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So on Friday I posted my accumulated thoughts about my new Ruger SP101, including the selection criteria, purchase process, accoutrements (i.e. other random crap that I needed to go with it) and a random diatribe about various gun vendors in my area.  As hoped, I actually got to fire the thing today, and while I didn’t put through as many rounds as I would have liked (owing primarily to time constraints and how busy the range is on a Saturday), I do have a preliminary range report.

Preliminary Range Report

Pretty sweet.

A Slightly More Detailed Range Report

I escaped captivity with what I have mentally dubbed The Oil Change Maneuver, wherein I bolt from the house early to go get an oil change in Gig Harbor; if you are present when the place opens at 0800, you have a pretty good shot of getting through quickly.  Since Saturday mornings are usually the only free time I have during the week, it’s a handy excuse.  Once out of the house on a necessary task, I have the option to subsequently perform some optional (i.e. fun) ones.

I spent the duration of the oil change in the local cafe, and then headed to Gig Harbor Sportsman’s Club.  Fortunately, I arrived a little early; if I’d waited until it actually opened, I’d probably still be waiting for a lane.  Saturday morning is not a good day to go shooting if you have another option; it’s just too popular.

I paid my $4 and picked a lane.  [Also had a nice chat with the guy in lane 12 who admired my Capri and even remembered the “Sexy European” marketing slogan.]  Firing commenced at 10 meters (or possibly yards; it was 10 of them, anyway, the default distance for targets there).

I’d like to say that all of my reading and preparation and natural talent for firearms resulted in a nice tight group right off the top.  That would, however, be a pretty silly lie.  I did at least hit paper with all of my first ten rounds, and the next five were actually respectable, within 1 minute-of-bad-guy (i.e. in the middlish part of the target).

It should be noted that I was shooting standing, two-handed, and not exactly doing slow fire, super-aimed shots.  After the initial first few loads, I was basically firing as soon as I could reacquire the target, and reloading when empty and resuming fire as soon as I could reacquire the target.  Not rushed, but not deliberate either–what I think of as combat speed.

<Digression> I don’t like to practice slow and deliberate at ten meters; if I’m at ten meters, I will be blazing away until I’m out of threat or out of ammo–if the latter, I will commence bludgeoning the threat with my empty revolver and if that option is for some reason unavailable, I will commence cursing it vilely in Russian, which is only slightly less damaging. </digression>

I only swapped targets once, after the first 30 rounds, so it’s hard to say how EXACTLY I was doing, but I was consistently making more holes in the middle.  Altogether, I put 80 rounds of .38 Special down range.  On a few loads, I did do slow, carefully aimed fire, and I’m pretty sure those went in the center.

Of course, it’s a .357 Magnum.  I can’t take it to the range for the first time and only fire .38 Specials.  That’s like actually driving the suggested (i.e. yellow sign) speeds on S-curve on-ramps–you could, but why would you?  So I loaded up some Federal .357 and gave it a whirl.

I’m sure my expression was comical.  .357 is much more of a boom than a bang; there was a brief moment of silence after the first round, probably because everyone was waiting to hear cries for first aid.  The recoil was noticeably heavier, but not terrible; the weight of weapon helps a lot, and I could see where some of the smaller framed .357s would be absolutely unpleasant to fire; I wouldn’t want to go any smaller than what I have.

Shouldn’t you talk about the gun?  This is supposed to be a review.

So most of this has been about me firing a revolver.  What about the weapon itself?  I had no fails to fire; every fall of the hammer resulted in a bang (or a boom).  With the caveat (below) about me not following directions, I had no failures to extract.

I used both the Tuff Quickstrips and the HKS Quickloader, and they worked fine with the factory grip; I wasn’t really going for speed, but just working on smoothly reloading and resuming fire.  The weapon definitely warms up some with repeated fire (and these were just .38 Specials, not +P), so it was good to stop every few minutes and let it cool while I reloaded the strips and loader.  The stainless steel frame conducts heat VERY well; with sustained fire, it might have become unpleasant to reload holding with my weak hand and feeding with my strong hand.  However, I’m unlikely to run into this problem other than while trying to get lead downrange in an expeditious fashion because people behind me want my lane.

The butt is a bit too small.  It was somewhat difficult for me to get a consistent grip, which I’m quite certain counted for some of the randomness of my groups.  I think I can become proficient with the current grip (so this isn’t a deal breaker by any stretch), but I think I’d like a larger one as an option–maybe one of the nice wood ones for open carry occasions.  [Also looking at good open carry holster options.  More to follow.]

The trigger?  I fired a few single action shots out of curiosity, but I mostly practiced double action.  Single is certainly easier, but I don’t want to depend on it for a defensive weapon; I cannot be certain I will always have the time to pull the hammer back before I need to fire.  I have probably 150 notional rounds of dry fire in over the last week, and now 85 rounds of actual ammunition, so it’s on the way to being “broken in.”  Even pretty new, however, I didn’t notice any significant stacking or grittiness.  Either mine is just blessed right off the factory or (much more likely) I’m neither experienced nor observant enough to really judge.

Extraction: I Am Not Good at Following Directions Sometimes.

I allowed myself certain expectations based on practicing reloads with the snap caps, which in retrospect were kind of dumb.  With snap caps (which are perfectly sized non-firing replicas of your ammunition), you swing open the cylinder and upend the gun; they slip right out just as easily as they slipped in.  As a result, while I did practice popping the extractor according to the Book of Grant, I practiced doing so poorly; I was just phoning it in, because the things came out on their own by the time I actually hit the extractor.

You see where this is going.

One of the things I’ve picked up from my reloading manual is that the process of some very fast-burning gunpowder creating a bunch of rapidly expanding gases and pushing out a lead bullet at a high rate of speed causes that poor little brass case to expand.  Fired brass is larger than new brass and fills the chamber more tightly; that’s why there’s an extractor.  This is one of those duh-of-course-I-know-that things that I grasped intellectually, but had not yet fully grokked in terms of muscle memory.

The long and short of it is that on several occasions I didn’t hit the extractor hard enough and it didn’t go very far, so I did the exact thing that Grant says not to do and popped it several more times in that mediocre fashion, causing at least one case to get caught underneath the extractor.

As I put more rounds through, the extractor did get noticeably harder to push, so that didn’t help.  But this was my fault, and is just another illustration that the map is not the terrain and the book is not training.

Some Concluding Notions

I like it.  It shoots well enough for me, and I’m quite certain that better groups are simply a matter of practice, possibly aided and abetted by a modification to the grip.  (In a related note, I want its bigger brother, the GP100, too.)

.357 Magnum is a powerfully intimidating round.  I fired the damned thing myself, and my first instinct was to take cover.

Overall, it’s a pretty comfortable and comforting weapon.  I love my P229, but I could easily see this becoming my primary carry piece.

The Same Links As In Part The First

SP101 Grips and Grip Panels


Other Reviews