By John Taffin
I’ve been shooting Ruger .22’s and .357 Magnums since 1956-1957. Ruger first started producing .22 pistols in 1949 with the Standard Model Red Eagle semi-automatic. This little pistol was destined to really affect firearms manufacturing as Ruger used stampings and welding in his new little .22. After the Standard Model was well-established, Ruger added adjustable sights and the Target Model Mark I was the result. Over the years, this model was improved to the Mark II and then the Mark III, still with the Luger-like grip angle.
However, most shooters find the 1911 grip frame more suited to their hand and Ruger took care of this with the introduction of their 22/45 Model using a polymer frame with a 1911 grip shape. This pistol, which started out with a steel slide, has in recent years morphed into the 22/45 Lite Model with an aluminum slide.
My first Ruger .22, in fact my first handgun, was the Single-Six and I was perfectly happy with this for five or six years until I purchased a Colt Woodsman Match Target .22 pistol. I didn’t even look at a Ruger .22 semi-auto, as I had the best there was — or so I thought. Then I discovered a Ruger not only cost half as much but shot twice as good. The Colt was sold and I’ve been shooting semi-auto Ruger .22’s ever since.
The adjustable sights on the Ruger Match Champion allows it
to be zeroed for virtually any load.
Safety features include a manual thumb safety, loaded chamber indicator and magazine disconnect. The magazine release button is located on the frame behind the trigger on the left side and two 10-round magazines are included. There are easy-to-grasp “ears” on both sides of the bolt allowing it to be pulled rearward easily.
I did not get caught in the shortage of .22’s, as over the years I have always watched for sales and purchased accordingly. So testing this gun found me with 15 different types of ammunition on-hand. Shooting at 12 yards gave 5-shot groups under 1″. Moving out to 20 yards saw American Eagle HP’s group 9 shots into 11/8″ with a muzzle velocity of 990 fps; CCI Green Tag, 900 fps, 1″; CCI Mini-Mag HP, 984 fps, 11/8″ and Winchester SX HP’s clocked out at 950 fps with a 9-shot group of a solid 1″. All in all this is an accurate, reliable .22 packing pistol.
Ruger Match Champion (right) compared to 4″ and 6″ standard GP100’s.
In 1971 Ruger’s first double action sixgun, the Security-Six (and variations) arrived, and this was improved to the GP100 in 1985. The fact of the matter is this is one of the toughest, most reliable .357 Magnum DA sixguns ever offered. If I was going to carry a .357 Magnum DA sixgun in all kinds of weather and situations I would not hesitate to go with a stainless steel GP100.
During this time, Colt and S&W faced real competition from Ruger in the DA revolver market. By 1985 the Security-Six in all its variations, both stainless steel and blued, and chambered in .357 Magnum, .38 Special and 9mm, had sold well over one million units. It was then removed from production to be replaced by an even better double action .357 — the GP100.
The GP100 combined the locking system of the Redhawk with the no-tool takedown modular design of the Security-Six. The grip frame was changed dramatically too — it no longer existed. Ruger incorporated what they called a “peg system” consisting of a steel stud allowing the use of recoil-reducing soft rubber grips. The GP100 also had a new trigger system allowing a lighter pull than found on the Redhawk.
The barrel was a heavy-under-lugged style on the 4″ version while the 6″ GP allowed a choice of a standard or heavy barrel. Currently only the heavy barrel is offered on the standard model GP in 3″, 4″ and 6″ lengths. The GP100 may well be the most under-rated double action .357 Magnum ever produced. It’s extremely strong, totally reliable and accurate. It would be hard for anyone to find a better choice in a .357 Magnum for heavy-duty use than a GP100.
The Ruger 22/45 Light is available both with a blue- or cobalt-colored slide.
The Match Champion
When Ruger’s GP100 Match Champion was announced last year, I felt it was the most attractive DA sixgun Ruger had ever offered. The stainless steel finish, slab-sided, half-lug 4″ barrel, matched up with Hogue stippled hardwood grips all worked together to give a most pleasing appearance. The model designation, Match Champion, came from the fact it was designed for competition — shooting steel plates and paper targets with one selected load.
