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  #1  
Old 07-30-2020, 08:51 AM
Cellar Hound Cellar Hound is offline
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Default Ruger SP-101 or S&W Equivalent

I am looking for a small .357 from my wife. She will likely load .38 rounds in it. I am looking for a small, heavier snub nose .357 with an external hammer.

I could use some help with two questions:

1. If you have a Ruger SP-101 with a 2.25” barrel, how do you like it? Please share specific feedback.

2. Does Smith and Wesson make (or have they made) a revolver that meets the same criteria for size, action, and weight? If so, please provide a pic if you have it.

Thanks for any help you can provide.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:03 AM
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if you are going to shoot it a lot get the Ruger. if you are going to carry it more than shooting it get the S & W.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:17 AM
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You should take here to a shop where she can hold and pull the trigger on both, then let her decide. The opinions of a bunch of dudes may vary wildly from the opinion of your wife; probably best to let her make that decision if it really is for her.

That being said. The sp101 has a notoriously heavy trigger, you should take her to pull one. Smith doesn't make cast steel frames, they are heavier, and pound for pound they are weaker, so you won't find a smith in similar diminsions (j frame) that is quite as heavy as the sp101, as they use superior forged steel in their firearms.

Bottom line, let her decide.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:18 AM
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My only beef with the SP101 is that it only carries five rounds in .357. If you were to go to a .327, that issue goes away. Loaded with H&R .32 magnum rounds it would be a pretty reasonable self defense arm. The reason I suggest these is due to the noise and muzzle flash associated with the .327, though I must admit I have never fired one.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:26 AM
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The answer would seem to be a Model 66 2.5 inch barrel ....dearly loved by most on here. Not easy to find anymore, but well worth the search!!!

Randy
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:44 AM
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I took a lady friend of my wife's gun shopping last month. She got a SP 101 with the 4 inch barrel because she liked the way it balanced. She only fires it double action and has turned into an excellent shot after only 2 trips to the range and a beginning class. She practiced with 38 specials. I let her fire a couple of magnums just to see. Her carry ammo is .38+P.

One other option you might consider is the 101 in 9mm. We looked at one of those, but again she wanted the longer barrel.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:47 AM
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I recently purchased a 3" Sp-101 in .327. Nice gun, atrocious trigger. It took some work to make the trigger acceptable, but I will never confuse it with a S&W trigger.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:51 AM
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if you are going to shoot it a lot get the Ruger. if you are going to carry it more than shooting it get the S & W. well thats hog wash, lots of SW products go 1000's of rds without a Issue, You should read some comments of Ruger owners with poor fit of parts on 101's' and the 100GP. I carry a 642 that has 500+ rds of 158 gr Spl ammo through it without 1 issue. Light weight weapon with 38 spl ammo is quite sufficient for Civilian Usage.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:53 AM
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I agree that she should be the one to decide. Don't be "that guy" that buys a gun for his significant other without her input, only to have the gun be essentially worthless because she won't, or can't, shoot it.

With that said, I'm going to offer another revolver to consider, the Kimber K6S. Compact. Not too heavy, not too light. All accounts suggest it has a very good trigger pull. And it's available with an external hammer, though, in my opinion, SA capability in a defensive revolver is highly overrated.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:56 AM
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I owned a sp 101 but traded it in many years ago for a 3913. I did like it and shot it well but i liked the 3913 better. I would buy one in a heart beat if I could find one
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Old 07-30-2020, 10:26 AM
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I have eight S&W J frames and two SP101s and shoot these guns a fair amount. Also, I got my wife set up with her revolvers. First and most critically your wife's revolver must fit her hand and weigh enough not to beat her hands up when shooting. Someone who knows what they are talking about should verify that the revolver fits your wife. New snubbys, both S&W and Ruger have bad trigger pulls but both can be greatly improved with a bit of work. I am going to catch some flack but I think the Ruger is more ruggedly constructed. Is that important? I don't think it is. Both guns designs are plenty durable. One other point to make is pocket carry. Some like it and some don't. I like it a lot. You wife may also. If so, the Ruger is too heavy in my opinion. All guns are a set of compromises but snubbys provide conceal-ability and reliability at the expense of some other highly desirable characteristics. I don't think snubbys are good guns for new shooters. Right now there is a 649 "no dash" in my pocket.
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Old 07-30-2020, 10:29 AM
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My SP has the three inch barrel, which I feel is best.

