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Ruger’s LC9–Powered Up Pocket Protection

by G&A Staff   |  April 12th, 2011 25

LC9: A potent new Addition To The compact polymer concept.

Nine millimeter Parabellum or 9mm Kurz? Here’s how the LC9 compares sizewise with the LCP .380.

 

I’m an old-school kind of guy. Put me in front of a table full of new semiauto pistols of all types, styles and calibers, and the one I’ll likely reach for first is a Government Model 1911 .45. But that doesn’t mean that when I leave the house to make a quick run to the local convenience store for a late-night loaf of bread, a full-size 1911 is the likely gun I’ll tuck in my pocket. No, in that case I’m a lot like everybody else. I’ll reach for something lightweight, compact and unobtrusive, but nonetheless chambered for a cartridge with a little authority. These days, that’s most likely to be a small polymer-frame DAO 9mm.

Ruger’s newly announced LC9 is just such an item. Ruger hasn’t been in the business of producing such guns for very long, and it used to leave the personal defense market pretty much to other manufacturers, except for its full-size P-Series autos. But in 2008 it entered the concealed carry arena with a bang. The game-changer was the Ruger LCP (Lightweight Compact Pistol), an ultra-diminutive, polymer-frame .380 Auto that immediately became a runaway bestseller. The LCP also generated a clamor for even more new products designed for more modern tastes, and the company’s newly instituted Voice of the Customer program lit up with requests for one product in particular. What people seemed to want more than anything else from Ruger was another LCP, only in 9mm. As Ruger’s CEO Mike Fifer puts it, “On the heels of the overwhelming and ongoing success of the LCP, customers repeatedly requested a lightweight, compact 9mm pistol–specifically, an LCP in 9mm.”

Now it’s here. With enhancements.

Controls: The LC9 features a single-sided manual safety, large slide lock, takedown button and external slide lock latch—plus a discreet, yet accessible magazine release button.

A LITTLE BIGGER, A LITTLE BETTER
Designed for discreet concealment, the LC9 can serve either as a primary citizen-carry tool or a full-power backup for off-duty law enforcement officers. In most respects it is simply a slightly larger single-column twin to the .380 LCP. It’s larger because it has to be, both because the 9mm cartridge is slightly longer than the .380 Auto and requires a deeper grip frame and action cycle and because the 9mm’s increased recoil requires more grasping surface (and weight) for controllability. In fact, the only problem I have at all with the tiny .380 LCP is that I have to think very carefully about how I grasp it to ensure it’s well secured in rapid/repeat-fire situations. The somewhat larger LC9 goes naturally into my hand and is a true grab-and-shoot gun. In size it comes about midway between the LCP and the midsize double-column Ruger SR9 Compact (but it’s closer to the LCP).

The LC9 has a 3.1-inch barrel and is only six inches long and 41/2 inches tall, making for a very compact 9mm. With a width of a mere .90 inch, it’s one of the slimmest-profile 9mms on the market. It weighs only 17.1 ounces with an empty magazine.

The glass-filled nylon black polymer grip frame with blued alloy-steel slide and barrel utilizes an aluminum locking block insert. Each gun comes with one seven-round, single-column magazine with a standard flat floorplate for maximum concealability. An interchangeable finger-grip extension floorplate is also provided as an accessory for shooters who prefer a longer grip surface with more hand-to-pistol contact.

I’m one of those shooters, and I find that very little in concealment is given away by the less than half-inch extra surface on the magazine base, while it allows my little finger to actually help hold the pistol.

The dovetailed rear sight is drift adjustable and features a locking set screw. The front blade can be replaced with blades of varying heights for zeroing to a specific load if needed.

Details, Details
Mechanically, the LC9 is a double-action-only, hammer-forged, locked-breech (recoil operated) pistol with a long trigger-pull arc. The semiauto mechanism features dual recoil springs around a nylon guide rod. The sides, front and rear of the grip frame are aggressively checkered for a secure grasp in rapid fire, and the magazine button has just enough height for positive engagement without over-protruding. All edges, surfaces and corners on the LC9 are beveled and rounded (“melted”) for ease of holstering, carrying and drawing.

The LC9’s low-profile three-dot sights are a distinct improvement over the LCP (to my eye) and feature a wide rear aperture for quick and easy alignment. Both front and rear sights are drift adjustable for windage, and the rear sight has a locking setscrew for stability. The dovetail-mounted front sight allows use of different heights for varied ammunition types, although at 50 feet the maximum displacement between POI/POA from popular and common 9mm 115-grain loads to 147-grain loads (including +P) is only about 21/2 inches–hardly enough to matter in an up-close-and-personal attack situation.

