drunks playing grabass need to be put back in check. It’s the latter times that would result in a brandishing charge if the SP101 made an appearance. This is where the studded pocket book really comes into play. Just helicopter that make shift mace around your head a few times and you can land a real eye opener onto the noggin of any would-be sexual offender. Just remember, rapists get blasted, grabassers get maced, and I don’t mean the spray kind.

If you’re a dude carrying this revolver, then you’ve got to stay true to the heritage and go with a leather OWB holster. If you’re going to try to stuff a round cylinder in your pants, it might as well be to impress the ladies. Otherwise, just carry a double stack pistol in .357 SIG for the same power and a lot more capacity in the same size package.


You can change the grips out for rubber, wood, Crimson Trace, whatever you might fancy. You can change the front sight, and you can smooth the trigger if you feel confident enough. These are pretty typical changes that can be made to just about any pistol. The real gem hidden within the SP101 lies in the solid stainless steel construction. Its advantage is the ability to change the surface appearance fairly easily. All you need is about five gallons of elbow grease to turn this Amish mule into a Budweiser Clydesdale.

The lines and curves of the SP101 just beg to be smoothed out like Charlie Sheen’s career after a year’s supply of coke. The full under lug and bobbed hammer are an excellent start, just some finishing touches really make this a smooth operator. While brushed stainless steel is good for everyday abuse because it hides scratches, we’re not talking about a Viking’s battle axe anymore. We’re talking about making this into an Hattori Hanzo sword.

To achieve the status of work of art, here’s what you’ll need:
– Small flat bastard file
– Small round bastard file
– 120 grit foam sanding block
– 400, 800, 1000, 1500 and 2000 grit sand paper
– Mother’s Mag metal polish

Start by knocking off all of the square corners with the round and flat files. Easy does it, though. You will be surprised how much will come off if you really get too crazy with the file. Next, hit the edges you filed with the sanding block. The areas to really pay attention to are the front of the barrel lug, under the muzzle, and the trigger guard. Ruger put very little effort into smoothing out the trigger guard, so you are going to want to give that a lot of attention. After you’ve got it to the desired shape, now is the time to put on the Lord of the Rings Trilogy directors cut, because you’re going to be there a while with all of the polishing. It will take a couple hours to work your way from 400 grit to the Mother’ Mag compound, and that’s if you half-ass it like I did. If you really want a mirror like finish, it will take even longer.

Now that you’ve effectively calloused all areas of your fingers, you will be amazed at the metamorphosis that has taken place with this little caterpillar. You will not want to put this pistol down now that it is completely free of any sharp edges or rough textures. The final result is entirely worth the time and effort. Although you cannot tell from the photos, the SP101 is significantly smoother on all the corners of the gun than it was from the factory. Photographing stainless steel has always been a challenge for me.


I would recommend the SP101 for any shooter. If you are new to shooting it’s easy to learn with and easy to shoot both .38 and .357. If you are an experienced shooter and are not afraid to get your hands dirty, then there is a lot that can be done with this revolver. Gemini Customs offers other ways to pimp out this pistol.

If you want to own only one revolver and you don’t want to invest any extra time, money, or effort into it, then I suggest you go with a Smith & Wesson. The Smiths come with a little more refinement and typically a better trigger from the factory. I’m not talking about the polymer Ruger LCR when I say this. In the end, it would be a sound decision to invest in a pistol that will last several lifetimes and has such a unique, sexy look. Not all durable and reliable firearms need to be coated in Melonite or Cerakote. Sometimes it’s nice to carry a little class with some flash.

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style * * * * *
Sleek, smooth, curvy, strong – everything you want in a woma…I mean pistol.

Ergonomics Carry * * * *
Put it in a purse and swing that around your head for an excellent improvised mace. It might be a little on the heavy side, but sometimes a little extra weight can be a good thing.

Ergonomics Firing * * * * *
You will not find a softer shooting 2.25″ barreled .357 magnum pistol on the market.

Reliability * * * * *
It’s a revolver.

Customize This * * * *
Grips available, sights available, holsters available, purses available, and several ways to add a custom finishing touch.

Overall * * * * 1/2
For its class, it is an excellent pistol. There might be more refinement in a Smith & Wesson, but there are none easier to shoot, and none that look quite as sexy.

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  1. Too heavy. Too bulky. If I only have five shots, I want it to weigh a pound or less if I’m going to be able to wear it in all seasons with a choice of wardrobe.

  2. It was my first carry gun. .357 magnum. I went to a Glock 30 a year later. I sold it to a friend that wanted a gun for his wife. I will buy one again.

  3. Ruger needs to step up their finishing-game. I buy Smiths because they don’t require me to do the work that the factory should have.

    Nice review though.

    • Meh, it is what is is and I appreciate it for that. If the world ended today via zombies aliens or supernatural disaster a Ruger revolver stands a chance of being the last surviving hand gun in a few hundred years long after the smiths and colts have been rattled apart and abandoned.

  4. I looked at the sp and gp at Bass Pro Friday. Both are good guns. I’ll wind up with the gp because of hunting.

    As for fit and finish. Rugers are working guns. Not BBQ guns. Smooth the trigger up by shooting as often and as many rounds as you can. We all need the practice more than we need bling.

  5. Yep, love my little SP101. One tough snubbie, although I haven’t dragged (just say no to “drug”) it down a gravel road, I’m sure it will stand up to just about anything. Full house .357 loads are a hoot with this thing…makes everyone at the range sit up and take notice, even through their muffs. And it’s a mild mannered reporter with .38’s, great for introducing new shooters to revolvers.

