Now that the warm glow of press releases has worn off the Ruger SP101
.327 Federal Magnum, and message board participants
have wrapped up their dueling spec sheet speculative critique of both
the firearm and cartridge, I thought it would be a good time to
take a look at the combination. Considering that most of the popular
combinations we shoot are well over a hundred years old, a few
months of dwell time should be OK. Be advised, I am writing
this article on a new subcompact netbook. Therefore, any
problems with style, punctuation, or oddly spelled words caused
by the close proximity of adjacent keys should be directed to
the netbook's manufacturer.
The Ruger SP101 in context...
firearms project strong personalities and I believe the compact
falls into this category. Placing it to be photographed, the
reminded me of a short barrel birdshead single action revolver,
a gun that might be carried concealed by a high roller gambler
who didn't want to break the lines of an expensive suit. Or
maybe the look of a gun carried by a popular movie detective of
the 1930's, only in a role revived in 2009. Made with all modern
materials and manufacturing processes, it isn't that the Ruger
looks old, it's more that is looks timeless and purposeful.
In comparison to some of my in-process project guns, the Ruger's
small frame makes for a very compact six shot revolver. It is
much smaller than a Government 1911 45 ACP or a K Frame size .38
Special. In fact, it is not a whole lot larger then a compact
.32 auto. The widest section of the SP101 is the cylinder where
it measures 1.360". By comparison, K Frame size .38 Specials
have a 1.420" cylinder cross section. From a weight standpoint,
the SP101 is a well distributed 1 lb 11 oz. with a 3
1/16" heavy barrel, a thick top
strap and beefy overall frame. The gun is all stainless steel and built
for strength and durability. The cylinder is triple locked;
front, rear and bottom, and the frame has no removable side
plates to diminish its strength. The SP101 in .327 Federal
Magnum chamber is actually 3 oz heavier than the same model in
.357 Magnum - bigger holes in the .357. If I seem to have an
enthusiasm for the Ruger SP101, I am as surprised as you. I am
generally not a revolver guy, but there is just something about
this gun I really enjoy.
The first two shots explained the use of the
At 1,500 fps,
the Federal's 100 grain load has a 380 fps velocity edge over even
an 85 grain .32 H&R Magnum performance load. The .327 Federal
Magnum's 85 grain Hydra-Shok Personal Defense ammo is reduce loaded to
1,400 fps and labeled "Low Recoil". Obviously, in
either case, this is not an anemic cartridge suited only for a gun of last resort.
With nineteen grains of case capacity, and an
operating pressure in the 33,000+ PSI range, the .327 Federal
Magnum operates at
nearly the same pressure level as the 9mm Luger, and has 46%
greater case capacity. (Pictured L-R for form comparison - .327 Federal, 9mm Luger, .38 Special, .357 SIG).
The .327 Federal is unique as a .32
caliber cartridge, so no performance expectations for the .327
Federal can be inferred by that of the .32 ACP or even the .32
H&R Magnum. Performance wise, the Federal round can keep
company with some pretty high performance handgun rounds.
|.327 Federal Magnum
|.32 H&R Magnum
|.38 Special +P
And after the smoke cleared...
I always liked the idea of a
.38 Special or .357 Magnum snub nose revolver, but never
actually enjoyed shooting these guns. With lots of
concentration and focus, I have been able to throw them and
hit very large structures, but I never have been able to
shoot them effectively. In a defensive situation, for me,
they are as much of a threat to an intruder as yelling
"Bang. Bang"...really loud. The SP101 and .327 Federal
Magnum cartridge combination delivers the compact revolver
concept and the element missing from a traditional snub nose
- high velocity and controllability. I believe
"controllability" is a word? But, you know, it is my
keyboard so I'll just declare it a word.
The SP101 is an interesting
gun to shoot. I ran through a couple of boxes of 85 grain
Hydra Shok loads. Rated at 1,400 fps, they tightly averaged
1,463 fps over the chronograph. The recoil is a moderate
slap that appears not to feel worse over time; no sore hands
or wrists, and the gun's report is relatively mild...but you
might want to keep in mind I handload for the .500 Jeffery. The Ruger
even fit well into my very special two handed modified Dennis Weaver, MMA
Kung Fu grip. That surprised me as I have no idea how so
many medium/large size fingers fit around that small grip
without the strong hand pinky dangling in the breeze.
Single action trigger pull measured a crisp 5 lbs
14 oz, double action was an aerobic workout at 10 lbs 11 oz.
The pull felt lighter than it scaled
and even the long double action pull was smooth. Heavy trigger pull didn't hurt accuracy and may
have, in fact, served to steady the gun and encourage a
solid grip. Shooting this gun double action is actually kind
of enjoyable. After several rounds, you know where you can
relax and you know where you need to hold pressure and you can
feel the slick surface contact of moving parts through your finger tip.
