Ruger SP101 Review: A Modern Approach to Classic Efficiency.

The SP101 is a compact frame wheel-gun, built to withstand hard and frequent use. Sturm, Ruger & Co. inc considered all the details when designing this revolver.

From LEOs looking for a workhorse off-duty CCW to fans of a noir aesthetic, this sidearm exists at the fulcrum of efficient reliability and style.

This simple or subtle- seeming shootin’ iron’s rugged and meaty frame offers a veritable buffet of ballistic variety. There is an SP101 for everyone.

Options and Review

The Ruger SP101 is manufactured in Newport, New Hampshire, in a number of calibers. Starting at an 8 round .22 up to a 5 round .357 magnum. It’s available with your choice in barrel length, ranging from a snub nose 2.25 inches, up to 4.2 inches.

 With that in mind and the knowledge that its frame is solid stainless steel construction (including the sidewalls), there is an SP101 for the most arduous of tasks. Available with blued, blacked, or a brushed stainless finish.

  • WEIGHT - 25-34 Ounces. 1.5 to just over 2 pounds (unloaded).
  • PROFILE - 1.35 Inches wide at the cylinder.
  • TRIGGER PULL/RESET - Rated at 14 pounds with a 10-pound reset.

In short, this ergonomically comfortable and conveniently sized pistol somehow has the heft of holding a howitzer. The handgun equivalent of a ‘97 Jeep Wrangler TJ, this tough little plugger is as fun to train with as it is easy.

History

Developed and released in 1989 along with the GP series to replace Rugers long-standing Security Six revolvers. The General Purpose and Special Purpose Rugers have a heavier frame and better build; made to handle hard work and hot loads. You can’t read about—nor hoist—this little hand cannon and avoid the intrusive thought of “TANK.”

The .357 Magnum is a storied and trusted tool, renowned for its versatility and efficiency. The SP101 seems purpose-built for exactly that. Addressing previous models foibles while maintaining all the features that make Ruger revolvers so reliable.

Praiseworthy: 

  1. Ease/reliability of use, and maintenance. Easy to follow instructions and a single flat edge (Like a flathead screwdriver, penny, or even the rim of a casing) makes disassembly, cleaning, and reassembly a breeze. Since it is a revolver, it is almost a point and click interface to use.
  2. Snub-nosed or full length, pulling tight grouping requires little compensation. Accurate up to 30 meters.
  3. Its heavily built frame makes it excellent for absorbing recoil. Essential on such an easily concealed slugger.
  4. Great ergonomics. Grip and mass make it as comfortable for my meathooks as for my much smaller missus. Aftermarket availability makes that rather moot, but the stock grip deserves praise.
  5. With the .357 model, you can plink all day with .38 special rounds and keep your skills sharp without breaking the bank. Reserving more expensive magnum loads for duty.
  6. Price overall. Parts, accessories, accoutrement, the firearm itself. All far more affordable than similar quality and caliber of other manufacture.

Concerns:

  1. Trigger weight - Rated at 14 pounds and tested at 11, this trigger is a beefy pull in double action. Single action drops that to just shy of 6 pounds.
  2. Ammo capacity. At only 5 rounds this little powerhouse isn’t designed to provide much cover fire.
  3. Weight. Being hefty means this handgun doesn’t quite cut mustard as a “pocket pistol” even with the snub nose. But that extra weight comes in handy when pushing a box or two of magnum rounds down range. The mass spares your mitt much recoil.

Now some folks think a magnum load bleeds too much energy out of a “snubby,” but almost all testing indicates that .357 packs more punch than .38+P even from that blunted aperture. Each caliber serves its purpose well.

The best part about the Ruger SP101 is the cost/benefit analysis. For the quality and longevity of a sidearm, in conjunction with intuitive ease of use, you really can’t beat this revolver. Better still, Brownells offers them new starting at $150 less than MSRP.

Its popularity has also warranted the availability of an excellent assortment of peripheral modifications, and accessories. It is easy and relatively inexpensive to make one of these, yours. From grips and sights to holsters and speed loaders.

The Verdict?

Look. I’ll shoot straight with you. I personally carried this firearm in .357 for nearly a decade. Brushed stainless, with the 2.25-inch barrel, and with the spurless hammer. (It was my primary CCW and I did not want the hammer to hook my off duty clothes. It pulled clean and easy—from concealment, in close quarters—the only time I’ve ever drawn under duress, and facilitated de-escalation.) 

I never once took any sort of umbrage with how the weapon performed or functioned over thousands of rounds. I found the heavy trigger easy to adapt to, and the solid and relatively weighty frame very comfortable—,even reassuring.