Ruger LC9s 9x19mm Sub-Compact Pistol

By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff

Ruger LC9s
Illustration courtesy of Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.

Sturm, Ruger & Company (www.ruger.com) is America's largest firearms manufacturer. They started from ground zero with Bill Ruger's .22 auto pistol and grew to their present position as an industry leader within my lifetime, an amazing accomplishment. The late Bill Ruger (senior) was a gentleman and one of the great firearms designers of our time.

Ruger's latest offering in autoloading pistols is the LC9, a sub-compact 9mm pistol with a single stack magazine. Sub-compact nines have become a crowded field, with many manufacturers competing for a share of the growing concealed carry market. Glock, Kahr, Remington, Ruger, SIG, Taurus, Walther and others are now offering sub-compact 9x19mm pistols. Glock and Kahr are long established in this market segment, the others not so much.

From its introduction about two years ago, the Ruger LC9 has made waves and become an instant best seller. Excellent quality and an exceptionally affordable price no doubt play a significant role in the success of the LC9 line.

The latest variation is the LC9s that is the subject of this review. It is striker fired, rather than hammer fired, hence the suffix "s." In terms of specifications the LC9s is virtually identical to the original LC9, the only difference being the LC9s weighs 1/10 ounce more. Everything else is the same, including the price. We will let others debate the merits of striker vs. hammer fired pistols; obviously, both systems work well. Whichever you favor, Ruger now has you covered.

Specifications

  • Model #: 3235
  • Type: Striker fired, sub-compact, autoloading pistol
  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Magazine capacity: 7
  • Barrel length: 3.12 inches
  • Barrel material: Alloy steel
  • Slide material: Through-hardened alloy steel
  • Metal finish: Blued
  • Grip frame: Black glass-filled nylon
  • Sights: Dovetail mounted Patridge 3-dot
  • Length: 6 inches
  • Width: 0.90 inches
  • Height: 4.5 inches
  • Weight: 17.2 ounces (empty)
  • Supplied Accessories: flat and extended magazine floorplates, soft case
  • 2014 MSRP: $449

Chuck Hawks carried the LC9s in the same fanny pack he uses for a Kahr PM9 or Glock 26. The LC9s weighs 20.5 ounces with a full 7-round magazine (124 grain bullets), putting it in-between the PM9 and G26 in loaded weight and Chuck did not find it a burden. The grip is no wider at its widest point than the slide. Because it is thin and flat, it is a comfortable gun to carry concealed.

The LC9s has a lighter and smoother trigger pull than the Glock 26 or Kahr PM9 sub-compact pistols we have owned, releasing at about 4.8 pounds out of the box. That is a bit lighter than a Glock with a target connector installed. However, the little Ruger has a long trigger stroke with plenty of over travel, so it's no target pistol. Regardless, it is a relatively light and manageable trigger pull for this type of gun.

The LC9s comes with a trigger block safety in the form of a blade in the trigger, like a Glock or Savage Accu-Trigger. In addition, there is an internal striker block and a magazine disconnect safety. Finally, there is a manual thumb safety at the left rear of the frame (up is safe and down is fire).

This is safety redundancy run amok. The pistol would be just as safe if the magazine disconnect and manual thumb safeties were eliminated. The latter is completely superfluous, given the automatic trigger and striker block safeties. Fortunately, the manual safety lever is small and can simply be ignored by experienced shooters, which is what we did.

The magazine disconnect is another matter, since it means the gun is out of commission while being reloaded. This is a potentially fatal flaw in a gun fight and the magazine disconnect should be eliminated. It also makes dry firing or releasing the striker for field stripping impossible without a magazine in place.

In recognition of this, the LC9s is supplied with an orange plastic dummy magazine to allow dry firing and operation of the action with the real magazine removed. This works, but it is an unnecessary hassle.

Speaking of magazines, the LC9s comes with only one. All autoloading pistols should be supplied with two magazines.

The Patridge type sights are marked by three white dots and provide an excellent sight picture. Unlike many short barreled pistols, there is adequate space on either side of the front sight when it is aligned in the rear notch. The rear sight is windage adjustable by loosening a T8 Torx set screw and sliding it laterally in its dovetail. The front sight is pinned in place in its dovetail.

Take-down for cleaning is accomplished (after clearing the chamber, removing the magazine and pulling the trigger to drop the striker) by first pushing down the takedown catch. While it can be done with a fingernail, this takes considerable force and you may find it easier to use a small dowl, wooden pencil or something similar to move the takedown catch.

Next, retract the slide about 1/8 inch to align the round notch in the left side of the slide with the takedown pin; use an un-bent paperclip or something similar to push the takedown pin out (to the left) from the right side of the gun. There is a small notch in the right side of the grip frame to make this possible.

Run the slide forward off its rails. The captive recoil spring assembly and (last) the barrel can now be removed from the slide and the pistol cleaned. Reassemble in reverse order.

Field stripping is easier to do than to describe. The only tool actually required is a bent paperclip or something similar. The only small, easily misplaced part is the takedown pin, so don't lose it. We would prefer no tools required and no small parts, but the LC9s is still easy to strip and reassemble, much less hassle and with fewer loose parts than a 1911 pistol, for example.

Accessories available from Ruger include an extended 9-round magazine, magazine speed loader, fire sights, tritium night sights, projected red and green laser sights, flashlight and an assortment of holsters. Notable among these are the Laser sights from Crimson Trace, LaserMax and Viridian. We ordered the relatively inexpensive LaserMax red laser for our LC9s from Amazon.com for a measly $74, a substantial discount from the $129.95 MSRP.

