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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Had a range day today for the first time in entirely too long and figured I'd write up what started as recreational shooting and turned into a kind of informal competition between two very different revolvers: a Smith and Wesson M&P Model of 1905 (4th change) produced about 1920 and rebuilt at the S&W plant in January of 1959 vs a 3 year old Ruger GP100 stainless.

S&W: Trigger is surprisingly smooth for a stock gun that was factory rebuilt to new and run very little afterwards, judging by condition of the finish. Holster wear is consistent with a police issue weapon. Barrel is sharp with no evidence of pitting or crown damage. Sights are predictably very small, but this did not impede good results. More on this later. Timing is good, though somewhat short (lets off very shortly after the bolt locks into the stop notch) with no perceptible cylinder shake or evidence of frame stretching in the 90+ years of this gun's existence.

Ruger: Trigger job was done in-house by polishing all surfaces and removing about 2 pounds from the trigger return spring. The result is a smooth trigger that is somewhat long, but with a predictable letoff. Grips are Hogue Tulipwood customs. New gun otherwise, less than 1000 rounds fired with the majority being .38spl 158 grain ammo.

The ammo used was Remington 130 grain MC practice loads, 100 ctgs/gun.

All shooting was done at very close range (10 yds), and all firing was DA. Originally I planned to use the 20 yd bays, but it was a surprisingly busy day at the range so I settled for 10. Good to see people getting out even during the ammo drought.

The results - The S&W won the accuracy test pretty consistently (!!). Groups from the Ruger were decent, with about 1" to 1.5" vertical spread and 1.5" to 2" horizontal spread evident. The S&W produced almost perfect 1" to 1.5" spreads in both the horizontal and vertical. Essentially the best group from the Ruger was about on par with the worst group from the Smith. Unfortunately I did not really plan this out as a test and did not take pics of the test targets. Next time I get to the range with a spare 200 ctgs of .38spl that will be rectified.

My interpretation is that the very small sights of the S&W forced me to be more "picky" about horizontal orientation, while the somewhat more generous sights of the Ruger allowed for some spatial error to be introduced by not correctly balancing the gap on the left with the gap on the right side of the front sight blade. Without a doubt, the Ruger's oversize sights were quicker to pick up and would be superior combat sights. However, the sights on the S&W were actually more usable than I initially thought they would be and left me impressed with the results. The Smith also pointed a bit more naturally, when I informally "Jimmy Cagneyed" a cylinder load from each gun into a B27 man sized target from 3 paces firing from the hip in DA (There were too many people in neighboring bays for me to call out the target as a "dirty rat" in my best Cagney imitation, unfortunately).

So what can I make of this? The Ruger has more combat usable sighting, but a grip configuration and balance that doesn't lend itself as well to the sort of contact distance CQB that a revolver would seem to be best at. On the other hand, recoil handling was better with the Ruger, in that the massive frame and grips reduced the soft .38spl recoil to a very modest level indeed. Moreover, the Ruger brings the additional power and range of the .357 magnum to the table, along with an adjustable sight package. Without a doubt the Ruger is a superior hunting revolver and would be formidable as a defensive weapon. But while the modest S&W would be a very poor hunting weapon I do think it would be formidable for self defense when stoked with appropriate loads.

No real conclusions about "this one is best", just observations. Both are fine fighting handguns within their limits. And from its age, one of them has weathered the years well and should continue to do so into the future; not that I have any doubts that both of them will be banging away on a firing range somewhere long after I am gone.

PS Hope I didn't put anyone to sleep!

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Very good review of the two. Although I have shot many Ruger Single Action Pistols, I have never shot a GP100. The S&W can't be too much different from the many I have shot over the years. The first one being a .38 that I shot in the Air Force.
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