Ruger GP-100 & Blackhawk .327 Federal Magnum Revolvers


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

January 4th, 2010




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It has been over two years now since Ruger introduced the .327 Federal cartridge chambered in the dandy little SP-101 revolver. I took to the new cartridge immediately, and so did many other shooters. Since that time, I have played around with the .327 Federal in an Alan Harton custom Single-Six, the Freedom Arms Model 97, the Charter Patriot, and the S&W Model 632 revolvers. In every revolver that I have fired that cartridge, the performance has been impressive. The .327 Federal has proven to be everything that the older .32 H&R Magnum promised, and much more. I am still waiting anxiously for a trim little lever action carbine chambered for the .327 Federal. Maybe soon Marlin will make it happen in their Model 1894. Anyway, the .327 Federal Magnum cartridge seems to be here to stay, as it has earned its place at the top of the .32 caliber revolver cartridge heap. Revolvers which are chambered for the .327 Federal will also shoot the .32 H&R Magnum and the .32 S&W Long and Short cartridges. The revolvers offer great versatility, and the .327 is as easy to handload as any sixgun cartridge. Bullet weights and styles are available to suit any possible need. When I first received that SP-101 back in 2007, there was no load data available, but today there is plenty, so no extrapolation nor speculation is needed when working up loads for the cartridge. Many shooters like to push lightweight bullets to the highest possible velocities, treating the cartridge as a .32 Swift, but I prefer to use heavier bullets, such as the 120 grain Mt. Baldy semi-wadcutter, the Cast Performance 118, and the Killebrew 135.  These bullets, properly loaded with Accurate Number 9, H110, or Lil' Gun offer deeper penetration and very good accuracy. They are long, and need a long cylinder to perform the best.

With the introduction of the .327 Federal in the SP-101, Ruger produced a fine little compact revolver for concealed carry, meant mainly for personal defense. Now, Ruger has just introduced two other fine revolvers chambered for the .327 Federal cartridge. Both are built primarily of stainless steel. The Blackhawk is built on Ruger's full-size single action frame, and has an eight-shot cylinder. It has a fully adjustable rear sight and a five and one-half inch barrel. This Blackhawk would make a first-class general purpose working gun, filling the same role as the old Colt  .32 WCF (.32-20) Single Action Army revolver of decades ago, but with more power and better accuracy. A lot of folks 100 years ago preferred the .32 WCF to the larger bores, as it did the job with less powder, less lead, and less recoil. The .327 Blackhawk has the added advantage of that eight-shot cylinder, stainless construction, and the versatility of using milder cartridges as the need arises.

The second new revolver that is chambered for the .327 Federal is the Ruger GP-100. Introduced twenty-three years ago, it has served admirably chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge. In .357 Magnum form, the GP-100 is a duty-size six-shot .357 that is built tough, and built to last, probably the most durable .357 magnum double-action revolver ever built, unless maybe the Ruger Redhawk might be tougher, but it would be hard to prove that one would outlast the other. Now Ruger has fitted a seven-shot .327 cylinder to the GP-100 frame, making a revolver that would serve well as a hunting gun, and do double duty as a defensive revolver. Weighing more than the SP-101, the GP has less felt recoil, a longer barrel, and holds one more round in its cylinder. With both the Blackhawk and the GP-100, recoil is just not a factor.

The Blackhawk that I received has a good-looking set of wood grips, fitted very well, except they are a bit short of the metal on the front strap of the grip frame. They feel very good to my hand, but my left hand has grown accustomed to having a Blackhawk in it much of the time. The grip works really well, and points naturally. The GP-100 also wears a very comfortable and hand-filling Hogue synthetic rubber grip. It has a pebble finish, and assures a secure grip under any weather conditions. Both revolvers are easy to load and unload. Extraction was easy with all loads tested, and the chambers of the Blackhawk line up with the ejector rod at each click of turning the cylinder.  The cylinders of both guns are plenty beefy enough to handle the .327 Federal with ease. The detailed specifications are listed below. All linear measurements are in inches, and the weight is listed in ounces. The trigger pulls are listed in pounds of pressure.

