August 28, 2020
By J. Scott Rupp
It’s hard to believe the Ruger GP100 is 35 years old. Bill Ruger’s design was notable for several features. Its lack of sideplates made the frame stronger, which was necessary because this revolver was built from the get-go to handle a full-time diet of .357 Magnum loads. It introduced the peg-style frame that permitted the use of one-piece grips, and it featured a trigger system employing coil-wire mainsprings instead of leaf springs—the same setup used on the company’s Redhawk double action that made its debut six years prior.
Over those 35 years, the revolver has seen a number of models and chamberings, from .22 Long Rifle to .44 Special (I bought one), and now Ruger has decided to put the muscle of its relatively new Custom Shop behind the design. Last year the company introduced the Super GP100 Competition in .357 Magnum/.38 Special, and more recently it added a version in 9mm Luger.
These are competition guns, pure and simple, but any serious revolver fan will appreciate all the upgrades. Let’s start with the most obvious: the half-lug shrouded barrel with its lightening cuts.
Both versions use stainless steel for the shroud, with the 9mm version getting a satin stainless treatment while the .357/.38 has a PVD (physical vapor deposition) blue/black finish. Six lightening cuts on each side of the shroud prevent the gun from being muzzle heavy, and they’re sexy as hell to boot.
The cold-hammer-forged barrel is six inches long in the 9mm and 5.5 inches long in the .357/.38. The overall lengths of the revolvers are the same, though, because the longer barrel extends into the frame to meet up with the shorter 9mm cylinder.
The half-lug also contributes to the revolver’s excellent balance. One of the original features of the GP100 was a full underlug, which gave the gun weight out front and helped tame muzzle rise and recoil impulse from .357 Magnum loads.
The Super GP100 Competition wouldn’t benefit from a full underlug because adding that to the shroud would make the gun unwieldy, and a ton weight out front is unnecessary due to the relatively low power levels of the 9mm and .38 Special (which everyone who buys the .357 would shoot) cartridges.
The barrels feature an 11-degree crown for top accuracy. Ruger has been using this crown on more and more of its guns, and it’s a feature demanding shooters look for.
The replaceable front sight is set in a dovetail. It features a green fiber-optic rod. The rod is protected up top by a continuous strip of metal, and there’s an additional metal strip in the center on each side for further protection.
The barrel shroud is serrated along its length, while the flat topstrap is smooth. The adjustable rear sight fits into a cut in the topstrap and is held in place with a pin. A screw on the body of the sight adjusts elevation, and a screw on the right side moves the white-outline blade for windage.
One of the big pluses with the GP100 design is the strength of its triple lockup. This includes a locking lever at the front of the crane—a feature that initially debuted with the company’s bank-vault-strong Redhawk—the offset cylinder stop and the crane latch at the back of the cylinder.
The eight-shot cylinders on both models are black PVD-finished, high-strength stainless steel. Because these are dedicated competition guns, the cylinders are cut for moon clips, and the machining is expertly done. Three clips are provided with the gun, and I bought additional clips for the .38 from Speed Beez. The 9mm also comes with a de-mooning tool to wrest empties or loaded ammo from the clips. The .357/.38 does not include the tool.
You can also single-load the cylinders as you would any standard double-action revolver cylinder. With the .357/.38 the brass can be ejected via the ejector rod and its star, but with the 9mm you’ll have to pluck them out by hand. This was easily done on my 9mm sample except for one charge hole that required a little extra work to dislodge its empty case.
One tiny difference I noted in the samples involves the ejector rod. On the .357/.38, the shoulder between the top and the stem was nicely dehorned, but the 9mm’s shoulder had a slightly sharp edge to it. I could barely see it under a magnifying glass, but I did notice it just a bit when slamming down hard on the rod with the palm of my hand.
The one-piece stocks are something to behold. The .357/.38 sample arrived first, and I thought the Hogue hardwood on it was good-looking, but I was blown away by the grip on the 9mm. The former is lighter and exhibited a nice straight grain; the latter is darker with handsome figuring.
Between its grip and the contrasting black cylinder/stainless frame and shroud, the 9mm is a true beauty. The .357/.38 is no slouch, either. The satin stainless cylinder release, hammer, ejector rod and trigger are left in the white and contrast nicely with the black PVD finish.
The GP100 was designed to be easy to take down. It breaks down to its sub-assemblies in seconds, and Ruger fully intended for Super GP100 Competition shooters to experiment with the gun’s springs. And that’s really all you probably need to do because all the internal parts have been polished and optimized for a smooth trigger pull.
If you want to change springs, remove the slotted screw at the base of the grip and pull the grip. Cock the hammer and insert a small punch, Allen wrench or similar tool into the hole at the bottom of the hammer strut to trap the spring. Hold the hammer with your fingers, pull the trigger and ease the hammer forward. Then you can remove the strut and mainspring.
At this point you can replace the mainspring, and I’d advise that unless you’re an old hand at this you should take a photo of the orientation of the hammer strut assembly for easier reassembly.
To replace the trigger return spring, after taking out the mainspring assembly remove the hammer and the trigger guard assembly. Ruger’s directions in the manual will guide you through this, and it’s easy.
The only difficulty I encountered—with both the Supers and my .44 Special—was one mentioned in the manual. The trigger guard lock plunger can be stubborn. I had to place the revolver in a padded vise and tap lightly on the plunger with a punch and a small hammer. This freed the plunger and allowed me to swing out the trigger guard assembly.