A projected laser dot is a great advantage for quick target acquisition. Red lasers work great indoors, in dim light and even outdoors in daylight at short range. Green lasers give substantially more range in bright light, as in sunlight, at the price of greatly diminished battery life. (One hour for 5mw green lasers and 5 hours for 5mw red lasers with the supplied battery, according to LaserMax.)

We went with a red laser, figuring we could always use the iron sights for longer ranges in bright light. No sub-compact pistol is, in any case, a long range firearm. Incidentally, all of our test shooting for record with the LC9s was done with the supplied open sights; the laser was not mounted during our trip to the range.

Our test fire session with the LC9s was conducted at the Izaak Walton shooting range south of Eugene, Oregon. The summer weather was hot, about 94-degrees F with clear skies and negligible wind. The shooting chores were handled by Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays, Chief Technical Advisor Jim Fleck and Owner/Managing Editor Chuck Hawks.

We had four types of 9mm Luger ammunition on hand. These included Remington/UMC 115 grain MC, Winchester Personal Protection 115 grain JHP, Hornady Critical Duty +P 135 grain FlexLock and Winchester Personal Protection 147 grain JHP.

Many thanks to our friends at Hornady, Remington and Winchester Ammunition for providing ammo for this review. It would not be the same without their support.

As usual, we did our shooting for record at 25 yards from a covered bench rest. A Caldwell sand bag rest was used to stabilize the pistol. We shot at Hoppe's 25 yard slow-fire, bullseye pistol targets, firing five shot groups for record. Here are the results:

  • Remington/UMC 115 grain MC: Smallest group = 2-3/4 in.; Largest group = 4-1/2 in.; Mean average group size = 3.54 in.
  • Winchester 115 grain JHP: Smallest group = 3-3/8 in.; Largest group = 5-1/8 in.; Mean average group size = 4.42 in.
  • Hornady +P 135 grain FlexLock: Smallest group = 3-1/8 in.; Largest group = 5-5/8 in.; Mean average group size = 4.54 in.
  • Winchester 147 grain JHP: Smallest group = 2-3/4 in.; Largest group = 5-1/2 in.; Mean average group size = 4.29 in.

AVERAGE GROUP SIZE FOR ALL LOADS = 4.2 inches

We did all of our test shooting with the flat (not extended) floorplate on the magazine. This is the most concealable configuration and the way we would normally carry the pistol. Thus, the little finger of our shooting hand was necessarily curled beneath the butt, rather than around it. This time out, Chuck shot the smallest single group.

Overall, the accuracy results were about what we expected from a sub-compact 9mm autoloading pistol. The groups were similar to those delivered by our previously reviewed Glock 26 and Kahr PM9 sub-compact test pistols. It is worth noting that the full size Metro Arms Classic II 1911 (.45 ACP) pistol we recently reviewed averaged only one inch smaller groups at 25 yards, despite its full size grip, five inch barrel and much longer sight radius.

Operating the gun's controls, particularly racking the slide, is much easier than with a .380 blowback operated pistol of similar size. Magazines drop free when the release button is pressed.

Chuck liked the LC9s trigger; he regards it superior to both the Glock 26 and Kahr PM9 triggers. (These are all "safe action" type designs.) Rocky and Jim thought LC9s trigger's take-up travel excessive and both had trouble controlling the let-off. Among our three favored sub-compact 9mm pistols, Rocky preferred the PM9 trigger pull and Jim preferred the G26 trigger (with a target connector). Different trigger strokes for different folks (no pun intended).

All three shooters approved of the supplied Patridge sights. They allow a clear sight picture, despite the short sight radius required by a sub-compact pistol. Without adjustment, all three shooters' groups were centered around three inches to the right of the point of aim. We corrected this by loosening the rear sight's Torx screw and sliding the rear sight to the left. This is much easier than tapping the rear sight in its dovetail with a hammer and dowel to make windage corrections!

The recoil with standard pressure loads was judged to be rather mild for a sub-compact 9mm by all three shooters. The recoil was noticeably sharper with the Hornady 135 grain +P load, but still manageable.

We had one failure to feed in the course of our testing, probably attributable to Jim limp-wristing the shot. No other malfunctions were noted. Ejection was positive, with fired cases thrown well away from the pistol.

The magazine holds seven rounds. As with most autoloading pistols, thumb loading the last round into the magazine requires considerable effort, but it can be done.

When carrying any autoloader, we never single load a cartridge into the chamber before inserting a loaded magazine. We cycle the slide after inserting the magazine to load the chamber, so the magazine spring is not quite fully compressed when carrying the pistol day after day. We figure that if you can't solve your problem with seven shots, you probably can't do it with eight, either.

Conclusion

We found the Ruger LC9s to be a well made, reliable, easily carried and acceptably accurate sub-compact pistol. Certainly the price is right.

The current generation of lightweight 9x19mm sub-compact pistols, including the LC9s, are about the same size as most .380 ACP caliber sub-compact pistols and fire a more potent cartridge. Because the 9x19's are typically recoil operated and the .380's are typically blow-back operated, the 9's are easier to rack and kick very little more. Cartridge capacity is usually identical for .380 and 9x19mm pistols of the same size.

This calls into question the desirability of .380 sub-compact pistols for most concealed carry and personal defense purposes. If a 9x19mm pistol of the same approximate size, weight and quality can be had at a reasonable price, it is clearly a better choice.

Enter the Ruger LC9s. At a 2014 MSRP of only $449, it is an obvious choice. In quality and performance it sacrifices nothing to the substantially more expensive sub-compact nines (and .380s) we have tested. It is, after all, a Ruger, designed and made in the USA, so we expected nothing less.




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