New Ruger SP101 4.2″ w/Adjustable Sights

The new Ruger SP101 4.2″ with adjustable sights after a hard day at the range. This has been a really successful line of revolvers from Ruger because of the slim construction, lighter weight, and impeccable reliability of the SP101.

Like most revolvers meant for concealed carry, the SP101 has a five round cylinder in the .38 Special and .357 Magnum models. The .22LR version carries eight, and the .327 Federal Magnum carries six.

There is no reason to not carry a gun with adjustable sights unless you need to clear clothing with it. The sights on this SP101 would be snaggy under a shirt, but in a holster under a vest or jacket they would not present a challenge. The glowing fiber front sight is evident in the picture, and glows even in low light conditions.

Just over two inches is about the best I can do with open handgun sights at 10 yards, and this test gun shot right to point of aim out of the box with this 125 grain Hornady Critical Defense. The chrongraph measured the velocity at only 75 feet per second under the 1500 test velocity on the box measured with an eight inch barrel.

The small padded grips on the SP101 make it pleasant to shoot without a lot of bulk that will print under a jacket or vest.

Ruger Firearms SP101

The Ruger SP101 series of revolvers has been a huge success since it’s introduction in 1989. It has a five round cylinder, smaller and lighter than the GP-100 line from Ruger that holds six rounds. Five rounds in the cylinder makes for a thinner profile, and as a pocket revolver and concealed in a belt rig, that extra thin profile makes the gun “print” less on clothing. A lot of people love the SP101 for its ergonomics and shootability, and because it is a thin profiled .357 Magnum great for concealment, the SP101 has won the hearts and holsters of hundreds of thousands of Americans. It has become over the years a gun that really needs no introduction.

This new .357 Magnum with adjustable sights, MSRP $689, is an interesting version of the SP101. It has a 4.2 inch barrel and adjustable sights, making what is usually thought of as a concealed carry gun into a gun more suited for the target range or nightstand drawer. But The more I thought about this new SP101, the more I realized that it is kind of a do it all gun. It is ten ounces lighter than a similar GP-100 with the same 4.2 inch barrel and full 6 round cylinder, making it ideally suited for all day holster wear as a ranch gun, or as a pack or truck gun. With the right ammo, the 4.2 inch barrel will give you nearly the top end of .357 Magnum ballistics, so it is also suited as a backup gun for most dangerous game in the lower 48.

At first this SP101 may seem like something of an oddball, but when you really think about the practical uses for the gun, it makes a lot of sense. Sure, there may be some cases in your travels where that sixth round in a revolver is mission critical, but probably not, and if you can’t get the job done with 5 rounds of .357 Magnum, the chances of a sixth round making a difference are most likely pretty slim. The success of the SP101 series has proven this over the years, and the gun is currently available in .38 Special, .22LR (8 shot cylinder), and .327 Federal Magnum (6 shot cylinder).

When it comes to guns, preference counts for everything. Over the years a lot of people develop a preference for revolvers because of reliability. It is one thing if you regularly practice shooting your main carry or nightstand gun. Then you can probably get by with a full frame semi-automatic, because over time you’ll pick up quirks with the gun and figure out how to work around them. But a lot of people aren’t able to shoot a lot and only get out with a gun a few times per year if that.

I’ve neglected to shoot regularly many of my carry guns over the years, and without fail the semi-autos eventually fail. Gunk from my pocket gets in the slide, or the mag release starts to pop the mag out unexpectedly, those kinds of things. I have never had a semi-auto stand the ultimate test of prolonged carry with no maintenance and go bang every time when I decide to actually test it. Even the guns I thought most tried and true (like my AMT Backup), eventually failed to fire either the first or the second shot.

No doubt many of you will comment at how one should regularly shoot and fully clean and lubricate a gun that you trust your life to, but in a busy world I can assure you that I’m not alone in failing to do this regularly. If you ask most lifetime shooters with decades of concealed carry to their credit, they will nearly always tell you that they have developed a preference for the revolver. The reason is that they always go bang, no matter what, and you don’t have to do anything with them to guarantee reliability.

