I like the look and feel of double action revolvers… Maybe because they wear more of their mechanical design and function on the outside. Double action revolvers are simple to shoot, even within stressful circumstances; no thumb safeties, no slide releases, no decocking levers.. just point at a target and squeeze the trigger. Still, some revolvers are better than others.
Ruger’s Match Champion 357 Magnum is one of those guns that makes you put on a clean shirt and jeans before going to the range. The kind of gun that makes you practice to be worthy of its barrel inscription. It is a very clean looking revolver, a very precisely assembled revolver, a revolver that is made to shoot frequently.
A proven base to build upon
While the Match Champion is a GP 100, and shares a core design with other GP 100 models, it has been finessed in many ways to make it optimal for competitive shooting in classes such as IDPA’s Stock and Enhanced Service Revolver. It is a six shooter. There is no point carrying the weight of a 7 or 8 shot revolver when the rules are fixed at 6 in a cylinder maximum. There is no point having a barrel length greater than 4.2″ when that is the maximum length permissible. The Match Champion’s 357 Mag / 38 Special capability suits competition and at a full 10 oz under the maximum weight.
The Match Champion has a unique configuration within the GP family line up. The flat top strap of the non adjustable sight GP100 frame is utilized, but rather than having a groove for a rear sight, the frame is notched and fitted with a Novak rear low profile rear sight. The front sight is a dovetail mounted, bright green, fiber optic front which conforms to the IDPA Notch and Post sight requirements. the striated barrel rib reduces glare.
The angular contours of the Match Champion have been softened in comparison to the standard Ruger GP100 . The new revolver’s half lug barrel is slab sided finished with an 11º target crown. The forward area the cylinder is formed to ease re-holstering, the barrel rib has been side beveled, its sides softened in form.
The Hogue custom hardwood grip geometry is the same for both standard and Match Champion GP 100 revolvers. After staring at the two for some time and thinking they were different, I just traced the outlines and found the removal of finger grooves represented the only difference. Backstrap and all other curvature is the same. The grips are cut to facilitate the use of speed loaders.
Double action trigger pull… always and exciting adventure
The Match Champion trigger pull checked 10 lbs double action and 4 lbs 6 oz. single action. By comparison, my personal GP100, with a good deal of hand finishing, checks 7 lbs 7 oz double action and 3 lbs 5 oz single action… which is considered, by some, as too light for reliable ignition. The Match Champion’s trigger pull, while slightly heavier, is smooth and more consistent right out of the box than my finessed personal GP 100.
Ruger’s handling of the Match Champion’s trigger assembly is significant. All of the internal fire control parts are held to tight tolerances and all contact surfaces are highly polished, right through to the hammer strut and hammer strut mainspring. A centering boss has been added to the trigger and the hammer is center shimmed to assure associated pieces remain in precise alignment.
On shooting in 7ºF weather…
With 14″ of snow forecasted, and temps staying in single digits, I packed up the new Match Champion and a chronograph and headed for the woods… in residual snow… where even animals could not be found. Once I began shooting the GP100 Match Champion, I could barely put it down. Partially because of my enthusiasm for this slick revolver and partially because it was quick frozen to the palm of my ungloved shooting hand… which I believe may have even improved my grip.
Two types of ammo we shot; PMC Bronze158 grain JSP 357 Magnum and Winchester 130 grain FMJ Target 38 Special. The PMC ammo, from the 4.20″ Match Champion barrel, registered 1,144 fps of muzzle velocity, 786 fps for the Winchester 38 Special Target loads. At 37 ounces, 2 ounces less than the standard GP100 counterpart, the Match Champion is neither a lightweight or a heavyweight. There is enough heft to soften 357 Magnum shooting and enough to make 38 Special recoil barely noticeable.
Shooting from 10 yards, the distance to the farthest tree stump I was willing to trek to in the snow, slow fire and two hand hold… with tree branch leaning support, yielded 1.0″ to 1.5″ three shot groups with 38 Special ammo. 357 Magnum ammo opened up to 2.0″. For those interested in the conversion of these results to Internet message board reported groups, that would be 1/4″ and 1/2″ respectively.
I did load the GP100 Match Champion with 38 Special Target loads, then went all Edward McGivern on the target and put six in a 6″ circle, which is a tribute to the soft shooting target ammo and a very manageable revolver. Actually, it was more like Billy McGivern, Edward’s lesser known and somewhat slower brother. I did try the same with 357 Magnum ammo, which once again proved a quick flicking trigger finger, alone, does not an Edward, or Billy, McGivern make.
Slick, spiffy, nifty… and possibly snazzy
Ruger GP100 Match Champion
||Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc.
||Fiber Optic/Novak Low Profile
|Trigger Pull DA/SA
||10 lbs./4.5 lbs
OK, so the Match Champion is how I would want my GP100 to look, feel and shoot. It is sculptured and well balanced, good looking and well behaved. It even goes “click-thunk-smack” more precisely than my worked over standard model GP100.
Compete in IDPA, don’t compete in IDPA, this is still a terrific firearm to own for the range, field carry or for self defense. For me, the changes to the fire control parts are enough to warrant an upgrade from my standard GP100 as there are some things I could not duplicate finessing the basic GP100.
I think we will go one step further and try the Ruger GP100 Match Champion with a variety of factory ammo and with some carefully assembled handloads just to see what kind of accuracy we can wring out of this combination.
For further information on the GP100 Match competition, stop in at the Ruger’s site.