To replace the spring, drive out the small pin at the back of the assembly and remove the plunger to access the spring.
Reassemble in reverse order, ensuring when you reinstall the trigger assembly that the transfer bar and pawl are correctly positioned. Replace the mainspring assembly and the grips, and you’re done.
I already had some Wilson Combat GP100 springs on hand, and I replaced the stock mainspring with a nine-pound one in the .357/.38. That really helped the double-action trigger pull, dropping it to seven pounds, one ounce. The stock 9mm double-action pull went eight pounds, 12 ounces. Single action was two pounds, eight ounces for the .357/.38 and three pounds, four ounces for the 9mm with stock spring.
I also replaced the trigger return spring in the .357/.38 with an eight-pounder. That didn’t suit me as well. It felt great while dry-firing, but when I tried to engage a plate rack at speed I found myself short-stroking the trigger on occasion.
Believe it or not, you can temporarily lock up a revolver if you don’t allow the trigger to go past its reset point, and the lighter spring seemed to make me more prone to that problem. I’ll bet Jerry Miculek and other elite revolver shooters don’t have this issue, though, and veteran competitors already know what spring setup suits them best—and the Super GP100 is ready, willing and able to accommodate them.
Benchrest accuracy results are shown in the accompanying table. I don’t think they’re all that impressive, but I blame the shooter. My eyes aren’t great in the first place, and while I do think the fiber-optic front sight design is a winner, the rod sits high in the blade, and there’s not much hard black above it.
For me this meant taking a good six o’clock hold was difficult. Younger, sharper eyes will undoubtedly shoot these guns much better in deliberate accuracy testing.
The 9mm version was fussier about ammo than the .357/.38. In addition to the ammo listed, I tried Federal Syntech. The results with the 115-grain version results weren’t worth recording, and the 150-grain flatnose load was even more unsuited to the gun. For whatever reason, some of those rounds keyholed, and there was no semblance of a group.
Practical accuracy with other ammo in both guns was terrific, though. I worked with Revolution Target’s six-inch plate rack as well as IPSC cardboard targets, drawing from a holster I bought from Speed Beez. When I did my part both revolvers did theirs.
I mentioned how attractive the grips are, but they were also a dream to work with. I was really impressed by how natural they felt when the buzzer went off and my hand went to the grip. I also found I really liked how smooth the grips are, despite my initial skepticism they wouldn’t provide enough control. They were fine in that regard. And, of course, if these wood beauties aren’t up your alley, they’re easily changed.
At speed I shot the 9mm better than I did the .38, despite the lower trigger pull weight on the latter. Who knows why.
Target-transition times were a fraction slower with the 9mm, but that’s to be expected because it operates at much higher pressure and has snappier recoil than the .38. That was certainly in evidence in hitting the Revolution’s plates. The .38 loads would swing them back, but the 9mm bullets would smack the plates and make them do a full 360.
Hits on both steel and paper came easy, and the gun’s excellent balance and great sights made it easy to track the front sight and get back on target quickly. I won’t be giving Miculek a run for his money any time soon—or, in fact, ever—but I really enjoyed working with a couple of revolvers designed from the ground up to be shot fast and shot well.
Originally, my intention was to shoot a couple local matches with these revolvers, but our high plains winter and then Covid-19 got in the way. Despite this lack of experience, I feel confident these Super GP100 Competitions would make an excellent choice for those looking to shoot matches with a wheelgun.
The $1,549 suggested retail is in line with what you’d expect to pay for a premium revolver. Oh, and I failed to mention the extras that come with the guns, chief among these being a top-notch SKB carrying case. This heavy-duty number features dual latches and dual metal-reinforced holes for padlocks.
The closed-cell foam inside is custom cut for the gun, and besides the three moon clips you also get a certificate of authenticity signed by Ruger’s president/CEO Chris Killoy, a Ruger Custom shop medallion, sticker and Ruger soft cloth.
Not into competition? The Super GP100 Competition certainly holds its own as a well-designed eight-shot revolver. I didn’t fire any .357s through that model, but its balance, sights and great trigger pull (with or without a spring job) would make it a great hunting gun for those who prefer to go afield with open sights. And certainly eight shots of .357, .38 Special, .38 +P or 9mm would come in handy in any home- or trail-defense situation.
Mostly, I’m glad to see Ruger striving for refinements that can make revolvers better. Competition is the crucible that forms many of the advancements that will come to define a particular action or design in the future, and with the Super GP100 Competition the company has made big strides toward the revolver’s advancement—just as the original GP100 did 35 years ago.
Ruger Super GP100 Competition Revolver Specs
- Type: Double-action/single-action revolver
- Caliber: .357 Magnum/.38 Special, 9mm Luger
- Capacity: 8, cylinders cut for moon clips
- Barrel: Cold hammer forged; 5.5 in. (.357), 6 in. (9mm)
- Overall length: 11 in.
- Weight: 47 oz. (.357), 45.6 oz. (9mm)
- Frame/cylinder: PVD black stainless (.357), satin stainless (.357)
- Grips: Hogue hand-finished hardwood
- Sights: Adjustable rear, green fiber-optic front
- Trigger: (stock 9mm) 8 lb., 12 oz. double action; 3 lb., 4 oz. single action
- Safety: Transfer bar
- Price: $1,549
- Manufacturer: Ruger, ruger.com
Ruger Super GP100 Competition Accuracy Results