If you scan magazines and the Internet about the 10mm Auto cartridge and its place in firearms history, you’ll inevitably see references to Jeff Cooper’s role in developing the round as well as the iconic Bren Ten, which was featured in “Miami Vice.” You’ll also see copious mentions of the 1986 FBI shootout in Miami and how that led to the bureau briefly adopting the cartridge for its service pistol. But a less common thread that’s been gaining a little bit of traction lately is using the 10mm in revolvers.
10mm Revolver Showdown: Smith & Wesson Versus Ruger
There’s a dedicated and vocal group of shooters running loose in the wild that enjoy rocking the powerful semi-auto cartridge through old-school six-shooters. Hey, who am I to judge? In response to those fanatics—er, um, I mean fans—Smith & Wesson and Ruger recently introduced wheelguns that should satisfy even the most hardcore of aficionados.
The 610 Returns
To the delight of many, Smith & Wesson reintroduced the venerable Model 610 in 2019 at the behest of consumers. The company’s most recent offerings include variants with 4- and 6.5-inch barrels, and to somewhat compare apples to apples, I selected the 4-inch model for this review.
The 610 utilizes S&W’s large, beefy N-frame, most notable for hosting larger cartridges like the .44 Magnum and .45 Colt. Mostly composed of stainless steel, the 4-inch-barreled 610, with its full underlug and round-butt profile, tipped the scales at a hefty 42.6 ounces unloaded, while the 6.5-inch-barreled version weighs in at a hair over 50 ounces.
Based on its overall build and appearance, the 610 excels as an outdoorsman’s gun. The hand-filling rubber grip is extremely comfortable, though it adds some bulk, and it will hold up to the elements and cold weather quite nicely. Additionally, the checkered hammer spur and smooth trigger shoe are a bit more utilitarian in that they are both wider than those found on the test Ruger. However, that’s not a negative because I really liked the ease of access and operation that came with the wider hammer spur.
A Smooth Smith
The 610 still includes the standard frame-lock safety. It’s located just behind the cylinder release, and two matching keys are included. The revolver also incorporates a white-outlined rear sight that is adjustable for elevation and windage. The front sight is a serrated, ramped blade that is pinned in place, so it’s interchangeable.
The S&W 610 offered a very smooth but heavy trigger pull. The double-action (DA) pull weighed 11.38 pounds on average, while the single-action (SA) pull came in at 4.5 pounds. Overall, the chunky revolver exhibited all of the customary quality I’ve come to expect from Smith & Wesson’s products.
Despite the 10mm’s reputation for power, the Ruger GP100 Match Champion is all about speed. Originally built for the .357 Magnum, the GP100 incorporates a medium-sized stainless steel frame and barrel that are relatively light, with the entire gun coming in at 37 ounces. It’s also fairly easy to carry and conceal while still boasting a hell-for-stout build quality. This is due to the revolver’s triple-locking system, where the cylinder is locked at the front, rear and bottom. The thick, monolithic frame precludes the need for a sideplate, and the gun is highly regarded for its strength.
The Match Champion comes with a 4.2-inch barrel, and upgrades for this specific model include an 11-degree target crown for accuracy, a fiber-optic front sight and a weight-saving half-underlug. Other refinements include a match-tuned and polished action with a centering boss on the trigger and hammer shims. All of this results in an exceptionally smooth trigger pull. According to my digital gauge, the SA pull on my test gun was extra-crisp with a hair of pre-travel, a 3.75-pound break and no overtravel. The buttery DA pull averaged 9.75 pounds with no hint of stacking.
Because of the medium frame size, I was a little surprised when I saw the six chambers in the cylinder. When I first learned of the 10mm GP100 Match Champion, I incorrectly assumed it would only carry five rounds, so that was a nice bonus. If you look closely, you’ll also find that Ruger has lightly chamfered the cylinder holes for reloading ease.
Other appointments included a serrations on the hammer spur and topstrap as well as a fully adjustable rear sight with a white outline. Finishing off the package is a slim, contoured Hogue hardwood grip that is very comfortable and ideal for concealed carry. It sports stippling to ensure a reliable grip, but unlike rubber grips, it won’t catch or hang on clothing during the draw.
