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Kit Guns: Ruger SP101 Rimfire Versus Used Taurus Model 94

Kit Guns: Ruger SP101 Rimfire Versus Used Taurus Model 94
Great granddads go bag always contained a small 22 LR revolver, which was called a kit gun. Often 22 LR revolvers, kit guns were useful for small-game hunting for squirrels, raccoons, and the like as well as for dispatching snakes or rodents, or for plinking cans. They could also be used as defensive weapons for varmints.

We recently looked at new stainless steel Ruger SP101 ($699) and a used Taurus Model 94 ($300) with an eye toward finding a Bargain Hunter kit gun — generically, a knockabout handgun that was substantial enough to go into the backcountry as a plinker or small-game getter, but which didn’t have to cost and arm and a leg. After the tin cans stopped jumping, we wound up with two vastly different, but very good recommendations, as kit guns. In more detail, the two contestants were a Ruger SP101 #5765 KSP-242-8 and a used Taurus Model 94, both small-frame, double-action revolvers with 4-inch barrels, adjustable sights, and high-capacity cylinders. They are chambered in 22 LR but are also compatible with 22 CB caps, 22 Shorts, 22 Longs, and 22 LR shotshells loaded with #12 shot. Besides their versatility, it’s usually possible to replenish your stores of 22 cartridges pretty much anywhere that sells ammo.

In addition to simply finding the better handgun, the task here was to decide what was enough gun for this role without spending unnecessary money. With that caveat thrown in, the Taurus had a huge initial lead because it cost so much less — about $399 cheaper than list and about $235+ cheaper than prices at Cheaper Than Dirt! ($536) and Bud’s Gun Shop ($540), not counting transfer fees, shipping, sales taxes and other associated costs. Our used Taurus test gun was most similar to the current production model 94B4 #2-940041, which also has a nine-shot capacity and a 4-inch barrel, a 5-inch height, and an OAL of 8.75 inches. The major difference is the new model has a full lug barrel and a price of $438. Assessing the Taurus test gun’s condition, we gauged it at 90%.

To get things started, we cleaned the 94’s bore thoroughly, scrubbing it with a bronze brush after letting it soak in bore cleaner. Then we tried to use a Brownells range rod (Brownells.com) to test the chamber-to-bore alignment, but the 94’s bore was tight and the 22-caliber head did not fit, so we didn’t force it. We thought, at worst the undersized bore would have an effect on accuracy. We hoped it would be positive. With the Ruger, we discovered all chambers were indeed aligned with the bore.

Off sandbags at 15 yards using the guns’ open sights, PMC Target 40-grain roundnose ammo delivered shockingly good results in the Taurus, shooting a best-of-test 0.48-inch group on the way to an five-shot average group size of 0.68 inch, not quite half the size of the Ruger’s 1.30-inch average. The Ruger did produce a marginally faster average velocity of 838 fps to the Taurus’s 829 fps.

Remington Thunderbolt 40-grain roundnose ammo was a coin flip in average group accuracy, with the SP101 taking a tiny 0.96-inch edge over the Model 94 at 1 inch. The Taurus produced better velocity with this round, however, 884 fps to 862 fps.

CCI Mini-Mag 40-grain roundnoses produced groups likewise too close to call, with both handguns spitting out average group sizes of 1.20 inches, though the SP101 had the smaller best group, 0.78 inches to 1 inch for the Model 94. Velocity slightly favored the Ruger, 1005 fps to 992 fps.

All in, we found these small revolvers were well suited for plinking and small-game hunting, but we thought one offered more value.

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