This new SP101 has adjustable sights, with a a fiber optic front, and I think they are a big selling point for this gun. Rarely does a fixed sight revolver shoot to exactly point of aim out of the box. You either have to bring it to a gunsmith to work on for you, or you just learn to adjust your sight picture to where the shoots. If you are not carrying a gun under clothing that adjustable sights could snag on, as I said, like a ranch gun or a hunting backup, there is no reason to not have adjustable sights. Shooting exactly to point of aim is always the best case. And for low light, like a nightstand gun, the fiber front picks up as much available light as possible, without having to rely on a coating that has to “charge” from a light source, or that is an expensive glowing element. Many devotees of the SP101 platform will welcome this new addition.

Our test gun you see in the pictures is almost hard to write about because it was so boringly good. The trigger pull is smooth and doesn’t stack up. The accuracy was for me about the best I can shoot from a bag at 10 yards, just over an inch, and of course, in several hundred round of .357 Magnum and .38 Special, I didn’t experience a failure. It locks up sure and tight, and even with full power Hornady Critical Defense carry rounds I found the ergonomics and grip of the SP101 to be easy, manageable, and not punishing at all. The 4.2 inch barrel produced 1425 feet per second with the125 grain Hornady Critical Defense, close to the 1500 on the box produced by Hornady with an 8 inch test barrel.

Ruger revolvers are known to be affordable and dependable, and this SP101 line has now served an entire generation with from what I have seen an unblemished record. I’ve never heard a bad word about one. Preference is everything, and a lot of people prefer the SP101 to the other small .357 Magnum revolvers out there. Stop by your local gunshop and check out this new slightly oddball SP101 with a long barrel and adjustable sights. You may find that you prefer it.

Ruger Firearms SP101

{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Mike November 29, 2019, 9:14 pm

    I have owned the Ruger Sp 01 4.2” for a number of years. It is a jack of all trades, expert of none firearm in my opinion. I have an inexpensive Soft Armor brand IWB holster for it and it is very comfortable to conceal carry with that holster. That said, I rarely carry it because it is only 5 shots and there are lighter, smaller, easier to shoot options with higher capacity. The trigger is very smooth but heavy. The double action trigger is long and heavy and the single action is very short but heavy for a revolver single action. It takes practice (and focused trigger control / grip) if you intend to target shoot but good accuracy for conceal carry distances / center of mass targets. The trigger is obviously like that for conceal carry. It is a pleasure to shoot 38 special with and not so pleasant with 357 mag for me…. as my middle finger slams into the trigger guard given the factory grip shape. Overall, the firearm is a beautiful work of art and has the cool factor…. just a neat gun. I have contemplated selling it multiple times but just haven’t been able to part with it. If you want it, go for it. It has been reliable.

  • Tennessee powder burn March 22, 2017, 4:47 pm

    I purchased this the Sp101 in 357 as I hunt and camp in a tent where there is a known 600 lb black bear runnin’ round, my 9mm suddenly became insufficient. I was informed of this fact on the 3rd night I camped there. I love this revolver. It’s easy to carry OWB and is not too heavy. The fit and finish is smooth as is the trigger pull. I had never shot a 357 prior to doing so in an indoor range and was not expecting the loudness, however, the recoil was less than I had imagined it would me. Excellent firearm, it has become my newest friend…… and there is the cool factor….

  • Al Allen January 14, 2017, 2:20 am

    I love this gun. Carry it with a gal on shoulder holster. Is the 4.2 inch model. Love the shoulder holster. I’m fat and hard enough keeping up my pants, let alone a belt holster. Just perfect. And I love revolvers. They look cool, shoot great, and scum can see the hollow points looking back at them. And they are very reliable.

  • smoke June 3, 2015, 8:23 pm

    SP101 357 magnum 4.2″ barrel is an excellent & versatile revolver. It’s basically a GP100 357 magnum 4.2″ – but: only 1 less shot, & weighs 10.5 ozs. less. That is a BIG weight difference, & you only sacrifice 1 shot. That’s why I bought the SP101……which IS still built like a tank.

  • California Steve May 17, 2015, 5:27 pm

    This is a great gun. I own the 4.2 inch version and swapped out the small grip for a bit larger Hogue all rubber grip. The new grip is nice and looks a bit better as the stock grip looked like a half grip and didn’t match up well to the gun in my opinion. Also didn’t really have a place for my pinky to wrap around.

