Two of my all-time favorite revolvers is the Ruger GP141 with a 3” barrel and the Ruger SP101 in the 3” barrel. Unfortunately, I own neither. My third favorite revolver would be the DAO Ruger SP101 in the 3” barrel. And unfortunately, I don’t own that one either, but I do own the Kimber K6S that does satisfy the DAO-only requirement at times. And I do own a Ruger GP141 with a 4” barrel and the Ruger SP101 in the 2.25” barrel. Since I do not carry a revolver that much anymore, it is hard to justify getting the GP141 with a 3” barrel and the Ruger SP101 in the 3” barrel. So, I’m going to pass on my experience with the Ruger SP101 in the 2.25” barrel and why I think it is the best ‘stubby’ revolver there is.
The Ruger SP101 in the 2.25” barrel is just simply a handy-dandy revolver; it looks good, it is a joy to handle, and with better grips that those that come with it, can be a fairly pleasant shooter even when full-load .357 Magnum projectile passing through its bore.
The basic specifications are shown below:
At 26 ounces (1 pound 10.0 ounces), it is not one of the lightest revolvers, and with only five rounds available it is not a high capacity firearm. So, what makes it so great? How about sending a Federal 125-grain JHP at 1255 feet per second without so much as a whimper? Or how about lobbing a Federal 158-grain Hydra-Shok JHP downrange at about 1122 feet per second. Perhaps the Sig Sauer V-Crown 125-grain JHP .38 Special +P at 900 feet per second or the Sig Sauer V-Crown 125-grain JHP .357 Magnum at around 1450 feet per second might be more to your liking (these are my favorite loads for the revolver). The Ruger SP101 can handle these and yell; “Feed me!” afterward.
This all stainless-steel revolver has proven itself to be utterly reliable and easy to conceal in a proper holster. In a shoulder or hip holster, the SP101 all but disappears. The Ruger SP101, and revolvers like it, would be the only firearm that I could say I would be comfortable carrying in the appendix position.
Two of the SP101 revolver’s greater attributes is the pinned, replaceable black ramp front sight and integral rear sight, and the triple-locking cylinder that is locked into the frame at the front, rear and bottom for more positive alignment and dependable operation. The usual “Built like a tank” phrase applies to the SP101. The SP101 is a point-n’-shoot interface that is at home with UCAP (Up Close And Personal) situations and with those at a bit longer distance. As with many snub-nosed revolvers, a target or long-range revolver it is not; however, I believe that a fellow named Jerry could probably call me out on that statement.
I have installed Hogue wrap-a-round finger grove grips on my SP101, as it provides a much greater surface for holding on than the standard grip. I had installed, at one time, a set of Hogue exotic wood wrap-a-round grips, but that was a mistake. While they looked great, they did nothing to help mitigate the felt recoil, and that can be quite stout with a revolver of this size.
For the Ruger SP101 and Kimber K6S, I have several holsters; a FALCO 92 IWB Concealment Gun Holster, a ‘Kybrid’ holster from Cross Breed Holsters (for strong-side carry), a ‘Silver-Dollar” Pancake PWB/IWB holster from Simply Rugged, a ‘Kybrid’ holster from Cross Breed Holsters set up in a cross-draw configuration (shown above), and a Miami Classic Shoulder Holster System. Note that except for the Miami Classic Shoulder Holster System, the other holsters also work with the Kimber K6S or similar-sized revolvers. With the proper holster and clothing, the Ruger SP101 is not gibbous when carried.
At the range, the SP101 proves itself quite capable of 4” groups at 7-yards if you do your part. The further the distance, the worse it gets, at least for me. With a target at twenty-five yards, I can tell you that I will hit the target. What I cannot tell you is exactly where. Surprisingly, with a good grip (I use a thumb over grip when I get serious about putting rounds where I want them), follow up shots can be quick even with 125-grain .357 Magnum ammunition. With the gun being so short, and with a firm grip on the revolver, recoil tends to lift the whole hand rather than just rotating the gun in the hand. Locking out the arms and wrists gets this diminutive revolver back on target faster than you might think possible. For defensive carry, the SP101 is normally loaded with 38 Special +P – 158 gr LSWCHP (Lead Semi-Wadcutter Hollow Point) at 900 feet per second. This has been a standard LE cartridge for many years. For serious shooting, the Sig Sauer V-Crown 125-grain JHP .357 Magnum at around 1450 feet per second seems to have good accuracy. Muzzle and side flash can be quite impressive from the .357 Magnum load (as denoted in the example below from a Smith & Wesson 686 6” revolver).
You don’t want your hand anywhere near the ‘flash gap on this revolver; moreover, I prefer the ‘thumb over’ (sometimes referred to as the ‘Thumb Wrapped’) method of holding a revolver (both hands on the butt and the revolver is better stabilized). For me, I can apply it regardless of the size of the revolver, but some folks may have a hard time getting the grip on a large revolver.
A lot of people like the ultra-light revolvers – until they shoot them. Then, the revolver is usually relegated to a drawer somewhere never to be shot again, or traded off, or placed in a safe never to be seen again. Why? If you plan on carrying/using the revolver for self-defense, that means practicing with the revolver, and that doesn’t just mean dry firing the darn thing. It means putting some rounds through it even if you must wear shooting gloves to do so. In a real-life, honest-to-God, get down and dirt or you die situation, you won’t feel the effects of the recoil until long afterward. However, if you can’t handle the recoil and you shoot the gun badly, get rid of it and get something that you can shoot and handle.
The Ruger SP101 has an advantage over those light-weight model by its shear weight. That doesn’t mean that it’s a picnic to shoot. It is not pleasant to shoot with defensive ammunition and even some range ammunition can be un pleasant. For practice ammunition, the old 147-grain WC, like the Federal shown below, is hard to beat. At 690 feet per second, it is a very mild load that will help you concentrate on what needs to be concentrated on and not worry about recoil.
The beauty of a revolver like the Ruger SP101 is the concealment factor. While on the heavy side, the SP101 can be a welcomed companion in the time of need. Keep a couple of speed-loaders and/or speed strips handy for reloading and you are good to go. The SP101 holds five cartridges and, hopefully, you will be well-served by those. Consider this, although a semi-automatic may hold fifteen rounds, you would have the same count with two speed-loaders or two speed strips plus the five loaded in the revolver. In fact, you might take advantage of my special 10-round speed strip.
The Ruger SP101 in the 2.25” or 3” version would serve you well. There is also a 4.2” version if that suits your fancy. And the SP101 also comes in .22 LR and .327 Magnum flavoring. In fact, I have almost talked myself into the 3” .357 Magnum version but that will have to wait until the budget agrees with me.
Ruger SP101: https://ruger.com/products/sp101/models.html