Ruger Doubles Down

Revolver or auto? These ‘Carry-friendly’ winners cover ALL bets

Two on two: OK. Here’s the deal: We turned two of our sneakiest shootists — Mike Humphries and Roy Huntington — loose on two new Ruger handguns. These were the SP101 5-shot .357 and the .380 “Anniversary” LCP. Whether you’re a wheelgun guy or an “auto addict,” both of them proved to be impressive CCW options.

Ruger SP101 and LCP

Retro SP101: Bad, Blued and Built to Last

By Micheal O. Humphries

In today’s world of ultra-compact, powerful “pocket” guns, it’s easy for something to get lost in the mix. From tiny .380s to ultra-powerful yet lightweight magnum wheelguns, there’s something for just about everyone out there. In short, there’s a flavor for just about every taste — but how about an icon? One that helped establish today’s market for CCW-ready handguns? A beefy — but still compact — .357 Magnum 5-shot revolver with an impressive pedigree and reputation? That would, of course, be the inimitable Ruger SP101.

Let’s be honest. Revolvers are generally viewed as reactionary rather than revolutionary, but the SP101 was truly revolutionary at the time of its introduction in the late 1980s. Sure, there were several excellent 5-shot snubbies in .38 Special available but one handling the powerful .357 Mag? This is what made the 5-shot SP101 so noteworthy. Admittedly, it was a little chunky through the middle and no lightweight by any stretch of the imagination but this gun could still spit out magnum firepower yet fit inside a roomy pocket. With stainless steel construction and synthetic grips to ensure it could resist pocket detritus and palm sweat with aplomb, it was truly revolutionary.

A blued take on snubbie tradition, the SP101 delivers the full range of .38/.357 power levels.

Tweaking Tradition

Why are we talking about the SP101 now, you may ask? While the design is a classic, it doesn’t mean Ruger can’t refresh it from time to time and offer fans something a little different. So what’s on order with this new release? Modified grips? “Combat” sights? Some other relatively easy — and modern — upgrade for the classic design? No. Ruger took a different tack this time around and I’m glad they did.

While the SP101 blazed a new trail at its introduction, it was still at its heart a traditionalist’s gun — revolvers almost always are. And what do traditionalists usually love? Wood and blued steel. Have you figured out where we’re heading here? That’s right, this new SP101 takes the pocket revolver back in time to the days of blued steel and wood grips — while still offering all the charms of the original stainless steel SP101.

In all fairness, the SP101 (M15702) still does have some stainless steel parts such as the trigger and hammer and extractor star, and the wood in the grips is surrounded by cushioned rubber — but you get the point. This new variant takes a revolutionary step back to the wheelgun’s traditionalist roots. And — while it’s no cheapie at an MSRP of $719 — it won’t break the bank either.

Five not six! That’s how you engineer a relatively small frame snubbie to stand up to
.357 pressures. And it’ll handle the hottest Plus-P .38 loads without breaking a sweat!

It’s unlikely you’ll ever have to strip down your SP101 to this level, but it can
be done by a “non-smith” with relative ease.

Hands-On Hammering

As soon as I received the press release for the gun, I knew I had to have one and immediately put in an order. I was immediately taken with the SP101 when I opened the box. Look, I get stainless steel. It has tons of benefits — and I am no dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist! I have “plastic” 9mm pistols in my safe right next to my blued steel 1911s. But I do appreciate leather holsters and traditional blued steel. So, this SP101 really appeals to me. It’s evenly polished for a uniform luster and the engraved wood insets in the rubber grips are attractive and distinctive.

If you know the SP101, you’ll be right at home with this new one. A triple-locking cylinder holding five rounds of .38 or .357, it has a stubby 2-1/2″ barrel, notch rear and ramped and serrated front sights, DA/SA operation with the exposed hammer, etc. — it’s all there. The familiar weight is also still there as well. It’s a hefty 26 oz. so wear a strong belt if you drop it in a pocket holster. But hey, the heft is reassuring, particularly when you’re touching off .357s, right?

Speaking of recoil, I took the SP101 out to the range with some .38 and .357 ammo from Black Hills and Inceptor. Specifically, I had 158-gr. JHP .357 from Black Hills, while I got a “Sport and Carry” pack of frangible .38 Special 84-gr. RNP training ammo and 77-gr. ARX defensive ammo from Inceptor.

Let’s be honest, even at 26 oz. I expected the .357 to be a handful and wasn’t disappointed. On the other hand, shooting the Inceptor’s .38 Special lightweight frangible bullets was pleasant. All loads shot well, with nice tight DA groups clustered in the center chest at 7 yards and easy “head shots” on the silhouette target at 15 yards in single-action mode. Is it a competition handgun? Nope. Is it a compact snubby that’ll do the job at self-defense distances when you need it? You bet.

Mike tried the Ruger out with a variety of .38 and .357 loads from Black Hills and Inceptor Ammo.
With its stubby 2-1/2" barrel, the SP101 can slip easily into a deep concealment holster — but be
ready to cope with its 26-oz. weight when you’re feeling “magnumized!” Photo: Mike Humphries.