Very Zen like.
The SP101 is an excellent
concealed carry and easy to shoot home defense gun. Nothing
complicated, more than enough power and pleasant enough to
shoot to invite practice. The .327 Federal is much easier to
shoot than a short barrel .357 Magnum with full up loads and pretty close to the
.357 Magnum in power. This SP101 would also make a
great intermediate gun for a younger shooter, something to
help them make the transition from .22 autoloader to 44 Magnum.
Ruger distinguishes the .327
Federal SP101 from the 357 Magnum version with a set of
windage adjustable rear sights. This is clearly more than a
poke and shoot gun. The rear sight is
adjustable for windage, but not
elevation, which is unfortunate as elevation adjustment
wouldn't go to waste on this gun. Zeroed at 25 yards,
the 100 grain load drops only 4˝" at 100 yards where it
still traveling faster than a +P .38 Special's
The sights are plain black ramp
front and white outline notched rear, which makes for an
excellent daylight sight picture. Considering the gun's applications, I wish
Ruger would offer fully adjustable Tritium night sights for the .327 Federal
Model, just as they do on many of their excellent center fire autoloaders. When
reaching for a gun in low light, those little green dots make a lot of sense.
For the life of me, I can't figure out why an autoloader and not a revolver
would routinely get them.
I apologize for some of the photography. This is
like photographing and polar bear in a snow storm. The discoloration on the
barrel top isn't permanent. t is the accumulation of gunpowder residue and spray
off gun cleaner. A quick wipe down after a session yielded a pristine firearm
under the grime.
Two handed hold, shooting at
yielded these three groups. For me, a revolver and 10°F
weather, this is very good. The top right and bottom center
are 5/8" the top center is 3/4" and was shot
slowly and deliberately in double action. The SP101 is not
fatiguing to shoot. I stopped when I ran out of ammo, not
when it became unpleasant.
The SP101 does not handle or balance like a gun
with a 3" barrel, it feels like a 4" GP100, steady. If I got tired of the soft
grips, I might be tempted to install a set of exotic wood compact grips from
Hogue. I don't think they would do much functionally, but they would certainly
What I was thinking when I got this
The .327 Federal SP101 began and ended this
0.002" cylinder gap and no extraneous cylinder play. It's latch work...worked,
the cylinder turned freely even after carbon build up on its face, the sights
stayed in place and, of course, there are no exposed frame screws to shoot
loose. The gun will also shoot .32 H&R, .32 S&W and .32 S&W Long cartridges.
.327 Federal Magnum ammunition manufactured by Federal and Speer are priced at $25/50 for American
Eagle soft point ammo and $20/20 for Speer personal defense loads. .32 H&R Magnum
ammunition is more expensive. 32 S&W Long ammo is slightly less than the .327
Federal, with .32 S&W about the same. What is that all mean? If you have
some of this
other ammo on hand you can use it up. If not, your can shoot .327 Federal Magnum
ammo without a cost penalty.
For the handloaders amongst us, and we know who you are
so please sit down and stop waving your hands, .32
H&R Magnum reloading dies work fine. In fact, you won't find dedicated .327 Federal dies
listed. Redding catalogued them initially, but dropped them as redundant to
existing .32 H&R dies. The Federal case (there is a joke in there somewhere) is
1.200" long, the .32 H&R is 1.075" and they share a common case diameter of
0.337". All that is needed is a backing out the sizer die 0.125" for the Federal
round. Bullet diameter is 0.312". Discarding bullets intended for the .32 ACP, there
are probably a couple dozen types available.
I won't jump on the single action revolver and
lever action rifles in .327 Federal Magnum suggestion bandwagon. Yes, I think it would be
nifty to have a single action Ruger in this chamber. I do think, with so much
more power, it would have much greater appeal than the .32 H&R Magnum version
that was discontinued. Yes, I do think a lever gun would be nifty. Both would
fit in well for small game hunting as well as for CAS applications. However, I
also know there are lots of other cartridges that become reasonable for the same
purpose as barrel length and gun weight are increased. I think I will stick with
Federal and Ruger's well thought out ideal defensive handgun accomplishment and
hope for some gunsmith and accessory tweaks to become available in the near
future, just to keep it interesting.
I would be remiss in not saying that if you have an
interest in this firearm, or any others, you might contact
Cindy 207) 655-2183 at the
shop. I'm sure she'd be glad to give you a good price and inexpensive quick delivery
on your next firearm. Nice lady.
Ruger's SP101 327
Federal Magnum Part I
Ruger's SP101 327 Federal
Magnum Part II