Ruger LCRx .22 Magnum Revolver with 3" Barrel
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
Having previously reviewed and liked the Ruger LCRx .38 Special +P Revolver with 3" barrel we wanted to review the latest variation, an LCRx with a three inch, fully shrouded barrel and adjustable sights in .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (.22 WMR, or just ".22 Magnum").
The internal mechanics of all Ruger LCRx revolvers are essentially the same. Models with an "x" suffix have an external hammer that can be thumb cocked for single action shooting; those without the "x" are "double action only" (trigger cocking only) and lack an exposed hammer.
The Ruger LCR design is different from other DA revolvers. At risk of boring those who have read our previous reviews, we will repeat ourselves in order to bring those who have not read those reviews up to speed. (See Ruger LCRx .38 +P Revolver to read our review of the two inch--actually 1.87 inch--barrel LCRx). If you have read it all before, feel free to skip down to "Features."
The LCRx is a true double action revolver, meaning there are two ways to fire the gun. It can be thumb cocked and fired by a short, lighter pull of the trigger (SA), or fired without first cocking the hammer by a long, much heavier, pull of the trigger (DA). This maximizes the revolver's versatility, as it can be fired precisely at longer ranges in single action mode or very quickly at near contact distances in double action mode.
Unlike most DA revolvers, the LCRx does not have a side plate to allow access to its internal parts. Instead, there are three modular sub-assemblies. These are the Frame sub-assembly, Fire Control Housing sub-assembly and Cylinder sub-assembly.
The polymer fire control housing, which includes the grip frame and trigger guard, contains all of the lock work, including the hammer. The mechanism is accessed by removing the fire control housing from the frame sub-assembly.
The LCRx's lock work is loosely based on previous Ruger DA revolver designs, but incorporates several innovative features, including e-nickel Teflon on critical engagement surfaces and a small concave cam surface on the trigger where it interfaces with the hammer sub assembly. The latter is primarily responsible for the revolvers relatively acceptable DA trigger pull.
The barrel, cylinder, crane, front sight blade and most of the internal mechanism are blackened or tumbled stainless steel. The hammer and trigger have been coated to increase their corrosion resistance and improve operating smoothness.
The LCRx features a transfer bar ignition system. This allows the revolver to be safely carried with all chambers loaded. At rest (hammer down), the hammer rests against the frame with the transfer bar lowered well below the firing pin. You could drop the LCRx, hit it with a hammer or throw it from the top of a skyscraper without any danger of accidental discharge. There is no external safety, or any need for one, because DA revolvers are inherently safe.
The LCRx has a wide, comfortable trigger with a smooth surface that minimizes the subjective force required to fire the gun. We measured the single action trigger pull at a clean six pounds, which is the same as the LCRx revolvers previously reviewed. However, there is simply no excuse for the SA trigger pull of any revolver to exceed three pounds.
The double action trigger pull is probably in the 12+ pound region. We could not measure it, because it exceeds the measurement range of our RCBS pull gauge, which only reads up to eight pounds. Like the previous LCR revolvers we have reviewed, the DA trigger pull is heavy, but smooth and stack free.
The hammer spur is smallish in size, but adequate for thumb cocking. It is checkered for a secure grip. Like all Ruger revolvers, the hammer requires more force than it should to thumb cock, because of an overly heavy hammer (main) spring. Why Ruger insists on installing such heavy springs in their handguns is a mystery. They are not needed for reliable function. The hammer draw, DA trigger pull and SA trigger pull all require substantially more effort than they should. Simply changing to lighter spring rates would notably improve the action.
The LCR's monolithic aluminum frame sub-assembly supports the barrel and cylinder. The 1714 stainless steel barrel is threaded into the frame, which surrounds the barrel. The frame itself is treated with a two element, hard-coat finish. This involves a hard-anodized bottom layer and a baked-on surface polymer. The result is an extremely hard surface finish (reportedly Rockwell C60) that is impervious to just about everything, including saltwater. According to the Instruction Manual, this revolutionary new coating gives a hard, slick and abrasion-resistant surface to the aluminum.
The swing-out cylinder is attached to the frame by a crane that pivots around a front torx screw. The cylinder sub-assembly includes the cylinder, crane, cylinder lock pin, star ejector, ejector rod and associated parts. The cylinder is machined from stainless steel. The crane is a stainless steel investment casting. The center lock pin is made from titanium to reduce mass and inertia.
Ruger LCR series revolvers have the most heavily fluted cylinders we have ever seen. Only the back portion of the cylinder, where the locking bolt cuts are, is actually full diameter; it measures 1.283 inches. The entire forward half of the cylinder has been fluted and has a maximum diameter of about 1.230 inches; between chambers, the cylinder is much smaller. This radically fluted cylinder gives the LCR a distinctive look.
