Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ruger LCP... a no-excuses, back-up plan

There has been a lot of debate over the years about which caliber or cartridge is best for self-defense, but Jeff Cooper's first rule of gun fighting has never changed: "Have a gun."  According to John Lott, the author or "More Guns, Less Crime" and many other articles and books, his research indicates that on average only a couple of percent of the population who can get a concealed carry permit do so and then only a very small percentage of that small percent with permits carry daily. 

While there are many reasons folks don't carry their gun every day, one of several reasons I have found in talking with family, friends, and students is that the gun is just a lot of weight and bulk to carry and conceal every day... especially on hot, summer days when you don't feel like wearing clothing that makes for easy concealment of a gun.  I would suggest that a quality "pocket pistol" like the Ruger LCP shoots a lot of holes in that excuse.

While many folks consider the 9mm or .38 Special as the minimum caliber for self-defense, I would say that modern .380 ACP cartridges offer at least a minimum level of ballistic punch that most two-legged varmints wouldn't want to tangle with.  The Ruger LCP offers six-plus-one rounds of .380 ACP capacity in a package that is smaller than my wallet on payday, and that is pretty small.

The trigger is double-action only with a long, but smooth and fairly easy trigger pull.  The magazine release button is easy to access and index, and there is a manually activated slide stop, but it doesn't hold the slide open after the last shot so you will have to cycle the action with a quick overhand as part of reloading the pistol.  While the pistol is small, it uses a stiffer spring for recoil management, so some folks with arthritis or weaker hands may find grabbing the slide to cycle the action a bit more difficult than a larger pistol.

For those with larger hands, the Ruger LCP comes with two floor plates for it's magazine.  One floor plate is flat while the other is extended and allows me to get my index finger on the trigger and two fingers fully on the grip, but poor Mr. Pinky still has to dangle in the wind.

Take-down for cleaning and maintenance is easy.  First, always make sure the gun is unloaded and there is no ammunition around.  Then you simply lock the slide back, remove the pin from the left side, slide the slide forward off the metal rails in the polymer frame, and then take out the guide rod/spring and barrel.  Reassembly is just as easy.

Now any review or discussion of the Ruger LCP would probably not be complete without also taking a look at the Kel-Tec 3AT.  Some folks argue that the Ruger LCP is just a copy of the Kel-Tec 3AT and while they are very similar, the overall design of a semi-automatic, locked breech, double action pistol is nothing new.  Additionally, in my view as an owner of both pistols, the Ruger LCP is what the Kel-Tec 3AT should have been with a slide stop, a titanium firing pin, a better extractor, and a much higher quality of fit and finish.

My wife bought me our Kel-Tec 3AT as a present a few years ago.  I couldn't get through a six-round magazine without two or more malfunctions.  I called Kel-Tec and the technician said I should run at least a two-hundred rounds through the gun so the parts have time to "wear in".  After two-hundred-plus rounds, it wasn't much better.  On the second call to Kel-Tec, the technician said I could send it in, but there was a seven to ten week turn-around time due to a backlog of work needing done.  He suggested, if I was comfortable, to use some 1,000-grit sand paper to polish the feedramp and clean up the grooves where the slide rides on the rails.  

I do a fair bit of amateur gunsmithing, so I gave the little Kel-Tec an internal "fluff and buff" and I had much better results, but with over a thousand rounds through that gun, it's still only mostly reliable with FMJ "ball" ammo so I may send it back to Kel-Tec yet.  I've shot several of these Kel-Tec 3AT's and have several friends that have owned this model with similar results, but two friends say Kel-Tec has been good with fixing most issues through their service department.

The Ruger LCP (lower in photo) on the other hand came out of the box and has given the gals and me no problems whatsoever.  For us, the fit and finish, along with the ergonomics, is better then the Kel-Tec 3AT while both guns are pretty accurate, even with their diminutive sights and "snappy" recoil.  I have no trouble putting seven rounds from the LCP into a six-inch Shoot'n-See target at ten yards off-hand, although this gun is best suited for up-close, self-defense work.  Our two little LCP's reliably feed FMJ's, Federal Hydra-Shoks, and Winchester PDX-1's without any problems.  I've purposely tried to slightly limp-wrist this little gun and it still cycles.