    Mine also wears a Hogue grip and a little red lipstick on the front sight. Also did the lighter spring thing, with no adverse effects and a nicer trigger pull. It’s too heavy until you put a box of .357 through it, then your hands are grateful for the extra heft.

    Next up on my shopping list is the GP100. A direct result of the SP101 being such a great little wheel gun.

        • I was thinking more along the lines of making a Wesson as robust as a Ruger. Robust is a fundamental quality of most Rugers and the owner can class ’em up easily enough but it’s probably impossible to toughen up a smith or colt at home. But if you have a spare gun I have a harbor freight mig :).

        • @ Drew – I have heard if you want something nearly robust as a Ruger and more refined then a S&W, get a Colt revolver. Got a Uncle who collects Pythons and Troopers, very nice guns.

    • Except for the hammer spring change; 14lb. to 10lb. and the Hogue monogrip, I left the piece as is and not turn it into a S&W. BTW, my walk in the woods carry is a S&W 686 (no dash) with 6″ barrel.

  6. I have the 3″ version and admire its robustitude. That said, I have to agree with Leadbelly– if I’m going to carry something that heavy, it might as well be a 1911.

  7. “…the best way I would recommend to carry this gun would be in a small pocket book, with an extremely long and strong strap…”

    I don’t carry a purse, but that seems to me like a good way to get your gun stolen by a purse snatcher. Also seems like a small purse dangling from a long strap would make for a clumsy and slow draw.

    • I’m not a woman, but I understand you put the long strap across your body to make it harder for the purse snatcher (yes, I also know about cutting the strap with a knife, etc, but if a bad guy gets close enough to you to be able to pull and use a knife–well, you will be lucky if all that happens is your purse gets snatched, whatever may be in it).

      • Sure, but if you wear the strap cross-body, then you’ll have a pretty hard time deploying it as an improvised flail (not a mace) for “grabassers” as the review suggests…

      • @ Another Robert –

        I recall hearing about a company that made reinforced anti-strap cut purses

        I’m a bit surprised I haven’t seen more purse companies making anti-snatch and grab versions.

        They would be a bit dangerous, getting your purse caught an elavator or subway car door would ruin your day right quick.

        I bet they would sell, tho…

  8. Have j frame for the wife. I have looked at the SP though because of the .357 option. Since she off body carries the weight isn’t an issue. I was wondering though, since I’m averse to dicking around with the springs on a defensive use weapon how much difference just polishing the internals would go towards improving the trigger.

  9. “If you’re looking for a gun to introduce a girlfriend, wife, or all-around novice into the world of firearms, the SP101 is a perfect choice (or any other double action revolver for that matter).”

    A small note here-one can capably introduce any firearm to a novice, provided the instruction given is of good quality. I detest the persistent myth that women new to guns can “only” shoot revolvers-I handed off a Glock 17 to a new shooter and she was able to clean her husbands clock with it.

    • I actually agree with this–if you have the time, you can train most anyone to use most any handgun efficiently (note “most”, not “any and all”). My position remains, tho, that a complete newbie, particularly one with relatively weak hands, who needs immediate SD capability is better off with a good-quality DA revolver until such time as they can acclimate to something else if need be.

    • I find revolvers being good for showing on the people on the RKBA fence how to shoot. They associate it with cowboys, and cops (Danny Glover Lethal Weapon) and it’s just less intimidating. It’s all about getting them to take that first shot.

      • Strongly agree. When introducing my wife to guns (after introducing myself a few scant years prior) she liked the Ruger LCR the best if all my handguns– and they run the gambit– because there is only one thing to remember; the trigger.

        Just this past day-after-Xmas, though, her brother and I were out shooting and she showed up to do her… well, qualifying (shooting isn’t a joy for her like it is for me, but she understands full well that she needs to be proficient and comfortable with the weapons in our house. Damn I love that woman), and has now come around to liking the SP101 I linked above. She’s no longer intimidated by the hammer and is appreciating the reduced recoil a heavier gun brings.

        It’s interesting to watch the evolution from the outside.

    • Yeah, got to come in on this section here.
      We- my extremely competent female partner (not a regular instructor, but a USPSA well-known) put on a lot of women’s classes. A lot. I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of women go through the intro and second-level classes.
      If you want a good collection of 0.35″ holes in targets, the Smith M&P 9 is the best answer. A G17/19 is second.
      Way back there are revolvers. Wait- I own more revos than autos. I’m not prejudiced against the round guns.
      But getting them to get going with the DA trigger is always harder. And small guns are harder still.
      If you let the new shooter thumbcock the revolver, you’re crippling them. Letting that thumb start upwards when the intent to fire comes can easily get them killed in a defensive situation.
      Watch revo shooters under pressure who’ve made a habit of thumbcocking: that thumb flaps and gets lost and nothing happens for a long time.
      You can see this at any IDPA match with SSR guns around. But in real life, it’s not funny anymore.
      We won’t even let the women thumbcock the revos they do try out, not unless they’re so beset with physical issues that they simply can’t shoot any other handgun any other way.
      And I can tell you that pretty much all women, if instructed properly, can operate slides on full-size nines. The “I can’t DO that” attitude comes on for reasons not always connected to physical capabilities.
      If we had a dollar for every lady who’d insisted she couldn’t operate the M&P and then went on to a sterling performance with it under my parther’s gimlet eye and hand-on teaching, we’d have lots of dollars.
      Short version: you want good hits? M&P 9.

  10. ‘When comparing the Ruger SP101 to a Smith & Wesson, it seems the engineers at S&W tried to shave off as much weight as possible to make it easier to carry. Meanwhile, the folks at Ruger said, “Wait a second, this only holds five rounds. What happens when you run out of ammo? You can use the pistol as a club!”.’

    I have to wonder if the author is comparing .357s to .357s here. According to the S&W and Ruger sites the SP101 DAO with a 2.25″ barrel weighs 25 ounces while the S&W J frame 640 weighs in at 23. As far as I know the J frames are still not built to take a steady diet of full power .357s like the SP so 2 extra ounces and a 1/8th inch of extra barrel doesn’t seem like something that was primarily designed as a club. The 642 only weighs 15 ounces, but it’s a .38 special with a 1 7/8″ barrel and an aluminum frame that would blow up on the first round of .357 powered ammo. Maybe he was resorting to hyperbole.

  11. Every time I read a revolver review talking about everyday practicality it just sounds like justification on behalf of the author. Nice review though

      • Not a damn thing. Especially when you add in the inherent reliability of a revolver and- most importantly- if you are in the shit situation of having to fire your gun from your pocket at someone trying to strangle you…. it will. And then it will do it again. And again, and again. Then you can stand up and still have a round (or two) to make sure. Do you trust your semi-auto to do the same?

        • It’s inpractIcal because it is a small gun that weighs nearly 30 oz unloaded. Author suggests a larger grip to make it handle its chamfering better further reducing the appeal of said heavy pistol. With the monogrip pictured is that thing still pocketable?

  12. I have the SP101 with a 4.2″ barrel. I also have many N frames and L frames, a J frame and a Security Six in .357. All have their place in filling my revolver “needs”. I like the weight, balance, portability and accuracy (fiber optic sight) of the SP Ruger. It has become my “go to” woods/walking the dogs gun. It is surprisingly soft shooting with all of the factory and hand loads I’ve used. The factory wood/rubber stocks are comfortable for me, but it usually wears a set of Hogues. It’s one of the only big revolvers my wife doesn’t mind shooting (I did a spring replacement on it which greatly improved the action).

    If the 5 round capacity doesn’t matter to you, it is a fine, built like a brick ****house, reliable, less expensive option to a S&W (and I do love old Smiths).

    I did a “polish job” on a .38s Model 60 and it looks nice. I think the beauty of the SP101 is the rugged mat finish where light scratches only add character.

  13. I don’t get it. The OP discusses fairly complicated refinements to the Ruger, even referring us to the Internet for instructional videos. Among the fixes is replacing the hammer spring.

    That’s after he criticizes Smith revolvers for having a lock — a lock that can be removed in two minutes and for which there are numerous videos available. I’ve done it and it’s a lot easier than swapping out springs (which I have also done, so I have a frame of reference).

    Still, even a Smith weenie like me knows that Ruger makes good revolvers. Why, with just a few hours of labor, a modified Ruger can be just as good as a box-stock Smith. 😉

    • You can polish a Ruger to make it as shiny as a S&W but no amount of labor will make a S&W as strong as a Ruger.

      • What are you people doing with your Rugers that requires them to survive a drop off of the empire state building? If you use a Smith the way it should, it will last. People are making S & W out to sound like a frail old lady that will break if you uses it.

        • S&W itself introduced the idea when it suggested using .38s for practice and .357s for duty to lengthen the life of their handguns. Not sure if they do anymore, it might have been because they were trying to fit magnums on a frame that didn’t support them well.

        • Hannibal, that was the model 19. An attempt to get magnum performance in a cops holster without the weight. A k frame modded to use .357 magnum rounds. The only revolvers I have ever seen malfunction because of internal parts breakage were mod. 19s.

          I loved the model 19 but it needed to be treated properly. Practice with .38s and duty carry magnums.

        • In the real world it comes down to being able to shoot $75,000 worth of ammo through your $500 revolver as opposed to only $50,000 worth out of your $750 revolver. If you have enough money to buy the ammo you really don’t have to worry about the durability of a Smith. It comes down to do you want to spend a little more money for something a little more polished or not.

          BTW, Smith & Wesson told their customers to practice with .38 special for 4 decades until Ruger came out with the Security Six and they were forced to come up with a midsized revolver that could shoot .357 all day. Personally I always thought that was silly since the .38s are going to hit 10 inches higher than the .357s.

    • I find that my unmodified Rugers to be better than any Smiths I have used–would not trade a bushel basket full of Smiths for even one of my Rugers (well I might, could sell for lots of $ to buy even more Rugers)

  14. I’ve carried a Ruger SP101 .357 for about ten years… at first as my primary EDC, but mostly as a backup gun since. I’m a certified firearms instructor, and I teach a lot of women, many of them first time novices. They all get an opportunity to fire the Ruger. It has a 5 pound trigger, by the way. None of them want to buy a revolver once they have fired my XD compact 9mm, however. The trigger pull is much more difficult DA on the revolver, and the recoil- even with .38sp – is more pronounced. Over all, the revolver is much more difficult to shoot accurately without a lot of hand and arm strength, and a lot of practice. Even with all the shooting I do, after ten years I am much more accurate and comfortable with the XD. I will not even attempt to fire the .357magnum loads because I can’t control the gun that way.

