August 07, 2020
By Keith Wood
The Ruger GP100 has been the mainstay of the company’s large-frame .357 Magnum line since it was introduced in 1985. It quickly became popular as a durable and serviceable double-action revolver at an attractive price. Now that revolvers are seeing a bit of a resurgence in popularity, Ruger made the decision to drag this modern classic into the 21st century with the Super GP100.
An interesting evolution of the GP100 line up, the Super GP100 is different in both function and appearance. Its predecessor, the GP100, continued some notable design elements when it hit the market. These include a spring-loaded cylinder latch located on the crane rather than at the forward end of the ejector rod. A second innovation was the use of a peg-style grip frame, which allowed more flexibility in what configurations could be offered without altering the frame.
The GP100 also used a coil mainspring and took advantage of the company’s investment casting capabilities. The combination of these elements allowed Ruger to keep the price below that of the comparable Smith & Wesson and Colt revolvers of the day. The GP100 introduction even inspired Colt’s development of the King Cobra, which was designed to compete with the GP100 at a similar price point. Though it has been available in cartridges ranging from the .22 LR to .44 Special, the overwhelming majority of GP100s chamber the .357 Magnum.
When the revolver was king, GP100s were issued to agents of the U.S. Border Patrol, some Canadian police and numerous local law enforcement agencies, including (reportedly), the NYPD. My guess is that the GP100 would have seen more widespread use among law enforcement if it hadn’t been for timing. Not long after the GP100’s mid-’80s arrival, agencies began switching to semi-automatic duty pistols, most of which were chambered in 9mm.
Perhaps the great irony of this story is that, though the widespread adoption of the 9mm probably had a significant effect on the GP100’s sales prospects, Ruger’s latest GP100 offering — the Super GP100 — is chambered in that same cartridge.
If you’re wondering why a company would introduce an eight-shot 9mm revolver, there is a very specific reason. When so-called “Practical” handgun matches began in the late 1950s, Police Pistol Combat (PPC) events drove the move among competitors from bullseye to more active disciplines. In those days, PPC matches were dominated by revolvers.
As the International Practical Shooting Configuration (IPSC) and United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) were formed and grew in the 1970s and ’80s, the competitive shooting scene made a sharp transition to semiautomatics. In 2014, the USPSA amended its revolver rules to allow for a capacity of up to eight rounds, which made most traditional revolvers obsolete for these matches. Eight-round revolvers all fall into the “minor power-factor” category, which means the 9mm sits in its mild-recoiling sweet spot without having to push the pressure envelope. If an individual is interested in competing in the USPSA Revolver Division, the new Super GP100 in 9mm is a turnkey solution.
But the Super GP100 isn’t merely another off-the-shelf option. Instead, it is one of a handful of products coming out of Ruger’s Custom Shop. Announced on the December 2018 cover of Guns & Ammo, Ruger’s Custom Shop currently produces eight different handguns and long guns, including two variants of the GP100.
Though Ruger has lead the industry in maintaining a traditional appearance among many of its products, the Super GP100 Custom Shop 9mm is anything but. It’s part six-gun and part race gun. The Super GP100 adds modern design elements to this workhorse. When building the Super GP100, the Custom Shop began with a cast stainless-steel frame, identical in size to GP100s produced in .357 Magnum. Casting got a bad rap in the firearms world back in the 1950s, but there is little similarity between the cheap castings of yesteryears and todays investment casting processes. Ruger has been the market leader in the close-tolerance investment-casting manufacturing world, thanks to its Pine Tree Castings in Newport, New Hampshire.
In a world of outsourcing, Ruger conducts its own manufacturing to ensure quality control. Since 1963, Pine Tree Castings has produced products for a variety of companies, both inside and outside of the firearms industry. Not only can they repeatably and efficiently create parts using their casting process, Pine Tree has the ability to heat-treat and finish machine parts in-house using Haas CNC Milling Machines. This is just one of the reasons Ruger revolvers are considered some of the strongest in the market and are often the basis for high-end customs.
The frame on a Super GP100 is fit with a two-piece barrel that combines a cold hammer-forged sleeve with a contoured stainless shroud. The shroud has six angular cuts on each side, allowing for a two-tone view of the black-coated barrel sleeve underneath. Though it has an effective barrel length of 6 inches, only 43/4 inches of barrel extends forward of the frame. The reason for this is that the 9mm cylinder is appreciably shorter than the frame window, allowing the barrel to extend well inside the frame to mate with the cylinder’s leading edge.
