Review: Ruger LC9 (He said/She Said)
Last Updated: 9/14/2011
He Said / She Said
By Tara Dixon Engel and Mike Jackson
We keep seeing the phrase “what's not to like?” regarding the Ruger LC9. If you're looking for a concealable mouse gun that also packs some fire power, this could be one of your better choices... depending on what you expect from your pocket pistol. With a barrel length of 3.12 inches, an overall length of 6 inches and a width of .9 inches, it outbulks Ruger's sub-compact .380 LCP, but not by a whole heckuva lot. And, at 17 ounces, it's not going to tear the lining out of your pocket or sag beneath your waistband. It comes in the color for all seasons – basic black – and, for those who concern themselves with such things, it has very smooth, flowing lines. But, above and beyond the aesthetics of nice contours, there are almost no hard edges to snag as you draw it from a pocket or waistband holster. And the smooth styling offers the extra bonus of reducing visibility beneath fabric. A blockier frame may stand out when clothing is pulled too snugly, while the LC9's gentle curves could easily be mistaken for just another roll of “too much pie.”
But we weren't out on the range in the mid-afternoon sun to admire the LC9's aesthetics. We wanted to see how it fired. The idea of having a 9 mm that offers both power and concealability is appealing to anyone who totes a gun for personal protection. While we preach the wisdom of carrying something you can practice with and shoot competently, we also know that it needs to be the highest caliber you are comfortable with. A 9 mm has a better shot (pun intended) at stopping a determined bad guy than does any .22 we know of, or even one of the “mini me” .380s that are so popular.
So we hoisted the much-lauded hammer-fired locked-breech single-stack compact toward our target with high expectations, most of which were met.
Accuracy And Recoil
I wasn't overly impressed by the muzzle flip on this sleek little package. It packs a pretty decent kick, even by the standards of most comparable mini 9's. Still, I couldn't argue with the results – every shot hit the target within a three-inch radius of the bullseye. The accuracy of the LC9 was as startling as the recoil, and, in the end, you can learn to adapt to and prepare for the recoil. Since I shoot a .45 fairly regularly (and spent some time firing 50 cal. machine guns across the Vietnamese landscape back in the day), I am not aversed to a little kick. With the LC9, you just have to remind yourself that it's a small gun with a big punch – and prepare your hands and stance accordingly.
I didn't like this gun initially, but I have recommended it multiple times since. Why? For the exact reasons that “he” has already outlined. I was not happy with the kick, but I was tickled pink with by the accuracy. I'd like to give all the credit to my eagle eye and my steady hand, but I know better. The LC9 put the bullet right where I pointed the muzzle every single time, and that, in the end, is what I expect of any gun. But guys, this is not what you buy for your wife or girlfriend if she has never fired a gun before. The biggest pistol I've ever shot – a .50 cal. revolver – rattled me less than the little LC9. Admittedly, I was prepared for a .50 cal. to knock me on my tush. With the LC9 I made that typical “girly” error of assuming that a teacup Terrier can't bite as hard as a German Shepherd.
Once again, I ask the question: what do you intend to do with the gun...and do you want to become truly proficient with it? This is not the gun for someone with arthritic hands who is looking for a piece that can do double duty as a self-defense weapon and a range gun. The beauty of the LC9 is it offers better accuracy than the shorter-muzzled “gut guns” and it's cheaper to shoot than a .380. Personally, I wouldn't care to spend the afternoon putting 150 rounds through this particular model. Then again, I just happen to have the aforementioned arthritic hands, along with a bunch of other arthritic parts that would talk to me if I jarred them too much.
If you're a strapping 26-year-old guy (or gal) who can comfortably absorb of bit of recoil, this may very well be the perfect concealed carry gun for you. But you need to use it enough that you're not intimidated by the kick. Make friends with it and this little gun could save your life.
One important point: we experimented with 124 grain and 115 grain bullets, not expecting to see much difference. Two weeks earlier we'd put 100 rounds of each through a Kahr PM9 and a Kimber Solo and noticed no discernable difference. Not so with the LC9. We mixed up the rounds on each other and were able to tell which ammo we were shooting 100% of the time. The 115 grain really did provide a more gentle backlash. For proficiency shooting, go with the low grain bullet and you will have a much more pleasant experience.
