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My wife is an excellent handgun shooter, naturally gifted. She has competed in various competitions, and has won a few and placed in the top 3 in others. Now I‘m not talking regional or world class stuff, not at all. More like local matches and/or adhoc get togethers with friends. Regardless, she knows her way around a handgun as has been to tactical training classes with me given in the Pacific Northwest. The purpose of me telling you this is because we are searching for the right trail gun for her. We currently live in Washington state, and when I retire in two years we are relocating to Fairbanks, Alaska to be with the kids/grandkids.
I’m well aware of Rugers offerings in this area, but she is very recoil sensitive. I know her well enough to know that a .357 magnum Buffalo Bore 180 hard cast @ 1,400 fps would be too much in an SP-101. However, the 3” SP-101 in .327 magnum might offer a possibility. Buffalo Bore offers a “heavy” load, a flat nose hard cast 130 grain load at 1,300 fps. I would appreciate your thoughts and constructive criticisms. Thanks.


GS
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Ultimately, trail gun for post retirement in the interior of Alaska. Worst case scenario is an aggressive bear, a very large bear. I get that .327 magnum is a bit of a pipsqueak compared to most carried in the wilds of Alaska, but it is probably the most energetic round she can fire with repeatable accuracy.


GS
 

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Probably better to have her shoot the 327 before deciding. If can’t, then a 357 has many ammo options so better chance to optimize the hardiest load that she can tolerate. And a GP100 with Hogue grips helps to absorb recoil.
 

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I have both Ruger GP100’s in .327 FM & .357 magnum. Not much difference in felt recoil shooting magnum loads. Both calibers have advantages with loads. In some loads the .327 will come close in foot pounds of energy. The .327 FM ammo is harder to find and more expensive. But I reload my own ammunition. But I would suggest that you go with a .357 Magnum. You can still get some decent loads with .38 Special + p’s .
 

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Interior brown bears are not that big compared to coastal brown bears, but I would still want something bigger than .357 Magnum for bear protection. The .327 would not even be a consideration IMO. How would you feel about a Glock in 10mm?
 

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I have both Ruger GP100’s in .327 FM & .357 magnum. Not much difference in felt recoil shooting magnum loads. Both calibers have advantages with loads. In some loads the .327 will come close in foot pounds of energy. The .327 FM ammo is harder to find and more expensive. But I reload my own ammunition. But I would suggest that you go with a .357 Magnum. You can still get some decent loads with .38 Special + p’s .
+1
Great advice
 

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If it were me, and I’m no expert, but I’d want my wife to have a gun that would do a lot more than just piss off the bear. Assuming she won’t need to conceal this weapon when walking the trails, get a bigger gun that might have more heft to absorb some of the recoil of a larger round. Short of that, walk with her.
 

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I would suggest that you go with a .357 Magnum. You can still get some decent loads with .38 Special + p’s .
^^^This^^^
 

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I have shot the 327 and the 357 in a Ruger SP-101. I wouldn't put too much stock in the advertising about the 327 having significantly less recoil if we're talking anything resembling a bear load. At the time, all I could find were the standard AE 100 grain factory 327 loads and even with those, recoil was stout and I'm not recoil shy by any means. I later went with the 357 for the sake of more factory load choices, since I couldn't see much of an advantage with the 327. Also replaced the factory SP grips out for the larger Hogue rubber finger grips and that helped with the 357 recoil.

Honestly, though, if we're talking handguns for self-defense against bears, I think the discussion is moot if she's recoil sensitive. This is no place for light loads or even current light recoiling self-defense loads. Those are for human attackers, not bears. I'd recommend some other option.
 

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I've never fired the 327 Federal, nor a SP-101 of any caliber. Neither do I live in bear country.

That said, I had a thought. What about a GP-100 in 44 Special stoked with hardcast bullets? Buffalo bore lists a 255gr hardcast SWC running at 1000fps. If that's too much for her, DoubleTap has a 240gr SWC rated at 920fps. If that's still too much, HSM Cowboy load is a 240gr hardcast SWC bullet at 845fps.

If Mr. Bear is coming my way, I think I'd rather have even that HSM Cowboy load than Buffalo Bore's 130gr 327 Federal running at 1300fps, and it'd probably be an easier shooting firearm to boot, being a heavier revolver operating at lower pressure.

Edit to add: FYI, I'm a huge fan of the .357 Mag. It may be the most versatile revolver round ever invented. I don't own a single .44 gun, and never have. But I'd rather have a big-bore bullet should a big bruin come a-bounding, and it seems to me that a GP-100 in .44 Spcl might be a good compromise between size, weight, recoil and power for someone like your wife.
 

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Gosh yes i'd say large bears start with .44 Mag at a minimum. If she trains with it she'll get the hang of it.
 

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I'm like a dog with a bone on this issue. Or rather, a man with a beer.

Mr. Swiss, your avatar looks like a .357 Mag GP-100. Is that right? If so, how well does your wife shoot it with magnum rounds? With 38 specials?

Coming from another direction, what sort of handgun(s) does she shoot well?