A Keeper

If you like revolvers, love Rugers and lament the loss of the days when all guns were made from walnut and blued steel, this new SP101 is definitely right for you. I for one am very happy with it and am glad I added it to my battery. Now I just have to remember to keep a light coat of oil on that pretty blued steel!

Ruger SP101 & LCP

Ruger SP101 and LCP

Anniversary LCP: Celebrating the .380’s Coming of Age

By Roy Huntington

The pocket .380 market exploded about the time Ruger introduced the LCP at the SHOT show in 2008. In direct competition with the likes of Kel-Tec’s P3AT, Ruger ramped up the game by bringing customer loyalty and the ability to deliver the guns to dealers to the table. Ruger had introduced other “modern” autos at the time so this was a natural progression, meeting the needs of the zillions of new CCW holders for an ultra-compact carry gun. Combined with modern defensive .380 ammo, the good old “9mm Kurz” was morphing into something even the nay-sayers had to admit worked.

Ruger LCP

“Marginal” Redefined

Let’s think about this .380 thing for a minute and maybe dispel some misgivings you may have. It reminds me of the way I used to think about carrying a .380, especially during my police years. Yeah … “it’s a gun,” but just how much gun was always in the back of my mind. About two years ago when Ruger introduced the LCP II (a sort of gussied-up LCP) I bought one, tested it with high-performance ammo then stuck it into the pocket holster Ruger thoughtfully supplied. I’ve worn it as part of my daily carry ritual ever since. To date, I’ve fired about 650 rounds through it and find myself able to easily take a head shot at 15 yards. I’m impressed, completely, and it honestly (cross my heart!) has never malfunctioned. Not once. That’s astounding for any auto, much less a .380. It really proved itself a confidence builder for me.

I’ll also confess to still wearing a “bigger” gun when I go to town — but the Ruger stays in the pocket too. Around my property at home, I feel fine with it (I usually have a long gun nearby if needed). But since it’s “only” a .380, I’m still just a tiny bit anxious, mostly due to decades of stories about the .380 not being “good enough.” And we writers are guilty of spreading those stories. Of course, I remind myself, those were also the days of fully jacketed ammo and fussy guns. Times do change and we need to adapt and open our minds.

With today’s modern ammo, tests after tests, real-world shootings and some amazing innovation in design and engineering, the .380 has grown-up to the point where you can rely on it to defend yourself and your family. For me, I just need to knock the last bit of crud out of my brain regarding the old days. Old habits do die hard — but change is good, too.

Our test gun, the 10th Anniversary edition proves what I’m talking about. It’s a “real” gun, with good sights, a decent trigger, ran perfectly over the 300-odd rounds I fired through it and can take that same head shot at 15 yards, no sweat. The trigger is a bit more challenging than the “sort of single-action” trigger of the LCPII, but if you have DA revolver time under your belt, you’ll find the DA pull of the LCP to be just fine. It’s a “pre-cocked” hammer action and the trigger pull finishes the hammer stroke, releasing the sear. It’s also a very safe action and needs no external safety.

In its element in Ruger’s inside-the-pocket holster (above), the LCP’s CCW credentials are,
well … pretty much dead-solid perfect!

Stripped for cleaning and maintenance— it takes less time to do than it does to talk about it.

Making The Case

Upgrades to the original LCP have come through the years and today’s version has better sights, slide serrations and a shortened trigger pull. You get a lot of little gun for the $299 MSRP. It handles six- and seven-round mags but comes with a single six rounder. The frame is glass-filled nylon, it has a sort of GLOCK-ish extractor and an external slide stop though it won’t lock the slide back on an empty mag like the LCPII does. There’s a “peek-a-boo” hole next to the extractor allowing you to peer into the chamber to see if there’s a round inside.

In April 2010 Texas governor Rick Perry used an LCP to put down a coyote who was menacing his daughter and dog while the family was out on a walk. “Turned it into mulch,” he said afterward, when asked about the coyote. Don’t you wish other politicians would be so handy with a gun? Quick-thinking Ruger brought out a “Coyote Special” edition soon after.

I’m a bit sad Ruger didn’t incorporate the changeable front and rear sight from the “Custom” LCP — introduced in 2015 — on this new model and on the LCPII, but we’ll lean on them to see what we can do. As accurate as they are, I’d love to see a tiny adjustable rear sight. Don’t think I’m silly here. If you can shoot up to the gun’s capabilities, something like this would be very cool to be able to dial right in.

This gun has a stainless slide, some sort of “alloy” steel barrel and a glass-filled nylon grip frame. Width is only 0.82" and it weighs a feathery 9.6 oz. This is why I absolutely love carrying my LCPII in my pocket. It is perfect for the “have a gun” rule so there’re just no excuses any longer. Overall length is 5.16", height is 3.60" and normal capacity is 6+1.

Ruger LCP

This 15-yard, 2″ hand-held group with Black Hills HoneyBadger .380 shows just what the LCP can do. The gun did shoot a bit left and high with the fixed sights. Roy says he’d love to see a tiny adjustable rear to take advantage of the accuracy potential. Photo: Roy Huntington

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