    Carry the largest caliber, in the most reliable gun you can CONTROL consistently.

    Yes, it is a stupid myth that women can’t shoot anything but a revolver. The only thing many women have trouble with on the semi-autos is manipulating the slide, and that is just a matter of practice and strengthening the hands. The ladies with the long, fancy fingernails also have problems sometimes, but they may just have to decide if they want to shoot or grow plastic claws.

    • The advantage to a revolver for the novice is they are simple to operate mentally, not physically. For instance when I first got my wife into shooting I caught her forgetting to remove the magazine before checking the chamber (thereby loading a round into the chamber while believing the chamber was empty). On a revolver you simply look at it and you can see the rims of the cases. If someone wants an easy to understand weapon and doesn’t want to put much into training and practice the revolver is still the best choice.

      Ironically I think that with a lot of us revolver guys (under 50) we started with autos and graduated to revolvers. After a few years of practice we realize we can handle a stronger cartridge and trust our skills enough that we don’t feel the need for 18 rounds in the magazine. I gravitated to revolvers in part because I realized the odds of getting into a prolonged shootout are extremely low, but I can shoot revolvers much more accurately, especially at longer ranges. That and they’re just plain cool. If you’re going to carry around something every day you should pick out something with a little character.

      • Well, that’s a matter of each to his/her own. I cannot shoot the revolver (ANY revolver) as accurately and consistently as I do the 9mm and it’s not a matter of practice. I’m nearly 70 years old, and the hands are just not strong enough, nor are my joints forgiving me the recoil after the first few rounds.

        I’m not worried about style, and my XD has all the “character” I want. It will get the job done. 🙂 I can shoot the XD very accurately with both hands, or either one alone. Can’t do that with the revolver because my hand is just too small and the trigger pull is just too much to keep it consistently on target.

        But don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my Ruger revolver. I love to carry it TOO… and it is the only “jewelry” I ever wear. It sits on my desk, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it if I needed it. I still shoot it weekly, and certainly with every class, so it is not being neglected. 🙂

        • Yes, revolvers aren’t for everybody, neither are autos. Most of us would be fine with either though. It’s the heavy recoiling rounds where the revolver really shines. I’ve personally never seen the appeal of .38 specials – if you’re going to limit yourself to 5 or 6 rounds I’d like them to hit a little harder than that. But if you’ve got arthritis or can’t handle the recoil (or DA pull) for whatever reason, the .357 snubby is probably not your best choice.

          When I can say I can shoot revolvers more accurately than autos, I mean in single action. I go by the original intent of the DA trigger that it’s for close in when fractions of a second count and if you need an accurate shot you should pull the hammer back (with your thumb that is). In a self defense situation I wouldn’t hesitate to use DA at 10 or maybe 15 yards, but I’d probably go for SA passed that. Not everyone can be Jerry Miculek. Anyway, cocking the hammer never seemed to slow down Clint Eastwood much.

        • Clint’s enemies also had a habit of dropping dead the instant the bullets struck them, which might be a little optimistic for you and me. Still, if you cock on draw it probably won’t take any longer than shooting DA and if you cock a drawn weapon it shouldn’t take more than a quarter second tops. If you have to shoot a hostage taker in the head at 25 yards it would be well worth taking the time to get the shot right. Odds are more likely that your attacker will be under 5 yards away than over and DA is just fine 90% of the time.

        • 75 foot shot at a hostage taker with a handgun under duress?
          You better let Clint handle that one.

    • As I see it the revolver fills 2 spots. Spot one is the person that is not a gun guy and is not going to get a lot, if any, training. I’ve known people that, in some cases, bought a revolver as their only gun decades ago. They’ve fired it once at the range to make sure it works and then it has lived in a sock drawer or closet shelf since. These people need a revolver.

      The others are folks like me. I’ve used all manner of firearms from military to muzzle loaders. I own semi’s and revolvers and just naturally prefer a revolver.

      There’s enough room in the world for both types, people and pistols.

      • I mentioned earlier, I think a revolver is an excellent weapon to teach a Person on the fence about gun rights about guns. It’s easier, less intimidating. Once they take that first shot you know you’ve at least opened their mind a little.

      • Yes, I have one. An “ultralight” in .38. I keep it to show students the difference, and very few ever want to shoot a second round. It is NASTY and painful to shoot, and almost impossible to control well enough to fire on target more than one round… and often not that one. The smaller and lighter the gun, the more difficult it is to shoot, at least for many ladies. I don’t carry in my pockets or hidden in my clothing, so I don’t care about the size or weight. I’d rather have the accuracy, and have it comfortable enough to fire so I’m happy to practice with it.

        Among the women who come to my weekly clinic, I can’t remember one of them who owns such a gun and is actually happy to practice shooting it.

      • Ruger LCR only way to go in small revolver–these are soft shooting guns–my 5’2″, 120# niece absolutely loves firing AE 158 gr JSP .357’s from my LCR .357–a J (junk in my opinion) frame S&W IS a terrible gun to shoot–she also connects every shot, no misses

    • Thanks, Mama, and the earlier poster for sharing your real world experience of what works, with most new female shooters. I read closely what Ralph, and jwm and other wheel gun fans say, and thanks Dan, for a great review, for I’ll be buyin one someday.

      But for daughters first EDC, I’ll be following your advice, Mama.

      I believe Jeff Cooper observed the snubbie was an experts gun.