    When I first started looking to purchase my first gun, I originally wanted a bigger frame revolver, like the GP100. My wife, who was against getting a gun at first, decided to rent a few different size revolvers with me to see if she would be interested. Her thinking was that if she needed to use it for home defense herself, she would rather have input on what gun it is. She was not comfortable with the GP100, as it was big and bulky piece in her small hands. However, I personally didn’t want a fixed sight 3 inch revolver, as it felt a bit too small for what I was looking for. After finding out they made the 4.2 inch adjustable sight version, we were both sold. It is an oddball gun, but perfect for home defense and recreational shooting. Its simple, reliable and accurate, making it real fun to shoot.

    The only knock I have on it, is the double action trigger requires a bit more of a squeeze than I prefere. Its like I have to squeeze past the point of my natural trigger pull, resulting in my hand moving slightly and throwing off my aim.

    But all it all, great gun, and great article!

  • scott March 17, 2015, 4:21 pm

    love this pistol!!!! great fun at the range, and you can get cheap .38 from ammo supply warehouse. I am sure we will be burning up a lot of ammo with this!!

  • Sal August 19, 2014, 11:49 am

    I recently bought a 2.25 inch barrel SP 101. After 3 rounds the cylinder locked up. The store attempted to fix it but was unsuccessful. Hopefully, Ruger will take care of the situation. I purchased it because of its reputation and bingo…it malfunctions after 3 rounds. Murphy’s law I guess.

    • Sal January 31, 2016, 12:36 pm

      I had the same problem. Ruger replaced the crane and the problem seems to be gone. The technician actually phoned me when he was repairing it…..I was amazed. So ask about replacing the crane.

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  • another john May 8, 2014, 3:16 pm

    Ruger uses castings for their revolver internals, not Metal Injection Molding.

  • John April 14, 2014, 10:50 am

    Not to spoil your day, but this gun has MIM rather than investment cast internals. MIM is a hard brittle material, which appears unlikely to “wear in” like the older guns. My old investment cast internal SP101 is slick, but my new 4.2 inch SP101 is so stiff that my wife finds it nearly impossible to pull the hammer back. The gun has an extremely rough double action trigger and it squeaks. Mine is going back to Ruger, but I think this is going to be a “what you see is what you get situation”. A great idea, poorly executed. If Ruger wants to use MIM parts, so be it, but take advantage of MIMs virtues and use this as an opportunity to produce a really slick gun

  • Dan in Maine July 27, 2013, 8:42 am

    I own two SP 101s. A .22LR 4.2 inch barrel and the shortest length in .357. The snubbie is my EDC. While it could have a smoother pull I don’t find it too bad; and with at least mine you can stage it fairly well in double action. I typically carry the Federal 38 +P+ loads. A couple of speed loaders with the same ammo and two 5-shot speed strips with Winchester 158 grain SJHP in 357 round out the system. I shot a porcupine a few days ago after it quilled my dog. Close range (15 feet?) but all five hits (first shot was single action). Semi-aim/semi point and shoot. I will say the .22 has a HEAVY double action pull. My finger gets sore at about 75 to 100 shots. I changed to a lighter spring but slow staging in double action results in misfires. I will probably change the spring back and deal with it. Back to the snubbie – it wears an Uncle Mike size 0 and it does fit inside a front jeans pocket (maybe you see a smudge of the butt but it isn’t discernable especially since the holster breaks up the outline). I have been keeping an eye out for the reviewed version; I have larger frame revolvers that I like but would like this for when I walk the woods. Lighter than the big guys but hefty enough to handle hot loads.

  • troop emonds February 1, 2013, 9:30 am

    Is there any real difference in accuracy between the three inch SP-101 barrel lengths compared to the four inch SP-101 revolvers. I like the idea of a SP-101 4″ in .22 Mag. Does the SP-101 in .327 come in the four inch barrel now?

    Would also like the .22 l.r. SP-101 to come in the full lugged barrel. Would just look more in harmony with the other four inch SP-101 and be super stable.

  • Maine Concealed Carry January 23, 2013, 11:33 pm

    I had one of these but in 2″ and loved it, it was a 357 mag and enjoyed it. little heavy by smooth to shoot____

  • Gregg January 20, 2013, 4:54 pm

    Can you speedload the Ruger SP101 357 MAG 4.2″ with the HKS 36-A speedloader?

