In the December 2014 issue, Contributing Editor Roger Eckstine did an in-depth look at two guns designed to compete in the Stock Service Revolver division of IDPA.
Ruger GP100 Match Champion No. 1754 357 Magnum, $899
The Ruger GP100-series revolvers are different from the Smith & Wesson 686s, but both guns were introduced to provide more durability than previous models.
The Ruger GP100 replaced the Security Six revolver in about 1986 with innovations such as stronger lockup built into the cylinder crane rather than at the tip of the ejector rod. Another feature that adds strength to the GP100 design is the lack of side plates in the construction of the frame.
Here are all the items tested in Gun Tests magazine from 2014 back through 1989.
Cold bluing, or chemical bluing, is used to touch-up slightly worn or nicked blued finishes. It is suitable for covering up the holster wear on the muzzle of a revolver, or a spot on a slide where your sweat lifted the blue. It is not nearly as durable as a hot-dip blue finish. Some cold-blue formulas contain sulfides, and a handgun that has been touched-up too much can have a very alight, but noticeable, smell of rotten eggs. Sniffing a used firearm, to see if there has been any use of cold blue to hide wear, is an old trick in the gun business.
When putting an S & W revolver back together, a few steps seem to cause more trouble than the rest. One is the insertion of the cylinder-locking bolt, and its spring, into the frame. The bolt has to go down its shaft, while the spring has to be squirmed back into the tunnel drilled into the front of the frame cutout. (I have no idea how they drill that hole.) With the frame resting on a padded surface, place the spring into its hole in the locking bolt. Start the bolt partway down the shaft until the spring bears against the edge of the frame. Use a small eyeglass screwdriver to compress the spring enough to clear the edge of the frame and push the bolt and spring down the shaft. When you get to the frame hole, the spring will snap into place. Be sure the bolt is completely down the shaft, and pivots smoothly up and down through the cutout under the cylinder.
Ruger lists seven different models in the GP100 revolver family with barrel lengths of 3, 4, and 6 inches. Finishes are either blued or stainless steel. Manufacturer's suggested retail prices range from $552 for the .38 Special +P only models to $615 for the stainless steel .357 Magnum revolvers with barrel lengths of either 4 or 6 inches. All models come with a rubber grip complete with a rosewood insert. Our 4-inch barreled KGP-141 had a pleasing bright-stainless finish and an adjustable rear sight. Elevation was the familiar clockwise for down and counter clockwise for raising the point of impact. The windage adjustment required opposite movement for changing point of impact.
Rugers $780 KRH-444 Redhawk was our top pick among three 4-inch .44 Magnum revolvers. Heres why. When Ruger engineers sought to make a more compact revolver, they did so by shortening the barrel and introducing a new grip. They left the frame alone. This meant the gun was plenty strong to take any punishment we could dish out.
The 357 Magnum is an excellent defensive cartridge. Pair it with a lightweight, compact revolver, and that is what we would call an excellent choice as a conceal-carry handgun. Our team has tested variants of the Ruger SP101 and S&W Model 60, but the S&W Model 60 Pro Series in 357 Magnum is a variant we have wanted to get our hands on for a while. We also wanted to see if the caliber choice would sway our recommendation on the established Ruger SP101 model.
The second Ruger SP101 we tested was chambered in 327 Federal Magnum, which was cataloged by Ruger from 2007 to 2011. As we noted in our first look at the gun in the April 2008 issue, Ruger and Federal teamed up to produce a cartridge/handgun combination that provided the power of the 357 Magnum but with less recoil and in a compact revolver that holds six shots rather than five shots. As a bonus, the 327 Fed Mag-chambered Ruger also accepts 32 H&R Mag, 32 S&W, and 32 S&W Long ammo. The footprint of the Ruger SP101 in 327 Fed Mag is basically same as the Ruger SP101 in 357 Mag, with a few exceptions.
All three double-action revolvers are built from stainless steel with similar barrel lengths, give or take three-quarters of an inch. All had exposed hammers, so single-action firing is possible. A transfer bar was built into the revolvers for safety. All three were built to last, even under a steady diet of hot loads. The lock up was tight on all three, and the chambers were all aligned with the bore, which we assumed but also verified. Fit and finish was very good on all three revolvers and that was exactly what we expected. The workmanship in these guns make them worth the cost.
First introduced by Colt in 1873, nicknames associated with the legendary Single Action Army revolver include Peacemaker, Frontier Six-Shooter, Model P, and the Hog-Leg. The design was rapidly adopted by the U.S. Army and used extensively during the Indian Wars period. Colt's SAA was also used by lawmen, outlaws, cowboys, and other famous characters who helped to shape the legend of the American West. There were three manufacturing time periods for the Single Action Army or Model P as the factory called it. The original production, known as the First Generation, was manufactured from 1873 through 1940. This run totaled 357,859 revolvers (including the Bisley and SAA Target models). After a lull of 16 years, in 1956, the Second Generation SAA was introduced. This run continued until 1978, when engineering changes, denoted by the letters "SA" after the serial number, gave us the Third Generation SAA, which is still being produced.
The child-proofing of guns is not just desirable, it's the law. Here are some effective, but inexpensive, locks you can make in your shop.
Taurus is introducing an unusual revolver in 2014, the 85 View, a radical departure from the typical snubnose 38 Special. The +P-rated View has an exclusive clear-view Lexan sideplate that reveals the inner workings of the firearm.