SP 101 2-1/4" or 3-1/16" barrel?


May 26, 2006, 09:57 PM
I've been toying with getting a snubby, but it's been a couple of years since I shot one. I do remember that accuracy wasn't great for me, which I suspect was equal parts trigger control and sight radius. I also remember it being a handful with .38 so since I want to ability to shoot .357 for carry I'm looking for something on the heavier end of the scale.

I've been looking at the SP101. It's stainless steel, fits my hand nicely, concealable, and not as expensive as the snubbies with more "exotic" metals. What I don't know is what length barrel I should look at? Any advantage to getting the SP101 with the 3" barrel? Does the extra inch help with the sight radius?

Or, should I give up the .357 capability, and get one of the lightweight snubbies in .38 for a pocket carry option? What would you do?


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May 26, 2006, 10:00 PM
This has been hotly debated and I went through the same decision last month. I really enjoy my 3" 101. I've only shot 38 out of it so far and they were downright comfortable. The 2" Smiths I've shot (I know it's not apples:apples) were less comfortable. I conceal my 101 just fine even with the longer barrel. Some say the extra inch helps the ballistics, and that's probably true, but I got the 3" more for sight radius and to minimize flip. It is heavy, though. Make sure you get a good holster/belt.

May 26, 2006, 10:43 PM
I have one in the .357 3" configuration - I suspect its not harder to conceal than the 2" version. I really like the better sight picture the 3 inch gives, and it balances well at least in my hands.

I'd carry it more often except that the "rule of 3's" isn't quite so applicable (ie 3 shots-from 3 feet-3 seconds of gunfighting) around here, post Katrina. More gangs, more mayhem - you just have to plan for a multiple opponent encounter, so my G19 gets carried more often. or at least my 686+

Pistol Toter
May 26, 2006, 10:47 PM
If you're going to carry concealed get the 2 1/4". The difference in sight radius is 15/16", not much! Velocity, will increase by only approx 50 fps, again not much. The holster for the 3 1/16" is harder to find. The 2 1/4" is a bit easier to conceal, IMHO. The slight advantage of the 15/16 will be negligable at defense distances, again my opinion... The 2 1/4 is one of my primary carries, the other a GLOCK 21. Just my 2 cents, P.T.

Jim March
May 26, 2006, 11:17 PM
A year or more ago I would have said the 3" has merit if you plan on carrying in a fanny pack, OWB or shoulder rig. The extra inch barrel won't matter there. It will matter more for IWB, "Smartcarry" (read: "bag near da gear"), pocket carry or an ankle rig.

But in that time, newer loads like the Cor-Bon 110+P DPX and Gold Dot 135gr (in either 38+P or 357) have improved what the 2" snubbies can do.

If you're CERTAIN that your planned carry method will work with a 3" barrel, you'll get a better gun that way. But you'll lose very little with the 2" and gain carry flexibility.

May 26, 2006, 11:22 PM
I have one with a 2 1/4" barrel. I love it. It's perfect size for IWB carry. It's also exactly the same length from muzzle to butt as my Glock 23. That means a 3 1/16" one will have the same overall length as a 5" gun, like a full sized 1911. Just something to think about.


May 27, 2006, 05:06 PM
Thanks for the input. I've got a K9 and BHP Detective for belt carry, so I should probably focus on a pocket pistol to increase my carry options. So 2" it is. Now all I have to decide is SP101 in .357 or lightweight snubbie in .38 special.


May 27, 2006, 10:33 PM
SP-101 works well enough in a jacket pocket, but it's definitely not a pants pocket gun. Unless you wear cargo pants all the time.

May 28, 2006, 01:31 PM
2 1/4" barrel if for CCW, though not in any pants pocket. It's heavy enough to be considered a belt-only gun or coat pocket gun IMNSHO.
I've got two SP101s and both are in 2 1/4".

If for plinking or home defense, the 3" is perhaps a better choice.

May 28, 2006, 03:04 PM
It depends ... on you and what your perceived needs might be, as well as your revolver skills ...