Targets are usually big and up close so Match Champions were fitted with Novak LoMount Carry rear sights matched up with green fiber-optic front sights. Everything needed for fast acquisition. The front of the cylinder is also beveled for ease of holster insertion, and the stippled sides of the wraparound Hogue grips give a very secure hold. In short everything needed for fast competition.
However, my days of competition are long over and my interest is in a thoroughly rugged, totally reliable .357 Magnum with sights I could adjust for everything from 115 grain JHP’s to 200 grain hard cast bullets as well as all manner of .38 Special loads. This would be a sixgun which would be totally reliable when carried in the same places I would use the 22/45 Lite. For me this simply meant adjustable sights are absolutely necessary. When I heard Ruger was doing just that to the new GP100, I immediately placed my order.
Ruger’s latest GP100 is the adjustable sighted Match Champion.
Looking closely at the new adjustable-sighted version we find everything is exactly the same as the prior Match Champion except the rear sight is now fully adjustable. The finish is satin stainless, the barrel length is actually 4.2″ while the weight is 38 ounces. I found the Hogue Stippled Hardwood grips to not only be very attractive but also very secure. However my long beat up and now tender hands — when faced with a long string of full power .357 Magnums — opt instead for the Hogue finger grooved rubber grips. Grips are easily interchangeable so I can use whatever fancies me and works best with the loads chosen.
The Match Champion was test-fired with nine .38 Special loads, two of which were factory and a full dozen .357 Magnum loads divided equally between factory and handloads. In .38 Special loads the most accurate was the Speer 147 Gold Dot Hollowpoint over 13.0 grains of #4227 for a very pleasant shooting 815 fps and a 5-shot, 20 yard group of 7/8″, followed by the Lyman hard cast #358477 propelled by 3.5 grains of Bullseye for a 11/8″ group and a muzzle velocity of 770 fps. The Black Hills 125 JHP, my most-used factory .38 Special round, grouped into 13/8″ with a muzzle velocity of 900 fps.
Switching to .357 Magnum loads, the most accurate factory load was the Hornady 158 XTP-JFP with a group of 7/8″ and a muzzle velocity of 1,160 fps, with the JHP version coming in at 11/8″ and a muzzle velocity of 1,225 fps. The load I use for hunting Texas turkeys, the Black Hills 125 grain JHP, comes out of the short-barreled Match Champion at 1,360 fps while grouping its five shots into 11/4″ at 20 yards.
I was especially interested in what this .357 Magnum Match Champion would do with my hard cast, heavyweight bullets. My favorite load in this category is dropped from the NEI #358.200 bullet mold and is made to accept a gas check. With 12.0 grains of #2400 muzzle velocity is 1,060 fps with a very satisfying 11/8″ group. Switching to jacketed bullets, the Speer 170 GDHP over 14.2 grains of #2400 groups its five shots in 11/4″ at 20 yards with a muzzle velocity of 1,175 fps. While traveling the sagebrush, or foothills, forests, or mountains of Idaho either of these two loads would handle anything or any situation I’m likely to encounter.
First and foremost Ruger has been making totally reliable, extremely rugged sixguns and semi-autos for the outdoors- man for more than 65 years. Whether you choose to carry a .22 pistol or a .357 Magnum sixgun, these move right to the top of the list.
The Ruger 22/45 Lite is threaded for a suppressor — a civilized way to shoot, indeed!
In recent years Ruger first came out with the 22/45 Lite and then this past year two new models surfaced, a 22/45 Lite Blue version with five cutouts on each side of the blue anodized slide, and a second 22/45 Lite with a Cobalt colored slide with round holes instead of cutouts. I was immediately attracted to what I thought was the very good looks of this new pistol. The blue slide contrasts nicely with the black sights, integral scope rail and Zytel polymer grip frame.
The 22/45 Lite has a barrel length of 4.4″, giving it an overall length of 8.5″. Width is a very narrow 1″ and the weight is just under 23 ounces making it a perfect trail gun. Sights are a fully adjustable rear sight matched with a post front. The original Ruger 22/45’s had a grip which was integral to the grip frame. Current models have replaceable black molded rubber 1911-style grip panels. The factory panels give a very secure comfortable grip, however, should you care to do so it appears 1911 Government Model panels could be modified to fit. The grip frame has a serrated front strap and a checkered backstrap providing a very secure hold.
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index