Eight-shot double-action revolvers chambered in .38 Special have become the dominant wheelgun in many action-shooting competitions.
In USPSA, 8-shot Minor has displaced 6-shot Major revolvers because A Zone hits count the same for both, and C Zone hits don’t hurt too badly in Minor if you make them fast enough. The fewer reloads needed by the 8-shot guns speed time through the COF and boost overall scores. In ICORE Limited Division the same applies. For Steel Challenge, it’s a no-brainer. A 6-shot gun gets one miss on the 5-plate array before the shooter has to get “real slow and accurate,” or eat a reload to hit the Stop Plate that takes more time than the missed-plate penalty. Eight-shot guns give a shooter three misses before panic sets in. Winning revolver shooters go with the 8-shot guns.
When Ruger formed its first-ever professional shooting team they entered the 8-shot revolver market with a Redhawk offering. That model has been updated with the recently introduced Custom Shop Super GP-100 .357 Magnum.
The Ruger Super GP-100 (Model No. 5065, $1,549, Ruger.com) is, essentially, an 8-shot .357 Magnum Super Redhawk. The Super GP-100 designation logically stems from the fact that the Super Redhawk and GP-100 (but not the Redhawk) use the same internal lock work, springs, action and grip frame—as well as the 6-shot GP-100 being a well-established competition revolver.
The cylinder is cut for moonclips, but they’re not required for operation. The individual chambers show a nicely polished interior. The chamber mouths are not chamfered, but that’s not an issue for the round-nose loads savvy competitors use. The cylinder is stainless steel and fluted to reduce weight. It, like the rest of the stainless-steel gun, is coated with a durable PVD finish. The empty weight is 47 ounces with an overall length of 11 inches.
The cold hammer-forged barrel measures 5.50 inches, with 11-degree muzzle crown and 1:16-inch right-hand twist. The barrel shroud is a half-lug, with rather stylish cuts to reduce weight. The sights consist of a dovetailed front sight with a replaceable green FO rod that appears to be .060 and Ruger’s fully-adjustable rear with a white outline black blade.
The trigger is smooth-faced, with the proper radius for rapid double-action work. The single-action trigger pull measured a consistent 3.1 pounds on my Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge. The double-action pull exceeded the 12-pound limit on the scale. My best guess is that it was almost 14 pounds. The grips are Hogue smooth-polished hardwood, but the Super GP-100 will accept all GP-100 grips.
The Super GP-100 ships with a sturdy, water-proof, lockable hard-plastic case, three moonclips (additional moonclips are readily available), trigger lock and the normal paperwork and manuals.
On The Range
Given the various competitions this gun is suited for, and the differing Power Factors (PF) required for each, I assembled a rather eclectic range of test loads.
The U.S. Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) requires a 125 PF for Minor, and savvy shooters want a 130 PF as a cushion. One of the few moderately priced factory .38 Special loads that will reliably make 130 PF is the Speer Lawman 158-grain +P TMJ. During previous tests it has also proven to be one of the most-accurate .38 Special loads I’ve used.
The International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts (ICORE) requires a 120 PF. The Aguila 130-grain FMJ .38 Special factory load makes that, but won’t make the 125 USPSA PF. I also included my 160-grain Bayou Bullets RN Hi-Tek coated 120 PF handload that I’ve used with good results in ICORE.
Steel Challenge has no PF requirement. All the bullet needs to do is exit the barrel, “Ting” the steel and leave a mark on the plate. Obviously, low-recoil “Wimp” loads are desirable. But my experiments have shown that in order to get an immediate “bang/ting”—instead of a “bang/pause/ting”—I need a minimum of 725 fps. Two proven handloads I use for Steel are a Speer swagged HBWC at 740 fps (109 PF) and a Bayou Bullets 115-grain RN Hi-Tek coated at 780 fps (89 PF). They’re both pretty wimpy, but they’re quite accurate from my GP-100 and “Ting” steel quickly.
The first step was to zero the sights from a 25-yard benchrest. The gun doesn’t require moonclips to function, so I just stuffed in eight of the Speer 158+P TMJ loads. The Ruger was shooting a few inches low and right, but the adjustable rear sight got it centered before the cylinder was empty.
I then set up four targets, spaced about 6 feet apart at 15 yards, and alternated the three moonclips with the different loads. Lacking a proper holster (it would not fit my GP-100 rig and required a Redhawk-sized holster), I ran rapid double-action transition drills from the Low Ready—double tapping each target for a full cylinder per run. This was repeated, while reloading the moonclips to include all the loads, until about 100 rounds had been run. There were no malfunctions of any type.
The near 14-pound DA trigger was smooth, and got a bit smoother and slightly lighter with use. But after the live rounds, and a few hundred dry fires, it still didn’t “crack” the 12-pound limit on my Lyman gauge.
That’s standard for any DA revolver from the factory because they have to fire any factory round chambered. However, few (if any) competitive shooters use factory trigger pulls and will have trigger work performed. The Super GP-100 makes that easy because the action is the same as the standard GP-100. Inexpensive spring kits from Wilson Combat and Wolff Gunsprings, along with a bit of polishing, do nice things. My three Ruger GP-100s have smooth DA pulls below 8 pounds. Team Ruger member David Olhasso tells me similar tuning put his Super GP-100 at the 7-pound DA mark.
Accuracy testing was next, and I used the moonclips for the loads. The gun was initially zeroed to put the group at the center of the FO dot. That works well on plates and silhouette targets, but isn’t the most-precise sight alignment. For the accuracy tests I used 4-inch squares, which almost match the visual front sight width at 25 yards, and used a six-a-clock hold with the top of the front sight snuggled against the bottom of the square. That is a more-precise hold, and the 3-pound SA trigger made it easy to maintain.
The accompanying chart shows the Ruger Super GP-100 is more than accurate enough for any action-pistol task. And, given the ease of tuning the GP-100 DA pull to sub-8-pound levels, it won’t take much to get upper-level match performance.
Read more articles by Chris Christian: