March 07, 2016
By Bart Skelton
My first double-action .357 Magnum revolver was a Ruger Security-Six. That revolver was as strong a handgun as you could ask for, functioned perfectly, was accurate, and just felt right in my hand. I fired a bunch of rounds through that revolver over several years and never uttered a complaint. Foolishly, I traded that gun to one of my dad's old friends who was in need of a good wheelgun. It's been about 30 years, and, boy, do I miss that gun. The Ruger GP100 Match Champion makes up for that, though.
First, a little background. I never replaced that old Security-Six, and it wasn't long afterward that Ruger discontinued the model, replacing it with the GP100, which the company considered an upgrade of the Security-Six, claiming it was a much stronger design. I never owned an early Ruger GP100, but I have fired several. I'm not sure I ever particularly agreed with the assessment that the Ruger GP100 was "better" than the Security-Six. It was heavier and didn't fit my hand like the older gun. Just personal taste, really. No doubt, the Ruger GP100 was, and is, an outstanding firearm. I suppose I felt a little nostalgic about the Security-Six model.
When ST Editor In Chief Joel Hutchcroft called me about the new Ruger GP100 Match Champion, his description of the revolver intrigued me. Upon receiving one of the new guns, I was downright impressed with it. Mostly.
Examination and handling of the Match Champion changed my mind about the Ruger GP100 for a number of reasons. I've always been a fancier of good revolvers, but I'm particular about how they're set up. I've carried a revolver of various sorts for many years for sporting purposes and extensively as a lawman.
According to Kurt Hindle, Ruger's chief engineer, "The Match Champion is Ruger's first attempt at producing a revolver with custom features using our production facility. With our processes we are able to create the look, feel, and features of a custom gun and the accuracy that the competitive shooter is looking for. The Ruger GP100 Match Champion was conceived by several members of our team that wanted a competition-worthy revolver."
As the name implies, the Ruger GP100 Match Champion was designed as a suitable IDPA (International Defense Pistol Association) revolver. The IDPA has specific rules governing its revolver matches, and the Match Champion complies with them perfectly.
I haven't shot competition for many years, so my particular interest in the Ruger GP100 Match Champion goes beyond competition shooting. When examining the attributes of a revolver, I consider the handling qualities — how the gun feels in my hand, the sights, the trigger pull, the fit and finish, etc. I found the Match Champion to be up to snuff on almost all of those considerations.
Basically, the Ruger GP100 Match Champion is a trimmed-down version of the GP100. Ruger lightened up the original version considerably, eliminating about 2.5 ounces. This was achieved primarily by cutting back the underlug to a shroud just long enough to encase the ejector rod and trimming down the topstrap. Both sides of the barrel were "slabbed," or cut flat, which also helped trim down some weight. Those slab sides sure do contribute to the Match Champion's clean lines.
The first time I dry-fired the new revolver, I was surprised at the action, both double and single. One of the complaints about Ruger revolvers in years past has been the hard trigger pulls on almost every model, so I was surprised at the Match Champion's smooth pull. With this new revolver, the factory has taken time to polish the internal parts, including the springs and the hammerstrut, a little more than on a standard GP100. All internal parts are held to high tolerances. The result is a great action right out of the box.
In addition, the trigger and hammer are both shimmed to keep the fire-control components centered in the frame.
The grips are also notable. Ruger collaborated with Hogue on the stocks, and they're nicely figured wood with stippling in the center. They're quite ergonomic and fit my hand well, but I believe they could fit the revolver's grip frame much better. As I mentioned, I look for fit and finish, and while the revolver itself does sport excellent fit overall, the wood-to-steel mating is somewhat lacking.
One component on any handgun that I'm quite particular about is the sight setup. The Ruger GP100 Match Champion has a unique system in that Ruger dovetailed the topstrap in order to fit a Novak low-profile combat sight. The end of the barrel was also dovetailed to accommodate a post front sight fitted with a large, green fiber-optic dot. My personal preference regarding revolver sights is always flat black and fully adjustable, but this revolver wasn't designed for me. Of course, the Novak is flat black and adjustable for windage. It's solid, won't hang up on a holster or clothing, and is easy to see. The barrel's topstrap has been grooved lengthwise to cut down on glare while sighting. It's my understanding that any of the Ruger accessory front sights, such as red ramp, etc., will fit the Match Champion perfectly. Novak also offers a front sight with a brass bead that will fit the gun.
The new revolver's leading edges have been very nicely softened, particularly on the front edges of the frame. While not as noticeable as the frame, the barrel's slab-side edges have been carefully polished. The cylinder tapers forward noticeably to assist in the ease of holstering. The barrel features an 11-degree recessed target crown. Overall, the features are very nice, especially for an out-of-the-box handgun.
As always, the important factor comes down to how well the revolver actually performs. I came up with a variety of .357 Magnum and .38 Special ammunition, including some Black Hills, Federal, Winchester, and Speer offerings, and stepped out to my desert shooting spot.
I have a 10-inch steel plate that is my preferred plinking target, and to get the feel of the Ruger GP100 Match Champion, I started by shooting at it from various ranges. The weather conditions weren't ideal. I was experiencing temperatures topping 100 degrees and 20- to 30-mph winds. (Who would have thought such a thing in the New Mexico desert?) I started with a box of Black Hills Ammunition 158-grain JHPs. To get a feel for where the revolver might be shooting, I started at the 15-yard marker. The gun shot high. I later moved back to the 25 and plinked in both double and single action. I have to admit I wasn't used to the large, green fiber-optic front sight, and my double-action shooting was a little off, especially since that loading was hitting high.
I noted that the Ruger GP100 Match Champion was very comfortable to shoot, even with full-house .357 Magnum stuff. The Hogue stocks did a great job of soaking up recoil. The only downside was that the grips have a thick ledge where they meet the top of the backstrap. I had a strong desire to rest my strong hand thumb on top of the ledge, which is certainly not my normal grip. In doing so, my shots were off even farther. Controlling this urge got me back on track.
I waited for weather that was a little more hospitable and then set up my sandbag benchrest at the 25-yard bench. Unfortunately, the wind increased in velocity as my shooting developed. The Match Champion proved to be somewhat picky, and it seemed to prefer the 125- and 130-grain bullet weights over the 158-grain ammo. It produced averages of 2.50 inches with both Winchester's 130-grain FMJ ammunition and the Black Hills 125-grain JHP ammo. The results for all loads fired are listed in the accompanying chart.
One thing is certain. The Ruger GP100 Match Champion is as close to being a custom revolver as you can get straight out of the box. I thoroughly enjoyed shooting this gun and highly recommend it to any revolver aficionado, whether or not they're into competitive revolver shooting.
This gun is ideal for home and personal defense and as an all-around plinker. Most law enforcement agencies have abandoned the revolver for semiautomatic sidearms, but even so, I wouldn't hesitate to carry this gun as a duty arm. Most competitive shooting scenarios are based on combat situations, so a firearm deemed highly apt for such activities would certainly lend itself to the law enforcement environment.
In my opinion, the Ruger GP100 Match Champion is a great all-around revolver, and it's a great value.