In the competition world, revolver divisions are completely dominated by Smith and Wesson and have been for a long time. The new GP100 Match Champion is Ruger’s first direct attempt at challenging that dominance.

At SHOT Show, we talked to Kurt Hindle, the product manager for the Match Champion. We asked him to tell us in 30 seconds or less why we should consider the new Ruger in a field where S&W is the standard.

You can read the full interview with Kurt after our first impressions section below.

 

Ruger GP100 Match Champion Quick Overview

Dimensions

  • Overall length: 9.5”
  • Barrel Length: 4.2”
  • Weight: 38 oz

Other Stats

  • Capacity: 6
  • Caliber: .357 magnum/.38 special
  • Double action/single action
  • MSRP: $899 (currently available for around $750 or less online)

Features

  • Purpose-built for IDPA
  • Tuned trigger with polished internals
  • Reduced underlug
  • Slab-sided barrel
  • Recessed target crown
  • Novak fixed rear sights in standard dovetail
  • Fiber optic front sight in standard dovetail
  • Textured wood Hogue grips (no finger grooves)
  • Contoured cylinder

External Links

 

First Impressions

Right now, the most popular action shooting sport for handguns is IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association), which has two divisions for revolvers. One is designated for wheel guns firing .45 ACP with moon clips. The other division, “Stock Service Revolver,” was set up with the good ol’ fashioned .38 special six shooter in mind, and this is the division for which the Match Champion is tailored.

Ruger Match Champion

In our Q&A (full text below), Ruger’s product manager for this revolver refers to the Match Champion as a “custom gun” and I believe that’s not just marketing. There’s really no comparing it to a standard GP100. My guess is that if you had an expert gunsmith perform all of the tweaks necessary to turn a stock GP into one similar to a Match Champion, you’d be looking at a price tag easily double what Ruger’s new revolver is retailing for.

I only fired a few rounds from the Match Champion during our range day at SHOT, but I was quickly impressed. It’s incredibly well balanced and the double action trigger was smooth and light. In fact, it felt a whole lot like shooting my S&W 686 SSR. Astute readers will notice the “SSR” in the Smith’s model name — yes, it stands for “Stock Service Revolver” and it’s S&W’s IDPA-themed revolver; a direct counterpart to the Match Champion. Smith & Wesson has been producing the 686 SSR for a few years now, and while it’s a great revolver, it’s honestly not dramatically different from the standard 686. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since the S&W 686 is just better suited to competition use right out of the box than a stock GP100. But with this effort, Ruger has really gone out of their way to give the Match Champion some competition-oriented features (see the above list for details).

Ruger Match Champion

As popular as IDPA is, however, most of us are not competitive revolver shooters. But that’s okay, because the things that make the Ruger GP100 Match Champion a good IDPA revolver also make it a great revolver for just about any other kind of shooting. Smooth action and trigger, great sights, and excellent balance — everybody can appreciate that, right? The one downside to the changes made for the Match Champion is that it’s not quite as pleasant to shoot .357 magnums as the standard GP100. On paper, there’s only a difference of 2 oz between the two, but the heavy underlug of the standard GP100 really goes a long way to tame the magnum loads. Firing magnums is still not a terrible experience with the Match Champion, but I’ve always viewed the mitigating effect of the GP100’s underlug to be one of the more attractive selling points for the Ruger.

If you’re a wheel gun fan but you’ve been overlooking Ruger for some reason, be sure to handle the Match Champion the next time you get a chance. I think a lot of S&W fans will be pleasantly surprised, and a few might end up being converts.

Ruger GP100 Match Champion and S&W 686 SSR Comparison

Ruger Match Champion and S&W 686 SSR
Left: Ruger GP100 Match Champion. Right: S&W 686 SSR

 

Ruger GP100 Match Champion S&W 686 SSR
Weight 38 oz 38.3 oz
Barrel Length 4.2″ 4″
Grips textured wood textured wood
Front Sight fiber optic red ramp
Rear Sight Novak fixed S&W adjustable
Action Modifications shimmed trigger and hammer, polished internals bossed mainspring
Other Modifications contoured cylinder chamfered charge holes
Recessed Crown yes yes
Silly Huge Letters on Barrel yes no
Slab Sided Barrel yes yes
Reduced Underlug yes yes
MSRP $899 $999
Actual Retail $650-$800 $750-$900

 

Q&A with Kurt Hindle, Ruger Product Manager for the GP100 Match Champion

Lucky Gunner: So it sounds like you guys have done a lot to make this GP100 different. This is a lot more than you could do with a standard GP at your kitchen table with a dremel, right?

Kurt Hindle: Yeah. This really is — even though it’s coming out of our factory — a custom gun. It’s a lot more than just a standard GP100 and a lot of thought and a lot of care and detail went into the way this was set up and built.

LG: I got a chance to shoot a couple of cylinders through this at the range the other day and the first thing that struck me was just how light it is compared to the standard GP100. Where did you guys shave the weight off?

KH: We took weight off the top strap, both on the frame and on the barrel and then slabbed the sides of the barrel and went to a half lug. All of that takes the center of gravity and brings it back farther toward the shooters hands and just balances it better. Because it’s not front heavy, it also makes it feel lighter.

LG: But you haven’t sacrificed any of the ruggedness or the longevity of firearm in doing that, right?