  • Bobby December 6, 2012, 1:43 pm

    On my “wish they made it” list of gun accessories is Crimson Trace grips with a the woodgrain panels to keep the fantastic look Ruger has achieved. Trijicon sights front and rear would be great also.

  • Heath November 21, 2012, 5:54 am

    I am the proud owner of a SP101 with the short Barrel and it doesn’t typically miss. When I’m stateside, the little SP lives in my back pocket in a leather pocket holster and has never failed. For some reason, it really prefers Big Green golden saber 125 grain .357s- Point of Aim and Point of Impact are very close.This combo is HARD TO BEAT for the pocket gun selection and recoil isn’t too severe for the recoil conscious.

  • Dave July 15, 2012, 8:10 pm

    I didn’t like the reviews on either the 10/22 Take Down or the SP101 both of which I own. Both are great guns but too often you will not hear any of the short comings on a particular firearm because the don’t want to get blackballed by the manufacturers and removed from the mailing list for free weapons to test the next time around. Pretty much I don’t trust anything the reviewers say, I just leave it to word of mouth from friends and scuttlebutt at my local gun shops and gun shows. They have nothing to gain by kissing a**.

  • frankgon4 March 11, 2012, 11:49 am

    I own an SP101 in the 3 inch barrel. Their are 2 things I would like to see improved. One is to make room for using speed loaders. In it’s current configuration, the use of speed loaders leans toward the difficult side. I corrected this by replacing the grip and sanding a groove in the grip to allow the speed loader to fit easier.
    Second, I would like the ejection to be longer.
    Did this new 4 inch version extend the Ejector or is it the same length?

  • JB February 8, 2012, 9:53 am

    “SP” stands for special purpose; “GP” stands for general purpose.

    Can’t wait to get one of these chambered in .22…currently have a GP100 6″ .357 and a bobbed hammer 2″ .357 SP101…LOVE THEM and will never buy another brand revolver. My GP is accuarate to 100 yds. (this from antoher shooter who is better than me) but I witnessed it with mine own eyes. Beautiful guns, IMO.

  • Don January 28, 2012, 12:00 am

    I want a SP101 with a standard ramp front sight. A SP101 in .22 mag with a 6 1/2 in. barrel with a ramp front sight wouild be good also.

  • Steven January 26, 2012, 3:45 pm

    I really like Ruger Revolvers. The best feature is the way the cylinder locks up nice and secure. Having owned and shot the larger frame Rugers, I looked foward to the SP 101. Someone mentioned above about the ladies in his family using revolvers. I clean all the guns in my house, My wifes, daughters and mine so cleaniness isn’t the reason they are looking at a revolver. The reason is my wife and daugther have some trouble with the slide pull on a pistol. I don’t get it. I have worked with them for years, they both work out and are in shape but they are petite, even so they have trouble racking the slide on a pistol. I have sig’s, glocks, rugers, S&W, DOA, S/D single action, striker fired, hammer fired, no matter. Even the little LCP they have trouble with. I don’t know if it is finger stength to grip the sllide while pulling or triceps to pull at a weird angle but the result is the same. They can pull back the ruger .22 pistol that has the Luger action, but that is it. I was at the SHOT show running around racking pistols to find which make and model has an easier slide pull. So that is a long story on why I like the SP101. And they can shoot 38 specials, so far we have only used 357’s, and no slide pull issues. and the thinner profile and smaller grip suit them just fine. That leaves the pistols to my son and I and that suits us just fine. I don’t need to put pink grips on my Sig 226.

  • George Patterson January 18, 2012, 1:30 am

    A Vary nice pistol ,where can I buy one

    • Dave July 15, 2012, 8:01 pm

      George, you might try a gun store or sporting goods, quite often gun stores have guns for sale. And don’t forget your wallet.

      • Raymond Page July 18, 2016, 9:54 pm

        George, I have been looking for one with a 4 1/2″ barrel for a couple years. I found one finally in a gun shop and I grabbed it right away. I haven’t shot it yet but it sure feels great in my hand.

  • ed g January 17, 2012, 2:35 pm

    thanks robert but i like wood/i should have bought a smith

    • Raymond Page July 18, 2016, 9:56 pm

      Hang in there George, you will come across one. Just leave your wife home, mine almost killed me when I pulled out my credit card.

