By Wayne Van Zwoll, American Handgunner
Sixty years ago, any rimfire buff with any sense would have stocked up on Smith & Wesson K-22 Masterpieces and Colt Troopers. Both these lovely double-actions listed at $71. For $79 you could have snared a Colt Officer’s Model Match. Just learning to read at that time, I had no revolver catalogs in my library, no coins in my piggy bank. I missed this golden opportunity.
In truth, only the truly committed (or those about to be) dug that deep for a rimfire revolver. Good grief, it was just a .22! For $35 you could pick up a 9-shot High Standard Sentinel. Iver-Johnson and Harrington & Richardson DA’s (eight and nine shots) listed for well under $30. In 1956 Sturm, Ruger was well along in its first decade as a gun company. Bill Ruger’s self-loading .22 pistol, with a stamped-steel frame, still retailed for $37.50. The more recent .22 Single Six revolver cost $63. Ruger wouldn’t field a rimfire DA for many years.
Arrival of the first small-frame, 30-ounce SP101 .22 was shadowed by other Ruger developments in both handguns and rifles. Perhaps that’s why it faltered at market. After a decade or so in production, the SP101 rimfire went away.
The crane swings easily, the extractor has plenty of reach and the cylinder locks in front and at the rear.
A few years later, riding a tide of requests by customers, it returned — with improvements. “We tried to give it a centerfire DA trigger pull,” engineer Mark Gurney told me then. He explained pulls on rimfires are routinely heavier, “ … to ensure reliable ignition given acceptable tolerances in headspace and firing pin protrusion.”
Firing this 8-shot, all-stainless DA, I found the trigger quite manageable. But a big colored bead front and a V-notch rear sight (fully adjustable) emphasized quick aim over precision. Smooth trigger aside, I was delighted three 5-shot groups averaged a little over 2″ at 25 yards. The best, a 1-1/2″ cluster, was better than I expect with iron sights and any 4″ handgun.
Barrels for jacketed .22 WMR bullets must have bigger bores than those for the .22 LR. A company boring interchangeable cylinders must accommodate the WMR. If it barrels different revolvers, it can no doubt save a few pennies drilling all blanks to WMR dimensions. Resulting accuracy with LR ammo is predictably so-so. Ruger gives its SP101 a smaller hole: “Our specs call for a bore of 0.216″ to 0.218″, groove diameter of 0.221″ to 0.2225″, explained Mark.
A good fully adjustable rear and green fiber optic front pair up neatly.
Ten-shot autoloaders abound, but they don’t handle the variety of .22 ammo you can feed a revolver.
Ruger’s newest rimfire DA boasts the same tight LR bore. The full-size GP100 not only promised fine accuracy, but included the elusive centerfire double-action pull, with heft, sights and barrel length which had me drooling long before the revolver arrived.
The all-stainless GP100 .22 wears blued carbon-steel sights: a fully adjustable white-outline, square-notch rear and a long, sturdy, square-post front with green fiber-optic insert. Ruger re-introduced rubber grips with hardwood inserts in this GP. They fit my pork-chop paw but are slim enough for normal hands. The revolver’s 42-oz. heft is nicely balanced, with just a slight tilt to the muzzle. The ribbed, half-lug, 5-1/2″ barrel seems to me ideal in length and profile. I’m sweet on centerfire barrels 5″ to 6″ long, so immediately saw in this GP a perfect understudy gun.
Despite Ruger’s attention to “firing pin location and geometry, and a lighter mainspring,” single-action trigger pull registered 6 pounds. DA pull exceeded my scale’s 10-pound limit. A colleague claimed pulls of under 4 and under 10 from his GP100 .22. Thanks to its heft, balance, grips and smooth trigger travel, squeezing accurate shots from my pistol proved easier than I thought. From sandbags, I managed a 10-shot, 25-yard group just over 2″, with nine easily inside that measure.
Why 10 shots? Because this .22’s cylinder holds 10. Hooray! While my love affair with the .22 LR dates to the Eisenhower administration, I’ve long thought it ill-suited to revolvers. In hands coarsened and muscled by hoisting bales, digging post-holes and throwing chains on log trucks, dainty ammunition finds its way into the weeds like so much salt. It doesn’t look serious in gun-belt loops. And if you wish to intimidate rather than shoot a thug, you’d best show him a hole bigger than the stem of a pipe cleaner.
I like the feel of a .45 Colt as it slides into a cylinder, the rim coming to rest with an audible “thuk.” Pushing outside-lubricated bullets into each tiny .22 chamber carries all the gravitas of punching buttons on a cell phone. To my mind, loading .22 handguns is an exercise to be endured, which is why I have as much affinity for 6-shot rimfires as for Hillary Rodham Clinton — and why 10-shot self-loader magazines seem eminently practical. Ruger’s 10-shot cylinder in this full-frame GP100 is a true delight, essentially halving the time spent fumbling tiny cartridges erupting from boxes the size of artgum erasers.
This gun’s sights appeal to me too. The green “dot” fits neatly in the square notch. Not awkward at all. The supporting blade is properly square in profile, so when light conditions permit, a target-style sight picture comes easy. For my hand, the grip angle and contours are darned near perfect. The GP100 comes on-target without effort.
The full-frame GP100 rimfire is all stainless, a well-balanced 42-oz. with its 5-1/2″ barrel. Ruger fitted rubber grips with hardwood inserts.
Galco’s handsome, adjustable Dual Position Phoenix hip holster fits this Ruger GP100 very well.
Attention To Details
Function? No hitches. The cylinder spins smoothly, with even resistance. The hand shows proper timing. The crane swings compliantly but with a solid feel. The extractor has the reach to spew all spent cases without hangup, and muscle enough to dump loaded ammunition cleanly.
Fit and finish are certainly acceptable. Sure, I admire the dead-flat surfaces and crisp detailing of 1950’s-era Smiths and Colts — those $70 revolvers forever now in collections. But flawless surfaces have nothing to do with performance. This Ruger is still a very fetching revolver. At $829, it may seem costly to those who recall too clearly decades long past. The closest match is Smith & Wesson’s Model 617 Masterpiece. The 39-ounce, 4″ stainless DA also holds 10 rounds. It lists at the same price.
As the GP100 .22’s 5-1/2″ barrel is shared with no centerfire in that line, my first question after deciding to buy this revolver was: Is there a suitable holster? Long a fan of Galco gun-leather, I asked that of Galco’s Mike Barham. “Try a Dual Position Phoenix,” he replied. I did. To my delight, this handsome, lined DA holster fits the GP nicely. It has a retention strap and a tension adjustment.
With these Ruger’s, I can almost forget the exquisite guns of 1956, revolvers that sold then for what we now pay to fuel a pickup.
Thanks to American Handgunner for this post. Click here to visit AmericanHandgunner.com.
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