      • Send me an email, PubliusS (anyone, actually) and I’ll be glad to share the little book I wrote called “I Am NOT A Victim.” The first chapter is the story of the man I had to shoot to save my life.
        mamaliberty at rtconnect dot net – just replace at and dot with the appropriate symbols and eliminate the spaces. Type “self defense book” in the subject line so it goes to the right filter.

        I have given away more than 8,000 of these e-books, and would especially love to give it to every woman on the planet.

  15. Too bad they discontinued this in 327 Federal as that bought you an extra round. Still I am a big fan of Ruger revolvers, well designed, well made and stone cold reliable. I am told it is possible to wear one out, but despite years of attempting to do so, I have been entirely unsuccessful. Smith is ok, but when I am spending my money it is Ruger that gets the nod!

    • The SP101 is absolutely available in .327 FM, 6 shot, 4.2″ barrel–it was dropped & then brought back with refinements–it is on Ruger’s list of current production & I see them at gun shows

  16. Not bad at all, a little more of an experiences article than an actual review, but still pretty good.

    But please.. for the love of GOD.. stop advocating off body carry.

  17. OK review but I want to see stock reviews. I agree with Mama Liberty. I shoot any semi-auto better than a snubby(had a Taurus85). I would get this with a 3-6″ barrel…

    • Hey Walker… sure wish you could come out here and shoot with me. We could do side by side comparisons with dozens of guns. LOL For several days, actually. 🙂 Might take us a week…

      Well, come in the spring, actually… it’s snowing hard right now – dang it.

  18. Still not forgiving Ruger for supporting gun control in the 90’s.

    And apparently this gun is so bad that you have to modify it to make it acceptable yet it still gets good marks?

    • @Skyler, Smith & Wesson’s British former owners sold us out too. Now that the Brits are gone, and Smith’s contract with the Feds has been rejected, I have found it in my heart to forgive S&W. ‘Cause let’s face it — nobody really gets over his first love.

      • Sorry, but S&W have never repudiated the HUD agreement. They kept hunkering down and hoping that we forget. Frankly, Ruger’s gun control sins are much less than that, and they were over with Bill Ruger’s death. S&W is different.

        • Bill Ruger pimped himself out to keep his Mini-14 off the banned list, but it backfired because people always want what they can’t have. The Mini was top dog until they banned the AR15, now the Mini is an also ran. Anyway, he’s dead now and I personally don’t think that overshadows the fact that he was the closest thing to John Moses Browning since John Moses Browning. The important thing is that the company has continued his reputation for innovation and value.

    • It was S&W that caved to the Clinton Administration, not Ruger–I have a ton of Rugers & not one has ever needed any work on it

  19. This is a hyperbole filled sexist rant that only reinforces the negative stereotypes of male gun owners. After recommending off body carry, groin shots (sigh) and turning the gun into a makeshift club, the “review” consisted mainly of discussing the many shortcomings of the weapon and how to address them by replacing grips, swapping internal springs (which causes misfires?) and even buying nine different tools just to grind off the sharp edges! Then the heavily modified “girl’s gun” gets near perfect marks. Sorry but this whole review is a misfire.

    • huh? sexist rant? seriously?
      You sound like social justice warrior troll or white-knighter looking for fainting progtard chicks to rescue.

      Either way, save your breath, Ryan. The real women who read here dont need your saving.

  20. “If you want to own only one revolver and you don’t want to invest any extra time, money, or effort into it, then I suggest you go with a Smith & Wesson.”

    That’s an incorrect statement if I ever heard one. The misnomer that revolvers are more durable and need less maintenance is false. They are more durable in some ways, but less so in others. Revolvers aren’t in the mainstream and people don’t learn how to maintain them properly anymore. S&W’s, with their light weight scandium alloys, need extra care, maintenance, and inspection. I have too many friends who’s frame cracked under the stress of shooting (usually right around the crane and with factory ammo). S&W sacrificed durability for the light weight alloys they’re using. Buy a S&W pre-’86 revolver and it’ll be a different story, then the weight’s about the same as a similar sized Ruger. Moral of the the story: don’t buy scandium and other light weight alloy revolvers, you won’t want to shoot them and they aren’t designed for regular training and use.

  21. I love it for an addition to my modest collection, range gun and perhaps a BUG but I doubt it. Life is “subjective” and for me I cannot imagine a scenario (where I live at least, major urban City) whereby a five shot revolver would be assigned my primary CCW or even HD Gun…Again, that’s me so YMMV…I often equate “Capacity” with car or health insurance in that you most likely will never need it (approaching my late 40’s so that might change…) but will rest better knowing that “it’s there” if and when needed…So I will stick with even a sub-compact semi that server up 10+ or double that with just 1 extra magazine…to translate such into a revolver setup I would need the full weight of the Ruger with 3 additional speed loaders. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

    • +1. Fun to shoot but too bulky and heavy compared to any semi or sub compact at half thecweight and twice the capacity.

      If I was given a revolver I’d probably put it up in grease in a bag, with ammo in a ziplog, and some of that drying gel in an ammo can, and cache it someplace safe. It will be the last to be seized by the KKKalifornistas in Sackatomatos, so being simple and durable is good for long term storage too.

  22. I’ll third what Mama Liberty said. I’m a decent shot with a semi auto but when I pick up a revolver, suddenly I *suck*.

    I may buy a GP101 some day as a “keep in a ziploc baggie forever and shoot from within the baggie” gun for the shower. (I’ll lose what’s left of my hearing, but greatly improve my changes of living through the fight, should such happen whilst showering.) It’s bulky as heck but I won’t be *carrying* it.

  23. Reading this article was the most fun I have had since my wife figured out how to block the porn sites. I will definitely consider the SP101 for my wife but in a smaller caliber, maybe even .22lr, in retribution for the aforementioned technical chicanery.

  24. Had a SP101 ever since they first hit the market (after that little hiccup with the early ones where the cylinder was too short for Federal ammo). Any and everyone who ever shot mine went out and bought one. I did a trigger job and added a Hogue grip. Relegated to my travel/hotel/motel bedside table gun now. Fits perfect in a day timer zip up folio along with a strip loader, Surefire flash light, spare batteries and a Swiss Army knife.

  25. Is it OK to use files on stainless? I was told that steel wool shouldn’t be used because it can transfer to the stainless surface and cause rust spots to show. Do bastard files do the same thing?

    If you can’t use steel files, what is the alternative? Are there ceramic or abrasive grit files out there?

    • I would imagine that any steel imbedded into the stainless would be removed by the following steps with sandpaper and polishing compound.

  26. Ruger’s SP-101 has been my EDC for fifteen years. The only criticism I have of my stolid little friend is the false reset problem that occurs with sloppy trigger technique. Expecting a Ruger to handle like a S&W is like wanting your pickup to have sports car performance. The 101’s rugged good looks and durable performance with .357 defense loads places it high among the best snubbies ever developed.

  27. I will admit I didn’t read every comment, so maybe I missed it. Does it bother anyone else that he keeps referring to a revolver as a pistol? Maybe I’m just nitpicking.

  28. I love watching people argue over which is best; Ruger or S&W. Get a few of each and have the best of both worlds. Between me and the mrs we have 686’s, GP100’s, sp101’s in various sizes, and a few S&W air weights and 2 Security Sixes. Probably 15 revolvers in all. Never felt underarmed with any of those. Worked undercover for years with a 686+ and an SP101,(and a few other revolvers) and only had to ‘go to’ it 3 times in all those years, where just the sight of a gun ended the issue. Ruger…S&W…get them both and enjoy life!!! (On a side note, the only time I ever had to defend the house was when someone tried to kick in my door and my ‘trusty’ hi power ‘wonder’ 9mm jammed when I chambered a round. Thankfully bad guy left without gaining entry. Been a solid revolver guy ever since.

  29. By far the best and most proven round for defense is the 357 mag revolver round in 125 grain jacket hollow point. No other hand gun round has surpassed the effectiveness of this round not even the mighty 357 sig. FBI has done extensive testing on hand gun rounds and this round put center mass is 98 percent effective. Most outcomes with it is death. It exceeds even my mighty 44 mag. for defense. I have 45s 9mm 22s 44s and just bought the sp101. This weapon is strictly for defense purposes only, yes you have to practice with it but sorry guys if you are hand gun hunting with less than a 44 on white tail or bigger then you need schooling. I have seen dear shot with 357 mag and 44 mag and there is no comparison. Keep the 357 for what it’s for defensive purposes. Hunt with 44 mag, 460, 50 sw, 454 Cassull. I had to follow up a shot with my 44 on a white tail where my buddy just wounded it with his 357. His round at 25 yards stopped inside the lung on the entrance side. I hit it with 1 round of 240 hollow point at 60 yards and it flattened the deer like a pancake and the bullet passed through and through. 9 mm is better choice than 38, 357 sig better than 40, 40 is ahh about same as 45, then you have they mighty 357 mag revolver, this is defensive purposes only. Like Sam the man said, there is something to be said about the tried and true revolver, if you jam your auto, and I don’t care which auto you have it will jam on you at some point either loading or ejecting, then you have a problem. You can have all the bells and whistles on your gun, but most gun fights happen within 10 yards or closer. If you can’t point and shoot to hit your target center mass most likely you are going to die. If you have to a in in a panic situation you are dead simple as that. So it won’t matter if you all those fancy lights and lasers at that point. What you going to do with your laser in bright sunlight, when you can’t see the dot. You going to tell the b ad guy ohh wait a minute so I can find my laser on you. Fellas at 10 yards I can punch a smiley face in the head of a paper target with my 2.25 inch sp101 using 125 grain full house magnums. But that’s paper, put a gun in his hand and each one of us will be lucky to hit your target at 10 yards when bullets are flying. Take cover and let him run his 14 rounds out and then place 2 rounds 357 mag in his chest and fight will be over providing he not vested up.

  30. Rugers are fine revolvers, strong and reliable. My question is why don’t they offer a blued finish any longer. Being neither a drug dealer nor running a string of ladies I do not care for flashy, silver firearms. Please Ruger bring back the blues.

  31. I would say, get some of each. Revolvers (both Ruger and S&W) and semi-autos. They are all fun to shoot and a lot of them will make good defensive and carry guns. As far as my revolvers, I only shoot them double action as in a stressful shooting situation, you will revert to how you practiced. Same with semi-autos, let the magazines drop free when you go to insert a fresh one after it’s run dry.

  32. Thx Dan and all. I bought it. Have already ordered the replacement grip and a few ammo variants. Will start my wife on 38 S&W in it and graduate up through 357 HP. I have also ordered the CCI Pest Control shot shell as well. I was bit by a copperhead last year and will carry this pistol loaded with that every minute that I leave my house and walk into the woods.

