OK, so you’re a big-time firearms manufacturer, and you design and manufacture a wildly popular new firearm. Will everyone be happy? Not a chance. You could make a firearm that brews your customers’ coffee, checks the tire pressure on their trucks and loans them money the day before payday and someone will still want more.”Can you make it smaller? Can you make it bigger? Can you make it in my favorite caliber?” Unless your favorite caliber is the 7mm/.303 Savage Ackley Improved, the answer to all those questions will be “yes.” But not all at once.
When the Ruger SR9 was introduced, I went to the range with a crew of willing volunteers and proceeded to thrash it royally. We put 6,900 rounds through it in one afternoon, and I finished off the rest of the 10,000 rounds of Magtech hardball a few days later. I managed to put some 15,000 rounds through it soon afterward, and the end result was a pile of empty brass, tired shooters and a single malfunction. Which we blamed on the guy wearing heavy gloves to spare his hands from the overheated pistol.
I really expected to see a .40 SR9 as the next model, but Ruger is clearly keeping its ears to the ground. The appeal of a full-size .40 is obvious, but given the number of people who now have a CCW–and who carry on a daily basis–a compact 9mm makes a lot of sense.
Now, shortening a pistol is more involved than just taking a bandsaw to the slide and frame. When you shorten the slide, you decrease the slide movement. This shortens the time the top cartridge has to rise and be properly placed for the trip forward. The shorter slide also means a shorter recoil spring, and you don’t have a whole lot less energy to deal with. The shorter frame, coupled with a shorter magazine, means less spring to lift the top round–be it the first or last in the magazine–into proper position. Back in the early days of custom combat gunsmithing, when there were no factory compact pistols, it took a lot of skill to make a compact model out of a full-size one.
For the designers and engineers at Ruger, I’d bet most of the time was spent in watching slow-motion video of hand-built prototypes cycling, watching the gripping drama of cartridges slowly rising up to the feed lips and empty cases lazily spinning out of the ejection port. OK, joking aside, the modern tools of design and engineering make the process a lot less hit-or-miss than it used to be. But it still takes time to do things right. And Ruger wanted to get it right and not have to see the individual pistols a second time.
But here it is. The Ruger SR9c is readily familiar to anyone who owns the full-size pistol, and as a serious carry piece, it has a lot to recommend it. The slide and barrel have been shortened by seven-tenths of an inch. This is a bit on the long side for a really compact carry pistol, but it does two things First, it provides just a bit more barrel for a bit more muzzle velocity (which in a 9mm is a good thing).
Second, the slide mass and barrel length allow for a bit more give in the cycling dynamics of the shorter barrel/slide combo as compared to an attempted micro-compact. The end result is an increased margin of reliability and a bit more muzzle velocity. As for the length concealed, the slide/barrel part is what is in your holster and is the easiest part of a pistol to keep hidden. Use a good holster and you’re golden.
The slide has all the regular SR9 features–a huge extractor, adjustable three-dot sight, loaded-chamber indicator and one new item forward cocking serrations. Through the years, I’ve been back and forth over them, and I recently realized that I just don’t like ‘em. But a lot of you do, so Ruger put them on the SR9c. They are, however, just as sharp and “edgy” as the original SR9, so if you plan on going to a shooting class where you’ll be racking the slide a hundred times a day, you might want to have a gunsmith knock the edges off the serrations. I have relatively tough hands, but even I’ve noticed the sharp edges on some occasions. In another small change from the SR9 (at least the first-run guns) the loaded-chamber indicator has impressed on the top “loaded when up” as well as red paint on its sides.
Ruger went at the frame more aggressively, cutting just a smidge more than nine-tenths of an inch off the bottom, as the front is bobbed to match the slide and still retains the light-mount rail. The radically shortened frame is another combo of positives. First, it makes the SR9c a lot easier to keep concealed. When you’re packing, the hardest part of a pistol (or revolver) to keep out of sight is the frame or grips. By shortening the frame on the SR9c as much as they did, Ruger reduces the likelihood of your SR9c printing through your jacket, vest or shirt. Combined with the angled edges of the magazine buttplate/mag pad (which allows fabric to slide off), the SR9c should be easily carried. Also, the 10-round magazine holds enough cartridges to be useful without holding so many as to be prohibited in some states.
