Trail Magnum: 3" SP101 or 3" K-Frame?


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Dain Bramage
May 4, 2007, 05:01 PM
For hiking and camping, OWB or backpack carry. I know I risk having the Ruger and S&W acolytes come down along party lines, but which one is better? Anybody have both? The K has the extra round, while the SP101 is available as a new gun. Are there any other advantages that I'm missing?

My gunshop just got a slew of new 3" SP101s at $440, which seems expensive to me.

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461
May 4, 2007, 05:28 PM
The SP will be a better choice if you're going to shoot a lot of real magnums through it, the K is the option if you want the sixth round and possibility of adjustable sights. Bottom line is a decision you have to make. My personal preference is the SP-101, but that's what suits me.

$441.00 is actually a pretty average price nowadays on an SP-101, I've seen them at $500.00. :what:

Gustav
May 4, 2007, 06:08 PM
Ruger has simpler action a more modern design is more compact with simpler disassembly.
S&W has usually better trigger and action and holds one more round in a long proven design going back 100 plus years.
Rent both side by side at a range and try them out with full loads and target loads at different range.
Smaller hands usually like the Ruger bigger hands usually like the K frame S&W line.
For one other option consider looking for a good clean used Ruger Speed 6 with 2 3/4 inch barrel same size more or less as the S&W but the advantages of the Ruger design.
Tough call but worth the time to find out what works best for you.
Best of luck.

Stainz
May 4, 2007, 06:12 PM
My experience with Ruger firearms includes SA & DA revolvers, but only one SP101, a 4" .32M sixshooter. From what I hear, my experience with that revolver mirrors others recent experiences with similar style revolvers. Sadly, they depend on your being the final QC inspector - and you - or your gunsmith - will have to ease the burrs, etc, to make them decent performers. Check with a decent local 'smith for his suggested work - and add his price to the gun's cost when comparing it to a S&W.

The five shot 3" .357M SP101 weighs 27 oz, while the 'nearest' equivalent sized S&W, a 3" 60 with really adjustable sights, weighs 24 oz - and comes with either a standard front sight blade or a HiViz. MSRP's are $550 & $695 for the Ruger and S&W, while my 'pusher' has them at $420 & $520. A 2.5" - or new 3" - 686+ will run you MSRP $790 - $580-$600 in the store. Of course, you're looking at 34.5-36.8 oz... may as well get a 4" 620 - sort of a 4" 686+ with the 66's partial lug - and 37.9 oz - MSRP $751 - $580 in store. I've led you from a 27 oz fixed sight 5-shooter to a 10.9 oz heavier 7-shooter with adjustable sights, for probably close (~$50) to what you'd have in an SP101 and basic 'smith charges. What weight can you stand?

Oops - if money were no problem, the new 386 Sc/S, a lite weight alloy 2.5" .357M 7-shooter, MSRP $869, may be the ticket - it weighs 21.2oz! I haven't seen one yet... but it is supposed to have a SS cylinder & barrel. Pretty lght weight.

Stainz

ronto
May 4, 2007, 06:29 PM
Since you will be carrying OWB, you may want to consider a 3" GP100 (36 oz.).

Boats
May 4, 2007, 06:59 PM
If you do the revolver check properly, you need not rely on S&Ws or Ruger's QC folks, as you can rely upon yourself.

Since an SP-101 can be easily field stripped and a Smith cannot be, I'd go with the Ruger product. It does not take a gunsmith to fluff and buff a Ruger.

Anything can happen to a trail gun. You could scrape the hell out of it scrambling, you could immerse it, rain could pour upon it. Condensation. Dust. Dirt. Mud.

The Ruger is going to be more robust to begin with and it's going to be easier to field maintain.

I also agree that a 3" GP-100 might be the ticket, but the weight goes up by about 10 or so ounces over the SP-101.

GTSteve03
May 4, 2007, 07:16 PM
Where do you live and where will you be camping? Might depend on what kind of .357 ammo you're going to be carrying with you.

Heavy-duty 180-200gr loads of .357 either hand-made or bought from boutique dealers like DoubleTap or BuffaloBore will be harder on the S&W than the Ruger. Plus, as has been mentioned, the Ruger will be easier to maintain.

Check my sig to see which one I would choose. :cool:

VA27
May 4, 2007, 09:53 PM
Trail Gun? S&W 60-18. 357Mag J-frame with a 5" barrel and your favorite 180gr load.

Brian Williams
May 4, 2007, 10:19 PM
I would take any of these, S&W 13, custom 65 and SP101
http://thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=45571&d=1159536994

or this one S&W 60-4
http://thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=1748&d=1047180960


I have the 3 S&Ws, and my daughter has the SP101. I would take any of them for a trail gun.

