When Ruger first chambered its compact SP101 in the hot .327 Federal Magnum, everyone I knew who had the opportunity to shoot one was suitably impressed. And why not?
With a 100-grain Speer GDHP at 1,400 fps (and a 115 grainer at 1,300) from the three-inch barrel of the SP101, it was instantly the hottest .32 around, beating out the venerable .32-20 and the more recent .32 H&R Magnum.
Its future as a defensive round in small revolvers seemed assured. But among gunwriter types shooting it for the first time, the healthy whack of the SP101 had scarcely faded when the inevitable â€śif onlyâ€ťs began. Most of them I heard sounded something like this:
â€śGreat round! If only you could get it in a full-size revolver, with a longer barrel and serious high-profile, fully adjustable sights. Jeez, what a varmint/small-game rig that would be!â€ť
Well, somebody at Ruger mustâ€™ve been thinking along those lines, because the company has recently introduced a seven-shot, four-inch-barreled GP100 in .327 Federal (not to mention an eight-shot 5Â˝-inch stainless New Model Blackhawk for those preferring a single action).
Recently, I took out the GP100 to the range. I expected, naturally, that the velocity figures from the four-inch GP100 would be healthier than those of the four-inch SP101. And I wasnâ€™t mistaken, although they werenâ€™t by all that much, testifying to the efficiency of the hot little .32.
Since weâ€™d brought along Shooting Times editor Joel Hutchcroftâ€™s pet SP101 (heâ€™s the only certifiable .32 fanatic I know), we were able to do a bit of compare and contrast. Velocities from Joelâ€™s SP101 were 1,346 fps (Federal 85-grain Hydra-Shok), 1,470 fps (American Eagle 100-grain JSP) and 1,316 fps (Speer 115-grain GDHP).
From the extra inch of barrel on the GP100, we gained 71 fps from the Hydra-Shoks, 43 fps from the American Eagle 100s and 101 fps from the Speer GDHPs.
The recoil with the 40-ounce GP100 was practically nonexistent. It was considerably more noticeable, not surprisingly, from Joelâ€™s 28-ounce SP101, particularly with the 115-grain Sierra GDHPs.
In single-action mode, the trigger broke at a crisp 4Âľ pounds. The double-action pull staged pretty dramatically, but once the rollover point was reached, it was possible to do some pretty accurate shooting that way (which we did at assorted clods and broken clay targets on the berm).
One added advantage of a .327 Federal revolver is that you can also shoot the shorter .32 H&R Magnum out of it. From the GP100, we tried some Federal 95-grain lead semi-wadcutters, which averaged 918 fpsâ€”not too impressive when stacked up against the .327 Federalâ€™s 100-grain JSP at 1,513.
But from a hunting standpoint, that isnâ€™t necessarily a bad thing. Thereâ€™s little doubt that the more stout .327 loads would work pretty well on large varmints and coyotes at reasonable yardages (some of them, after all, are pretty close to what can be obtained from the 7Â˝-inch barrel of the Ruger Blackawk in .30 Carbine).
But even though the .32 H&R is several hundred fps behind the .327 Federal in terms of speed, if I were after
edible stuff like rabbits or squirrels, Iâ€™d go with the H&R round for obvious reasons. On top of that, it gave us the best accuracy (see table). And itâ€™s a heck of a lot quieter than the .327.
We had a limited amount of ammo on hand, but we shot our groups â€śall the way aroundâ€ťâ€”the full seven rounds, feeling that cherry-picking charge holes or shooting five-round groups wouldnâ€™t really give us a true picture of things.
Weâ€™re sure that better results wouldâ€™ve been obtained with a Ransom Rest (or, tough as it is to admit, younger eyes). It was a cold, blustery day, and in all honesty, we think the GP100 couldâ€™ve done better than what we did with it. The sights are excellent, as is the broad sighting plane along the highway-like topstrap and beefy, full-lug barrel. We fired three types of .327 Federal ammo and some .32 H&R Magnum stuff we were able to scrounge up. Groups ran from three to slightly over four inches at the 25-yard distance at which we were shooting.
The GP100 in .327 Federal neatly splits the difference between the SP101â€™s carry gun niche and the .327 Blackawkâ€™s sporting credentials. Itâ€™s a sound, utilitarian compromise.