  33. The only real flaw I see in an otherwise good article is suggesting that 357 SIG is anywhere near comparable to 357 magnum in power. That is a rookie comment and someone that does not understand ballistics.

  34. Having got a new Ruger SP 101 357 Mag the trigger in both single and double action was very gritty.
    After doing a complete trigger job (no shims) smooth and polished the inside of the frame.
    the frame where the pawl drags both top and bottom.
    and extensive polishing of all the internals.
    Single action is wonderful, however double action required more detail.
    The trigger return was still a little gritty.(with an 8 lbs spring)
    I found that with changing the springs to Wolf reduced power.
    (8 lbs Main spring)
    (9 lbs Trigger spring)
    the trigger is nice and smooth.
    you can still feel where the trigger reset engages on the release of the trigger but isn’t offensive at all.
    Please note that if the trigger spring isn’t strong enough the trigger will feel gritty.
    I went from an 8 lbs trigger spring to a 9 lbs spring and am very pleased.
    I thought this is the way it should have come from the factory when I got it.
    I have about 10 hrs of work in my SP 101 and would have loved it had someone told me to up the power on the trigger spring.
    Have about 500 rounds through it and have never had any light strike issue.

  35. Having got a new Ruger SP 101 357 Mag the trigger in both single and double action was very gritty.
    After doing a complete trigger job (no shims) smooth and polished the inside of the frame.
    The frame where the pawl drags both top and bottom.
    and extensive polishing of all the internals.
    I found that with changing the springs to Wolf reduced power.
    (8 lbs Main spring)
    (9 lbs Trigger spring)
    the trigger is nice and smooth.
    you can still feel where the trigger reset engages on the release of the trigger but isn’t offensive at all.
    Please note that if the trigger spring isn’t strong enough the trigger will feel gritty.
    I went from an 8 lbs trigger spring to a 9 lbs spring and am very pleased.
    I thought this is the way it should have come from the factory when I got it.
    I have about 10 hrs of work in my SP 101 and would have loved it had someone told me to up the power on the trigger spring.
    Have about 500 rounds through it and have never had any light strike issue.

  36. I am to the point, that except for a pump shotgun (Ruger does not make one) I only own Rugers, got rid of everything else. Ruger is the ‘gun that you take to hell if you want to come back alive’. Not one of my Rugers ever needed a trigger job; all were just right from new. Fancy guns are like anything else fancy-nice to look at, but a pain to use; I will take functional beauty any day.Yes, I have shot many Smiths and was not impressed with any of them-none had triggers any better than any of my Rugers. Buy what you want, but if you want the best, buy Ruger. Also 100% American made with American materials by Americans.

  37. I just got this gun: Ruger SP101 .357 Magnum 2.25″ barrel.
    My other gun is a Ruger LCRx 38 Spl +P with 3″ barrel.

    The LCRx is weightless and the 3″ barrel makes it exceptionally accurate. The trigger on the LCRx is easy and awesome. At the range, I can only go maybe 25-30 rounds max because it kind of hurts. The grip on the LCRx 3″ is not my favorite. Each time I hold the firearm and prepare to fire, I must adjust the hold.

    I conceal carry. By “conceal carry” I mean, I carry the weapon on my person (as opposed to in my purse.) The LCRx 3″ was just a little bit too difficult to conceal. The SP101 with 2.25″ barrel is so much easier to conceal!

    The grip on the SP101 fits my hand much more comfortably. I did purchase the Hogue monogrip for the gun. I installed the grip. Tested it. Uninstalled it and am really really pleased with the standard grip on the gun. I’m a woman. I have small hands. The stock grip on the SP101 2.25″ fits my hand 100% better than the grip on the LCRx 3″.

    Shooting, I did loose some accuracy at 15″ between the LCRx 3″ and the SP101 2.25″.
    So it is a trade-off for me and really depends on where/how I intend to use the firearm.
    I’m hoping the trigger will break in some and with focus on my form and practice, I will achieve the accuracy I need with the SP101. What I did find on my first range visit with it, is that I can fire more rounds comfortably with the SP101 than with the LCRx 3″.

    For EDC, I will use the SP101.
    For home, kit, BUG, etc., I will use the LCRx 3″.

  38. I just purchased a SP101 .22LR. I went to the range today with my case of handguns, including my 7.25 Browning Hunter, known for accuracy at long range. After a small adjustment to the sight, my groupings were amazingly small/tight at 25 feet, then at 10 meters and finally at 15 meters… outdid my Browning. I can’t believe the wimpy comments about weight, heavy pull and other whiny complaints. The SP101 is perfectly balanced and fires with no pull or lift. I would buy it all over again.

  39. Very enjoyable and informative remarks here. Pretty much sounds like the SP’s and comparable SW’s (mentioned above), have their loyalists and for good reasons. I’ve owned and appreciate both but almost always gravitate towards Ruger. I currently have a SP 3″ and an SP 2″ (concealed hammer). The concealed hammer forces one to become a more proficient double-action shooter as well as enhancing the “concealability”. I do wish the near perfect SP could load six 38/357 rounds. Did I understand from one of the previous comments, that the .327cal version is discontinued ? Wasn’t that a six round revolver ?