Before my daughter was born and my wife stopped shooting with me, the only reason I was a better shot than her was because I trained more. She was a better natural shooter than me, with my large-frame 9mm at any rate. When she took her first CCL test, the instructor decided that my Taurus PT-92 was "too big" for her small hands (he'd never seen her shoot it, obviously) and had her shoot his Glock 19 instead. Even though she'd never fired a Glock of any sort, she scored 242 out of 250 on the test (passing score was 150).

I decided she needed a smaller gun for her carry weapon, and bought her a Sig P230 in 380. She hated it. The smaller gun seemed to kick harder, even though physics says recoil should be less. I had to coax her to finish the first magazine of ammo, and finally got her to shoot a second mag full through it, but she hasn't touched it since. It's my summer-time carry piece now.

Anyway the point is, I think it's important to strongly consider the form factor of any gun(s) that she's already comfortable with. For example, if she likes shooting your GP-100 with 38 "Specials", sliding her over to the same basic firearm in 44 "Special" might work well. "See, honey? It's 44 Special, like the 38 Special, just six better (44-38 = 6). It's not a magnum."

I'm convinced that recoil sensitivity is largely psychological, assuming no physical limitations. I also believe that muzzle blast often has as much effect on perceived recoil as the actual energy transferred from firearm to person-arm. This is probably why people who shoot 327 Federal often say the recoil is similar to a 357 magnum, even though physics says it should be noticeably less -- the greater muzzle blast adds to the actual recoil so that the perception evens up.

Hence my suspicion that 44 Special at 15,500psi in a 36oz. GP100 will likely be more pleasant for her than a 327 Federal at 45,000psi, or a 357 Magnum at 35,000psi, in a 27oz. SP101.

Start her off with a very light load, like the 200gr HSM Cowboy load (850fps), then once she's shot that for a few weeks or months, move her up to the 240gr HSM Cowboy ("See honey? Same box, just a little heavier bullet."). Depending on how well that goes, you could try the DoubleTap or similar.

I'll go away now. Beer's empty.
 

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Hmmm...we have been on this bear-defense thing for a while.

I don't think I'd feel comfortable with a .38 or .327 against a bear. Against humans? Yes.

She's an experienced handgunner. I'm usually the last to recommend a Semi, but if she's recoil sensitive, a .44 mag might not be the gun. On the other hand a 10mm could be.

I've wondered about the Glock fever on this topic: why not a GP100 in 10mm, carried on the hip? Heavy gun, familiar if you shoot revolvers. If Alaska guides are carrying hot 10 loads, they'd do well out of a wheelgun too.
 

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I own 4 Rugers in .327 and 3 more in .357 and I would not like to take on a bear with any of them. If your the wife is recoil sensitive you mike consider a larger caliber with a ported barrel. The 10mm would not be bad, but think about a 4 5/8 Blackhawk in .45 Colt that has been ported.

I realize it would be more expensive, but isn’t her safety worth it? It would also be a bit louder so hearing protection with practice and who cares how loud it is when confronted by a charging bear.

The Blackhawk is a very tough, reliable, easy to use revolver. It has a fully adjustable rear sight. A hard cast 255 grain bullet in .45 Colt out of a ported barrel should not be to much recoil and should be just the right medicine for bear.
 

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My Wife loves her SP101 in .327fm
It's her DTDC
That and a couple HKS Speedloader and She's GTG

Not sure about the GP100 version, but the SP101 is quite nice
The .327 hit like a ton of bricks too

We added the Hogue Rubber MonoGrip, She feels She gets a nice grip on it

 

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I fired many different types of 357 "bear" loads out of my SP101 2.25" with a rubber hogue finger groove grip. Even the BB 180 Hardcasts are mild. The problem I had with all the loads designed for bear defense from BB, UW, Grizzly and DT, is that one or two cases would stick afterwards and if you needed to reload, it would not be an option... not that you would be guaranteed the opportunity to reload. The BB +P 38 Hardcasts pack a wallop and none ever stuck in the chamber, but that is what I used to carry in my 340 on the east coast and would not consider it in the midwest/northwest.

I would rotate the same loads to my ruger redhawk 8 shot 5.5" to see how each performed and no issues with extraction. In the SP101, all the bear loads had considerably much more power but the recoil never stung... even firing one handed.

If you or her are ok with having just 5 shots of the BB 180 hardcasts, then the SP101 is probably the best but still unacceptable choice with the SP101.

My mother is in her 70s and shoots my Ruger Alaskan... BB 255 gr hardcasts... she hates it but she does ok with it.
 

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GP100 327 Hands down winner

I have several SP101's in 327 federal and both the 3 & 4" guns have quite a snap in the recoil department by My two daughters can handle those guns as CCW revolvers. They both hate the recoil on the 357 out of the same SP101 platform. But when you jump to the GP100 the 327 is a pleasure to shoot and especially of you add a Hogue rubber grip. Both my daughters have taken some nice Florida Hogs with the 327 federal With Double Tap, Buffalo Bore, and I reload 115gr hardcast. In addition the both really enjoy the mild recoil of the GP100 44 Special and it is a great packing gun."
 
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