Recoil is less in the Ruger, also a more rugged design for a small .357.
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Old 07-30-2020, 10:49 AM
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I have a friend with a 2.25" SP101 in 357. We went shooting with it recently, and I was impressed. Very accurate (at least with my 38SP loads), nicely finished, seems solid. The grip was a bit short for my hands, though it fits her's well. DA trigger was heavy, but smooth. Sights were about on par with my 64 or 640, but the front is pinned in, so we may look for alternatives. Yes, it is a little heavy, but this is not a carry gun, and the weight helps with recoil. Bottom line - I would be happy if I had one, but won't be trading my S&Ws.
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Old 07-30-2020, 11:27 AM
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My 2 1/2" 66-1 that I purchased in the mid-70's has had many thousands of full blown magnum rounds, and tons of 38's, fired through it over 35 years. It did develop some end shake which I cured with shims. It wears S&W RB targets now and it feels and shoots beautifully. My wife loves it, though she spent almost 8 years in the Army and is no beginner with firearms. She does not carry the 66, as we keep it at the ready in her bath room. Her carry piece is a 649 with Ahrends, loaded with 125 gr +P Hornaday XTP. During a serious social event most people don't notice recoil.
When it comes down to it the new shooter needs to try as many different weapons as possible and make that very personnel decision, and practice, practice, practice.
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Old 07-30-2020, 11:32 AM
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The Ruger is heavier and should recoil less. But it's heavier all the time, not just when you're shooting it.

The S&W (probably a 60) weighs a little less, recoil isn't bad, and is easier to carry.

Now... it's not unknown for someone to like the gun but find it's too heavy to carry all the time. If you get her the S&W, she can get a nearly identical Airweight for carry and use the 60 at the range. Ruger, there's no lighter version.

Also you have hammerless choices with the S&W, that Ruger doesn't do.

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Old 07-30-2020, 11:40 AM
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Also you have hammerless choices with the S&W, that Ruger doesn't do.
True, but the SP101 is available with a bobbed/DAO hammer.
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Old 07-30-2020, 11:52 AM
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I’m no expert. Here’s my opinion

I have a 2.25” SP101 and multiple J Frames and K Frames and old and new model Colt Cobras.

My wife hijacked my SP101. That’s the gun she likes and uses it as her bedside gun. She likes it because the cylinder release is more agreeable for her than the smith release. She is unlike me. She found her gun and stuck with it. She doesn’t have any interest I trying out the Colts.

The Smith J Frames are slightly smaller and lighter. Good for carry, not as much for shooting. Triggers are better than the Ruger. More grip options available for the Smith to cater to what feels good for her hand size

K Frames are bigger. 6 rounds.

The new model Cobra I got is slightly bigger than a J Frame, good weight to it for shooting, 6 rounds, and a very nice trigger. Fiber optic front sight. Not as many grip options.

Can you go wrong with either? No. Find what she likes and run with it
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Old 07-30-2020, 12:01 PM
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My favorite all purpose revolver is a 3" SP101 .357, as I prefer the balance and sight radius over shorter barrels, and is easier to store and carry than a 4".
I installed a Wolf 10# trigger spring on mine while leaving the return spring stock, which made the trigger very acceptable for both carry and target practice. Also installed an XS Big Dot front sight for fast target acquisition, and Diamond Pro grips for my large hands.
Whatever revolver you choose, make sure it has a set of rubber grips that fit your wife's hand well.
And do consider the SP 101 in .327, as .32 longs have mild recoil for target practice, the .32 H&R magnum is a carry round equivalent to a .38+p, and who wouldn't like an extra round in the cylinder.
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Old 07-30-2020, 01:16 PM
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And do consider the SP 101 in .327, as .32 longs have mild recoil for target practice, the .32 H&R magnum is a carry round equivalent to a .38+p, and who wouldn't like an extra round in the cylinder.
Don't stop there. .327 Federal Magnum will make you sit up and take notice after firing .32 S&W Longs in it. Depending on the manufacturer and load, these rounds pack a significant punch, much greater than .38 Special +P, and not much different from .357 Magnum.
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Old 07-30-2020, 01:55 PM
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The 640-1 would be a consideration. I carried mine inside the pocket as my second gun during my time in plainclothes.
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Old 07-30-2020, 02:13 PM
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I don't think anyone has answered your question yet. So -- does S&W make a revolver that meets the criteria of size, action and weight of the SP101?

