Ruger SR9c 9mm: Compact Charisma

By Mark Wynn

Ruger SR9c
Photo by Mark Wynn.

Finding a compact, concealed carry handgun that also can excel in home defense and recreational shooting is getting easier. Pistols such as the Ruger SR9c 9x19mm semi-automatic, the SR9's smaller sibling, are considered by many shooters to be just right in size and performance.

I didn't know that when I started gravitating to this size gun. I didn't pay special attention to the SR9c being named 2010 Handgun of the Year by the Shooting Industry Academy of Excellence. Inclined toward snubnose .38 Special revolvers, I gradually warmed to 9x19mm pistols as I noticed many experts and enthusiasts extolling the SR9c.

What I did know was I wanted a compact carry, reasonably concealable, in about the size and comfy feel of the Walther P22 .22LR semi-auto, but with more punch. Considering revolvers and semi-autos, my criteria gradually evolved to the following:

-          pocketability about a man's Large glove size

-          .38 Special or 9mm

-          barrel about 3 inches

-          capacity 5 to 10 rounds

-          highly visible adjustable sights

-          laser sight that doesn't come on when gripped

-          weight no more than 2 pounds with laser sight, ammo, and holster

-          multiple logical safeties

-          great feel

-          comfortable to shoot all day

-          ultra reliable

-          reasonably accurate

-          easy to clean and maintain

-          medium price

The swirl of contenders finally became a four-digit epiphany: SR9c. To me, the SR9c is a combination of venerable 1911 features with latest polymer concepts. The SR9c finds the niche between handguns too big for concealment and little handguns often unpleasant to shoot and sometimes in marginal defense calibers.

Sharing many dimensions with the SR9, the SR9c can morph from 10-round concealed carry mode into a 17-round handful. Some competitors offer similar features, but the SR9c's slimness makes it especially suitable for concealed carry.

9mm is an excellent compact / concealed carry compromise between bullet oomph and number of cartridges carried. Usual 9mm grain choices are 115, 124 (NATO), or 147; I prefer the latter. The SR9c is rated for +p and +p+, but standard velocities generally suffice.

For example, for being only a half inch longer and a half pound heavier than the Walther P22, the Ruger SR9c can provide ten 9mm 147-grain bullets with 1,110 more grains of impact than ten .22 LR 36-grain bullets. Four .22LR equal one 9mm, so three 9mm equal more than the ten .22LR, and you have seven more 9mm shots left. Quite decent firepower. Compared to a .38 Special snubby with five 158-grain bullets, the SR9c 9mm with ten 147-grain bullets has twice the number of shots and nearly twice the amount of grain throw weight (1,470 to 790).

The SR9c 10-round magazine is wonderfully smooth and contoured so the pinky finger curls comfortably around the gently curved base plate. A pinky finger extension is included, but many shooters won't need it. The gun feels especially good for a man's large glove size, the grip being rock solid with trigger pulled by the second (middle) joint. The rest of the slim doublestack grip is equally inviting, with smooth indentations for thumb and trigger finger and smooth molded checking for second and third fingers.

The way the SR9c nestles in hand, dry firing becomes welcome homework. As the manual advises, “Be certain that the pistol is fully unloaded (both the chamber and magazine are empty) and an empty magazine is inserted to avoid damage to the striker or other components."

Some safety features are points of contention:

-          Some people imply the loaded chamber indicator is too prominent. I think it is just right and a super feature. Who doesn't benefit from an indicator of when a cartridge is in the chamber?

-          Those who complain that the slide does not easily release forward from the lever miss the point that Ruger calls this a slide STOP, not a release, saying the slide should be released by pulling the slide back slightly and letting it go forward. Usually not a problem, except slower in a crisis. 

-          The 1911-type ambidextrous safety is a bit smaller than expected, but still adequate for a compact gun in concealed carry. It provides added security in a pocket, and can easily and intuitively be pressed downward to fire (or simply not used, which probably is not a good idea).

-          The striker status indicator is useful but hard to see and too recessed to easily feel (unlike Springfield XDs' more protruding indicator painted white). I so painted the tip of my SR9c striker indicator which helps considerably, but it still is not tactile enough.

-          The SR9c will not fire unless a magazine is inserted. Like many people, I'm ambivalent about this feature. The magazine disconnect also is touted as a way to prevent the gun from being used against you by releasing the magazine. However, some shooters consider the magazine disconnect superfluous and a problem in some competitions that require dry fire without a magazine inserted. Some Internet sources show exactly how to remove the magazine disconnect. I removed mine, couldn't tell any difference in trigger pull, so I reinstalled it. Ruger and some states want the magazine disconnect in place. If you mess with yours, let me issue the usual disclaimer that whatever you do about this is strictly your own responsibility and none of mine.