I personally had the S&W 65 built for a trail/canoe gun. I had the 4" pencil barrel installed for the extra length, the round butt to reduce the exposed grip in the holster, the cylinder has been cut for moonclips for quick ejections and reloads, and the Target hammer and trigger installed for a good grip in any sloppy weather. It works exactly for the situation I was looking to cover a trail walk or a canoe trip. It also is my back up for hunting.

Stainz
May 5, 2007, 06:38 PM
Hmmm, an SP101, like the GP100/SRH, requires a screwdriver for the grips, a steel pin to trap the hammer spring, and something (punch?) to depress the trigger latch. Then you'll need a plastic bag to 'trap' the trigger group parts - a small pin punch, etc, helps, too. A bench vise can depress the hammer spring, while you carefully remove that pin and then the saddle/spring/strut can be separated -carefully - by slowly releasing said bench vise. You'll then need a collection of drill bits to deburr/ream the holes and an assortment of fine rifflers (small files) to deburr the innards - expect to spend some time here - they all need it! Flush carefully with a spray - RemOil is fine. Re-assemble using a lighter hammer spring, for a lighter DA trigger, in an SP101 and you likely WON'T have to go to Federal primers; replace the trigger spring with a lighter unit and it will lighten SA & DA pull, while making that trigger group latch easier to work. It's down side is that it makes the trigger's return after pulling a bit slower - not so good for competition, else, you likely won't notice it.

A S&W K/L/N frame needs one grip screw and three sideplate screws removed - use the right screwdriver! The front most sideplate screw releases the yoke - permitting it and the cylinder to be removed easily anytime, should the need arise... try to get a cylinder 'out' of an SP101, etc. Next, turn it over, sideplate down, but over a cloth on a table - and tap the grip with the plastic handle of a screwdriver until the sideplate falls off - DON'T PRY! The metal piece that falls with it is important - refer to your owner's manual diagram to see where it goes. Unscrew the 'strain screw' that screw on the front of the grip at the bottom, and carefully remove the hammer leaf spring - a standard power Wolff here is a substantial improvement, while popping all primers. Blast with an aerosol spray, to remove manufacturing grit, etc, and re-assemble. A trigger return spring replacement isn't always a 'good thing'. Dry/live-fire break-in will reduce/eliminate most burrs in a S&W's innards.

Boats, neither of these are what I'd refer to as 'field strippable' - I think more of an AR-15/M-16, which can be stripped with just a live round, as such a firearm.

Stainz

PS Yeah, the S&W is easier to 'improve' by far... just have good hollow-ground screwdrivers - see Brownell's, etc. Check the Ruger forum for great step-by-step instructions.

Gordon
May 5, 2007, 07:25 PM
The SP101 better, for a trail gun, as much as I like and have carried S&Ws for that for 40 years.

fastbolt
May 5, 2007, 08:00 PM
I see this sort of question as more likely being affected and influenced by the experience and personal preferences of the owne/user, myself ...

Very few medium bore revolvers feel and balance as well as a K-frame. Excellent guns. Close to being the quintessential medium-size Magnum revolver. Power balanced against carrying weight ... and what I refer to as a 'lively balance' in the hand, while still retaining some reasonable heft, when it comes to K-frames.

Unfortunately, the day of the K-frame chambered in .357 Magnum has finally passed. It had a much longer run than the excellent Security/Service/Speed-Six series, though.

I do find it a bit ironic that while S&W discontinued the K-frame chambered in .357 Magnum, standardizing on their L-frame for that caliber, they offered the J-frame in .357 Magnum in an increasingly varied number of models, including the interesting M60 5". :scrutiny: Mixed messages, so to speak. (I know, one makes for more comfort for shooting frequently and makes for more comfort when carrying frequently. ;) )

I really wanted a 3" SP-101 at one time. Couldn't find one and settled for a 2.25" DAO model. It served me quite well as a small Magnum revolver, including some service as a "off-the-paved-road" off-duty weapon for some backcountry activities from time to time. Handy. Lighter and easier to pack around than any of my Security/Service/Speed-Six guns, or my issued 686.

Still wouldn't mind having a 3" SP-101, though.

Why? Because I once owned a 3" heavy barrel M36 with which I shot almost as accurately as with my issued M686 at that time. Nice balance. Slightly longer sight radius. Better than expected practical accuracy and controllability ... albeit only with .38 Special ammunition, of course. Nice little belt gun.

I think the 3" SP-101 would make for a fine compromise when it comes to lawful carry and backwoods portability with a compact Magnum revolver. Granted, it can be a handful when chambered in full power Magnum ammunition ... and I finally had my SP-101 Quad-Ported to change its character when shooting Magnum loads. Tamed it quite noticeably when it came to muzzle rise/whip and torquing of my wrist, although the force directed back into the palm of my hand naturally remains.