The answer is "no". S&W sort of straddles the SP101 with it's 5-shot .357 J-frame guns on the smaller size to the 6-shot K-frame .357's like the Model 66 on the larger size.
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Old 07-30-2020, 02:47 PM
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A former S&W PR man told me that he fired a J-Magnum with .357 ammo.

By the 5th shot, he thought, Thank God, That's over!

As for .327, ammo supply may be spotty.
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Old 07-30-2020, 05:43 PM
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Thanks to everyone for their information. I obviously have a lot of options to share with my wife. As stated by several of you, she will eventually decide which gun is right for her. Thanks again for your feedback.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:14 PM
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Why do you guys refer to the SP101 as a J frame? Have they redesigned it?


Because my 4-inch 22, bought in '04, is the same size as my Victory. K frame size.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:26 PM
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I had an SP101 and S&W model 60 years ago. I never could warm up to the Ruger. Sharp edges, it rattled and the trigger wasn’t at all to my liking. It went away and the Smith stayed.

Then one night somebody was outside out home knocking on one of our windows. I had a Glock 19 and my wife the Smith, but she was panicking and kept wanting to cock it. It went away the next day and was replaced with a model 640. DAO for defensive use wheelguns makes a lot of sense for a multitude of reasons and we always insist on them.

The 640 was nice, but a bit heavy for carry and it had the interval lock, so I traded it in for an air weight and have several of them.

If S&W would release a no-lock 640, that would be my wife’s dedicated home defense gun, but the 642 does both HD and carry pretty well.
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Old 07-31-2020, 12:30 AM
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Couldn't warm up to the horrible DA trigger. Sold mine though I'm sure a little work would have helped it. Now my GP 100 3" has a wonderful trigger.
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Old 07-31-2020, 07:16 AM
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The SP101 is a noticably softer shooting gun with the cushion tenon style grip and slightly heavier weight. It is much more controllable with .357 level loads.
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Old 07-31-2020, 07:28 AM
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SP101 would be my choice. I almost bought one a while back but then saw the GP100 - it's a tank and a fine shooter.

S&W may have a better trigger, but pound for pound, Ruger is better (IMO). Depends on what you wish to do with it. If you want to show it off use occasionally, S&W is it. If you want something that is dependable and can handle just about anything, SP101 (or GP100).

BTW, Ruger has MUCH better customer service.
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Old 07-31-2020, 08:14 AM
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There are always pros and cons and what makes sense for your wife will depend on what's important for your wife.

Below are some of the J and J Magnum frame S&W options.

Top to bottom, a 3" Model 60 and a 2.125" Model 60 (both J Magnum frames in .357 Mag), a J Magnum frame Model 36 rated for .38 +P, and a J frame Model 36 designed for .38 Special.


In my experience, the 3" barrel is just as easy to carry and conceal as a 2.125" barrel, so if you have a choice between the two always take the 3". You'll get more ballistic efficiency regardless of whether you shoot .357 Magnum, .38 +P or .38 Special, and if you shoot .38 Special you really need the longer barrel to get acceptable terminal performance.

Three of the above revolvers have a Hogue Monogrip and they are comfortable, reduce felt recoil and make the revolver a bit easier to hold and control. It's less of an issue with .38 Special, but more comfort does increase the potential the person will actually shoot the revolver enough to get good with it. The wooden boot grips is small and compact, but it less comfortable to shoot.

Below are the above mentioned 3" and 2.125" Model 60 (bottom two on the right), with some of the alternatives.



Top right is a 3" SP101. In comparison to the 3" Model 60, there are some pros and cons. The SP101 is about 5 oz heavier than the Model 60. That's enough additional weight to make it much less painful to shoot with .357 Magnum and noticeably more comfortable to shoot with .38 +P or .38 Special. It also isn't enough extra weight to make it noticeably less comfortable to carry.

