Sunday, February 12, 2012

REVIEW: Ruger LC9

When the Ruger LCP was announced, there was instant anticipation that led to a buying frenzy that led to huge back orders. The colossal success of the little .380 caused writers, reviewers and bloggers to speculate that a 9mm had to be in the works. It was obvious that if Ruger built a Light Compact 9mm it would become an instant hit and sell like hot cakes, just like the LCP had.

It didn't take a psychic to predict they'd build it, so it wasn't a surprise when Ruger announced the LC9. I read everything I could get my hands on and from what I was reading, it looked like Ruger had build an amazing little firearm.

Luckily for me, my best friend was looking for a new carry gun to replace his KelTec P-3AT and he fell in love with the Ruger LC9. So, it was easy for me to get my hands on one. Today was cold, windy so we took his brand new LC9 to the indoor range at Shooter's Depot to break it in.

This first thing I noticed was how freaking thin the grip is. It's truly mind-blowing how thin Ruger was able to mold the polymer grip. To keep a small pistol with the recoil of a 9mm, you need an aggressively checkered hand hold, like Ruger molded into the LC9. The thinness makes the pistol disappear when worn inside the waistband (to the wearer and others) even when wearing form fitting clothing. I carried the LC9 for a few days and it's the most comfortable 9mm I've ever carried.



At the range, the little pistol shot really well. There are a few minor irritations that I need to address so bear with me and I'll get back to the good stuff really quickly. First, the trigger pull is really long and must be fully released to reset it. It's not a hard pull, just a really long one. The length of reset makes it really hard to keep the pistol on point during shots over 15-feet and during quick fire drills. It's not impossible, it just requires a little more concentration. In reply to this consistent complaint, Galloway Precision built a $60 trigger kit that is supposed to cut trigger travel in half and it doesn't look all that hard to install. Also, I've read that removing the magazine disconnect lightens the trigger pull. See the video in this review to see what I'm talking about.

While I'm at it, Galloway Precision also sells a kit that allows you to replace the loaded chamber indicator with a piece of metal that matches your slide, in essence making it disappear. Personally, I like the indicator, and while big, it's effective. I've left mine on my Ruger SR9. 

My second niggle is that the rough textured grip, that keeps the little gun from squirming around in my hand while shooting, began abrading the skin over the bone at the base of my thumb. I noticed it after just four magazines but it got worse as we kept shooting through 250 rounds.

Lastly, like most all semi-auto pistols, when the magazine is empty it's very difficult to release the slide using the slide release lever. But when the magazine has at least one bullet in it, the slide release is easy to actuate. Not so on the Ruger LC9. Even full of rounds, the slide release is extremely difficult to actuate. This might be due to the stiff newness of the gun but it seemed unusual to me. I'll update this review as time passes. Also, comment below if your experience is different than mine in this respect.

That being said, the gun is built like a tank. Something that's really important for a small gun. Unlike the little Ruger LCP, the sights are useable and spot on. Most importantly, right out of the box the Ruger LC9 never failed once as it ate it's first 250 rounds of Winchester White Box, Federal and Remington ammo.

If you've read my review on the Taurus PT709 Slim, you'd know the it's my concealed carry gun. I love it. So, it was natural for us to compare the two small 9mm pistols that were designed specifically for concealed carry.

Holding the two guns side-by-side, you'll notice that the Ruger feels more solidly built than the Taurus. I have had nothing but perfectly reliable functionality from my 709 Slim, but the LC9 lives up to the solid build reputation that Ruger has earned and feels like a top quality piece of hardware.

A couple other Ruger wins: I've had to buy Pearce magazine extensions, the Ruger comes with both flat and extended base plates. I added a Hogue grip sleeve to increase the texture, the LC9 has plenty of grip. The one nicety that the Taurus has going for it is the trigger pull thing I mentioned earlier.

Both pistols ended up delivering more than acceptable accuracy at defense distances but the Taurus repeatedly gave us tighter groups especially as shot cadence increased. We both took turns testing this at a variety of distances from four to fifteen yards and the results were consistent.

We believe the difference was in the trigger, the fact that the Taurus has had about 800 rounds through it (the Ruger was cleaned only test shot at the factory) and the comfortable Hogue grip I installed (which makes the grip much, much thicker than the LC9 and less concealable). This shooting result surprised me. I truly expected Doug's Ruger to outshoot my Taurus in every test. Needless to say, the pride in my little Brazilian shooter went up a notch but so did my growing admiration for the LC9.

Just for the fun of it, we ran our targets out to 15-yards and shot several magazines to see if we could hit anything at that distance. I did fine at 21-feet, but I don't mind saying that Doug consistently kept his shots on the paper while I was all over the place and even missed the target entirely a couple of times. I've included a photo of his best group at a crazy 45-feet. He took his time, slowly pulled through the long take-up and measured every shot; the results were impressive. Very nice shooting if you ask me.

Personally, I feel that Ruger hit a solid triple with the LC9. The gun is crazy thin, it's built like a Hum-vee and it gobbles cheap ammo without complaint. If the trigger reset was shorter and the slide release easier, I'd call it a home run. Would I bet my life on it? Yep. Do I want one? You know, I kind of do.