  • Missbaysdaddy January 17, 2012, 12:08 am

    I have the Ruger SP101 357 Magnum in 3 inch for my concealed carry gun and even with fixed sites it can hold its own at 50 feet. I do have to allow for a different aim point however. At close range this is not a big deal. I also own the Ruger GP100 357 Magnum in 6 inch and it is my favorite but just too bulky to carry concealed. If we ever go back to open carry I would get a rig to carry it in a heartbeat. I have been a Ruger fan since 1973 when I bought my first Ruger Blackhawk 357 Magnum. Keep up the good work Ruger.

  • tomuehrke January 16, 2012, 10:13 pm

    I have owned many handguns and although my favorite handgun remains the Taurus 44. Spcl.,I have shot the Ruger GP 100 in 38. Spcl. recently and look forward to trying the GP 101!Thanks Ruger and Keep Your Guns America!!!

  • Lewis January 16, 2012, 8:58 pm

    I agree with Keith. I’d like to buy a 22 mag version, if it’s in the works. I just bought the SP101 357 “snubbie” with Crimson Trace grips

  • ed g January 16, 2012, 7:25 pm

    i have an older sp101 with cheap plastic grips i called ruger and they wont make these wood grips available/i got a set of houge wood grips and they stink too big and dont point right

    • Robert January 16, 2012, 9:18 pm

      ed g, try Pachmyer grips, I put the decelerator grips on my 357 and my 44 mag, shoot straight and help your wrists with a lot of shots.

  • Keith January 16, 2012, 6:23 pm

    I own 6 Ruger firearms and all are of excellent quality.
    Would love to see this gun in .22WMR.
    Thank Ruger for your fine work.

  • John Degroff January 16, 2012, 1:58 pm

    Mr. Bordner, Hi, Most revolvers have cylinders that swing open “to the left” so one can load with the “weak”
    hand while holding the gun with the strong hand.

  • LeRoy January 16, 2012, 1:48 pm

    4.2″ makes it just legal for the Kanuckistanian market.

    May have to check this out.


    • Mark Ruddock January 12, 2014, 10:58 am

      Yes, I’m Canadian. A barrel length of 4.125″ or less makes it prohibited here (rationale being they are too easy to conceal). This is unless you have a grandfathered prohibited license from before these restrictions were enacted.

  • Paul January 16, 2012, 1:24 pm

    Unsure about the SP except does not mean southpaw. Just read an article about the 22 caliber version, and it mentioned that a permit in Canada could be obtained to travel through Canada because the barrel was more than 4.16 inches long, not considered a non permit able gun. Unknown if this is so or not. An interesting thought though, a trip to Alaska anyone?

  • Fred Bordner January 16, 2012, 11:22 am

    I thought the ‘SP’ designation meant South Paw. In the pictures above the cylinder is shown falling out on the left. Shouldn’t it be falling out on the right?
    If I am incorrect in think the ‘SP’ means South Paw would you please correct me? I have an SP101 snub.

    • frankgon4 March 11, 2012, 4:07 pm

      I thought the SP stood for Special Purpose and GP as in GP100 stood for General Purpose.

  • markvi January 16, 2012, 11:01 am

    This article was well written and very believable base on the following comment.
    I’ve owned an SP101 357 Magnum for several years(my first and only gun)and I am so satisfied with the results that I wouldn’t buy any other type handgun. However, I have purchased my second gun(a SP101 357 Magnum, 4.2 inch barrel). I know it will be a very successful weapon for me and with small wrists, it will diminish the recoil. I’ve been using Hornady 38+P and corbon 357 mag, 110grain. I feel very confident that I’ll be able to use Hornady 357 mag, 125 grain. by the way I use these brands of ammo at the range once a week. One needs to shoot at practice what he/she is going to need for defense.

  • Mike McKellar January 16, 2012, 9:35 am

    Well written and realistic. I have provided revolvers to the women in the family because of their 99.9 percent
    Boom ability. The women I know don’t generally practice a lot, thus I try to always get the family out to plink
    From their normal carry hide during the holidays and family get togethers. They have never went back to the house to clean their weapon. Women it seems don’t change their own oil or clean gutters either. So I maintain what needs to be done when time and availibility allows. When our daughter was off to college, her revolver was not spic and span.
    But when we went out to plink, that little Colt detective spoke with authority just as we expect a revolver to do.

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