Gun Test: Ruger GP100 .44 Special
By John Taffin, GUNS Magazine
There’s no doubt today’s revolvers are stronger, made of better steels with closer tolerances, and almost always shoot better than those from the Classic Age of Sixguns 50 to 75 years ago. Although I’ll admit today’s products are better, however, too often (at least in my mind) they don’t have a “soul.” But the latest Ruger offering from Ruger through Lipsey’s most definitely does. My friend and fellow shootist, Lipsey’s Jason Cloessner has had a lot to do with Ruger bringing forth just what old hidebound sixgunners like me are looking for. The latest iteration on a basic Ruger platform is a blued, 5-shot .44 Special GP100 with a half-lug barrel instead of the usual full lug.
The GP100 has always been one of the most underappreciated DA .357s. It’s been around for over 30 years and has proven itself to be reliable and exceptionally rugged. Originally it was offered both with a standard barrel and a heavy underlug barrel. A few years ago Ruger brought out the Match Champion GP100 in stainless steel with a standard weight barrel. Lipsey’s took a good look at it and special-ordered a 5″ blued version chambered as a 5-shot .44 Special.
John used Hodgdon’s HP-38, Universal and HS-6 in reloading for the GP100 .44 Special.
The Lipsey’s/Ruger GP100 has custom walnut stocks instead of the usual rubber ones found on the standard model.
The Lipsey’s gun is basically the .357 Magnum version with an un-fluted 5-shot cylinder and a barrel bored out for .44 Special. Sights are the excellent Ruger adjustables. The front is an easy-to-see, forward-slanting black post with a gold bead insert.
The GP100 does not have a grip frame per se but rather a stud which allows a lot of leeway in fashioning grips to fit individual shooters. The grips on this latest .44 Special are full wraparound grips of walnut with plenty of wood available should you want to shape them for your hand or just make them smaller. I found the grips fit my hand very well and do a good job of soaking up felt recoil.
The walnut used above the plain Jane version often found on factory sixguns comes together without any overlapping. Normally I change grips on my personal revolvers, but saw no need to with these.
The warmest loads I put through the .44 GP100 were a 255- gr. hard cast bullet at over 1,000 fps and 180- and 190-gr. bullets right at 1,150 fps. Incidentally, the chamber mouths on the Lipsey’s/Ruger .44 Special are a uniform .431″.
In addition to the .44 Special (top) the Lipsey’s/Ruger GP100 also handles both the .44 Colt (middle) and .44 Russian (bottom).
The “big-bore” GP100 is right at home in an El Paso Saddlery rig.
Tale Of The Tape
This GP100 was test-fired at 20 yards with factory loads including both .44 Russian and .44 Colt as well as .44 Special loads. The two former loads are very pleasant shooting and both the Black Hills .44 Colt and the PMC shorter .44 Russian rounds shot very well in the .44 Special cylinder.
Two everyday working load standouts are the Black Hills 250-gr. Keith at 750 fps while grouping in 1″ at 20 yards and the Heavy .44 Special Outdoorsman load from Buffalo Bore with a 255-gr. Hard Cast SWC at 1,025 fps and a group of 3/4″. There isn’t much that needs to be done with a .44 Special you couldn’t do with this load.
Buffalo Bore also offers several other specialty loads including the 200-gr. Lead Free Barnes HP (1,070 fps/1-1/4″), Heavy 180 JHP (1,150 fps/1-1/2″), Heavy 190 Soft Cast HP (1,130 fps/1-1/2″) and the accuracy champion, their 200-gr. full wadcutter Anti-Personnel load which clocks out at 1,040 fps while grouping its payload into 5/8″.
Most of the nine handloads tried grouped into 1″ or less, with my favorite EDC load of a 240-gr. Oregon Trail SWC over 6.0 grains of Universal’s at just over 830 fps with a 1″ group. Lest you think this isn’t a very powerful load when compared to some of the heavy magnums available, it just needs to be looked at in the proper perspective. Remember, the .45 ACP built its reputation with a 230-gr. bullet at 820 fps.
Everything is just about perfect with this double-action .44 Special (can you say Perfect Packin’ Pistol?) with only one change needed that’s just about universal in this day and age. Namely, it could benefit from the touch of an action tunesmith. Smoothing it out with a trigger job would certainly move it up high on the list of PPPs.
To recap, the Lipsey’s/Ruger GP 100 .44 Special has a 5″ barrel, 10.5″ OAL, a weight of 38 oz., adjustable sights and hand-filling custom walnut stocks. The MSRP is $869.