Some nit-picky points:

-          The rear sight cannot be drifted unless a screw is loosened with a 5/64 Allen wrench. Got one of those lying around that isn't in a full set? Many manufacturers of equipment needing such isolated particular tools include them, including LaserMax for the micro laser I bought for the SR9c.

-          Fresh from the box the front sight was about 1/16th of an inch too far right, making the SR9c shoot left even at seven yards. In response to query, Ruger provided succinct directions for how to drift the sight. Better yet were several surprisingly detailed explanations on the Internet. However, it is easy to mess this up. Lucked out by finding pro bono gunsmith. Should never have to spend time and money correcting an easily preventable brand new gun error like this.

-          One of the main SR9c lures was all the praise for its trigger, particularly breaking earlier and easier than many competitors'. I cleaned my brand new SR9c as soon as I got it and dry fired it a lot to reduce stiffness, but the trigger didn't seem unusually light except for breaking earlier than some others. My Lyman gauge registered trigger pull as 6 lbs. 11 oz. out of the box and also after 300 rounds. Some reports peg theirs around 5.5 lbs., but I'm not sending mine back to Ruger for what is not a deal breaker.

Update: Via e-mail I asked Ruger what the SR9c trigger pull is supposed to be. Ruger promptly replied, “Factory standard trigger pull specifications for the SR9c are 6 lbs (+/- 1 lb).” Trigger pull change is expected “with additional use.” So my SR9c trigger pull was 5 oz. below max, i.e. 0.9554, and should get lighter eventually. After another 100 rounds and considerable dry firing, my trigger pull is down to 6 lbs. 3 oz.

-          The SR9c uses the same 17-round magazine that fits flush into the larger SR9. Since the longer magazine extends an inch below the SR9c's shorter grip, Ruger offers a black plastic magazine adapter that slides over the magazine and into the space. Except when it doesn't. Since the adapter is not fixed to the bottom of the magazine, it sometimes takes some wiggling to fit. If not snug, the 17-round magazine will not click into place in the SR9c and no shell will be loaded. This happens more often when the slide is forward and you do not want a shell in the chamber, but ready in a loaded magazine. Just an irritant at the range, but for home defense it is best to use the 17-round magazine without the adapter.

Here are the main Ruger SR9c specifications, taken mostly from the Instruction Manual and

-          Model: 3313 (Model 3314 is alloy steel, Nitridox Pro black slide, catalog # BSR9c)

-          Catalog #: KSR9c

-          Finish: stainless steel, brushed stainless finish, black high-performance glass-filled nylon frame

-          Caliber: 9mm Luger (9x19mm, 9mm Parabellum, 9mm NATO)

-          Capacity: 10+1 and 17+1 magazines

-          Barrel length: 3.50”

-          Twist: 1:10 RH

-          Grooves: 6

-          Overall Length: 6.85”

-          Height: 4.61” with 10-round magazine, 5.23” with floorplate finger extension; 5.58” with 17-round magazine with or without magazine adapter

-          Width: 1.27”

-          Weight: 23.40 oz  (with empty 10-round mag)

-          Weight with 10-round mag, 147-gr bullets, micro laser, nylon holster: 2 lbs, 0.2  oz

-          Weight with 17-round mag, 147-gr bullets, micro laser, nylon holster: 2 lbs, 7.2 oz

-          Sights: adjustable high visibility 3-dot (front windage drifting, rear windage and/or elevation by 5/64 allen and screwdriver)

-          Action: improved striker-fired (partially cocked by slide, completed when trigger pulled)

-          Weight of trigger pull: 6 lbs +/- 1 lb.

-          Magazines: one 10-round short (or long with finger extension); one 17-round (with or without magazine adapter)

-          Grip: flat or arched with reversible back strap

-          Rail: integral accessory, short Picatinny

-          Slide: retraction grooves (serrations) front and rear

-          Dryfire: must have unloaded magazine inserted

-          2011 Catalog suggested retail price: $525 (discount prices range from $380 to $480)

-          Safeties: 1911-style ambidextrous manual safety, internal trigger bar interlock and striker blocker, trigger safety, magazine disconnect, visual and tactile loaded chamber indicator

-          Included: instruction manual, gun lock, magazine loader, hard plastic case; accepts most full-sized SR9 accessories and all full-sized SR9 standard magazines

I added some accessories to equip the pistol for my personal preferences. These included a Laser Max UniMax Micro Rail-Mounted Laser for Compact Pistols (0.43 oz) with an ambidextrous on/off switch ($114 from Also, a Butler Creek Black Universal Pistol Loader and Uploader Accessory (UpLULA) ($29 from to ease loading magazines. I purchased a Nylon holster from a gun show for about $20 that fits the SR9c with laser or a Walther P-22 with laser. Finally, I purchased a man's leather travel bag with shoulder strap from a local mall for $33

The SR9c with micro laser fits nicely in the nylon holster I bought at a gun show for my Walther P22 with laser. Gun, laser and holster are about as much as you ever would try to fit in a pocket. The package is more comfortable in a fanny pack or a shoulder bag, including a man's travel bag, i.e., a man purse. You just never know what a guy or gal is packing in those stylish pouches slung over a shoulder.