The cylinder is held closed at the rear by the cylinder lock pin and at the front of the ejector rod by a titanium spring-loaded latch imbedded in the frame's under lug. To swing out the cylinder for loading or unloading, press the cylinder release button, which is located directly behind the cylinder on the left side of the frame (the usual place on a DA revolver), inward. The cylinder gap of our test gun is tight and uniform. The cylinder revolves counter-clockwise, or out of the frame, which explains the need for the double cylinder latches.
The standard, ambidextrous, Hogue rubber grip is sufficiently long to accommodate all the fingers of our medium size hands. There is a gel insert at the web of the hand to help tame the effect of recoil.
The trigger guard is large, suitable for use when wearing gloves, and the trigger reach is intentionally short enough to be comfortable for those with smaller hands. The grip and trigger relationship worked for our testers.
It is because of the LCR's propensity for high recoil velocity with hard kicking centerfire cartridges that titanium, instead of steel, is used for the LCR's cylinder lock pin and front latch. Titanium reduces the mass and inertia of these parts and helps prevent the cylinder from unlocking at the moment of firing, which is testament to the excessive recoil velocity of very lightweight guns. Fortunately, in .22 WMR rimfire caliber the LCRx is not a hard kicking gun.
The stainless steel barrel insert, hammer and trigger are finished in a natural (dull silvery) color. The other external metal surfaces of the LCRx have a low-reflective black finish. Only the front surface (muzzle) of the barrel insert is polished.
The LCRx features an external hammer that allows it to be fired in single-action mode.
A polymer Fire Control Housing holds all the fire control components in their proper dimensional relationships, reduces weight significantly and helps reduce recoil.
A patented Friction Reducing Cam, the next generation design in fire control systems, has an optimized cam that results in a smooth, non-stacking, DA trigger pull.
The Monolithic Frame supports cylinder and barrel and is made from 7000 series aluminum in the LCRx.
The High-Strength Stainless Steel Cylinder is extensively fluted (reducing weight) and features a PVD finish for excellent durability.
The Grip Peg allows a variety of grip styles to be installed, leaving ample room for recoil cushioning. The Hogue Tamer grip is highly effective at reducing felt recoil.
A fully adjustable rear sight and ramp front sight with white accent line for improved low light visibility.
A soft carrying case is included with the LCRx.
There is a full length, solid rib on top of the barrel and a full length under-lug beneath the barrel. The front sight is a tall ramp type and the rear sight is the fully adjustable type found on other Ruger revolvers. The grip is long and hand filling.
Incidentally, for those desiring a shorter grip, we swapped the full size grip for the short grip from a two inch LCRx and it fit perfectly. Perhaps more to the point for those who want an LCRx for around the clock personal protection, there is also a Crimson Trace LaserGrip (with red or green laser) available.
For carrying concealed, the three inch LCRx requires the same (large) size fanny pack or holster a Colt Diamondback or K-frame S&W needs. It will not fit in the small fanny packs or holsters adequate for an LCRx snubby, S&W Chief's Special or Colt Cobra.
Although lightweight for its size and commendably thin, the three inch LCRx is actually a medium frame revolver and therefore probably not suitable for civilian concealed carry purposes where a sub-compact handgun is required. It should, however, carry easily in a briefcase or purse.
This being the case, we wonder why Ruger did not provide a four inch barrel option for the .22 WMR LCRx, in addition to the three inch tube. A four inch barrel would take better advantage of the high velocity .22 WMR cartridge and we suggest a four inch barrel be offered.
Because it is lightweight, corrosion resistant and comes with fully adjustable sights, we think the .22 WMR LCRx would make an excellent kit gun for the camper, hiker or fisherman. (Especially with a four inch barrel!) A 50 round box of .22 WMR cartridges takes up very little storage space. An LCRx and a box of ammo would not unduly weigh down a creel or day pack.
The .22 WMR LCRx would also make a good personal protection revolver for someone who favors a lightweight gun, but is adverse to the recoil of .38 Special cartridges. The three inch barrel gives substantially improved ballistics, compared to a two inch barrel, and is still short enough to be difficult for an antagonist to grab.
The three inch LCRx comes with a fully adjustable rear sight that is easier to see and far superior to the fixed frame notch that passes for a rear sight on the two inch LCR models and the ramp front sight blade has a white line insert. Together, the two provide a good sight picture. Replacement front sight blades are available.
As usual, we did our test shooting at the Izaak Walton outdoor gun range south of Eugene, Oregon, which offers covered bench rests and 25, 50, 100 and 200 yard target stands. We did our accuracy testing at our usual handgun distance of 25 yards using a padded sandbag on the bench. We fired single action, five shot groups at Hoppe's slow fire pistol targets. The winter weather was clear with a high afternoon air temperature of 51 degrees. Wind was not a factor. Guns and Shooting Online staff members Chuck Hawks, Bob Fleck and Cheryl Coleman participated in the shooting.
For this review we used three .22 Magnum factory loads we had on hand for accuracy testing, all with expanding bullets. These included Hornady 30 grain V-Max, Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 40 grain GDHP and CCI Maxi-Mag 40 grain JHP. In .22 WMR, 30 grain bullets are intended for varmint hunting, while 40 grains is the general purpose, rifle or revolver, .22 Magnum bullet weight.
The Speer Gold Dot Personal Protection load is supposed to be optimized for use in two inch snub-nose revolvers, although in our chronograph testing it actually achieved lower velocity from the two inch barrel of an NAA Black Widow (970 fps) than the standard 40 grain JHP comparison load (1025 fps).
25 Yard Shooting Results and Shooter Comments
This revolver clearly preferred the heavier 40 grain bullets to the light for caliber 30 grain bullets and the best group with the Speer 40 grain Gold Dot load went into one inch. We also did some offhand shooting with the CCI +V load using a 30 grain JHP bullet, but ran short of this ammo and did not include it in our bench rest results. Its accuracy performance was similar to the Hornady 30 grain load above.
This makes sense, as these 30 grain bullets are high velocity rifle loads intended for shooting small varmints. We believe a 40 grain expanding bullet is the best choice for any .22 WMR personal defense revolver.
As you would expect from a Ruger revolver, during our testing there were no malfunctions of any kind. "Six for Sure" cannot be faulted when you absolutely, without fail, must have a "bang" with each pull of the trigger.
The three inch LCRx's superior sights and longer sight radius definitely help when compared to the typical two inch snub-nose revolver. The adjustable Patridge type sights allow accurate aiming and the hammer is low enough that it doesn't interfere with aiming when shooting double action.
However, although the correct windage adjustment was easily achieved with about four clicks, out of the box the gun shot some 13.25 inches high (at 25 yards!) with 40 grain JHP bullets. We ended with the rear sight bottomed out and the gun was still shooting 3.5 inches high at 25 yards. Infuriatingly, it was then about right with the 30 grain loads it did not prefer.
As far as we can see, the sights on this .22 WMR model are the same as the sights on our previously reviewed Ruger LCRx .38 Special +P 3" model, which is likely the problem. The trajectories of the two cartridges are very different, with the .22 WMR being a much flatter shooting number that kicks a lot less. At least for our shooters, the .22 Magnum needs a taller front sight.
We should probably mention that when shooting offhand at short range (10 yards) the point of impact with the rear sight at its lowest setting was about right with 40 grain JHP loads. Apparently, at that range the bullet had not yet climbed above the line of sight.
The six pound SA trigger pull is commendably smooth and clean, but too heavy. Although it feels lighter than it measures, we could have shot tight groups more easily with a three pound trigger pull.
The cylinder clicks snugly in place and opens easily. The cylinder to barrel gap is tight and uniform.
The LCRx's ejector rod is too short to completely remove fired cases from the cylinder. However, if you point the muzzle up as you give the ejector rod a brisk push, most of the fired cases usually drop free, leaving a couple that must be removed with the fingers. Only the nickel plated Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 40 grain GDHP cases usually ejected cleanly.
This short ejector rod is taken directly from the snub-nose version of the LCRx, presumably to save money and simplify parts inventory. However, since the new model's longer barrel would allow for a full length ejector rod, we think Ruger should have provided one.
Aside from the heavy hammer and trigger springs and a too short front sight, none of our shooters found serious fault with the three-inch LCRx .22 Magnum. It kicks much less than a centerfire LCRx and still provides a sufficiently flat trajectory and adequate killing power for most purposes.
The muzzle flash and report of the .22 WMR cartridge fired in a three inch revolver barrel is similar to a centerfire revolver cartridge, but its recoil is much lighter. An adversary under fire from a .22 Magnum will not be thinking, "puny .22 rimfire." You can debate the effectiveness of the .22 Magnum as a defensive cartridge, but in our experience shooters familiar with the terminal performance of the .22 WMR rate the 40 grain JHP loads just below the .32 Magnums and .38 caliber revolver cartridges and ahead of the .25s and standard .32s. It is a wicked little cartridge.
The adjustable sight, three inch barrel, Ruger LCRx in .22 WMR should find favor as a kit gun or for personal protection. It handles well, shoots flat and is accurate. The hand filling grip is a big plus. It doesn't kick much, which allows anyone to shoot more accurately; low recoil is especially important to new or recoil sensitive shooters.
Its lightweight construction, corrosion resistant finish and three inch barrel should give it mass appeal for concealed carry, but its overall size limits potential concealed carry options. Carried in a belt holster, shoulder holster, purse or pack, it should not be a burden.
Note: This review is mirrored on the Product Reviews index page, where reviews of .38 Special +P LCRx revolvers with two inch and three inch barrels can also be found.
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