Porting comes with both advantages and disadvantages, though, and is another subject in itself.

If I were going to consistently be doing a lot of shooting with Magnum ammunition I'd probably opt for the heavier iron-sighted GP-100 3". The extra weight would make for more pleasant shooting sessions, especially if extended duration sessions are common. More weight on the hip, though, and the point where that's counter productive for the intended lawful outdoors purpose has to be determined for each individual.

The SP-101, on the other hand, may be a bit more taxing and tiring on the firing line, especially for extended range sessions, but it would also be a bit lighter on the hip.

Compromises.

As far as workmanship and maintenance?

I've had to have both Ruger and S&W revolvers repaired.

I agree that Ruger revolvers are more easily disassembled - to a reasonable point - for cleaning, especially if subjected to extreme environmental conditions.

Their triggers may not have the smoothness in DA or the crispness in SA of a S&W, but then I long ago made the determination for myself how far I was willing to compromise for a rugged, durable, easily maintained 'field gun'. My Ruger DA/DAO revolver triggers are fine for my needs, and I don't notice much, if any, of a difference in practical accuracy when shooting them DA compared to my S&W revolvers. My S&W's have better SA triggers, granted, and I can generally wring some small degree of better accuracy when shooting them SA in a relaxed, unhurried manner.

This is one of those areas where a couple of knowledgeable, reasonable folks might reach entirely different decisions, though, both of whom having carefully considered their needs and desires before making informed decisions ... and both of them may still have made the 'right' decision for themselves.

That being said, I'm presently considering picking up an old 'beater' K-frame in either .38 or .357 Magnum, because an old friend who builds excellent revolvers, and has some time on his hands now that's he's retired, just told me that he's been asked to make a small number of PPC-style revolvers, using Douglas barrels, and asked me if I wanted him to make me one for old-fashioned range enjoyment. Gee, let me think ... ;)

Sundles
May 6, 2007, 12:00 AM
Because of the adjustable sights and the extra capacity, Id take the K frame. I have two of the old S&W Lew Horton 3 inch mod. 66's. They are wonderful revolvers. However, If you dont mind a four inch barrel, the S&W Mt. Gun holds seven rounds and is quite lite because of the very tapered Mt. Gun barrle profile.

Believe it or not, the L frame actually has a shorter Length of Pull than the K frame. Most folks are not aware of this.

Geister
May 6, 2007, 10:54 PM
Rent both side by side at a range and try them out with full loads and target loads at different range.

Easier said than done, I would think. Three inch K-frames are not hugely common.

I was going to post this on my own thread, but it does have some validity here: who all makes/has made a three inch .357 Magnum?

Also, how common are the GP100s with the three inch barrel?

balin
May 7, 2007, 06:15 AM
Ruger , Taurus, S&W make 3 in. .357's right off the top of my head.

Sundles
May 7, 2007, 10:42 AM
Ive never seen a three inch GP100, but the 3 inch SP101's are everywhere.

The little all steel 3 inch J frame S&W's are wonderful. compact, strong, accurate, light wieght, adjustable sighted, revolvers. I prefer them over the 3 inch SP101 because of the adjustable sights.

Brian Williams
May 7, 2007, 11:28 AM
Believe it or not, the L frame actually has a shorter Length of Pull than the K frame. Most folks are not aware of this.
Nope, the K and the L frame share the same trigger and the same grip geometry, You can take a K frame grip and put it directly on an L frame and visa-versa. You can also swap a k and a L frame trigger but not the hammer.

Boats
May 7, 2007, 01:11 PM
Hmmm, an SP101, like the GP100/SRH, requires a screwdriver for the grips, a steel pin to trap the hammer spring, and something (punch?) to depress the trigger latch. Then you'll need a plastic bag to 'trap' the trigger group parts - a small pin punch, etc, helps, too. A bench vise can depress the hammer spring, while you carefully remove that pin and then the saddle/spring/strut can be separated -carefully - by slowly releasing said bench vise. You'll then need a collection of drill bits to deburr/ream the holes and an assortment of fine rifflers (small files) to deburr the innards - expect to spend some time here - they all need it! Flush carefully with a spray - RemOil is fine. Re-assemble using a lighter hammer spring, for a lighter DA trigger, in an SP101 and you likely WON'T have to go to Federal primers; replace the trigger spring with a lighter unit and it will lighten SA & DA pull, while making that trigger group latch easier to work. It's down side is that it makes the trigger's return after pulling a bit slower - not so good for competition, else, you likely won't notice it.

That's a detail strip you are describing, not a mere field strip.

