Ruger GP100 Five-Shot 44 Special Double-Action Revolver

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

December 20, 2016


Click pictures for a larger version.









The GP100 has plenty of cylinder length for 250-grain hard-cast Keith loads.









2016 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the introduction of the Ruger GP100 double-action revolver.  Introduced as a beefed-up replacement for the excellent Security-Six line of revolvers, the GP had a very different internal design, and was built stouter than the Six series revolvers, while retaining many of its superb features, such as a no-side-plate frame design, transfer-bar safety, and rugged internals. Over the past three decades, the GP100 has proven itself to be a strong, reliable, durable revolver which can take a steady diet of 357 Magnum ammunition without failing or needing to be retimed. More recently, the GP100 was also built as a ten-shot 22 Long Rifle revolver, and now Ruger has just introduced the five-shot 44 Special chambering, which has been requested by many shooters over the years.

The GP100 is of ideal size to easily handle five 44 Special cartridges, while still leaving plenty of cylinder-wall thickness for strength and durability. The cylinder has plenty length to accommodate heavy cast-lead Keith style bullets, while properly seated into 44 Special cases.

The GP100 44 Special is built primarily of stainless steel, and wears a three-inch barrel with integral upper and lower ribs. It wears a Ruger adjustable rear sight that is mated to a black post front sight with green fiber-optic insert for greater visibility in various light conditions. I do expect other barrel lengths and options to be offered later. The double-action trigger pull is butter-smooth on the revolver shown here, releasing with just under ten pounds of resistance. The single-action trigger pull is crisp, releasing with about four and three-quarters pounds of resistance. The face of the trigger is rounded and smooth, making for a delightful double-action shooting experience.

The 44 GP100 balances very well in my hand, and the synthetic rubber Hogue grip is shaped just right, affording a secure grasp on the revolver, easily handling the recoil of stout 44 Special ammunition.

On the subject of ammo, many uninformed shooters think of the 44 Special as being weak. Using properly-loaded 44 Special ammunition, not the sissy-level loads used my many competitors, the 44 Special has plenty of power for defense and hunting. The “Cowboy Action” ammunition has its place, and is used in competition, but serious 44 Special ammunition is readily available in hollowpoint, wadcutter, semi-wadcutter, and specialty form which is very effective against flesh and bone. For hunting and defense, it is debatable whether five shots of 44 Special are better than six shots of 357 Magnum, but now, shooters have a choice, and for many, the five-shot GP100 is the gun for which they have been waiting.

Detailed specifications of the GP100 are listed in the chart below. All linear measurements are listed in inches, and the weight is listed in ounces. The trigger pulls are listed in pounds of resistance. SA is the single-action trigger pull. DA is the double-action trigger pull. Height includes the sights.

Chambering 44 S&W Special
Weight 35.4 ounces
Barrel Length 3.06 inches
Trigger Pull SA 4.6 pounds
Trigger Pull DA 9.8 pounds
Cylinder Length 1.601 inches
Cylinder Diameter 1.58 inches
Chambers 5
Overall Length 8.5 inches
Overall Height 5.9 inches
Barrel / Cylinder Gap 0.007 inch
Sights Adjustable Rear / Fiber Optic Front
Safety Internal Transfer Bar
MSRP as of December 2016 $829.00 US

I fired the GP100 with a variety of 44 Special ammunition that I had available to me. Most of my 44 Special shooting is done with a handload that is loaded to moderate levels. If I want magnum velocities, I use a magnum, so in my Specials, is use a load that is very accurate, and still has plenty of power for whitetail and hogs. It uses a 250-grain hard-cast lead Keith bullet atop 4.8 grains of Hodgdon Titegroup powder with a standard primer. The load has light recoil, is very efficient, and is fun to shoot. The two loads which I like to carry in defensive revolvers are the Lehigh Defense Extreme Penetrator solid copper bullet and the Buffalo Bore soft lead hollowpoint. Both work well in short-barreled 44s, are accurate, and have proven one hundred percent reliable. Velocities are listed in the chart below. Velocity readings were taken at ten feet from the muzzle, at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level. Temperatures hovered around the seventy-degree Fahrenheit mark with humidity in the fifty-four percent range during testing. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second (fps). Bullet weights are listed in grains. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint. LHP is a soft lead hollowpoint. Keith is a hard-cast lead semi-wadcutter.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Lehigh Defense Extreme Penetrator 220 719
Buffalo Bore JHP 185 1028
Buffalo Bore LHP 190 1054
Cor-Bon JHP 165 939
Handload Keith 250 727

The Ruger proved to be very accurate. At a distance of twenty-five yards shooting from a handheld, rested position, the GP would group five shots into less than two inches, easily. Velocities were very respectable, considering the revolver’s short barrel and wide barrel/cylinder gap. The GP100 seemed to be timed perfectly, with no spitting out of the barrel/cylinder gap nor any other problems. The GP100 is easy to shoot due to its excellent double-action trigger pull, and easy to shoot well, due to the highly-visible sights. The fiber-optic rod in the front works very well against a dark background, yet the black post makes target work very precise. The front sight is dovetailed into the integral barrel rib, so it would be easy to change, if desired. Good sights.

Some might ask, “Why a 44 Special?”, and that is a good question. The 44 Special is accurate and reliable, but it is also a good defensive cartridge. The 44 throws a large bullet at moderate velocity, and on paper, doesn’t look all that impressive. It is much like a revolver version of the good old 45 ACP. However, on target, whether inanimate steel or living flesh and bone, the 44 Special gets the job done. It hits with authority, and penetrates well. If you are of the school of thought which believes in peppering the target with a handful of small, fast-stepping bullets, the 44 Special is not for you. However, if you tend towards hitting the target hard and making a large hole, the 44 just might be your baby. The 44 Special gets the job done with minimal recoil and muzzle blast. I carry a 44 Special in my pocket every day. The Ruger GP100 is a bit large for a pocket gun, but it fills that gap between pocket gun and heavy belt gun, and is what has for years been designated a “big-bore belly gun”. The Ruger GP100 44 Special revolver is compact, reliable, accurate, and made in the USA.

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To order quality 44 Special ammunition, go to,,, and

Jeff Quinn

NOTE: All load data posted on this web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data. The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the potential user of this data.  Always use data from respected loading manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated in the source manual.

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Click pictures for a larger version.







Buffalo Bore soft lead hollowpoint.



Lehigh Defense Extreme Penetrator copper bullet.



Accuracy testing at twenty-five yards was done with the aid of a Target Shooting, Inc. handgun rest.



Handloads would consistently group five shots into one and one-half inches, and the Lehigh Defense ammo did almost as well.