Ruger SP101 .357 Mag

Controllable small-frame wheelgun boasting solid performance!

Range Time

The SP101 I’ve been testing sports a substantial rear sight offering both windage and elevation adjustments. The 0.44-inch high front sight sports an eye-catching fluorescent green fiber-optic insert. These sights are easy to see under most lighting conditions.

In spite of the new grip’s shooter-friendly design, the little gun is still a handful to fire. With 125-grain full-house magnum loads, recoil is more than just snappy. The gun comes back in your hand hard enough to promote flinching on follow-up shots. Recoil can quickly bruise your palm. For accurate shooting, you need to exert enough pressure on the grip to make the gun controllable. Momentarily forget and loosen your grip and the gun will deliver a painful reminder.

Naturally, recoil is noticeably milder when .38 Special loads are used. But if you’re using the gun for self-defense, you’ll likely want the power .357 Mag loads provide. If you’re unhappy with .357 Mag recoil, however, .38 Special ammunition provides a gentler alternative. There are no flies on the .38 Special. This cartridge has served with distinction for many years, and will still get the job done. Like other .357 Mag revolvers, Ruger’s SP101 gives you a pair of effective choices.

I took the gun and three different kinds of .357 Mag ammunition to my desert range. Before testing for accuracy, I checked the trigger action. Fired double-action, the trigger weighed somewhere north of 12 pounds (the limit my trigger gauge would register). The trigger came back smoothly, with only minor stacking near the end of the pull. Backlash was practically nonexistent. With a little practice, you could anticipate when the trigger would “break,” allowing surprising accuracy.

The single-action trigger broke crisply and cleanly at a consistent 4.5 pounds. It was easy to hold the sights on target until the hammer fell. The hammer spur was checkered, with no sharp edges to abrade your thumb. Ruger’s patented transfer bar mechanism positively prevented the gun from firing until the trigger was pulled.
I fired the gun off-hand at a range of 15 yards. It shot extremely well, particularly considering its relatively lightweight. I fired four different five-round spreads with each kind of ammunition.

The fact that Winchester’s 125-grain jacketed hollowpoints produced the tightest groups could partly be attributed to the fact that they were the first I fired at the targets. I did my best to hold the gun in a consistent, rock-solid grip, but inevitably groups gradually grew as the testing progressed. However, none of the groups disappointed.

I probably should have fired some .38 Special loads, but since I viewed this gun as primarily for self-defense, I stayed with the more potent .357 Mag fodder. Once my hand had been subjected to 60 rounds of full-house magnum ammunition, I’m not sure what kind of groups the .38 Special loads would have produced.

Final Notes

In addition to serving for self-defense, the Ruger would also make a great trail gun—lightweight, compact and easily carried holstered at your belt. It’s a handy little gun with great ergonomics. It’s sized just right for a wide variety of applications. Once you’ve lugged larger, heavier .357 revolvers around on your hip, you appreciate carrying the SP101.

The sights were easy to see. The glowing round, green dot contrasted nicely with the plain, black ears of the rear sight. The upper rubber section of the grip had an indentation to accommodate your right thumb when the gun was held in firing position. This feature was lacking on the left side of the grip, meaning the gun was primarily designed for right-handed shooters. However, a southpaw friend of mine didn’t even notice the difference and did very well shooting the SP101 left-handed.
Chambers were not recessed, simplifying the manufacturing process without diminishing the strength of the cylinder. Extracting fired rounds went smoothly with the extractor effortlessly lifting empties an inch out of their chambers. Some new .357 revolvers I’ve tested have been reluctant to part with expended brass. The SP101 offered no such problem.

The small-frame SP101 can be quickly restoked with the same five-round fast-loader tool (i.e., HKS 36, etc.) used for Smith & Wesson J-frame revolvers.
While the new SP101 is a lively handful when fed .357 Magnum fodder, it behaves very well in all other respects. It’s a smooth-operating, well-finished firearm that is capable of excellent accuracy. I like this well-designed revolver a lot, and these guns are made here in the USA. To learn more, visit ruger.com.