Ruger SP101
.357 Magnum caliber revolver. All stainless steel

Stainless steel snubby:
The Ruger SP101 revolver - Sighting In - Evaluation
Shooting Industry, July, 1992

Not every customer who walks through your doors is looking for a giant "Dirty Harry" .44 Magnum or a tricked-out race gun that is capable of winning the Bianchi Cup. Some simply want a gun that's easy to care for, reliable, accurate, and good for both target shooting and home defense.  For a customer like that, you might want to recommend the Ruger SP101.

The 101 is a stainless steel revolver which is available in a wide variety of calibers: .22 LR, .32 H&R Magnum, 9mm Parabellum, .38 Special, and .357 Magnum. This means that, with the SP101 in stock, the dealer is actually able to offer a gun with a dual personality -- a target shooter and a centerfire self-defense gun in a choice of calibers. Barrel lengths for the 101 range from a 2 1/4-inch snub nose to a mid-length 4-inch. Guns chambered in .22 LR and .32 H&R Magnum feature six-shot cylinders, while the .38, .357, and 9mm guns hold just five rounds.

The smaller caliber guns also come with adjustable sights, while the larger revolvers have fixed sights.
For the gun salesperson, this revolver really is two guns in one. The .22 and .32 are accurate enough to use for weekend target practice and still potent enough to do the job in a tool-box, tackle box, or backpack. The five-shot guns will appeal to customers who are in the market for a back-up, off-duty, or carry gun.

The engineering and design work behind this little revolver are the factors that really make it shine. While most small revolvers are just upgrades or remakes of guns created 40 years ago to chamber light .38 Special loads, the SP101 has been created for the high-strength factory loads available today. Both the 9mm and the .38 Special versions will take +P ammo, and the .357 Magnum version is one of the first small revolvers on the market which will handle such a powerful round. (Until recently that would have been "the only small .357 revolver on the market," but Smith & Wesson introduced a .357 Ladysmith at the 1992 SHOT Show.)

The high-tech, polymer grip takes into account the hot loads which will probably be put through the gun. Ruger's patented recoil-cushioning grip puts a layer of padding between the shooters hand and the frame of the little gun, making long shooting sessions much less tiring even with the powerful .357 rounds.

The cylinder system, too, is designed for maximum recoil with cylinder-locking notches which are offset and cut into the thick part of the cylinder walls between the centers of the chambers. This means that the cylinder is locked into the frame at two places: at the rear by the traditional cylinder pin, and at the front of the crane by a large, spring-loaded latch. The ejector rod serves only to activate the ejector, not as the front locking point for the cylinder.

The SP101 is made entirely of stainless steel, which gives the revolver good strength and minimal maintenance.

Putting It To The Test
As with so many small, five-shot revolvers, I expected the 101 to be a gun which was uncomfortable to fire (something you wouldn't want to shoot unless your life was in danger) and which would not endure too many rounds of hot ammo. I must say I was surprised when the folks at Ruger told me, "Sure, it'll take +P. It'll take .357. Put as many rounds as you want through it!"
So, I headed down to the range with 150 rounds of CCI/Blazer .38 Specials and 100 rounds of PMC/Eldorado .38 +P figuring that my hands probably would start to complain if I fired any more than that.

The version of the 101 I shot was a .357 Magnum with a 2 1/4-inch barrel, so I didn't expect too much accuracy from it. Needless to say, I was very surprised when I pulled my first target and found that I had been shooting 3-inch groups at 15 yards using the gun double action right out of the box. I can only imagine how much better that would have been with a little practice.

My second surprise came when I loaded the SP101 with the Eldorado +P ammo to give the hot stuff a try. Although the gun spouted a ball of flame from the barrel, the recoil was downright comfortable and I had no problem getting the gun back on target quickly.

By the time I was finished I wished that I had brought a few more boxes of ammunition with me. The combination of the gun's design and the recoil-absorbing grips made firing the SP101 very pleasant.

In The Showroom
As with most Ruger firearms, the first benefit your customers will see is the price tag. The Ruger SP101 is priced $20 to $50 below most of its competition. It is also much better engineered than other small-frame revolvers which means that customers won't have to worry about bent frames after 5,000 rounds.

(In fact, a few days after testing the gun, I received a memo from Ruger explaining that they had performed their own torture test on the revolver by allowing 10 shooters working in relay to put 5,000 rounds of .357 Magnum through the gun. When the revolver got too hot, they dunked it in a bucket of water, and at the end the gun showed no signs of damage or fatigue.)