  40. I’m a little late responding this review. Better late than never. I had the pleasure of owning/shooting some good revolvers in my lifetime: Colt “Officers Model Match .38”, Smith & Wesson Combat Masterpiece .38, Smith “J” (old model) .38. I still have the Colt and the “J” frame. The Combat Masterpiece was courtesy of USAF. All great revolvers. And very accurate and fine triggers.
    I enjoyed your review. However, your assessment of snubby short barrel belly gun sight uses leaves a little (or a lot) to be desired. My fifty years of revolver/pistol shooting has proven a 99.9999% need for sight proficiency with any hand gun – with barrels from 2″ to 6″ plus. Good accuracy, i.e., good sight use at 3 yards to 25 yards, will vastly improve your trigger press and muscle memory. That automatic memory will kick in under stress in a micro second. This requires a lot of practice. Aim small, miss small. Even with my “J” frame I can easily hit center mass with a rapidly acquired sight picture at 25 yards. And I guarantee that one well aimed hit at distance will mean a whole lot more to Mr. Bad Guy than waiting to smell his bad breath and touch his belly.

  41. I am a 5’2″ woman. My first firearm was the LCRx 3″. I sold it. I now have the SP101 2.25″ external hammer. I LOVE this gun! I usually shoot SA though. Or when I’m at the range and have fired many rounds, I practice SA.

    I do not recommend carrying any firearm in a handbag.

    Oh, my other firearm of choice, depending on wardrobe? Bond Arms Texas Defender. 😉

    The SP101 is definitely my fave. I love the grip as well. It fits my hand. I tried Hogue grips: too bulky.

  42. just picked up a barely used SP101 .357… previous owner most likely thought it was defective, as i found that one chamber was ‘tight,’ resulting in sluggish almost-lockup after a dozen speedloader rounds in a range session (due to heat and carbon buildup) – cleaned up the wheelgun at the bench and measured the gap using a feeler guage – four chambers were w/in spec (.004-.008″), while one was .004″ or less-than-a-hair less… a quick gentle stone and recheck-cycle and the problem was solved – SP101s have close tolerances, especially when new, but won’t get ‘loose’ like Smiths – which i will never purchase new due to the insipid lock on nearly all models

    • Last month I bought a brand new blue SP101 .357, and one of my cylinder chambers was bored too small also. The speed loaders wouldn’t fully drop in the round, and it was left sticking out until I pushed it in. I sent mine back to the factory (I had never fired it.) Ruger replaced the cylinder, “repaired the J-spot” (whatever that is), test fired it, reset the timing, proofed it, and sent it back within a week. I love Ruger and S&W – Ruger is heartier, S&W is more civilized. I am well-armed with either.

    • I had two consecutive (to me) SP101s that had poor enough cylinder gap tolerances that they needed to be sent back to the factory. The first one I had purchased used and would start locking up after about 15 rounds. They replaced that one entirely. I assume it was a cylinder gap issue but they wouldn’t tell me what was wrong with it. The replacement they sent me started locking up after a SINGLE shot. In both cases cleaning the front of the cylinder and the forcing cone would ‘solve’ the issue temporarily.

      They did have me send back the second one at no expense and they fixed it. That said, there’s something wrong with QA when a gun can go out that gets a jammed cylinder after a single shot.

  43. I currently own a 3″ SP101. In 327 Federal Magnum, which I like much better than 357 Magnum. This is my second SP101, years ago, I owned a 357 SP 101, that was very inaccurate. In the 327 version, recoil is nothing like the 357 Magnum. I traded the 357 Magnum off .
    The SP101 is a heavy gun. To carry this revolver daily, buy a high quality holster that fits both your body and the gun , and plan on carrying a couple of speedloaders or speed strips. With a revolver, your shots are more critical, as your ammo count is less.
    I would like to add another Ruger in 327 Federal in the future, the LCRx, I like the fact of being able to use other 32 valiber ammo in these revolvers.
    To me, Ruger makes the best revolvers. I have tried 9mm revolvers in the past, and with the exception of the SW547’s I owned, dealing with moon clips, is a pain.

  44. So that is the funnest review ever! I have all sorts of pistols .22-.475 linebaugh! You covered all my questions with style & class! Smooth them up inside & out. This world needs more guys like you! Lets just call you “Mr. Morale”

  45. Bought a new Ruger SP101 in November of 2020. After the first firing, all of the 357 Mag casings were stuck in the cylinder, and I had to use a screwdriver to punch them out. I loaded up some .38 Specials and they did the same. The firing pin was striking the primer on the far outside edge (Bad cylinder clocking) Sent it back to Ruger, and they just reamed out the cylinder, and returned it to me. The next firing, the cases did not get stuck, but it was still shaving the the bullets, and the firing pin was still striking the outside edge of the primer. It was shooting 4″ high, and 4″ left at 21′, and the holes were all oblong (Bullet tumble) Called Ruger and they said that it was still in spec. and there was nothing more that they could do. I sold it at a Gun Show and bought a Colt King Cobra 357 magnum. No problems with the Colt!! I had been a loyal Ruger customer for many years, but no more!!

  46. My wife’s 90 year old Aunt had 2 Ruger SP101s in .38 special. Yes, even at that advanced age she could be a 5 foot 2 inch bad-ass. She kept one in her purse and one hidden in her bathroom. Before she passed away, she handed them to my wife and told her, “Here you go dear, where I’m going, I won’t need them.”

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  48. My wife’s 92 yr. old Aunt had 2 SP101s in .38 special. Just before she past away she gave them to my wife, plus a sweet little North American .22lr derringer. Nobody messed with this little old lady. Asked what the derringer was for, she replied, “In case they’re still movin’ around on the ground.” YIKES! Wonder if she was former Mossad……….
    Now we have His & Hers SP101s.


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