November 17, 2020
Photos by Lukas Lamb
I heard the hype. Another company offering a new product chambering the 5.7x28mm. There hasn’t been a lot; the FN Five-seveN, FN P90/PS90, and a few brands better known for making AR-15s. FN’s pistol, introduced in 1998, is often what we think back to when the cartridge is mentioned, but here comes Ruger with a new handgun that no one asked for.
The patent for the Five-seveN pistol was submitted in 1993, three years after the FN P90 submachine gun and 5.7mm cartridge were introduced. However, the Five-seveN pistol was delayed internationally until 2000. Commercially, the U.S. market didn’t receive the semiautomatic PS90 and Five-seveN until 2004, and by then a number of police agencies and special forces units in other parts of the world were already using variants of them.
Early loads of the 5.7mm round quickly put the cartridge and the partnership between FN and Federal, the exclusive distributor of FN’s private-labeled ammunition, in the media’s crosshairs after the Brady Campaign noticed certain rounds could penetrate Level IIA Kevlar vests. Since, FN only offers 5.7 sporting rounds that won’t pierce armor to civilians such as the SS197R, a conventional jacketed lead-core projectile with polymer tip. Two separate attempts by the Brady Campaign to ban the guns through Congress failed.
I can imagine that Ruger has a new-product-launch calendar on the wall that they don’t tell anyone about. Shortly after FN’s patent on the Five-seveN pistol expired, Ruger released its “57” pistol. To me, it looked average in pictures, but when it arrived at the local gun shop, I was surprised at how large the pistol is. I have large hands and it is a handful. It measures 8¾ inches front to rear and 5½ inches from top to bottom. Even for its size, the Ruger-57 is relatively light. It weighs in at 1 pound, 13 ounces, when given a loaded 20-round magazine.
Someone who has shot a pistol (including the FN Five-seveN) obviously had input on the controls of the new Ruger-57. I was glad to see that when handling the Ruger. Another exciting observation when I removed the 57 from its black box was that there were two 20-round magazines inside. Pretty cool, but I had to think back and remember that the Five-seveN also included an extra 20 rounder. Regardless, 20 rounds trumps 15, 17 rounds, or whatever, so if not having to reload as often is a consideration of yours in planning your self-defense strategy or time at the range, the Ruger-57 has that going for it. (Ruger’s mags are also made of steel and drop free on release.)
On the outside of the Ruger-57, you will find the usual. Ruger’s safe-minded Secure-Action fire-control system features a protected internal hammer resulting in a short-stroke, double-action trigger.
Ambidextrous, extended thumb safety levers are on both sides of the Ruger-57, and it operates as most thumb safeties on a Model 1911. (Up is safe, and down is fire.) As with most 1911s, the safety lever also interrupts the slide and prevents the shooter from pulling the slide to the rear with the safety engaged. I like this feature given that many of us have become used to shooting 1911-type actions.
Speaking of 1911s, the original FN Five-seveN offered familiar handling thanks to sharing an 18-degree grip angle with “Old Slabsides,” and the trait is carried over in the Ruger-57. There isn’t a grip safety, thank goodness, but there is a trigger safety as you would see on many polymer-framed guns these days. The slide-release lever (or slide lock depending on what service school you went to), is also in the right place to allow the shooter to use with their thumb on the safety without interfering with the locking of the slide on the last round in the magazine.
I mentioned that the grip is rather large, measuring a touch over 2 inches front to rear, but the texture on all sides of the grip makes the pistol very controllable. This texture also makes the lower receiver pretty sexy, if you are into beauty.
The front of the triggerguard has a hook at the bottom edge, not really there to serve a purpose in my opinion, but some may like the aesthetics. There is also a full-length rail on the bottom of the dustcover, which is a nice effect for those who would like to add any-size pistol light or laser on the market.
The through-hardened, billet-steel slide assembly is also very slick. The slide is drilled and tapped for easy mounting of optics with separately available optic adapter plates, which can be purchased at shopruger.com.