Many folks refer to the Ruger LCP as a "pocket pistol" because it does easily fit in your pocket.  I would encourage anyone with a pocket pistol to carry it in holster, preferably a holster with a closed muzzle end if you carry it in your pocket to keep fuzzies and other items in your pocket from finding their way into the barrel.

The Good:  The Ruger LCP is a reliable, quality pistol right out of the box.  It's size and weight eliminate all excuses for not carrying a gun and it works as a terrific back-up gun that can be concealed almost anywhere.  The street price at gun shops is very competitive and affordable.

The Not So Good:  Mostly, my concerns are applicable to the Ruger LCP and most pistols of similar size.  The diminutive sights and short sight radius are not easy to use without practice so don't try to pass this off as a beginners or ladies gun.  The recoil can be a bit "snappy" for some folks preferences and cycling the slide can be difficult for folks with limitations in hand-strength or dexterity.

There are already a lot of reviews out there for the Ruger LCP, so if you need specifications or other detailed information like that, it's easy to find.  We've had almost three years of experience with the Ruger LCP with well over a thousand rounds downrange from the one gun and it has just been a good, reliable firearm.

While I have carried everything from a .357 magnum and 1911 down to a .22 long rifle, my primary carry gun is usually a Ruger SR9 or Ruger SR9c, but in my opinion... you can't go wrong with the... Ruger LCP... a no-excuses, back-up plan.


  1. I've heard said, "The best gun to carry is a gun that you will carry". The Pythons and such ,while fine guns, don't do anyone any good locked up a home when you're not there. I love my Ruger. The nice rounded edges and low profile sights mean that it won't snag on anything coming out of the pocket but I agree with your opinion of using a pocket holster.

  2. I have an LCP myself, and it's great for those times when I don't want to carry a larger pistol, such as when I'm running or biking. But as .380's go, my Walther PPK is only a little larger and much more pleasant to shoot. Still, the LCP is light, compact, and has a finish that a bit of sweat's not going to ruin. But like you said, it's a gun that requires range time to get comfortable with and stay current on. People who buy one really need to spend time shooting it and practicing draws from their preferred concealment method. (I use a pocket holster, myself.)

  3. What are the best places to get one of these guns? We travel a lot to gun shows and there seems to be good deals there. Just don't know if i should go to a gun shop. Any suggestions as to what I should pay for one?

  4. @J.R. Fisher... back in the 70s, 80s and even the 90s... I found great deals on guns at gun shows, but not so much anymore when it comes to new guns... at least in my area.

    The Ruger LCP sells for $289 at our local Ace Hardware or at Vance's in Columbus, OH which is about 90 minutes from where we live. $299 or $319 seems to be a more common price.

    The Kel-Tec 3AT is usually $249 locally, but I've seen it as low as $229.

    One suggestion... you might check Davison's Gallery of Guns online at:

    They let you do a search for guns from manufacturers that they distribute for and if the gun is in stock, you can use your ZIP code to get quotes from area dealers that work with Davidson's.

    Just remember, if you find a deal online with an out-of-state dealer or seller, you need to have the handgun sent to an in-state FFL to legally complete the transfer, even if it is used... for all handguns. Both shipping and the transfer fee will add to the cost of that "out-of-state" deal.

    Dann in Ohio

  5. The low profile of my LCP is what keeps me carrying it whenever I can (i.e. not at work). The thing is, I find it more punishing to shoot than Glock subcompacts because of the low mass and minimal grip surface area.

    Another option would be to order from CDNN through your local FFL. Their prices on the guns they stock is usually the best you can get, except on the sub-$400 guns where the S&H and FFL transfer ends up eating a large percentage of the total price. Rugers in particular, and LC9s specifically, are in low supply at the moment.

    w/v: "hothero9"...that's me!

  6. Sure, these are compact, lightweight and functional. They do not and will not, not now, not ever have the appeal of an old Colt 1903.

  7. @mikee... those old Colt 1903 hammerless semi-autos are great guns, even somewhat smooth, rounded, and ergonomic considering their design is almost 100 years old... and the 1908 in .380 ACP even packed a little more punch than the .32 of 1903...

    Dann in Ohio