UPDATE #1:
We've had the Ruger LC9 at the range several times now and it keeps getting better and better. It's got over 300 rounds through it and has yet to have a single failure of any kind. It's funny how much longer it takes to increase shot counts with a gun that has a seven round magazine compared to one that has a seventeen round magazine.

The Grip Tape WORKS!
Some notes: The long, double action trigger is a non-factor at 5-yards or so, but at 7-yards, accuracy is much lower than on a good, single-action compact nine. At fifteen-feet, Doug continues to produce four-inch groups slow fire and eight-inchers at one-second shot intervals. But at 21-feet, the shots bloom out a lot. We have talked about adding the effects of stress to that distance and his comment was, "I hope my attacker is seven yards or closer."

Every time I shoot the LC9 I can't get over how thin the grip is. It's an engineering masterpiece. But one thing that Doug and I both have issues with is the smooth thumb cutout and smooth upper part of the back strap. As small guns do, the Ruger can wiggle around a bit as you work your way though 8-rounds. So, Doug, ingeniously made a paper pattern then traced it onto a piece of left over Tractiongrips grip tape. It's not a perfect fit, but it's close enough and it really, really helps. If you want a perfect fit, Tractiongrips makes a great looking, percut set for the LC9 that can be bought here (LC9 Tractiongrips).

In my opinion, Ruger needs to checker this area but until they do, I think just about every LC9 owner would benefit from some grip tape.

9 comments:

  1. I enjoyed the review. I am especially interested in the trigger pull after some more break-in on the Ruger. Let me know if you replace the trigger with the Galloway Precision one too.
    Thanks for the great video and photos, nice to see the subtle differences in the firearms you review.

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    1. Have installed the Galloway trigger upgrade and together with removing the mag disconnect safety it makes the trigger pull MUCH better. Highly recommend the Galloway kit.

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  2. Good review. I just purchased this gun today. A local store had it on sale for $320.00
    I just bought the cheapest ammo they had at the time, and I went through the whole box without any issues. The cheap stuff is dirtier, so a cleaning is on order.
    This is my first handgun of any kind, so I guess the long trigger pull didnt bother me to much. Kinda similar to a rifle I have. I set a paper target up about 12 yards away and hit it every time. I saved the last 8 rounds for a rapid fire session and the gun cycled like butter.
    I also agree 100% about the slide button. With this being my 1st ever handgun, I thought I had either broke it, or it was defective. I just pull back very slightly on the slide then hit the button. Im sure with practice I will get better at it.
    Now I have a reason to take the conceal/carry course :) I love this little gun so far, so light and compact. It truly looks and feels like a .380

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  3. Great review helped a lot

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  4. I carry one of these on a daily basis, and it is indeed a fine pistol for close range shots. and I agree with most of your points, save one. The LC9 does not have a slide release in the traditional sense. It is designed so that you must retract the slide back on a new mag, and letting it close forward. That "slide stop" is more or less just a good indication of when the gun empties, to me. but beyond that, most of my carry instructors have always had everyone use the slide itself to reload, not the lever, because you get that little bit of extra forward inertia from racking it back, then releasing. The idea is to make sure the gun goes into battery completely. Wouldn't want to reload only to have a shell half clear the feeding ramp and jam. Especially not if you're being mugged, etc.
    Safe Shooting
    A

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  5. great review ,, the lc9 is my concealed weapon,, and I have worn it for bout 14-18 hours everyday ,, for over a year ..
    the size is great and easy to wear ,,because of where I live, I don't need to wear heavy clothing a lot .. I have worn it in a crossbreed holster ,, in bluejeans tee shirt ,, dress cloths ,, and even shorts and golf shirt(playing golf lol ).. and it has stayed well hidden and not too heavy ..
    like the review ,, I have notice some accuracy issues with distance shooting ..and especially when I do quick draw and rapid fire drills .. and I use a hogue grip too.
    the grip made a lot of difference and allowed me to grip it better ..
    but I still have small problem staying within practical accuracy limits ....
    I have shot about 700 rounds through it now and it has improved over time over all ..
    I would not get rid of it ,, nor stop carrying it ,, Unless I can find a 45cal .. that is similar in size and can do what the ruger does for me ..

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  6. the trigger must be redone on this pistol - with the galloway its a different pull completly..

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  7. I am a female, 5'6", 125 pounds. I got the LCP as my conceal carry weapon & just got my LC9 yesterday. Whoever said the LC9 shoots like a .380 is crazy! I DID put a Hogue grip on my LCP so that way, it's MUCH more comfortable to shoot. I'm at that point with my LC9. I'll be putting the Hogue grip on tonight because boy, does she bite, like the LCP did. I can't compare the 2 but maybe soon! Carry on!

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  8. Just as an fyi... Ruger refers to it as a slide hold, not a slide release. It shouldn't be "actuated" as you referred to it like other guns with slide releases.

    I apologize for the really late response, and this may be information you have discovered by now. Just want future readers who come across this review to understand the function and proper use of Ruger's "slide hold."

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