Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. (NYSE: RGR) is proud to introduce the new Ruger® GP100® chambered in .22 LR. This ten-round revolver offers an array of features designed for target shooting, small game hunting and recreational shooting.
(editor’s note: I swear, someone at Ruger must be reading the blog. Just a month and a half ago I wrote a post bemoaning the lack of good .327 Federal revolvers, and today Ruger drops a six shot, 4 inch SP101 on us. TAKE MY MONEY)
Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. (NYSE-RGR) is pleased to introduce the SP101® in .327 Federal Magnum. The Ruger® SP101 in .327 Federal Magnum is a six-round, small frame, double-action revolver with a 4.2 inch barrel and adjustable sights. Built from stainless steel, this new model features a light-gathering front sight, windage and elevation adjustable rear sight, and a rubber grip with checkered hardwood inserts.
In the early to mid-2000s, everyone was screaming for lighter carry guns. For a number of reasons, Smith & Wesson decided it would be awesome to offer some of their very popular L-frame and N-frame models with scandium frames and titanium cylinders, resulting in wrist destroying magnums like the 329PD, chambered in .44 Magnum. Of course, the Smith N-frame lineup also includes the legendary 625, the .45 ACP moonclip revolver. It was only natural to make a scandium framed, titanium cylindered version of that, resulting in the gun you see today, the Smith & Wesson 325PD.
An idea I’ve toyed around with for a while has been getting a FAST coin with a revolver. Now that someone is going to be preserving the test and the coin in Todd’s absence, it’s once again something that’s on the table. The FAST test/drill is a relatively simple drill – draw from concealment, fire two shots at a 3×5 head box, reload from slidelock/empty, fire four shots at the 8 inch body. To get a coin you’ve got to get 2 out of 3 runs under 5 seconds, clean. Hits outside of the head and body carry enormous penalties, so for the sake of this post “clean” is the only real option.
If you’ve seen my EDC pocket dump video, you’ve probably figured out that it does actually contain my regular EDC items. The Spyderco knife and the S&W 640 Pro Series go everywhere I go, so long as the latter is legal. In the video, I mention that I carry 148 grain target wadcutters in the j-frame, which has lead some people to ask if I actually do that.
The phrase “handle with kid gloves” comes from the type of leather used, traditionally goatskin, specifically from a young goat or “kid.” Kidskin was valued for gloves because it was strong and resilient without being rough. In this photo are actual kid gloves designed for rope work, along with a Ruger Blackhawk in .45 Colt and a Galco holster. I’ve had my kid gloves for years, and they’ve developed that perfect, hard-use look, because that’s exactly what I’ve used them for. My goal with the Blackhawk is much the same – wear that nice blue in by carrying it, shooting it, and having it live a real six-gun’s life.
Very briefly in yesterday’s post on the Ruger SP101, I mentioned the .327 Federal, what is now a boutique revolver cartridge. I loved the idea of the .327 Federal when it was introduced as a joint venture between Ruger and Federal, and I’ve always nursed a bit of disappointment that it never really caught on.
These days, the only company still making .327 is Federal/ATK, and you can have it in whatever flavor you like, so long as you like either Speer JHP, Hydra-Shok JHPs, or American Eagle soft points. New manufactured guns are almost all Rugers, on their small frame single action package with a seventh shot thrown in. The Single Seven, as it’s called, is available as a distributor exclusive through Lipseys and comes with either a 4.63 inch barrel, a 5.5 inch barrel, or a 7.5 inch barrel.
It seems that the .327 has settled down into a niche as a solid small game cartridge, even through the preponderance of available loads are catered towards self-defense. Today I want to look at why the .327 never really caught on – in many ways it’s the .357 Sig of revolver rounds. A modern invention with a lot of potential that never really went anywhere. To understand the .327 Federal, you have to look at its parent cartridge, the .32 H&R Magnum, which was itself a stretched and upgraded version of .32 S&W Long. In fact, you can shoot any of those cartridges in a .327 Federal revolver, although with the .32 S&W you’re going to be jumping so much freebore your rounds will think they’re Tony Hawk.
Back to the cartridge itself, it was originally launched with a Ruger SP101 that held six shots, and a GP100 that held seven. The .327 Federal actually did offer a ballistic upgrade over .38 Special as well; while my memory of 8 years ago is a little hazy, I seem to recall ballistic tests showing that it outperformed most .38 Special loads out of the SP101, but not quite up to the snuff of a full house .357 Magnum. It was easy to shoot as well, it was accurate, and as I’ve mentioned repeatedly you could hold one more round in the gun. More ammo is better, right? So why didn’t it catch on?