When you first see the Ruger-57, some might think it was based on a large 1911, but once the takedown lever is pushed out and flipped clockwise, the guts tell a different story. The black-nitride-coated barrel looks dainty, but it’s an alloy steel. When you factor in that it only has to surround a 5.7mm bullet, it is plenty beefy. The barrel doesn’t tilt, and the slide is lightened with an elongated window cut lengthwise behind the front sight. This may offend some of the internet’s tacticians, but I thought the lighter-weight slide was functional and attractive. The slide also sports front and rear cocking serrations as well as bull-nose scallops at the front edge of the slide.
Inside of the trigger mechanism, I found an extremely small hammer that slaps a lightweight firing pin. The sear is neutrally balanced while possessing significant engagement and strong spring tension. This pistol looks and feels much more like a striker gun, but the hammer inside does cock and lock. There’s a hammer catch to help prevent the hammer from contacting the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled. When you use the trigger, it doesn’t cock and fire as you might expect. It’s ready to go more like a single-action pistol that’s already in the fire position, which helps to explain its decent trigger feel.
To take the pistol apart, start by locking the slide to the rear and depressing the button on the right side of the gun, opposite the takedown lever, until it clicks. Ruger recommends using the basepad of the magazine as a tool for this step. Having released the takedown lever on the left side of the gun, it can now be rotated 90 degrees, clockwise. Next, the slide can be released and eased forward until the rear of the slide is off and just forward of the rear rails. At this point, the slide can be lifted up and off of the frame, and the captured spring assembly and barrel can be removed. The process is safe, requiring no trigger pulls, and reassembly is accomplished by reversing the steps.
I expected that I’d be comparing this pistol to a rimfire auto, but there isn’t any relation. The first few rounds from the Ruger-57 told a story of a speed demon that launches Hornady’s 40-grain V-Max rounds at an average of 1,725 feet-per-second (fps). This is no .22 LR.
As I gathered bullet speeds for this report, I started to shoot groups on bullseyes. The pistol wasn’t as accurate as I anticipated, but in the end the accuracy was sufficient with both loads on hand averaging very near 2 inches at 25 yards. The FN-labeled 40-grainers with blue-tipped Hornady V-Max projectiles edged the new Federal 40-grain full metal jacket (FMJ) load in accuracy. The FN load simply added 100 fps with speeds averaging 1,725 fps. (I can’t wait for Speer’s Gold Dot.)
The sights on the Ruger-57 are fully adjustable at the rear. The front sight is a green fiber optic. I really liked the sights, but the green fiber is rather large for a pistol if you intend to shoot it for accuracy. The rear is serrated, and the front is quick to see.
I may have a problem because this pistol speaks “hunting” to me. The Ruger-57 would be medicine for armadillos, badgers and ground hogs. The FN load with the Hornady V-Max bullet traveling at 1,725 fps would simply devastate them.
If you are considering this pistol for self-defense, I’d say that it is a home run in the shootability category. With minimal recoil (less than most 9mm pistols) and great capacity, the Ruger-57 could be a great choice for those reasons. Penetration against two-legged threats may be an issue given the small 40-grain bullets, but 20 rounds of 5.7mm could change the course of violence against you.
The Ruger-57 retails for $799, which may seem steep for a pistol to many, but keep in mind that before it hit the market, the FN Five-seveN it rivals was near $1,400 at the counter. Today, the Five-seveN has been given a price adjustment, but owning that version will still set you back $1,199. The Ruger-57 is well worth $800 in my mind, and it’s backed by Ruger. I look forward to sticking a small red dot on one and seeing how well it would shoot with a finer, crisper aiming point.
Ruger just made another highly desirable firearm for those of us who love to shoot. A Ruger-57 is a must; I don’t know why, but I gotta have one. It’s fun, easy to shoot and offers performance of the 5.7mm. Stand back and watch this.
- Type: Delayed blowback, hammer fired, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 5.7x28mm
- Capacity: 20+1 rds.
- Barrel: 4.94 in., 1:9-in. twist
- Overall Length: 8.65 in.
- Weight: 1 lb., 8.5 oz.
- Grip: Glass-filled nylon, textured
- Finish: Black nitride (steel)
- Trigger: 4 lbs., 5 oz.
- Sights: Fiber optic (front); adjustable notch (rear)
- Safety: Firing pin block; trigger lever; thumb lever
- MSRP: $799
- Manufacturer: Ruger, 336-949-5200, ruger.com
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