I’ll be honest and say that I was a little in the weeds when it came to understanding the need for a 10mm revolver, especially when more powerful options are available for the platform. But that’s the beautiful thing about guns and shooting: You don’t have to need something to want it. One look at my collection will tell you that.
That said, I did enjoy shooting both guns once I got to the range. Each revolver ships with three moon clips for easier loading and unloading (and you’ll really need to use them for .40 S&W rounds). I used some excellent 10mm ammunition for my testing, with loads from Buffalo Bore, Federal, Sig Sauer and Speer. For the get-to-know-you phase, I mainly shot Sig’s 180-grain FMJs, which worked perfectly in both guns and was quite accurate as well.
With the 10mm’s uptick in popularity, both Federal and Speer have recently introduced premium 200-grain defensive loads. The new 200-grain HST load was designed for optimum penetration and expansion without plugging up while passing through intermediate barriers. This translates to nearly 100-percent weight retention for optimal performance. The Speer Gold Dot boasts the company’s Uni-Cor bonding process, which prevents jacket-core separation. According to Speer, the process applies it one molecule at a time. I’m not sure how that works, but that guy must be getting a lot of overtime!
The HST load averaged 1,119 fps from the two revolvers, giving it a slight edge in velocity and energy over the Gold Dot’s 1,038-fps average. Of these two loads, the Ruger shot the best single group of 1.5 inches at 25 yards with the Gold Dots, though that was a bit of a fluke on my part. The Ruger’s average group with the Speer load was about 2.45 inches. Whether it was me or the ammunition, the S&W seemed to prefer the HST offering with an average of 2.85 inches, although another shooter could deliver different results.
Handling the 10mm
There was a significant difference between the two revolvers in terms of handling and felt recoil. As you would expect, the larger mass of the S&W definitely tamed the recoil much better than the Ruger. In the S&W, Sig’s 180-grain FMJs felt like +P .38 Specials fired from a Model 686. The N-Frame even absorbed the recoil from the stiffer defensive loads.
That’s not to say that shooting most of the 10mm rounds from the Ruger was unpleasant, but the recoil was sharper, and I could feel it more at the top of the backstrap. However, the lighter Ruger was nimbler and easier to get on target than the bulkier S&W. And because of its smaller grip circumference, I was able to wrap my hand around it more completely for better control. The GP100’s bright fiber-optic front sight also helped with fast, accurate shots. The black blade on the 610 proved more difficult to pick up and sometimes disappeared on the target.
On the other hand, when I stepped up to the 220-grain hard-cast rounds from Buffalo Bore, I definitely appreciated the 610’s extra-comfy synthetic grip. With the Ruger’s smaller frame, those rounds felt pretty dang stout! As always, the Buffalo Bore rounds were extremely consistent and accurate, allowing me to shoot a 2.25-inch five-shot group off-hand at 20 yards.
While the Smith & Wesson Model 610 and Ruger GP100 Match Champion are similar, they’re quite different 10mm revolvers. The S&W is larger and heavier, making it more suitable for outdoor carry and a better choice for higher-pressure loads. Conversely, the Ruger is sleek and responsive with its tuned action, high-visibility sights and smaller profile, so it’s ideal for match use and even concealed carry.
After spending time with both, I’m starting to understand the allure to a degree. With moon clips, they’re faster to load than a standard revolver, and both deliver a powerful payload suitable for a variety of predators from city to field. Each delivers impressive accuracy and superb reliability while offering best-in-class quality. The decision is fairly simple. As long as you pick the right tool for the job, you won’t go wrong with either one.
Smith & Wesson Model 610 Specs
- Caliber: 10mm
- Barrel: 4 inches
- Overall Length: 9.5 inches
- Overall Weight: 42.6 ounces (empty)
- Grip: Synthetic
- Sights: Front blade, adjustable rear
- Action: DA/SA
- Finish: Stainless
- Overall Capacity: 6
- MSRP: $987
Ruger GP100 Match Champion Specs
- Caliber: 10mm
- Barrel: 4.2 inches
- Overall Length: 9.5 inches
- Overall Weight: 37 ounces (empty)
- Grips: Hogue hardwood
- Sights: Fiber-optic front, adjustable rear
- Action: DA/SA
- Finish: Satin stainless
- Overall Capacity: 6
- MSRP: $969
This article is from the September-October 2020 issue of Combat Handguns magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.