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Review: Ruger GP100 Wiley Clapp Model

Some shooters regard revolvers as dinosaurs. Since the introduction of the first reliable self-loading pistols well over 100 years ago, the revolver, they feel, has become a part of ancient history. The theory has some merit, but the end analysis is still wrong.

3-inch barrel Ruger GP100 Wiley Clapp revolverThe Ruger’s three-inch barrel is ideal for fast handling and personal defense.

Revolvers chambered for serious cartridges are not light or small and demand good leather holsters for concealed carry. They do not have the reserve of ammunition a self-loader may, and they are slower to reload. Just the same, there are attributes of the revolver that make it a good choice for personal defense. Those who prefer revolvers will not be forced to change their mind.

The Ruger GP100 .357 Magnum isn’t a hideout or pocket revolver. This is a belt gun that is designed to handle the power and pounding of a magnum cartridge. The GP100 has a well-earned reputation for taking the pounding of magnum loads without working loose or breaking small parts. While this requires a heavy frame, the Ruger GP100 handles quickly for those that practice.

The GP100 illustrated is the Wiley Clapp model. This is a version intended to offer the best features for a revolver. These include excellent quality, high-visibility fixed sights with a bold front post and wide rear sights. The action is smooth and the grips are distinctive rubber recoil absorbing grips with special logos. The GP100 represents the thoughts of veteran writer and shooter Wiley Clapp.

Jeffrey Custom leather holster with Wiley Clapp GP100 revolverThis holster from Jeffrey Custom Leather is the author’s usual choice for concealed carry beneath a covering garment.

While fixed sights and recoil absorbing grips are a good addition, the base GP100 is a formidable revolver. The cylinder locks securely, not only front and rear, but also at the lower end of the yoke by a special detent. This makes for good rigidity and repeatable accuracy. The GP100 features a modern transfer bar ignition system. This is not only a very safe system, but the floating firing pin also handles recoil better than conventional firing pins that are mounted in the hammer.

The ejector rod is shrouded by a heavy barrel underlug. The cylinder release doesn’t press forward like a Smith and Wesson or Taurus, nor pull to the rear as a Colt does. The cylinder release is pressed inward. This is a positive operation.

The grips are well designed in all models and particularly well suited to handling magnum recoil. The GP100 isn’t as simple to field strip as a self-loader but it doesn’t require removal of a sideplate either. While removing the action isn’t often necessary, it is simple enough.

insert in Ruger GP100 gripsThe Ruger grips feature attractive inserts.

Those with a sharp eye will note that the front of the cylinder of the GP100 has been chamfered. The sharp edges of the GP100 have been broken up to make the piece more comfortable to carry close to the body. The fixed sights are far superior to the old style simple groove in the top strap and more durable than adjustable sights. The sights are adjustable for windage.

Overall, this is a great all-around revolver properly outfitted for personal defense. As for accuracy the majority of my shooting has been in double action work, firing at 7 to 10 yards, firing as quickly as I could acquire the sights in recoil. The majority of practice was with .38 Special ammunition.

The .38 Special is a reasonable choice for personal defense with modern loads. Among the most interesting loads is the relatively new .38 Special V Crown from SIG Sauer. This load offers good expansion and excellent accuracy. In the .41 frame Ruger, the .38 is docile to fire. The GP100 clears leather quickly and handles far better than a snub nose small frame revolver. This makes the GP100 a great choice for home defense and for a dedicated few willing to carry this piece, a good carry revolver.

Rubber backstrap on the GP100's gripsRuger’s rubber grip is a good choice for recoil control.

Don’t kid yourself. Reloading speed is slow very slow compared to the self-loader. Using HKS speed loaders and practicing often is a good program. The better choice is to make the rounds in the gun count.

I have fired the piece extensively with .357 Magnum loads. The SIG Sauer Elite 125-grain V Crown load breaks almost 1,400 fps from most four-inch revolvers and 1,340 fps from the three-inch barrel Ruger GP100. This is a powerful load with predicted excellent wound ballistics. For those who carry a handgun for defense in the wild, there are heavy bullet loads available that will penetrate deeply to the vitals. The Buffalo Bore 180-grain hard cast load breaks nearly 1,300 fps in the three-inch Ruger. Recoil is stout and it should serve well for defense against the big cats and feral dogs.

The Ruger GP100 is a modern handgun that arguably is the finest example of a combat revolver versus a hunting or target revolver. This is a reliable and powerful handgun that always comes up shooting. For the person willing to master a revolver the GP100 Wiley Clapp edition is a great choice.


Ruger Wiley Clapp GP100 Revolver
Caliber .357 magnum
Barrel 3 in.
Weight 36 oz.
Operation Double action
Finish Matte Blue or Stainless Steel
Capacity 6 rounds

Do you favor a revolver over a self-loader or carry a revolver as a backup to your semiautomatic? Why? How does the Wiley Clapp GP100 from Ruger rate in your eyes? Share your answers in the comment section.

Source: Cheaper Than Dirt

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