The longer, double-action trigger pull and the stout recoil were not as disconcerting as the constant pinching of my finger between the trigger and trigger guard. I thought maybe it was a function of having long delicate lady fingers...but “he” – with his chunky ol' man hands – had exactly the same problem. After firing about 15 rounds, I was ready to abandon ship. I whined that my fingertip was about to pop open. However, after a few condescending looks from “he,” I decided to suck it up and shoot like a man.
Despite making fun of her discomfort, I experienced exactly the same problem. While I don't have sausage fingers, they aren't exactly delicate either. Somehow, both of us kept getting our index fingers wedged under the trigger by the force of the recoil. However, if I was planning to purchase this gun, I wouldn't let that stop me; I'd just make a mental note to have a gunsmith reshape the trigger guard to eliminate the problem. We talked to a number of other LC9 shooters and no one else has encountered this issue, so it appears that we share peculiarly shaped fingers or a common twitch that leads to this particular phenomenon. Additionally, the fact that it was a hot day and we were shooting in full sun might have prompted our perspiring fingers to slide down the trigger in mid-pull and ride the trigger guard.
Gotta agree with him (and I really hate that). After talking to others who have fired the LC9, we could not find a single person who shared our finger-pinching experience. A friend of ours showed how he had modified his Kahr PM9 triggerguard to eliminate a similar problem. This satisfied us that: a). we are peculiar (which we already knew); and, b). that such peculiarity could be overcome by the right gunsmithing tools. Would I buy an LC9 for my own use? I haven't decided yet, although I still gaze admiringly at the gaping hole where a bullseye once sat on my target (see photo). If I can get that result at 25 feet, I can be reasonably sure of hitting where I am pointing in closer quarters.
Ergonomics, Sights, And Safety
The ergonomics of the gun were pretty decent: a pinky extension on the magazine made it easier for my larger hands to effectively grasp the grip. On the smaller .380s that awkward grip is a big issue for anyone with man-hands. The three-dot sights with an adjustable back and fixed front were vivid and easy to use. From a safety standpoint, I am a big proponent of not having to guess when there's one in the chamber, so I was very pleased to see a highly visible loaded chamber indicator (LCI). I was also perfectly happy with the frame-mounted safety, which several reviewers have criticized, given the profoundly long trigger pull. I dunno; call me overly cautious but I'd just rather have a little extra security, if a gun is going to be bouncing around in my pocket. Structurally, this is a nice little gun and I would not hesitate to recommend it. Pricing out at $369.99 (if you buy it here at Olde English), it's cheaper than my preferred compact 9, the Kahr PM9, and more portable than my favorite range gun, the Springfield XDM 9 mm.
As much as I griped about pinched fingers and substantial recoil, when I weighed the individual elements of this gun, I could not dismiss it. “It's not a target gun,” I repeated to myself, “it's a self defense weapon.” To illustrate the point: In my girly-girl persona, I would never dream of attending a formal event shouldering a massive strap purse, jam-packed with all the female essentials. No, I would carry something small, convenient, and suitable to my immediate needs. Well, duh. The LC9 is the firearms equivalent of a bejeweled clutch purse: it may not offer all the conveniences of a full-sized model, but it amply serves a specific purpose -- and it does so with style.
This is undeniably a snazzy little concealed carry gun. It would be nice if Ruger also included an extra magazine, and we weren't crazy about having to use a tool to pop out the take-down pin (although we have been told that if you manuever the slide into place properly, the pin can be tapped out.) We were also unprepared for the finger pinching and the irksome recoil, but we can't argue with concealability, accuracy, and the overall dependability of the Ruger brand. In the end, it's not a bad gun by anyone's standards, it just lacked some of the necessary “old folks elements” (that means anyone over 40, by the way). But for sturdy old folks and for young 'uns in search of a pocket pistol that packs a wallop, the LC9 could be the perfect match.
(Mike Jackson is a retired Air Force command pilot and Vietnam veteran. Tara Dixon Engel is a veterans' advocate and gun enthusiast. The two have authored three books and are certified NRA pistol, rifle and shotgun instructors.)
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|Excellent post. Thanks.
Submitted by application icon - 10/1/2011