Ruger GP100 Beginner Gun Review

Ruger GP100

There’s something viscerally satisfying about holding a magnum revolver.

Polymer pistols like the FNP-9 or the Glock are lighter and FEEL like you’re holding a “plastic” gun, something toy-like.

When you pick up a .357 magnum revolver like the Ruger GP100, you KNOW you’re holding a weapon.

At 40 oz., it weighs nearly twice as much as an FNP-9.

Shoot, if you run out of bullets it’s actually possible to throw it at someone and knock them cold with it.

The .357 magnum round is nothing to laugh at.

People put that same bullet in a rifle and hunt deer with it. And as far as quality goes, it’s a Ruger revolver.  Among the things Ruger does very well, it makes great revolvers.

So how is it for a noob?  Let’s find out.


Let’s not mince words.  It’s a pain in the ass.  The good news is that you don’t have to disassemble it to lubricate it.  According to the manual, a few drops of oil in the frame openings will make its way to the internal mechanisms.  If you’re not comfortable taking this thing apart, don’t.

Ruger GP 100
Ruger GP 100


The good thing about maintaining this gun is that it’s pretty easy to do.  You don’t have to disassemble this weapon to do a routine cleaning.  Cleaning consists of swinging the cylinder out and running a patch and a bore brush through the barrel and the chambers.  Some light lube and you’re done.

Ruger GP100

Safety and Reliability

Ruger makes a fine revolver, I’ll give them that.

Pull the trigger, it goes bang.

In regards to safety, the GP100 has no manual safety on it, but it does have a transfer bar safety system which prevents the hammer from hitting the firing pin without the trigger first being pulled all the way to the rear.

What does this mean?

It means you can drop it without it going off.  The only other thing you can really call a safety feature is the double-action trigger pull, which comes in at about a quarter-mile.  When you’re pulling the trigger without first pulling the hammer back, it’s like the gun is asking you, “Are you suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuureBANG!”

Comfort and Recoil

This is a heavy gun, so there’s an upside and a downside.

The downside is that it’s heavy.

Not heavy enough to where you have a hard time holding it up, but heavy enough to know you’re holding a block of steel in your hands.

The upside is that a heavy gun has less recoil. Shooting .38 specials out of this thing is like shooting a .22.  You barely feel it.  On the other hand, you WILL feel the recoil of .357 mags.

Ruger GP100

Starter Kit

It comes with a hard plastic case.  What?  It’s a gun, not an aquarium.

Accessories and Upgrades

The grips and the sights can be swapped out, and that’s pretty much it.  You can change the springs to give it an easier trigger, but unlike an automatic there’s not much you can do to this weapon.  You can’t buy extended magazines, for instance.

It is what it is.

Final Word

A GP100 and indeed any .357 magnum revolver has a lot of advantages.

It’s powerful enough to put down an assailant… or a bear.  And you can use .38 specials if you don’t like the recoil or just for cheap training.

And make no mistake, having one trained on you is an intimidating experience.  No one in history has ever turned to a mob he was leading and said, “Let’s rush him! It’s just a .357!”

It’s also easy to load, operate and conduct routine maintenance.  As a first gun, you might be put off by the lack of a manual safety, but if you’re looking for something that’s easy to use and has enough raw  firepower to repel just about any threat, man or beast, the GP100 might be for you.


Previous Comments:

Posted @ 6/29/2013 9:52 AM by DK1911

DK1911's avatar


Looking for advice to give a friend who’s daughter is considering carrying. Great site. I’m sending her here and I’ll be back: good subjects, great writing!

Posted @ 7/29/2013 1:56 PM by Marquand

Marquand's avatar

An excellent assessment of the Ruger GP100. As a firearms enthusiast and instructor I often recommend the GP100 as a first handgun for new gun owners wanting a gun for home defense. Revolvers in general have a lot to offer. They are simple to operate, easily checked for loaded/unloaded status, will fire any round of the correct caliber regardless of bullet design and weight, and can be left unattended for years and still reliably perform without worry of worn springs. The GP100 in particular is a robust, over engineered firearm that should last for generations, even when fed a steady diet of .357 Magnum loads.