KH: It’s still a Ruger. It’s built to be a rugged, reliable firearm, and it does do that. It’s well put together and it will handle hot .357 loads and you can shoot .38 specials out of it. It’s able to withstand a lot of abuse and a lot of shooting.

LG: Is this dovetail for the rear sight a standard size in case you want to put a different rear sight in there?

KH: It is a standard dovetail. It’s similar to what we use on our 1911 — it’s basically the same dovetail.


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17 Responses to “Ruger GP100 Match Champion Revolver: An Overview”

  1. Rick Sledge

    when did ruger start building smith lookalikes and why???????????

    Reply
  2. Ron Bartnick

    I have one I love it

    Reply
  3. Tom Larsen

    I have one of the very first Ruger Redhawk' pistols, in .44 Mag. I've run thousands of rounds of ammo through the gun. It's timing is still on the money, the trigger hasn't been touched by a gunsmith yet it's probably one of the best triggers in my safe. I have lots of respect for Ruger revolvers…..bet this new one is fantastic.

    Reply
  4. LG Chris

    It doesn't look much different from any of the other half-lug GP100s that Ruger used to make. Why? It's perfect for guys who shoot competitively and prefer Rugers, or who just like a slightly more refined revolver but don't want to pay the price for a true custom.

    Reply
  5. Allen Wiley

    I like this revolver. Not since the Python have I seen such a great revolver.

    Reply
  6. Larry Gaudette

    Nice revolver, I have a Red Hawk and this would complement it, and I was looking for a .357 anyways!

    Reply
  7. Jared Treadway

    It's a fine wheel gun I will say. Smooth trigger and the stippled wood is a nice touch for keeping that cannon in the hand.

    Reply
  8. Paul Dragotto

    I USE TO OWN A RUGER 44 MAGNUM RED HAWK. LOOKS A LOT LIKE THE GP 100. ONLY IT HAD A 51/2" BARELL. RECOIL WAS NOT AS BAD AS THE S$W 29. I'M AN AUTO LOADER MAN IF THEY MAKE A MATCH GRADE IN 44 SPECIAL, THAT WOULD NE A NICE WHEEL GUN I WOULD BYE. THE 44 SPECIAL HAS BEEN OVER SHADOWED BY THE 40 s&w IN THE AUTO LOADER FOR HAVING GOOD STOPPING POWER LESS RECOIL THAN A 45, BUT NOT AS EFFECTIVE. THE 44SPL WITH A GOOD 200 GR WAD CUTER HOLLOW POINT HAS LOW RECOIL AND IS COMPARABLE TO THE 45 ACP IN FT.LB'S OF ENERGY . RUGER MAKE A GP 44SPL MATCH, I'LL BY ONE.

    Reply
  9. Mick Wood

    Chamfer the charge holes and you'll have a winner.

    Reply
  10. LG Chris

    Holy caps lock, Batman!

    Reply
  11. LG Chris

    Yes, that would have been a nice addition. Also, I would probably replace the rear sight with something like the adjustable Bowen Rough Country sights. The POI for different loads changes so much with .357/.38, you really need adjustable sights, especially for competition. But the standard dovetail is good, so you have plenty of options for a replacement. I'm guessing they skipped the chamfered charge holes to keep the price point below S&W.

    Reply
  12. Mick Wood

    LG Chris : Fortunately, my favorite gunsmith will usually handle this in 15 minutes, while you wait, for $20. It never ceases to amaze me how much easier reloads are with such a simple modification…and he leaves the extractor stars alone.

    Reply
  13. Paul Dragotto

    LG Chris: thanks Robin.easier to type!!

    Reply
  14. Marty Downs

    Had this gun for 2 months now. Shot over 1000 rounds. I had to adj. the site but now that i have it tuned in,it's my best gun yet! Grips are great ! I only paid $700.

    Reply
  15. Phil Spomer

    "silly huge letters on barrel" How much would it cost to have them polished off?

    Reply
  16. Norman J. Pelletier

    I love this gun. I don't use single action because the DA trigger is so light and smooth.

    Reply
  17. Robert R.

    Of course it looks a lot like a 4″ stainless Security Six, which is even lighter, and the Security Six had no problem handling full power loads. Yes, the action is improved, and mainspring lightened, but of course they should do some of this work on ALL production GP100s – some of which come from the factory with really terrible triggers requiring gunsmith attention.

    However, the dovetail sights are a big mistake on the Match Champion. Unlike the standard GP100 sights, there is no elevation adjustment, you have to swap out the rear sight for such adjustment. Ruger could have simply used one of the better aftermarket fully adjustable rear sights that are made for the GP100 (or just improved their own design). Next, there have been complaints of the front sight drifting. And most important, thinning the top strap and cutting the dovetail significantly weakens the top strap. Any mechanical engineer will tell you that screams STRESS CONCENTRATION. Even if you do finite element modeling on this (which Ruger probably did), it won’t give you an accurate prediction of failure (fatigue or impulse) at the point of the dovetail. That is why engineers use large safety factors when such cutouts can’t be avoided – but it obviously can be avoided here.. There is a post on a gun discussion site with photos where a suspected overcharge with commercially-reloaded ammo caused a complete failure of the top strap on a Wiley Clapp GP100 with the same rear sights and cutout.

    Reply

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