The mag pad also has two recesses on it to give you purchase should you need to rip the old mag out on a reload. The SR9c has the reversible backstrap and lanyard attachment point of its bigger brother, although the two models’ backstraps are obviously not interchangeable.
Now, while the shorter frame makes it easier to carry the SR9c and keep it concealed, it makes it a bit tougher to shoot. At least for those of us with large or larger hands. I can just barely get my pinkie finger onto the front lip of the mag pad, and it slips off during recoil with the hotter loads. Still, that is a small price to pay for such compactness.
The rest of the frame is the original SR9–the ambidextrous thumb safety, the thin, sculpted thumb grooves, the now-familiar two-part trigger and the ambidextrous magazine release. Right or left, thumb or trigger finger, you have all the options you need to ditch that empty and get a fresh magazine in place.
A Cold Range
The SR9c arrived just in time for the annual Great Lakes Death Freeze. After spending some time looking over the SR9c, I found my range day to be a typical wintry scene–six inches of freshly fallen snow and a thermometer registering a balmy 12 degrees. At least the wind was no more than normal a gentle, continuous, lung-stressing five mph, bringing the wind chill down to a normal 4 degrees. Faced with the typical range weather, I had a choice spend an hour shoveling snow and recover my brass or simply write it off until the spring melt and consider them losses in the futile quest to see if a Ruger pistol malfunctions. After very brief consideration, I wrote off the brass until spring.
Now, while such weather is miserable for shooting groups, it is quite good for seeing if a pistol will malfunction. Between the shivering and the clumsy grip due to the cold, short-stroking is not unheard of. And for an occasional break and entertainment session, one can always toss a now-warm pistol into a snowbank, retire to the clubhouse to warm up a bit and see if it works when you come back and dig it out. My report on that is as follows not as entertaining as you’d think, since once you’re warm, you have to go back out into the cold. And the SR9c obstinately refused to malfunction, regardless.
The shorter barrel–combined with the brisk weather–kept velocities down a bit, plus it made shooting groups difficult. So, if you want a nice little 9mm carry gun, figure that in good weather you can shoot better groups than I did.
The SR9c uses shorter magazines, but the regular-size ones from the SR9 will work (they’ll just stick out a bit). So, if you are planning on carrying the SR9c, you can have 11 rounds in the gun and 17 in each magazine you carry, if you carry full-size magazines. That means, in a gun and “two spares rig,” you’ve got 45 rounds of 9mm. I wouldn’t be surprised–when the SR9c takes off like the full-size SR9 did–if someone offers magazine sleeves to make the SR9c using SR9 magazines look like an SR9 with a shorter barrel and slide (don’t bother; Ruger includes one in the box, as well as a baseplate with a pinkie finger hook on it). And, being a Ruger and thus tougher than a two-dollar steak, you can shoot +P and +P+ ammo through it. I’m not saying you’ll have fun doing so, as the recoil and muzzle blast will definitely be on the snappy side, but the SR9c will in all likelihood stand up to a steady diet of that a lot better than you will.
As for the takedown and controls, everything on the SR9c is normal, normal, normal. If you’ve ever had an SR9 apart, the SR9c won’t be anything new. The frame is still made of glass-filled nylon and impervious to all the solvents you don’t need a moonsuit on to apply. The slide is still through-hardened stainless steel, and the barrel is still the super-tough Ruger-made tube of the SR9–just shorter.
Now, if you have an SR9, should you rush out and buy an SR9c? Well, if you are happy with the size and comfort of carrying your full-size SR9, then no, you need not buy an SR9c. If, however, you’ve found that carrying a full-size pistol is just too much of a hassle, if you’re tired of the longer slide pushing the tang into your kidney, if your jacket rides on the frame and prints, then yes. Buy the SR9c.
So wear your SR9c to the range as you normally would, change in the “Hot Zone” and then shoot the match with your full-size gun. Swap back to the SR9c before you leave, and on the ride home you have the best possible situation You’ve just burnished your skills with the bigger gun while carrying the smaller one for protection. Your skills will be 100 percent transferable.
And if you do not have an SR9 but want a reliable, accurate, dependable 9mm pistol that is compact and easy to carry, as well as easy to shoot? Why, buy a Ruger, of course. A compact Ruger SR9c, with spare mags.
As for the likelihood of Ruger ever chambering anything in 7mm/.303 Savage Ackley Improved?
I wouldn’t bet on it.