When I was first looking for a SP-101, I was looking to replace a nickeled 3" S&W M36 Heavy Barrel .38 Spl I had foolishly traded off. That 3" J-frame was an excellent shooter, and I wanted a similar small-framed 5-shot 3" wheelgun chambered in .357 Magnum. I'd had enough larger-framed .357 Magnum revolvers over the years, and wanted something a bit smaller and lighter chambered in that caliber to carry for a while. A 2 3/4" Speed-Six wasn't really all that much different than a 4" Security-Six or Heavy Barreled Service-Six when it came down to off-duty usage, and I'd liked the SP-101's I'd handled and shot. Just enough smaller because of the smaller frame and 5-shot cylinder.

I wasn't able to find a 3" SP-101, so I settled for a 2.25" DAO model. Handy little 5-shot Magnum. A bit heavy, and the only pocket carry I ever used was in either a heavy jacket or an insulated vest in cooler weather. I consider the SP-101 to be more of a belt gun than a pocket gun. When I want a pocket revolver I use my 642-1 Airweight. ;)

I don't much carry the SP-101 nowadays. I still qualify with it and practice with it, but I generally carry either a lightweight compact/subcompact pistol, or an Airweight J-frame. If I had it to do over again, and were looking for a revolver to use as a general-purpose, reasonably sized, "sometimes" off-duty belt gun chambered in .357 Magnum ... I'd look for a 3" SP-101.

I used to carry a full-size .357 Magnum service revolver (a M66 and then a M686) off-duty, as well as other personally owned revolvers of that size and weight. I was more willing to accept the weight and concealment compromises back then ...

When it comes to carrying a steel revolver as a belt gun, though, there are some really nice options nowadays.

If I were going to consider going back to carrying a revolver for all of my off-duty needs again, I'd seriously consider either a 3" GP-100 (probably with iron sights) or a short-barreled S&W 686+ 7-shot, and get a good belt holster ... or simply drag my MagNaPorted & Duty-Tuned 4" Service-Six Heavy Barrel, which has had the grip-frame reduced to a round-butt profile, out of the safe.;)

Something to consider with the short-barreled 5-shot Magnums is that not everyone shoots them well. If I wasn't able to wring the necessary accuracy and controllability out of my various J-frames and SP-101, I'd return to carrying a larger 6-shot, medium-framed revolver with which I could shoot well.

The .357 Magnum Airlite Scandium-framed Magnums don't appeal to me in the slightest. Not after shooting 125gr Magnum ammunition through some of them. :eek:

You ought to try and find one to try out at a range somewhere.

May 28, 2006, 03:23 PM
I love the 2 1/4" barrel model. I especially like the bobbed hammer. It is one sweeeet carry weapon........that now belongs to my wife. Heres mine....er......hers:

June 1, 2006, 11:46 AM
Thanks for the input. Just to update ya'll, once I identified the niche this firearm was going to fill I ended up deciding to get a lightweight 2" snubbie chambered in .38 special. I checked both a Taurus and Smith and Wesson snubbie at my local shop.

While both were just fine and very similar, the Taurus trigger threw me off. It almost acted like a two-stage trigger, with the cylinder rotating to the next cylinder in the first half of the trigger pull, and then releasing the hammer after a little stacking at the end. Surely something I could get used to, but I liked the consistent pull of the Smith and Wesson better.

So I'm now the owner of a 642, and very happy with the choice. I've also got a pair of the overmolded Crimson Trace lasergrips in the mail. With that combo I'm going to have a pocket gun that I'll be very confident, and dare I say it comfortable, carrying when other carry methods are ruled out in deep Texas summer.

I'm still thinking about getting a SP101 in the future, but probably for fun rather than carry.


June 1, 2006, 12:27 PM

My 642 is the reason I no longer often carry my SP-101.;) Much lighter and easier to carry in a pocket holster.

June 1, 2006, 12:59 PM
My 3" sp101 has never done pocket duty.

But it is also such an excellent magnum revolver that I have not yet been able to truly justify the purchase of a full sized .357 magnum revolver.

