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ruger gp100 vs sp101

Ruger SP101 vs GP100: Reckoning Of The Ruger Revolvers

If you want to carry a wheel gun but need something that's with a bit more beef than the standard snubby, two guns that will come up in your search are the Ruger SP101 vs GP100. Which is better as a concealed carry revolver?

Truthfully? The SP101 makes the better concealed carry gun. The GP100, though, is an absolute tank of a pistol. It excels as a packing gun, home defense gun and otherwise carry gun for any purposes other than concealed carry, because it's enormous.

But which should you get? Well, that depends a lot on what you're looking for…

Ruger SP101


The Ruger SP101 was designed to slot in between the LCR, an ultralight compact snubby, and the GP100, a full-size revolver. The idea was that it would be big enough to handle the .357 Magnum, but small enough to conceal and carry. It worked, and the SP101 has had a reputation as being the best compact .357 Magnum pistols to carry.

Does that mean shooting full-house magnum loads with one will be that much more pleasant? Well, felt recoil is experienced subjectively, so that depends on you, but it's still going to be handful, but a bit less so compared to a J-frame or LCR in .357 Magnum. A hot .38 Special load will be a lot easier and that's for sure.

The SP101 comes with three lengths of barrel, 2.25 inches, 3 inches and a couple models of 4.2 inches. Most models are stainless steel, though you might find the odd model in a different finish; usually that's a distributor-exclusive model. Most models have front blade sight and a rear trench sight cut into the top strap. However, some models include a target rear sight and a fiber optic front; it all depends on which you select.

Most models carry 5 of .357 Magnum, with a model or two in .38 Special +P and one in 9mm. There are also a few 6-shot models in .327 Federal and a few 8-shot models in .22 LR as well.

The SP101 is still light, at 26 ounces, so not far removed from most compact semi-auto pistols. It stands 4.5 inches tall with the standard rubber grips, 1.4 inches wide at the cylinder, and 7.2 inches long with the 2.25-inch barrel, 8 inches long with the 3-inch barrel and 9.12 inches long with the 4.2-inch barrel.

The extra weight and larger grip will make shooting .357 Magnum a little easier than a snubby, but since the SP101 is an almost-medium frame it'll still be a handful.

The GP100: For Those Times You Need A Tank Of A Gun


Say whatever you want about the GP100. It's been beaten by the ugly stick. It weighs a ton. Maybe it doesn't have as refined a trigger as a Smith and Wesson. It doesn't come with rounded-butt grips - which the SP101 does - and thus isn't as concealable.

However, this gun will still be shooting the hot stuff when you have to give your guns to the grandkids and you're being shuttled off to the home. "Ruger handloads" are a thing for good reason. That S&W will shoot out the cylinder after a certain amount of the full-house loads, and that Colt Python you've been dreaming of? The cylinder timing just went out, just thinking about the thing.

The standard model has a 4.2-inch barrel, with a underlug shroud. It holds 6 of .357 Magnum, which is was designed to shoot from the ground up. The basic model is blued steel, but stainless is available too. You get a target rear sight and front blade. However, fiber optic sights can be had too.

A few variants exist; they make a couple that hold 7 of .327 Federal, a few that hold 5 of .44 Special, and at least one GP100 holding 10 of .22 LR. Standard barrel length is 4.2 inches, but a few models are offered with a 2.5-inch, 3-inch, 5-inch, 5.5-inch (.22 LR only) and 6-inch barrel lengths, should you desire less or more. The 2.5-inch is only offered in .357 Magnum, but a couple of 3-inch models are offered in .44 Special as well as a couple in .357 Magnum.

The base model stands 5.57 inches tall, 1.55 inches wide and 9.5 inches long with the 4.2-inch barrel; overall length can be as short as 8.5 inches with the 2.5-inch barrel. It weighs 40 ounces unloaded, though this can get as low as 36 ounces with a shorter barrel length.

A tank, be in no doubt. However, what the GP100 has been hailed for since it replaced the well-regarded Security Six and Service Six revolvers in the 1980s, was iron-clad reliability, accuracy, easy shooting for a powerful handgun cartridge and a reasonable price point for such a revolver.

Ruger SP101 vs GP100: Which Should I Get?


Why not get both? A truth about deciding between the SP101 vs GP100 is that you weren't meant to choose one or the other; the SP101 was designed as the compact, concealed carry counterpart to the bigger gun. You carry the big one in the woods, and the smaller one in the streets.

But what if you had to?

Well...if you could only get one...it would really depend on what you were looking for. If you want a concealed carry .357 Magnum, the SP101 is the better buy. It's smaller, it's lighter, and you'll have an easier time packing it every day, even with a Ruger SP101 IWB holster.

Not that you couldn't carry a GP100. One of the 2.5-inch or 3-inch GP100 models in .357 Magnum or .44 Special could be carried daily, even concealed if you had the right holster. However, finding an IWB for it will be difficult (not too many holster makers offer that sort of rig for this gun) and you'll need a stout gun belt. With a high-ride OWB you might have a bit more luck.

These two guns are really tools for specific jobs. The GP100 is a packing gun, great for the trail, the woods, and as a home protection gun. You could carry it every day if you wanted to and some people do, but the SP101 is the better choice for daily carry. You only get five shots, but carrying capacity is probably not much of a hangup if you're looking to get a concealed carry revolver.

These revolvers aren't terribly costly, but aren't exactly cheap either; base MSRP starts at $719 for the SP101 and $769 for the GP100. Cost, therefore, isn't really what's going to separate one from the other, and both can be had on the used market for very reasonable amounts.

You will want to handle and shoot both, of course, to see if there's one you prefer over the other.

Have you shot these firearms? What did you like, and what didn't you?
Let us know in the comments below!

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Writer sam hoober