Magnum Maximization

posted on April 13, 2010

Ruger has redesigned its GP100 and Blackhawk revolvers to accommodate one of the newest, and best-received, revolver cartridges to date: the .327 Federal Mag. At a time when AR-type rifles and compact, semi-automatic handguns are the most popular sellers, you may think Ruger has taken an overzealous step. I don’t. Both the Blackhawk and GP100 have illustrious reputations, and for those who really understand ballistics, the .327 Federal Mag. makes perfect sense.

In 1953 Ruger introduced a little single-action, .22 Long Rifle revolver known as the Single-Six. The gun put Ruger on the map because it shot well and sold even better. It was also the forerunner of the larger Blackhawk; a center-fire single-action that has been chambered in a variety of cartridges. Single-Six and Blackhawk revolvers received an upgrade in 1973, which included a transfer bar safety, and they became known as “New Models.”

In 1984 the Single-Six was chambered for the .32 H&R Mag. I bought one with a 51/2-inch barrel and used it extensively as a trail gun. My affair with the .32 H&R Mag. never ended; I’ve owned several Single-Sixes and even a Marlin 1894 lever gun chambered for it.

Because of Harrington & Richardson’s less-than-robust revolvers, the performance of its .32 H&R Mag. cartridge was actually restrained. That kept maximum operating pressures at less than 21,000 p.s.i., which was somewhat anemic when compared to magnum revolver cartridges, which are loaded to more than 30,000 p.s.i. Even though handloads could boost performance in strong guns, the .32 H&R Mag. never sold with gusto.

Two years ago, when Ruger and Federal teamed up to launch the .327 Federal Mag. in the six-shot SP101, I immediately ordered one. The allure was a compact six-shot, double-action revolver offering terminal ballistics similar to a .357 Mag. Additionally, the revolver would also fire .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long and .32 H&R Mag. ammunition. That SP101 has spent many hours on my hip in an El Paso Saddlery Tom Threepersons holster.

The .327 Federal Mag. is a different animal than the .32 H&R Mag. because it has a longer case and is loaded to a maximum operating pressure of 45,000 p.s.i. The strength of Ruger revolvers is well established, and both the Blackhawk and GP100 are capable of withstanding all the forces of the .327 Federal Mag.

The Blackhawk
To take advantage of the .327 Federal Mag.’s power Ruger is offering an all-stainless, 51/2-inch-barreled version of its single-action Blackhawk revolver. Outwardly, this newest Blackhawk is virtually identical to one in .357 Mag. built on the XR3 RED grip frame with a notable exception. When you swing open the loading gate and start shoving those slender, yet powerful, .327 Federal Mag. cartridges into the cylinder you realize that it will take eight to fill the gun.

If you are familiar with the Blackhawk design, you’ll also notice a difference in the sound and feel of the action when cocking it. This is a product of the eight-shot cylinder. Everything else, to include the fully adjustable rear sight, transfer-bar safety and rosewood stocks is just as it is on other Blackhawks.

For those who like to hunt deer and smaller game with a handgun, a Blackhawk in .357 Mag. has been a popular choice. With good bullets it will work just fine at ranges most shooters are capable of hitting with open sights. This newest Blackhawk in .327 Federal Mag. is just as capable but has the added versatility of firing .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long and .32 H&R Mag. as well.

I’m sure the first question on the minds of single-action aficionados is, “Why didn’t Ruger just chamber the Single-Six for the .327 Federal Mag. since it was already established as a platform for the .32 H&R Mag.?” For one, the overall length of a .327 Federal Mag. cartridge is too great to work in the cylinder of a Single-Six. And it is not, as some have erroneously assumed, a ladies’ gun. The recoil in a 28-ounce SP101 is, to put it mildly, brisk.

Nope, Ruger got it right. The Blackhawk in .327 Federal Mag. is a 48-ounce handgun that balances well and is comfortable to shoot even with full-power loads. The added advantage of the two extra shots is probably not that important for hunting large game, but for small game, particularly while using one of the less potent .32-cal. cartridges, they could come in handy.

Ruger seems to have a knack for knowing what shooters want. The .327 Federal Mag. Blackhawk was a no-brainer, and its SP101 in the same chambering makes for a good, double-action carry gun. The 3-inch barrel, however, is a bit short for duty or hunting.

The GP100
A heavier- and longer-barreled GP100 was logical. The GP100 is the latest evolution of the double-action line of Ruger revolvers. It was introduced in 1986. Soon after, Ruger phased out its Speed Six and Security Six models. The GP100 was intended to appeal to the law enforcement and security officer revolver market. Being chambered in .357 Mag. meant the gun would also fire .38 Spl. standard and +P loads.

Ruger’s newest GP100 has a model designation of KGP-4327-7, which describes the revolver very well. The “K” means it’s manufactured of all-stainless steel while the “4” refers to the 4.2-inch barrel and “327” the chambering. The most unique feature of the revolver is represented by the final character “7” which signifies this latest GP100 holds seven cartridges.

Because the .327 Federal Mag. is slightly smaller in diameter than the .357 Mag., it made prefect sense to drill seven holes instead of six in the GP100’s 1.54-inch-diameter cylinder. A seven-shot GP100 in .327 Federal Mag. weighs exactly the same as a six-shot GP100 in .357 Mag.

Like all GP100s, with the exception of a 3-inch-barreled, fixed-sight version, the seven-shot .327 has a fully adjustable rear sight. The front sight can be easily replaced with various aftermarket tritium or fiber-optic versions. The GP100 I tested had a nice double-action trigger and as good a single-action trigger as I’ve pulled.

Ruger currently catalogs six GP100 revolvers. All, including the newest in .327 Federal Mag., have been upgraded with a much softer, black rubber, Hogue Monogrip. This replaces the rubber, compact grips with walnut insert panels that have become a distinguishing characteristic of the GP100. The new grip is larger and makes the GP100 a bit more difficult to conceal, but the improvement in how the gun feels in-hand and the extra control offered during recoil is worth the trade.

Professionals and civilians looking for a double-action duty, personal protection, hunting or trail revolver will appreciate the ruggedness and value GP100s offer. Now they can have a higher-capacity GP100, similar in power to the .357 Mag. but with added versatility.

So, should you should trade in your .357 Mag. for one of these .327 Federal Mag. revolvers? Nope. But if you’re looking for a powerful and versatile revolver, one of these new Rugers is a good place to start.


WARNING: Technical data and information contained herein are intended to provide information based upon the limited experience of individuals under specific conditions and circumstances. They do not detail the comprehensive training, procedures, techniques and safety precautions that are absolutely necessary to properly carry on similar activity. READ THE NOTICE AND DISCLAIMER ON THE CONTENTS PAGE OF THIS MAGAZINE. ALWAYS CONSULT COMPREHENSIVE REFERENCE MANUALS AND BULLETINS OF PROPER TRAINING REQUIREMENTS, PROCEDURES, TECHNIQUES AND SAFETY PRECAUTIONS BEFORE ATTEMPTING ANY SIMILAR ACTIVITIES.


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