Firearms

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 revolver
The 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 revolver
This 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 grips
The 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 grips
Ruger’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.

Specifications

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.

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Comments (14)

  1. My preferred sidearm for big game hunting in the Colorado backcountry is a very old, but very good Colt Trooper Mark III, 357 mag, with a 4″ barrel. Locks up very tight! I typically use handloads, 160gn jacketed softpoints. The main risk would be cougars, bears or 2-legged varmints.

  2. I do carry revolvers for CCW/Personal Protection. I’ve had Rugers, S&Ws, and Colts. Right now I carry a S&W 60 3″ or a 63 3″. I prefer a wheelgun because of it’s simplicity and ability to shoot various types of ammo within it’s caliber. I’ve tried autoloaders for CCW and I wasn’t comfortable. I was issued an M9 in the military and I did shoot well with it but, I was never comfortable with it. It always seemed to be fouled with dirt and that dirt would make it into the action. Being at sea with the M9 would be a lesson in corrosion. A stainless steel revolver would shrug off such abuse.

  3. I would like to comment on the author’s choice of loads. I’ve been a Ruger fan for a long time now (almost 50 years). I own a stainless Police Servive Six. This is a fine back country belt gun. It has traveled many miles with me while backpacking the mountains of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. I like to carry 158 grain JSP in the back country. This load will work on almost any 2 or 4 legged varmints I might encounter. Your 180 grain JHP is way over kill for cougars and dogs, both being thin skinned critters. Further more the 38 Special is way under powered (especially in a 357 mag) for self defense. Due to the longer chamber of the 357, 38 specs in a 357 don’t generate as much velocity as when fired in a 38 chambered revolver of the same bbl length. For self defense against 2 legged varmints, I like the reduced velocity loads Rem and Win make w/ 110-125 grain JHPs. They generate 1200-1250 fps and are more effective than a 9mm JHP and way better than the 38 spec in a 357 mag while kicking way less than the 1400+ fps loads do. I like to load my own practice loads w/ 158 grain cast bullets in lite or heavy loads as they are WAY cheaper and just as accurate.

  4. I’ve owned the standard GP 100, 6″ barrel for many years now. My brother usually carries it in a chest rig when we’re out elk hunting. Although it’s not light it has an excellent trigger and butter-smooth action. With the longer sight radius it’s very accurate.

  5. There’s just something sexy about a nice revolver. I got my WC as a graduation present to myself and have started carrying this rather than my G17. Although its a little heavy, it sits very comfortably in my appendix carry holster. Sending .357 mags downrange never fails to put a smile on my face!

  6. Unfortunately, the GP100 is too large to be comfortable in my smaller than average hand. I have to be satisfied with its older, little brother, the SP101. It’s an excellent, rugged carry piece that, with a 3 inch barrel, is almost as good as the Wiley Clapp GP.

  7. Nice thing about the GP100[and Redhawk]:they successfully operate with full house loads.I go >=158gr,in the woods >=170gr.I have put the Hogue Monogrip on all my revolvers-large hands,and brightened the sights with paint

  8. I lost a Ruger Security-6 (2.5″ barrel) to theft 2 years ago. I could not find a similar model, so I bought GP-100 with a 4″ barrel as a replacement. I think this Wiley Clapp model would have fulfilled my wishes better. I’ll keep my eyes open for a used one.

  9. I really like revolvers, and .357 is such a versatile round. . I can load them heavy and slow emulating a .45 acp or .44 special, light and small emulating a 9mm, I can fire .38 special directly or pack a wallop using 158 or 180 gn with hot loads. The short barrel on this one cuts down on the fps some and forces me to use quicker burning powders but this is a revolver I’d love to own. I’ve never fired a Ruger that wasn’t accurate and dependable. They are amazingly rugged. Semi-autos are easier to carry but there’s always that nagging concern about a jam. You have to clean them way more often than a revolver. Spend more time cleaning them and the calibers most semi-autos come in are pretty weak.

  10. I’ve got the black model, and I really enjoy it. It is about the best carry revolver a person could design, in my opinion. I’m going to install a front night sight from Novak to complete my list of preferences. Personally I prefer the Safariland speedloaders to the HKS style.

  11. My guess is that “worthiness” of the firearm, either revolver or auto, is dependent on the “application”. For hunting game, in the US, such as deer, hogs, etc the revolver in the heavier calibers are the ticket. For exchanging hostilities, I think I would go for the auto.

  12. I got the stainless WC GP-100 shortly after introduction about 5 years ago. It is my favorite revolver of all time. I carry it almost every day i’m outside on my rural property in North Idaho loaded with 6 rounds of Underwood 140gr Xtreme Penetrators. The action is tuned at the factory and has a very smooth double action pull. It is extremely comfortable on my belt in a pancake holster. I replaced the factory grips with the slightly larger Hogue rubber model that does not have any finger grooves. Woe to any two- or four legged critter that wants to cause trouble when I’m packin’ my Wiley.

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