The GP100 was introduced in 1986 as the most durable, longest-lasting medium-framed .357 Magnum duty revolver to be had. It was intended to withstand a steady diet of full-house .357 Magnums, which, in the then-new lightweight hollowpoint offerings, had proven to be tough on other medium-framed revolvers.
Unfortunately, 1986 was the beginning of the law enforcement’s race to transition to autoloading pistols, and the solid, dependable GP100 was left out of that equation.
Now, 30-plus years later, there is a renewed interest in revolvers as daily carry guns and as dependable camp guns. Along with that renewed interest comes a desire on the part of some shooters to move up in bore size. Some may find a high-capacity 9mm pistol comforting, but you can carry a bigger bore in many revolvers, and some opt to. Feeding that desire, Ruger has introduced the GP100 in .44 Special.
The original GP100, and its continued production models in .38/.357, are six-shot revolvers. This is not possible in .44
Special because there isn’t enough room in the cylinder to fit them around the axle. And increasing the cylinder diameter to accommodate six rounds of .44 Special would turn the GP100 into something bigger, bulkier and heavier. So, five rounds it is.
This has the advantage of placing the locking slots of the cylinder in-between the charge holes of the cylinder. On other revolvers, it makes for a stronger cylinder. There is no question of the strength of the GP100 cylinder, only of the user’s ability to handle recoil.
The GP100 in .44 Special is an all stainless steel double-action (DA) revolver with a swing-out cylinder. As with all Ruger DA revolvers, you press the cylinder latch into the frame to unlock the cylinder so it can swing out. The GP100 in .44 Special uses a triple-locking cylinder. The axle springs into the recess in the breechface to provide a secure rotational location. On the front of the crane, Ruger has installed a spring-loaded ball bearing that pops into a machined recess on the frame to provide an additional positioning location. Then the cylinder is locked
into place on each cylinder by means of the locking block in the bottom of the frame opening.
The GP100 comes with an adjustable rear sight, and the front blade is locked into a dovetail by means of a spring-loaded plunger, so you can easily change front sight blades if you want something different or if the rigors of hunting in the wilderness somehow cause the front sight blade to become damaged.
The GP100 comes with a Hogue Monogrip installed, and the soft rubber soaks up felt recoil. However, if you want a different grip style or composition, the grips are easy to remove by utilizing a single screw in the base.
The .44 Special has a 3-inch barrel, which makes it attractive as a daily carry gun, as a camp gun or as a personal protection gun when hunting. With the short barrel and chambered in .44 Special, it is not a hunting-specific handgun. However, today’s .44 Special is not the cartridge of the old days. Today’s defensive ammunition offerings are more in the realm of the .45 ACP out
of a compact pistol. A 200-grain jacketed hollowpoint (JHP) operating at or near 800 feet per second (fps) is much more effective than the lead round nose (LRN) of old.
The .44 Special is, of course, the cartridge Elmer Keith used to develop what became the .44 Magnum. Using a handload in .44 Special with a hard-cast bullet, it is possible to get a 240-grain lead semi-wadcutter (LSWC) up over 900 fps and not exceed the 19th-century pressure limits of the cartridge. It is not, of course, the same as Keith’s .44 Special, but his pressures exceeded SAAMI specs, and trying to go much past 900 fps is going to be stout felt recoil, even in a 36-ounce handgun.
Using soft-recoiling cowboy loads, or reloads at the same level, the GP100 in .44 Special becomes a big-bore plinker that is lots of fun. With the latest JHP defensive ammunition, it is a serious daily carry option. With hard-cast heavyweights at the top end of .44 Special pressures, it is a hunting backup gun that hits hard without producing oppressive levels of recoil. It will be a compact carry gun and an easy-to-manage plinker with the 3-inch barrel.
The Ruger GP100 has a solid frame and unitized assembly for easy stripping and cleaning. You need one screwdriver to take the grips off, and then use a cleaning rod to press the plunger holding the unitized action assembly out. This and the stainless steel construction promise a long service life of plinking, everyday carry (EDC) and backup hunting use.