Take the grips off with a dime, or maybe even the rim of a round, take the "take down" pin out of the grip where it resides, cock the hammer and trap the mainspring to remove it. Take the pin and pop out the hammer and then use the mainspring strut to remove the trigger group. Dunk a SP or a GP into mud or sand and you'll be glad you have one compared to a S&W if you want to immediately address what might be in the mechanism. I am not talking about a complete detailing of the firearm, just the ability to brush out, blow out, or wipe off the major component subgroups. That is never easily done on any S&W.

Apples to apples. I would never recommend a detail stripping of any firearm in the field unless the circumstances were so dire as to warrant it.

JNewell
May 7, 2007, 02:07 PM
Confirming what Boats said, it is possible to field strip a S-Six, GP or SP with nothing more than a cartridge case and what's in/on the gun. This assumes, btw, that you haven't lost the pin that came from the factory to secure the mainspring on the strut - having lost a few of them myself even under good conditions, I'd want to be quite careful if I were literally doing a "field" strip.

Stainz
May 7, 2007, 02:13 PM
Boats,

A few real problems here... neither a dime or a .357 S&W Magnum rim (Win Ni) will fit the slot of an SP101's OEM grip screw, they are too thick for the slot. A recessed screw head, a la the installed OEM SA Rugers - and possibly SRH/GP100 (I don't have one handy!) will prevent anything round from fitting the slot. If the screw's slot is the same width as the SP101's, and I don't remember, the dime/cartridge rim will be too thick anyway. Also, of the new SRH's, GP100's, and SP101's I've seen, only my early 7.5" .454 SRH had it's hammer spring stop pin in the rubber grip where it belongs - the others were empty.

Now, to removing the trigger group... how do you press the latch with the hammer strut? It will only fit from the side... and then you might just push your pin out... launching your hammer spring to who knows where. The hole on the back of the grip stud opposing that trigger latch is small - perhaps a #1-#2 Phillips size... simply grind a slight depression in the end to catch said latch - and it will work quite well - great way of recycling a wornout screwdriver.

Of course, your dime will at least remove the Hogue monogrips from your open backstrap L,N, or X frame S&W's - most recent - and current K's (They still offer the 4" 10, 64, 67, & 617's.) - use the UM's Combats. You won't go further without a proper screwdriver. Interestingly, one screw removed from being operational, and your K/L/N frame's yoke and cylinder will be separable in your hand.

I will admit that the many Rugers I have seen new had enough roughness and burrs as delivered to render a S&W useless. They have enough slop to work despite such QC problems. I look at them as 'works in progress'... and will likely buy more new ones in the future. I will definitely buy more S&W's, of course.

About the K & L frame differences.... they include a .025" thicker frame front, permitting a .015" larger OD forcing cone (and barrel). This addressed the perceived Achille's heel of the K-frame .357M's - flame erosion of the forcing cone resulting in their cracking - only occuring after many, many hyper velocity ultra-light bullets (110gr or less). Add a taller frame opening for the 7-shot .357M cylinder - or 5-shot .44 Special cylinder, and that's about it. As stated, same or similar innards - and the same grips. The 65/66 replacements - 619/620 - are actually L-frames with short lugged two piece barrels.

Ahhh, but they all 'work', don't they? Get what floats your boat - you'll be happier that way.

Stainz

PS The early SP101's were originally .38's and short bullet (125gr or less) .357M's... all longer cylindered (larger frame opening) have the 'X' model number suffix.

PPS JNewell - According to Brownell's parts list/schematic, the SP101 uses a differnt part number for the grip ferrules and screw than the GP100/SRH. Neither a dime nor a .357M cartridge rim, or a .32 H&RM rim for my 4" SP101, will fit the smaller SP101 screw slot.

Boats
May 7, 2007, 03:11 PM
Well I was going on memory, I have torn down my GP-100 with a Victorinox Spartan and a fire hardened stick before. Then again I have Hogues on mine and always order a longer screw for field use so that I can use it as a lanyard attachment point.

My argument remains that is far easier to tear down a Ruger than an S&W. I own both makes, and I know which brand I have no qualms about opening up. It is not the product from Massachusetts.

Sundles
May 7, 2007, 10:49 PM
Brian,

I have an L frame Mt. Gun here, that has slightly shorter LOP than any of my K frames. It is my only L Frame, so I dont have any others to measure. The grimp frame on the L Frame gun has the very same dimensions as the K framed guns, but it is positionsed ever so slightly closer to the trigger, or perhaps the trigger is positioned closer, but at any rate, the LOP is shorter on the L Frame. What am I missing?

big44
May 8, 2007, 12:17 AM
I'd go for the Smith & Wesson. BTW, I do like Rugers! S&W holds its value better should you ever have to sell it. Having owned both brands either will serve you well.

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