I can shoot commercial full magnum loads, except for the exotically powerful (hydrashocks, buffalo bore). Those start to hurt. Standard load .357's are a breeze to shoot, even with accurate follow up shots.

Mine rides OWB or IWB. It could probably do jacket pocket, but never pants pocket. Just too big. But that's the price you pay to be able to comfortably shoot the .357magnum cartridge.

June 20, 2006, 10:15 AM
I recently bought a 3 1/16" barrel version SP-101 to keep the 2" company and I have decided to dehorn it similar to those worked on by Gemini Customs. Here is some in process work:
Here are some pics of the dehorning in process. I plan to clean up all the file marks and then have it beadblasted to get the matte finish. I also installed a Pachmeyer grip on it.
I wanted to keep the hammer on this gun so instead of removing it I rounded the end and chamfered the edges of the checkering:

Left side with the frame, cylinder and trigger guard edges radiused:

Right Side done the same way as well as the trigger face:

I still have some polishing to even everything out but the hard work is done. It's like running my hand over a well worn bar of soap.

Barrel and muzzle also were dehorned:

June 20, 2006, 10:53 PM
For pocket carry, I've got the 642 with the small laser grips, and it's perfect. So I think you made a good choice.

When I wear a shirt that covers my belt, I'll wear a 2" SP-101 in a crossdraw position -- also with laser grips. So I have two carry options, depending on what I wear.

Both of them fit well in my fanny pack, but the 3" SP-101 would not fit at all, FWIW.

With two nice guns fitted with laser grips, I'm having a hard time justifying my 4" GP-100 and Model 10. A snubby with a laser is the most versatile defense setup you can have IMO.


June 21, 2006, 10:45 PM
The 2 1/4 is one of my primary carries, the other a GLOCK 21.

The only two pistols I own and I carry both also.

June 22, 2006, 02:08 AM
I carry my wife's SP101 .357 mag 2.25" with the bobbed hammer in my front pocket all the time in an Uncle Mike's pocket holster. In fact, that is the only way I carry it. (With .357 mag 158gr hydrashocks, its a lot of manageable fire power in a pocket gun).

I would not be able to do that with the 3" because of the extra length and hammer.

If I want to carry on my belt, I take my full size 1911.

June 22, 2006, 09:11 PM
If you are searching for a holster, Bianchi makes a great suede iwb holster with a metal spring clip that is very comfy and has a thumb snap. Have 1 for my SP101 2.25" and like it alot. It is also pretty inexpensive. I'm sure it would fit the S&W J frames as well because the thumb snap is adjustable-it has an opening @ the muzzle. Rides nicely between the hip and frt pkt since it's so short.

June 23, 2006, 01:33 AM

I can't offer much that hasn't already been stated. When I got my SP101, I went with the 3" bbl. simply because I prefer the way it looks as opposed to a shorter barrel.

The few times I've carried it, the extra length really wasn't an issue. But, that's just over a couple of somewhat brief occasions.


Hey bigmike45,

I like what you've done with your dehorn... might you offer the details on how you've gone about it?

I've been thinking about doing something similar to my SP101. In fact, I've knocked off the edges of the trigger already to make things a bit more comfortable, but haven't yet gotten up the gumption to do the whole gun.


June 28, 2006, 04:56 PM

I used a small triangular, round and flat file to do all the rough in. I also used lot's and lot's of 600 & 800 grit sandpaper to smooth everything out. I still have some evening out and polishing to do. Before I send it off to be bead blasted it needs to look like it has been chrome plated and not made from stainless steel. I have been dehorning stainless 1911's before it was popular, but this is my first revolver. I am really liking the way it is turning out, and so is my wife!!! I think once she sees the finished product, she will want her 2" hammerless SP-101 done the same way. Oh one tool I forgot to mention you have to have is lots of patience!!!!

June 28, 2006, 07:31 PM
for me, i get 5 shooters because i need a small gun. therefore i want the 2" barrel.

if i were to opt for a 3" barrel, id just as well go with a 6 shooter instead.

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