The SP101 is built substantially stronger than the J Magnum Model 60. Particularly around the forcing cone:


The only con is that the SP 101's stock trigger tends to be heavier than the average Model 60 standards, but that's fairly easy to fix by replacing the trigger return spring and the hammer spring.

The Ruger trigger feels a bit more mechanical, but that's either a pro or a con depending the shooter's preference.

Going back to the middle picture, you can also go in frame size. On the top left is a K frame 3" Model 19. It's about 5 oz heavier than an SP101, but it is noticeably larger. Middle left is a 2 3/4" Ruger Speed Six. It a couple ounces heavier than the Model 19, at about 37 oz loaded, and it's generally comparable to the S&W L frame (and the K and L frames share the same grip frame. Bottom left is a K frame 2 1/2 Model 66. All of the above are chambered for .357 Magnum, but shoot .38 +P or .38 Special just fine. If your wife plans to actually carry .357 Magnum, then I recommend she get a K or L frame revolver, or a Ruger GP100.

One advantage of the GP100, like the SP101 is that the peg grip frame allows for a much broader range of grip sizes and trigger reaches than the S&W revolvers. That's a major advantage if the shooter has smaller hands.

A 2 1/2" or 3" K or L frame revolver is generally not hard to conceal - for an average man carrying it IWB. However, it can be a bit much for some women. Off body carry is an option, but it's an option with a lot of downsides that warrants it's own thread.

-----

At the end of the day, all of the above work, but it really comes down to getting your wife something that she's comfortable with, points well for her, and that she'll actually shoot and practice with.


Way too many people regard a snub nose revolver as something to just point in the general direction of an assailant and pull the trigger, along with a belief that they are not accurate. That's not the case at all. They are capable of fine combat accuracy (although recovery time and rate of fire improve on the larger frame snub nose revolvers). If someone is carrying .38 Special, good bullet placement is important, as the round itself is a bit marginal.


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Old 07-31-2020, 08:25 AM
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I have an SP101. Love it. Thought about selling then said no way. My wife, daughters, and grandkids have all learned to shoot revolvers using that firearm. However, no magnum loads for them yet!!
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Old 07-31-2020, 08:32 AM
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Comparing the 3" SP101 to the 3"Model 60 specifically:

1) The SP101 is stronger, particularly in the forcing cone and will stand up to a steady diet of .357 Magnum much better than the Model 60.



2) Overall size is fairly close. Some of the extra weight of the SP101 is in the full underlug barrel, and while I'm generally not a fan of full underlug barrels it does make a difference in the SP101.







3) The SP101 has fixed sights, while the Model 60's sights are adjustable.



Fixed sights are lower profile, while adjustable sights allow the shooter to regulate the revolver to the load, which gives the shooter a bit more flexibility in ammo selection without compromising the ability to put rounds on point of aim.

4) In the previous picture you can also see the SP101's wider, heavier frame and the larger fire control parts.

Ruger who started the trend away from milled parts with their Security, Service and Speed series in the early 1970s. They used larger than normal fire control parts in those revolvers as insurance when moving away from milled parts. They've stayed with that approach building their fire controls parts larger than average, and the benefit is that they almost never break and wear less than their S&W counterparts.
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Old 07-31-2020, 08:37 AM
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I own both a bobbed hammer SP101 and a mode Smith J-frames than I'm comfortable saying.

Both Smiths and Rugers Sp101s are good guns.


As others have said, the Ruger is chunkier. If the plan is to shoot 357s, I think it's the more controllable gun.

The slimmer Smith's carry a little easier.

The Ruger WILL need action work to get a good DA trigger. The Smith might but probably won't.

I own more Smiths than Ruger and that says something I think. That Ruger is no slouch though and handles .357s better I think.

Good luck but you can't really make a bad decision here.
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Old 07-31-2020, 08:58 AM
jeffrefrig jeffrefrig is offline
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FWIW, the August issue of NRA's American Rifleman Magazine has an article on the snubbie revolvers starting on page 56, with examples of 4 on page 74, but not a lot of weight, etc. data. Those little hammerless double action only S&Ws are popular with some of my friends' wives for purse guns. But, good luck finding a dealer that has examples on hand of all the ones she'd like to handle.
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Old 07-31-2020, 09:52 AM
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.357s are brutal in small guns, most men don't like them and I would think nearly all ladies would not. I would rather shoot a M29 .44 Magnum than a small .357 and in the alloy framed guns even .38 +P is not a whole lot of fun to shoot but it's what I prefer to carry.