Another huge advantage of the LC9 as compared with the LCP (again, this is in my personal view) is the fact that the larger frame dimensions allow the incorporation of a full-size slide lock and external slide-lock latch. I like knowing when my gun has shot to empty, and I also like being able to drop the slide on a fresh magazine with my firing hand.

The dovetailed rear sight is drift adjustable and features a locking set screw. The front blade can be replaced with blades of varying heights for zeroing to a specific load if needed.

 

The LC9 features a  single-sided manual safety and a magazine safety that will not permit the gun to fire when the mag is removed. Another additional safety feature is the loaded-chamber indicator atop the slide for obvious visual and tactile confirmation that the chamber is charged. The LC9’s pivoting external extractor design is also notably more massive and heavy-duty than most extractors on similar-size compact 9mm autos. Again, this is typical of Ruger’s approach to rugged reliability. Even Ruger’s smallest guns are strong.

Type: Recoil-operated hammer-fired double-action only
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Capacity: 7+1
Barrel length: 3.1 in.
Overall length: 6 in.
Weight: 17.1 oz.
Sights: Drift-adjustable dovetailed white dot rear w/lockscrew, white dot front blade
Grips: Integral polymer
Finish: Black polymer frame, blued slide
MSRP: $443
Maker: Sturm, Ruger & Company

 

The long trigger pull on the LC9 (or the LCP) will take a bit of getting used to for anyone accustomed to the shorter strokes found on larger-format polymer DAO designs such as Glock, Springfield XD, S&W M&P, etc., but it’s smooth and relatively light, with a slight end-stack that allows good intuitive control. Pull weight on our review samples was about 61/2 pounds–a lot less than your typical DA revolver. It takes only about a magazine or two to develop a clear sense of where the break point in the letoff will come. As with the .380 LCP, the slide partially pre-cocks the action, and the mechanism does not have repeat-trigger-strike capability.

Shots Fired
I took to the new SR9 much quicker than I expected to. I first got to handle and fire it during a visit to the Ruger factory early last December and was struck by how much more controllable and comfortable to fire it seemed than the slightly smaller and definitely less powerful LCP .380. I was also struck by its practical accuracy.

Ruger’s Mike Fifer and I stood in the indoor range in the final-proof lab, trading shots at test targets 50 yards downrange with a pair of LC9s (yes, that’s 50 yards, not 50 feet), and we had no trouble keeping all our hits inside the body dimensions of the silhouettes (you can watch us do that later this year on “Guns & Ammo Television”).

About a month later I received a pair of review samples and put them through a simple five-load accuracy and ballistic protocol. There was very little velocity loss in ammunition performance going to the 3.1-inch barrel from the factory-standard four-inch test barrels (a testament to today’s propellant technology). And again, I was knocked out by the accuracy.

At a defense distance of 50 feet, the groups’ averages with five different varieties of premium personal defense ammo (115 to 147 grain, including +P) all came in at less than three inches.

At 25 yards (I only fired a few sample groups at the longer range), nothing went over four inches–which is impressive considering that the universal accuracy standard for full-size duty/service law enforcement/military pistols is “4.5 at 25,” and the little LC9 exceeded that handily. Subjective recoil was essentially unnoticed, certainly no more (if as much) as the LCP.

The LC9 is a good piece of work. All those Ruger fans who have been clamoring for a 9mm version of the LCP now have one. And other shooters who may not have been quite convinced yet about the shootability of an ultra-compact DAO 9mm pistol for serious concealed carry defense might need to give this new item a close look.‚ÄÇ

The LC9 comes with a soft case, lock, manual and takedown tool. Additional magazines and accessories are available for purchase at www.ShopRuger.com.

Another safety feature: The LC9 has a “can’t miss it” loaded-chamber indicator atop the slide.

 

Ruger LC9 Performance

Load Bullet Weight (gr.) Average Velocity (fps) Std. Dev. Avg. Group (in.)
Federal FMJ RN 115 1,071 17 2.65
Hornady Critical Defense FTX 115 1,103 15 2.50
MagTech Guardian Gold JSP 124 1,041 18 2.83
Remington Golden Saber +P 124 1,135 21 2.75
Winchester Bonded PDX1 147 965 20 2.88
NOTES: Group sizes given in inches. Groups measured center-to-center. Data is average of three five-round groups fired from sandbag rest at 50 feet. Velocity averaged from five rounds 10 feet from the muzzle.
WARNING: The loads shown here are safe only in the guns for which they were developed. Neither the author nor InterMedia Outdoors, Inc. assumes any liability for accidents or injury resulting from the use or misuse of this data.

Featuring a full-length nylon guide rod and dual recoil springs, the Ruger LC9 strips down quickly and easily for maintenance by punching out a disassembly pin.

More manageability: An interchangeable finger-grip extension floorplate is provided for shooters--such as the author--who prefer a longer grip surface with more hand-to-pistol contact.

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