The internal mechanism of the Super GP100 is essentially identical to the two-leaf-spring lock-work arrangement available on the Super Redhawk, but with some Custom Shop tweaks. The internal working surfaces are polished to produce an impressively smooth action. Recently, I’ve seen new revolvers with either good double-action pulls or good single-action pulls, but not many that nailed both. Ruger did just that on its Super GP100. The double-action pull weight on Guns & Ammo’s test sample measured at a very slick and clean 11 pounds, while the single-action pull broke at 3.3 pounds with zero discernable creep. A transfer-bar safety system blocks contact between the hammer and internal firing pin unless the trigger is depressed for the entirety of its pull length; This adds a drop-safe element to the design.
The stainless steel cylinder on the Super GP100 is finished in black PVD, which stands for Physical Vapor Deposition. PVD finishes are dimensionally thin but tough, and are both friction and corrosion-resistant. Due to these qualities, PVD is quickly gaining on other coatings and finishes as an attractive option.
Thanks to the generous frame size of the GP100, its relatively narrow diameter of the 9x19mm cartridge, and the strength of today’s steels, the Super GP100 has a capacity of eight rounds. The cylinder gap on our sample measured .008 inch, and the cylinder locked up securely with little play when cocked. GP100s use two locking points (or three if you count the bolt-to-cylinder interface): One at the rear of the ejector rod and the other located at the aforementioned position on the crane.
The Super GP100 ships with three steel full-moon clips, which facilitate in fast loading and unloading of the revolver. I found that they ejected easily. A slight chamfer on each cylinder helps guide cartridges into the chamber for fast reloads. The cylinder is machined to allow the clip to recess into it. Since the 9mm headspaces on the case mouth, the Super GP100 can be loaded without the clips, though individual cases must individually be extracted by hand.
To speed up the process of unloading spent cases from the moon clips, which can be a real pain with any brand, Ruger included a special tool that makes the job easy.
There is wide flexibilty of grip styles that can be mounted on the Super GP100 because of the way Ruger attaches the grip to the GP100 series. The Super GP100 comes with hand-finished hardwood grips made by Hogue, which allows for a firm purchase high on the gun that controls recoil and muzzle rise. It has a noticeable palmswell, no finger grooves, and a smooth finish. If you’ve ever handled a pair of Jerry Miculek’s grips, this design is similar to his smooth grips, though by no means identical. I found the Super GP100’s grips to be functional and attractive.
The sights on the Super GP100 are excellent, with a removeable green fiber-optic front sight dovetailed into the frame that I found to be highly visible on the range. The white-outline rear is adjustable for both windage and elevation. Though I did have to make some elevation changes to accommodate the various loads tested, the range of adjustment was sufficient enough that I was able to make each load shoot to its point of aim.
If you’re wondering whether a 45.6-ounce revolver chambered in 9mm recoils much, no. This is a highly-subjective statement, but I think the felt recoil of the Super GP100 might be the least of any centerfire revolver I’ve shot. Its comparable to the lightest .38 Special target loads.
Firing the Super GP100 was fun, which isn’t always a term that I use to describe the process of putting hundreds of round downrange in a single sitting. Accuracy was average with the exception of Wilson Combat’s 124-grain High Performance Tactical load.
The Super GP100s distinguished appearance may not fit everyone’s taste, but it’s not intended to. The Super GP100 is a purpose-built revolver suitable for competition use. It’s a race gun. It has a great trigger, high-visibility sights and fast loading capability. It would be an excellent choice for practical shooting disciplines.
Ruger has built quality revolvers since the early 1950s, and unlike other brands, has never abandoned that focus. The latest entry to the GP100 saga demonstrates what a Custom Shop can offer. It also shows us that Ruger still invests in innovation.
Ruger Super GP100
- Type: Revolver; double action (DA), single action (SA)
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 8 rds.
- Overall Length: 11 in.
- Height: 6.25 in.
- Weight: 3 lbs., 13.6 oz.
- Material: Stainless steel
- Grip: Hogue hardwood with finger grooves
- Trigger: 11 lbs., 2 oz. (DA), 3 lbs., 3 oz. (SA)
- Safety: Transfer bar
- Finish: Brushed stainless/black PVD
- Sights: Green fiber optic, drift adj (front); black with white outline, adj. (rear)
- MSRP: $1,550
- Manufacturer: Ruger, 336-949-5200, ruger.com
Enjoy articles like this?
Subscribe to the magazine.
Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine