Guns and Gear

Gun Test: Ruger’s GP100 Match Champion

Guns and Gear Contributor

By Payton Miller, GUNS Magazine
Photos By Joe Novelozo

It may have taken them awhile, but by 2009—with the introduction of the small, polymer-framed LCR—Ruger had finally covered all the bases in double-action revolver frame sizes. They’d started the ball rolling in 1972 with the medium-frame Security Six (and subsequent Speed Six and Service Six models), offered the large-frame Redhawk in 1979 and its even-beefier variant, the Super Redhawk in 1987.

In all this admittedly zig-zaggy development lineage, the company managed to find time to introduce yet another medium-frame entry in 1985, the refined GP100—which was an ergonomically improved take on the original Security Six platform it ultimately replaced (along with its scaled-down stablemate, the SP101, in 1989).

The standard, full-lug GP100 is a slick, very strong revolver and has proven its ruggedness and accuracy over the years chambered in .357 Magnum and, recently, .327 Federal.

Now Ruger is offering a distinctively upscale version of it called the Match Champion, which also features the “triple-lock” type cylinder/crane arrangement that helped make the original GP100 such a stout item for those shooters who simply must subsist on a heavy magnum diet.

At first glance the most striking thing about the Match Champion is its 4.2-inch slab-sided, half-lug barrel which is much more graceful than the industrial-strength, full-lug barrel of its parent GP. Custom-class touches include an 11-degree target crown and a slicked up action.

The Match Champion’s rear sight is a Novak Lo-Mount Carry rear combined with a green-fiber optic set in a dovetailed blade front, as opposed to the adjustable rear/blade front setup of a standard GP100. The rear does have a locking screw to adjust windage for whatever load you settle on. And it’s also nice to know, in view of the fact this revolver is purpose-built to shrug off magnum stresses and strains, the rear sight is going to stay put.

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The 1-piece Hogue grip extends high enough to help save the web of your hand from a pounding with heavy .357 Magnum loads. The distinctive Ruger “push-straight-down” cylinder release latch is positive and easily accessible. The Ruger action uses the company’s long-proven transfer bar for ignition.

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The front sight is an electric green fiber-optic unit. Note the 11-degree target crown.

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This version of the Match Champion features a windage-adjustable Novak Lo-Mount Carry rear sight with a lock-screw.

I owned a 6-inch Security Six for years and found it very accurate and strong, although I must confess I preferred the double-action trigger of my S&W K-Frame. The flat spring of the Smith just seemed to exhibit less stacking and a more controllable “feel” than the coil-spring Ruger. But I’m happy to say the GP100 Match Champion has a markedly improved DA trigger over what the company once offered. Although my old late-’70’s-vintage Security Six required only slightly heavier poundage in double-action mode, the new Match Champion is smoother, feels “shorter,” and exhibits less stacking than its predecessor. On our test sample, the double-action pull was 9 pounds, the crisp SA trigger broke at a clean 4 pounds even.

The beefy, 1-piece wooden stocks make shooting heavy-duty .357 ammo far less onerous than the skimpier, less hand-filling panels on the old Security Six. And they’re cut on the sides so as not interfere with speedloader use, whether you’re recharging with .357’s or .38’s. And it accepts S&W L-Frame HKS speedloaders as well as Ruger-designated ones.

Besides being stout, the Match Champion’s charge holes are polished and smooth and no hammering or cursing was required on our part to kick out empty brass from anything, from the mightiest .357 to the lowliest .38 Special. Everything popped out slick and easy—like it’s supposed to.

After our grouping and chronographing was done, one thing had become pretty clear. From a standpoint of overall accuracy our Match Champion seemed to prefer loads in the “158-grain and up” range. In terms of “Best of Show” on the .357 side of the ledger, the load the gun seemed to really like just so happened to be one of the most potent—Speer’s thumping 170-grain GDHP (which averaged nearly 1,150 fps). As far as .38’s go, Black Hills’ 158-grain standard-pressure “Blue Box” offering took top honors. This was by no means a surprise. The company’s “remanufactured” stuff has always been a real contender in terms of accuracy. Currently, as far as remanufactured handgun ammo goes, Black Hills only catalogs the .40 S&W.

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Ruger’s foray into double-action revolvers began with the Security-Six back in 1972. Photo: Payton Miller

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Winchester’s 130-grain Defend .38 Special 25-yard results (above) compared with a group using Remington’s classic “FBI Load” (below), a 158-grain +P LSWHP. Generally, the Match Champion seemed to prefer heavier weights.

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Best of Show .357 Magnum results were realized with Speer’s thumping 170-grain GDHP.

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Removing the grip exposes the coil-type mainspring common to all Ruger revolvers.

Sights

As quick to acquire as the windage-only Novak Lo-Mount Carry rear sight is, it can’t be expected to fully cope with the sizable point-of-impact differences for the array of .357/.38 Special ammo available.

I’m not a fanatic about fully adjustable sights. Fixed ones are bombproof in terms of strength and simplicity, but Ruger’s adjustables are about as simple and tough as you’re likely to find. I use several old fixed-sight .38 service-type revolvers and like them all. They all shoot perfectly with at least one brand/weight of ammo. But throw a .357 Magnum chambering in as a factor, and you’ve opened up the possibilities of bullets weighing 110, 125, 130, 140, 150, 158, 170, and 180 grains—all of various configurations and widely differing velocities. And being able to accommodate as many as possible (particularly in times of ammo shortages) is no small consideration.

At the range I found myself wishing for a fully adjustable rear sight. And, in one of those all-to-rare instances of a wish coming true, I found out after all was said, done and shot, the company now offers the Match Champion with a fully adjustable, white-outline rear and a conventional flat-topped post front. I think this is an excellent move, one which neatly takes care of my only real concern with the gun’s utility.

As to the green fiber-optic front? As much of an advantage as it may offer for a straight-ahead defensive revolver, I’d still prefer a black flat-topped post. It was tough to acquire a workable sight picture on bull’s-eye targets with a big, neon-green dot, although, to be honest, a younger set of eyes might not have this problem.

Granted, speed-smacking plates is most likely a more useful index of this gun’s real-world utility than shooting little-bitty groups, so this is, admittedly, a pretty subjective whine on my part. And for plates, the green dot was great, far faster to pick up than a conventional black post. Anyway, the front sight is dovetailed in, so swapping it out for something taller or shorter—or of a different configuration—shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. Of course, the newer fully adjustable rear variant should take care of most “front sight height” elevation issues as well.

As is, the sight configuration of the model we shot would be best suited to a competitor who can tailor it to his favorite load. For .38 Special this would, from what we saw, more than likely be a 158-grain concoction. The trick with your pet magnum load, of course, would be to find (or handload) something as close to the POI of your day-in, day-out .38 Special load. And that’s just one more factor in favor of fully adjustable sights.

All in all, the GP100 Match Champion lives up to its billing as a premium variant of the basic GP100 platform. Having the cylinder cut for moon clips would increase its utility as a combat/competition gun. There is no shortage of companies that will do this, and perhaps Ruger may consider standardizing it—it could be a good move for serious “run-and-gun” types. Click Here To See Performance Charts

Action: Double-action revolver
Caliber: .357 Magnum/.38 Special
Capacity: 6
Barrel length: 4.2 inches (with 11-degree target crown)
Overall length: 9.5 inches
Weight: 38 ounces
Sights: Windage-only Novak Lo-Mount Carry rear, fiber-optic front (fully adjustable rear and blade front available)
Grip: Hogue stippled hardwood
Finish: Satin stainless
Price: $899

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