Disassembly and reassembly are reasonable, as shown in the helpful Ruger SR9c Instruction Manual and in videos on Tools, such as a punch or pencil, are needed to press in the takedown pin, press down the ejector, press out a pin to switch the grip back strap and press in a recessed button to change the magazine base plate to a pinky extension.

I think all compact handguns should be offered with conforming lasers (like the Walther P22's) that have a separate on/off switch, rather than coming on automatically when gripped. The Laser Max UniMax Micro operates like that. Many times I do not want my laser turned on, but I do want it instantly available with the press of my index finger.

My first time at the indoor range with the SR9c was not pleasant. The double recoil spring makes for a hefty slide pull. The front sight was about 1/16 of an inch off to the right, making the gun shoot slightly left even at seven yards. It had to be taken to a gunsmith for drifting it back to the center.

I neglected to bring an UpLULA loader, so loading the magazines quickly became an ordeal. The Ruger loader helped, but I was grateful for the UpLULA at the second range session. In all SR9c shooting, I used an unbraced two-hand grip at seven yards, typical defense posture and distance.

Especially for trifocal wearers, conventional sights beg for laser augmentation. Although the micro laser fades under indoor range spot lights at 20 yards, it is useful at that distance and more in average home lighting.

In the first 150-round session, my best effort was 10 147-grain American Eagle full metal jacket (FMJ) Flat Points within 3.5 inches. In defense situations, torso center of mass is about six inches, or roughly the size of a vertical 8-1/2 x 11-inch sheet of paper.

At the second 150-round session, the LaserMax Uni-Max Micro sometimes made a significant improvement, e.g., my best four shots were within 1-1/4 inches with American Eagle 147-grain FMJ FP (yeah, the fifth shot I pulled). I fired 50 Winchester 115-grain FMJ, 50 American Eagle 147-grain FMJ FP and 50 Speer Lawman 147-grain total metal jacket (TMJ).

Be sure to periodically check that the laser is tightly secured. It has only one screw. Mine fell off on to the shooting table after about 100 rounds because I didn't check it. Glad it didn't happen plinking out at the farm. Being generic, the LaserMax Micro doesn't snuggle against the front of the SR9c trigger guard, so turning it on and off is a bit of a stretch.

As in the first session, second session results again were average: five-shot series three to four inches at seven yards, surprisingly little difference between plastic or laser sights, and no big difference between the three ammo varieties either. Laser advantage was most apparent when twice quickly emptying the 17-round magazine: 6-˝ inches with plastic sights, four inches with laser.

My third session was primarily more handling practice in various situations including strong and weak hand firing, with and without laser. I also validated my primary defense round: Federal Premium 147-grain HST Tactical.

All ammo was digested successfully except for a couple failures to fire (FTF) with 115-grain Winchester FMJ from a 100-round bulk pack at Wal-Mart. The problems were with the ammo, not the gun. My reaction was, “Similar to what happened with Hickok45 in an SR9C episode on YouTube.” However, for practice, it is hard to beat $22.97 for 100 rounds. (Coincidentally, same price as for 100 shotgun shells in 20-gauge or 12-gauge.)

In gun get-acquainted sessions I always test limits such as how light a slide pull will jam the feed. Like most firearms, the SR9c wants decisive handling. A couple induced jams were easy to rectify; subsequent handling and firing have been without incident.

I like the trigger even if it isn't as light as expected. It is easy to quickly pull straight through or slowly edge a bit, then complete the squeeze. Results seem about the same with either technique. The SR9c feels great, is fun to shoot, and seems potent enough for most close range defense situations.

The stiff double recoil slide spring and loading the magazines can be problems for weaker or aging hands. That is what sometimes leads older or younger shooters to revolvers. With a weary left thumb, sometimes I need to hold the SR9c in my left hand and pull the slide back with my right hand. I think I will always have a revolver somewhere close at hand.

For a low-threat suburban environment, the Ruger SR9c is a fine choice if you take the time to get thoroughly acquainted with it, including lots of dry firing. Use the 10-round magazine for home defense, recreational shooting, or concealed carry when needed. Use the 17-round magazine for home defense, recreational shooting, or concealed carry enhanced reload. Whichever, this is a pistol that wants to tag along instead of languishing in a drawer. It can be the gun that is always there when you need it.

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Copyright 2011, 2012 by Mark Wynn and/or All rights reserved.