We actually have a long history with .32 caliber cartridges that don’t quite get there. The .32-20, the .32 Magnum itself, and then the .327 Federal are all great examples. The Federal, in my opinion, suffered from being an answer to a question people didn’t know they should be asking. Like the .32 Magnum before it, most people who carried revolvers looked at the .327 and said “what does this do that my .38 doesn’t?” Because the cost of getting into a new cartridge, buying expensive new ammo/reloading supplies, and searching for important defensive accessories like speedloaders or speed strips wasn’t really worth it just to get one more round in the gun. And really, that makes economic sense. A 10 or 15% increase in terminal performance doesn’t really justify getting into a boutique cartridge.
So the .327 quietly became a small-market round mostly used for hunting. It’s legal for deer in some states, and Buffalo Bore produces pretty hot ammo for it. I do think that if Ruger wanted to try for a comeback on the little round, they should chamber an LCR for it. The .327 Federal and the super-light, super compact LCR would be a pretty good match. It would also be pretty neat to be packaged with a rotary magazine and the Ruger American rifle, but that crosses into the land of “things Caleb likes to imagine.”
True statement: the Ruger SP101 is the only small frame revolver that I’ll voluntarily shoot any volume of heavy magnum ammo out of. Like all Ruger revolvers, it embraces over-engineering as a good thing, and while I wouldn’t call it “pleasant” to shoot with hot ammo, it’s certainly more fun to shoot than anything else in its size class.
Yesterday, we talked briefly about how Smith & Wesson will always have the infernal lock as part of their revolver line. However, there are ways that they could be rid of the lock. The following is pure speculation on my part, but if I was the CEO of Smith & Wesson, here’s how I’d get rid of the IL without ending up on CNN.
First, we have to remember that S&W is currently making some guns with no lock. The best example, and the only one I happen to have handy is the 640 Pro Series. They also did a run of the Model 42 in their classics line which lacked the IL. To my knowledge they haven’t made any medium or large frame guns recently without the lock. When you look at S&W’s lineup there is a perfect place to start the war on the lock, and that’s the Performance Center (and Pro Series) line of guns. The Pro Series/PC guns are marketed as “for shooters” and bring a higher price point than the standard revolvers in their lineup. That makes them the perfect place to start removing the IL. Offer all of the Pro Series and PC guns in “no-lock” configurations for a slightly additional premium. In year 1 of our three year plan, the no-lock Pro/PC guns would represent a small chunk of the lineup, with an appropriate price increase.
The reason they’d have to be more expensive than the lock-equipped PC guns is because the CNC machine doesn’t know if it’s making an N-frame for a vanilla 629 with a lock or a 929 no-lock gun, it’s just following a program. So you’d have to run a special program for the no-lock guns, and that costs money and time. That’s why the no-lock PC/Pro guns would carry a small price increase relative to the other guns in their class.
It’s a solid assumption that those guns would sell out. That gives S&W the financial justification to expand the “no-lock” modification to the entire Pro Series and PC lineup, because the no-lock guns sold so well in year 1. Now in year 2, all guns in that class are sold without a lock, leaving only the “standard” revolvers and the classic line equipped with the IL. Year 2 is the most dangerous part of the operation, because the no-lock guns have to sell well enough that they cut into the sales figures for the lock equipped guns. That in itself is a risk, because if the no-lock guns undermine S&W’s core lineup, there’s a 50/50 chance that they just get killed off. So in year 2, we need two things to happen: the no-lock guns to sell great, and the appropriate corporate people to look at the sales numbers and go “huh, people really like no-lock wheelguns. Let’s sell more of these.”
Which brings us to year 3, when S&W announces their new “Collector’s Series,” a spin off of the Classic series. Here at the end-game, the classic series is essentially discontinued in all but name only, and replaced with the Collector’s Series, which are all no-lock versions of S&W’s historical greats, the Model 10, the 29, etc. After three years, the IL continues to exist in S&W’s “main” production revolvers, however all guns branded under Performance Center, Pro Series, or Collector’s Series are now sold without IL, with these guns making up the bulk of S&W’s revolver sales now. As time goes by, the lock would simply be quietly phased out of all production, citing reasons like “cost savings” – since the no-lock guns were outselling the lock equipped guns.
Sadly, this is all speculative on my part. Would it work? Probably. There are some rough spots in the plan that would need to be worked out, and I know that it likely won’t happen, but it’s healthy for me to exercise my mind. Until then, I’ll keep buying revolvers with the lock, because it’s really not that big a deal. But man…it sure would be nice to be able to buy a factory new, no-lock Model 25 in .45 Colt.
You know what I think are just great? 5 shot revolvers for carry. You know what are really hard to shoot well? 5 shot revolvers for carry. This Smith & Wesson 638 Airweight is about the perfect example of the pocket j-frame; it has an alloy frame and shrouded hammer, gutter sights, but a pretty good trigger. It’s hard to shoot well. But it’s easy to carry and conceal.