Last edited by Farmer17; 07-31-2020 at 09:54 AM.
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Old 07-31-2020, 10:20 AM
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My SP-101 trigger wore-in nicely with use, as did my GP-100 trigger.
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Old 07-31-2020, 11:38 AM
uncleted327 uncleted327 is offline
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I had a snub SP101, nice gun overall but sharp edges, heavy trigger and still only 5 shot. I put a reduced power Spring in and it helped a bit but its nothing like a S&W trigger IMO. I much preferred my 640 Pro and 360 and would buy a 60 everytime over another SP. People generally assume that because Rugers are heavier they are stronger and more robust. That's not true, they are just heavier. By virtue of how they are made vs how S&W makes theirs. I would have you wife look at a 66 snub and see how she likes it, if it's absolutely too big for her liking I'd show her a model 60 in 3".
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Old 08-01-2020, 02:27 AM
seldon14 seldon14 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister X View Post
I had an SP101 and S&W model 60 years ago. I never could warm up to the Ruger. Sharp edges, it rattled and the trigger wasn’t at all to my liking. It went away and the Smith stayed.

Then one night somebody was outside out home knocking on one of our windows. I had a Glock 19 and my wife the Smith, but she was panicking and kept wanting to cock it. It went away the next day and was replaced with a model 640. DAO for defensive use wheelguns makes a lot of sense for a multitude of reasons and we always insist on them.

The 640 was nice, but a bit heavy for carry and it had the interval lock, so I traded it in for an air weight and have several of them.

If S&W would release a no-lock 640, that would be my wife’s dedicated home defense gun, but the 642 does both HD and carry pretty well.
Look no further my man, they have just the thing.

Performance Center(R) Pro Series(R) Model 640 | Smith & Wesson

As for the original question. The SP101 will have less felt recoil than the smith model 60 or 640 since the SP101 is heavier. I find the 2in 101 balances poorly, but I really like it in 3in trim. Model 60 feels pretty good in either length. If recoil is the primary concern I'd check out the 327 SP101 and run 32 or 32h&r.
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Old Yesterday, 12:15 AM
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Cellar Hound,
to answer your question, I suggest the S&W Peformance Center Model 60 Pro Series. It has the three inch slab sided barrel and weighs in nicely for balance, plus (not mentioned by those promoting the Ruger, it has a forged frame, not a cast frame like the Ruger.

Performance Center(R) Pro Series(R) Model 60 | Smith & Wesson
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Old Yesterday, 12:27 AM
smoothshooter smoothshooter is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrnurse View Post
if you are going to shoot it a lot get the Ruger. if you are going to carry it more than shooting it get the S & W. well thats hog wash, lots of SW products go 1000's of rds without a Issue, You should read some comments of Ruger owners with poor fit of parts on 101's' and the 100GP. I carry a 642 that has 500+ rds of 158 gr Spl ammo through it without 1 issue. Light weight weapon with 38 spl ammo is quite sufficient for Civilian Usage.
I think Mrnurse meant that the Smith was better for carrying because it will weigh less than the Ruger. Relative durability was not the issue.
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Old Yesterday, 05:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adwjc View Post
Cellar Hound,
to answer your question, I suggest the S&W Peformance Center Model 60 Pro Series. It has the three inch slab sided barrel and weighs in nicely for balance, plus (not mentioned by those promoting the Ruger, it has a forged frame, not a cast frame like the Ruger.
I own both and promote both for different purposes. I didn't get into the forged versus cast frame issue because it's meaningless. Ruger has been doing cast frames for almost 50 years. They have the process down and they do it right.

There's also a myth that forging are immune to problems. They are not. The dies wear over time, forgings have internal stresses that must be properly stress relieved, and like casting, quality matters.

The fact is both Ruger and S&W make suitably strong frames for their revolvers with comparable error/defect rates.
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Old Yesterday, 06:23 PM
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I had both SP101 and Model 60 in .357. Sold them both. The 642-1
does it all for me now.
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