  Blackhawk GP-100
Weight 46.8 40.2
Barrel Length 5.5 4.2
Trigger Pull SA/DA 3.9 / NA 3.8 / 7.5
Cylinder Length 1.646 1.615
Cylinder Diameter 1.733 1.550
Chambers 8 7
Overall Length 11.25 9.625
Overall Height 5.31 5.875
Barrel / Cylinder Gap .004 .004

Both of these revolvers wear a handsome satin stainless finish. The sights are black, and the rear is fully adjustable. The front sights are replaceable on both firearms, should the need arise.  The GP-100 has earned a well-deserved reputation for being a tough, reliable, and accurate revolver. The Blackhawk has a service record that is about 55 years old. The Blackhawk is a hard-working, durable, and accurate revolver. Both of these handgun designs are well-respected by knowledgeable shooters and hunters.

The  two revolvers each exhibit very good fit and finish. The trigger pulls were just about right on both, The single action pulls on each is crisp, and the double-action pull on the GP is very, very smooth. Cylinder timing is perfect, and both lock up well with minimal cylinder side play or end shake.

For accuracy testing, I locked each revolver into my Ransom Master Rest to eliminate all human error, to see just how mechanically accurate each revolver is, limited only by the quality of the ammunition fed it. Accuracy was outstanding with each revolver. Both grouped better than I expected, even though the Blackhawk and GP-100 have good reputations for delivering good accuracy. I did not expect match-grade accuracy from either, but both delivered. Group testing was done at a range of twenty-five yards. Conditions were cold, with temperatures between eighteen and twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit  over the course of the two days spent testing many different loads for accuracy. The groups shown in the pictures are typical, and the worst group fired over the two days measured less than two inches for five shots. I would have been happy with the worst group. I pictured more groups than I usually do, because these revolvers shot well with everything fed them. I was impressed. With handloads, both revolvers turned in performance that was spectacular, and both also grouped very, very well with the American Eagle 100 grain soft point factory ammunition, which is my favorite factory load for a .327 Federal Magnum revolver. Cast Performance and Mt. Baldy hard cast bullets did very well in the handloads, along with a 135 grain hard cast semi-wadcutter that is cast by my friend, John Killebrew.  Both of these revolvers have cylinders that are plenty long enough to seat the bullets out, crimping into the upper grease groove, allowing increased powder capacity. My best handload performance was loaded using Hodgdon H110 powder, and equaled and exceeded the performance of the factory ammunition. However, my powder charges exceed those listed by Hodgdon, so they are not recommended, and will not be published here. Hodgdon has good pressure-tested data on their website

Chronograph data is listed in the chart below. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second. Velocity readings were taken at a distance of ten feet from the muzzle. Velocity testing was done at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, and the air temperature was in the twenty degree Fahrenheit range.  Bullet weights are listed in grains. HC is a hard-cast lead bullet. SP is a jacketed soft point. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint bullet. HL signifies a handload. FL signifies a factory load.

AMMUNITION Bullet Weight Velocity Blackhawk Velocity GP-100
American Eagle SP FL 100 1610 1487
Federal JHP FL 85 1587 1414
Speer JHP FL 115 1441 1376
Mt. Baldy HC HL 120 1615 1499
Cast Performance HC HL 118 1656 1540
Killebrew HC HL 135 1534 1402

Besides those listed above, other handloads were tried, but did not meet the performance of those listed above. All of the handloads listed above used H110 powder and CCI 550 primers. Again, I do not recommend that you exceed the loads as listed by the powder manufacturer.

The new .327 Blackhawk and GP-100 revolvers are stellar performers. They add to the versatility of the .327 Federal Magnum cartridge  by being chambered in such solid, reliable hunting and duty guns. They offer high velocity, deep penetration, and more ammunition capacity that comparable revolvers chambered for larger cartridges. Again, in these full-size revolvers, recoil is not a factor. The GP-100 would be ideal for folks who want a powerful defensive revolver with minimal recoil. These new Ruger revolvers are easy to shoot, superbly accurate, and made in the USA. I like them, and highly recommend them.

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Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Ruger's 7-shot GP-100 (top) & 8-shot Blackhawk (bottom) .327 federal revolvers.



Blackhawk (top) & GP-100 (bottom) cylinders.



Bullets can be seated long in the Ruger cylinders to increase powder capacity with heavy bullets like this Killebrew 135.






Blackhawk is right at home in this beautiful holster & belt from Mike Barranti (