Posted @ 8/20/2013 2:04 PM by Nerdkiller69

Nerdkiller69's avatar

Just bought one yesterday… Never shot a 357. In my life. I’m used to shooting 45.acp and 9mm so I’m really excited 😀

Posted @ 8/20/2013 2:22 PM by Nerdkiller69

Nerdkiller69's avatar

Just bought one yesterday… Never shot a 357. In my life. I’m used to shooting 45.acp and 9mm so I’m really excited 😀

Posted @ 8/10/2014 8:10 AM by Dave R.

Dave R. 's avatar

Gun Noob Wrote: >>The .357 magnum round is nothing to laugh at. People put that same bullet in a rifle and hunt deer with it.

First, an important correction. “Bullet” is not correct. It is “cartridge” or sometimes “round.” This isn’t nit picking, and so many people (including the media) get it wrong all the time. The bullet is the lead projectile that exits the muzzle, and a .357 bullet is exactly the same as used in a 38 Special, a cartridge that produces much lower projectile velocity. A “cartridge” is the whole package that you insert into the gun – brass cartridge case, bullet, primer and powder. The bullet weight, case size, type of powder and primer determine how powerful (energy and momentum) a particular cartridge has. Nuff said.

On the review: In my opinion, no new shooter should shoot 357 Magnum rounds, even out of a heavy GP100 (which uses both 38 Special or 357 Magnum). There is just too much muzzle blast, noise and recoil. And in a defense situation inside a home, without hearing protection, it can cause lasting hearing loss, and the flash can temporarily blind you in low light. Also shooting 357 Magnum rounds can scare someone away from shooting – like giving a new shooter a 12 gauge shotgun or 30-06 hunting rifle to shoot. For self defense 38 Special is adequate, and used to be the standard police round many years ago. For those who can handle them, “38 Special +P” rounds are in between the two cartridges in power, but closer to 38 Special than 357 Magnum.

That said, I still always start new shooters on an all-steel 22LR revolver. Then make the step up to shooting regular 38 Special rounds in a heavier gun like a 3-inch barrel GP100 to see how they handle it.

The problem with the GP100 4-inch shown in the review is that it is too heavy for many small-framed or short people. Their arms can actually shake trying to hold it steady. Have the new shooter practice holding 2-1/2 – 3 pounds pounds of weight at arms length for several minutes to see what it would be like at the shooting range. Remember the rounds themselves add a few ounces to the gun’s specified weight.

If you are average size, the 3-inch GP100 is a little lighter, and smaller to store or carry in a holster, but it is still a heavy gun for the home, and it gets heavier-seeming carried in a holster on hikes. A better alternative for many people is the lighter 5-shot Ruger SP101 with the 3-inch barrel (also a very strong solid steel gun), again using only 38 Special in it. It also fits smaller hands better. (You can get different SP101 aftermarket grip sizes for larger hands.) You can shoot 357 Magnum in the SP101, but it is VERY unpleasant, with a lot of recoil. There is a 2.25″ inch version for concealed carry, but it is still no featherweight either at 25 ounces (nearly 30 ounces loaded).

Other good alternatives are one of the all steel Smith & Wesson 38 Special 5-shot or 6-shot revolvers. Some of these guns are 38 Special only (which is fine) and some shoot both 38 Special and 357 Magnum (since the longer cylinders can take either cartridge). I recommend a 38 Special only gun if you are not going to be shooting 357 Magnum (there are a few technical reasons for this).

However many new shooters prefer just carrying a 2 in or 3in 22LR revolver. The 22LR cartridge isn’t very powerful, but everyone can shoot these guns well, they can be made lighter (and so easy to carry and hold), and ammunition is much less expensive than 38 Special – so you can practice a lot. Six rounds of 22LR will stop an attacker or slow them down enough for you to get away.

Posted @ 8/17/2014 9:28 AM by Mike

Mike's avatar

My job as an armed security officer at a power generating plant calls for us to carry a .38 or .357 with no larger than .38 rounds.Instead of using one of their older weapons I opted to purchase my own so the search was on, it took me awhile.I have several other handguns but nothing in the .38 or .357 range so I looked at all makes and models but when I held the GP100 in my hands for the first time I knew this was it good feel and just heavy enough. We have to quailify every six months and it does very well no misfires as of yet and accurate as well. I would recommend this handgun to anyone looking for a first, or an additional weapon…Sold on my GP100.

Posted @ 11/23/2014 9:02 PM by Jolly green

Jolly green's avatar

I recently purchased a GP100, 4 inch, .357, with hogue grips in stainless and absolutely love it. I have a number of semi autos, both Glocks, colts and Sigs. This is my first wheel gun and I just wanted something different and it is. It is fun to shoot. Very accurate and takes very little maintenance. I will be using it in the field when working in the woods switching off between my Glock G23 and the Ruger.

Posted @ 2/14/2015 5:06 PM by Dave P.

Dave P. 's avatar

I agree that the 4″ GP100 at 40 ounces is too heavy for many people to hold steady. The 3″ barrel version (only comes with fixed sights) is a better alternative at 36 ounces. One other option is a used Ruger Security Six revolver (with adjustable sights) or the similar Service Six (with fixed sights), which are the 38 Special/ .357 Magnum revolvesr that Ruger made back in the 1970s up until the mid 1980s. They came in both 2-3/4″ and 4″ barrel lengths. They are about 5 ounces lighter than the GP100s in the same barrel length, but are still very strong and durable. Many people actually prefer them to the GP100.

There are lots of these Security Six and Service Six revolvers available used, sometimes in very good condition in the original box. Many people buy guns and then don’t shoot them much. You can still get the instruction manuals for these older guns from the Ruger website in pdf format or request a paper one by mail for free. For a new shooter buying a used revolver, go to a reputable gun store – check the Better Business Bureau, other on-line reviews, take a safety class and ask the instructors. Some stores check them out well before selling and will give you exchange credit toward a different gun if there are any problems.

For a new gun, the Ruger SP101 in the 3″ barrel length, with fixed sights, using standard 38 Special rounds is a great choice for beginners for home defense. It weighs about 27 ounces. There is a 2-1/2″ barrel version for concealed carry, but at 26 ounces some people find it a little heavy to carry all day. Ruger also offers the lighter LCR .357 Revolver (also handles 38 Special) with a 1-7/8″ barrel at 17 ounces. They have an even lighter LCR that only takes 38 Special, but it has an aluminum frame, which is less durable, and more recoil due to the lighter weight. I’d say the 17 ounce .357 LCR version is ideal for beginner concealed carry and home defense, using regular 38 Special rounds. If the recoil is too much with this combination, then it will be less with the heavier SP101s. Best to try them at a combination gun store and shooting range if you can. Some places will rent them to you. Of course take the safety course first, where you may also be able to try different revovers.

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Lost Croat Outburst
Lost Croat Outburst

You can put a nice scope on a four or six inch gp100 with a mount and rings from Jack Weigand. No drilling; you replace the front and back sights with the scope base. Save the original parts and you can go back to open sights anytime. A fixed 2X scope is all you need out to 75 yards or so, which is about your .357 mag limit anyway. Lighter, tougher, than a variable with a sharper image. Very bad-ass looking and performing.


Older review, but some comments nevertheless. My first firearm in the early 1970’s was a Ruger Security Six shortly after they were introduced. I was under 21, but over 18, so my father bought it for me. It was my carry weapon for a couple of years. Like others in that era I had to load it with FMJ .38 Special. Got in a bit of trouble one day carrying when I had 158 grain SP . Sold it (and wished I hadn’t later) when I went on active duty with the US Army (owning a personal firearm wasn’t prohibited,… Read more »

Stanley Haye
Stanley Haye

I started shooting about a year ago (I’m 83) and I found that the semi-autos are too fussy about how you hold them when firing – hold them wrong and they jam. With the stress In a real situation this is too likely to happen and clearing the jan under stress chancy. You can hold the GP-100 any old way and it still goes bang when you pull the trigger and doesn’t jam. Very good for home defense but a little big for concealed carry, although I have carried it in a briefcase,


My First handgun, loved it then over 30 years ago and still love it.


Great review. The GP-100 was the first handgun I ever purchased…on the day I turned 21 actually. And that was 1991! I believe I paid $325
Today, she looks almost like the day I bought her, and has never malfunctioned. So I would highly recommend the caliber and manufacturer and model. I do like most Ruger products.

Eric Hung

Thanks Charles and glad your GP is still like the day you bought her!

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