I have a thing for revolvers. I primarily carry a striker-fired double-stack 9mm handgun as I like having the capabilities of such a weapon when roaming a world so infested with evil. However, I spend considerable time shooting and carrying revolvers as well. The reason is two-fold. First, there is a practicality issue: when I need to dress in certain ways that do not lend well to concealing a gun, like tucked in shirts, the small revolver hides better for me than an auto loader due to its shape, so when I need deep concealment I carry a revolver. Second, however, I just like shooting revolvers. I think it is the traditionalist in me. I am a modernized polymer pistol guy, so running a wheel gun at certain times just seems right.
While I like revolvers in general, it is the small-frame snubs that I truly love due to their practicality for carry in less-permissive environments. For myself this class of revolver alone offers real-world use. The problem, however, is that small revolvers are particularly difficult and often unpleasant to shoot. Medium frame revolvers like the Smith and Wesson K or L Frame guns shoot great but they are much more difficult to carry and conceal. One of these larger revolvers weighs in well over 30 ounces and proves quite large. For less weight and the same (if not smaller) footprint you can carry a modern striker fired service pistol with 3 times the ammunition capacity. Therefore, while I like to shoot them, medium frame revolvers offer little in practicality for me. Small frame revolvers, however, conceal like nothing else.
There is one revolver, however, that offers small-frame concealment but also shooting performance close to a medium frame gun and that is the Ruger SP101. Because of this excellent performance in such a small package the SP101 is hands down my favorite revolver. The factory trigger sucks big time, which all small guns in this class seem to have in common (except for the Ruger LCR) but with a little work it is greatly improved. Within 20 minutes I was able to change the hammer spring and the trigger return spring to lighter weight Wolff springs. Now it has a better trigger than my LCR. I think the factory uses excessively heavy springs to ensure good functioning and primer ignition, but the gun is rock solid even with the lite aftermarket springs and is much, much more shoot-able.
There is one potential disadvantage to this gun compared to others in the class: it is heavy. It is this weight, however, that makes it so nice to shoot. So, if you like to pack the lightest gun possible look elsewhere. If you carry a snub on the belt and want the best shooting small-frame revolver, this is the one. This thing shoots almost as well as a Smith and Wesson K Frame yet disappears in the waistband almost as well as a J Frame. Best of both worlds? Almost.
I carry this gun in a belly band when I need deep concealment and in this carry mode the weight does not matter to me. A lot of guys carry their snub in their pocket and I can tell you that this gun is quite heavy for that application. But for belly band or belt carry this is a great gun.
The shoot-ability of the SP101 is dramatically better than light-weight snubs because with a revolver you take all of the recoil impulse in the hand. A light-weight gun like the standard Ruger LCR, which is only 13 ounces, is much more brutal to shoot than the 25 ounce SP101. Simple physics. Shooting only 38 loads is no problem at all for extended periods and even hot +P carry loads handle quite easily. I don’t use 357 Magnums as this would be brutal even through this heavy snub, but obviously it would handle it much better than a light weight.
The SP101 is built like a little tank. It is robust and should handle a lifetime of shooting, especially shooting only 38 loads, with no problem. While I like my Ruger LCR, which is unbeatable as a pocket revolver due to the scant weight, this SP101 is now my primary snubby. While 25 oz is heavy for a weapon of this class it is still not that heavy for a carry gun. It is slightly heavier than my primary carry, a Glock 26, but it provides the smaller profile due to the revolver roundness and grip angle. The Glock provides twice the onboard firepower and a faster reload, but it is harder to conceal under tucked-in formal clothing and on such occasions I carry the snub. However, compared to the 36 oz Colt 1911 that I carried for many years either option feels quite lite! If you want an all-steel snub for carry the SP101 may be just the ticket.