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Review: Ruger American Compact Pistol .45ACP

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The suggested retail price of the new Ruger American Compact Pistol I have at hand is $579.00. You might wonder why I would start a review by mentioning the list price and that’s a good question. The answer is, the street prices I’ve seen for this pistol range from around $433 to $479 and that’s a remarkable bargain for a pistol this good.

The American Compact .45 is the latest in Ruger’s American Pistol lineup that now includes 15 models. Ranging from full size pistols, referred to as Duty models, in 9mm and .45ACP to Compact models in the same calibers, the lineup is further divided into manual safety and non-safety styles referred to as Pro models. The pistol I have at hand is a Pro model without a manual safety or magazine disconnect. It is 100% American made, manufactured in the Prescott, Arizona factory located just down the highway from me. Speaking of the factory, it’s a thoroughly modern facility with long lines of CNC machines tirelessly turning out precision parts in a clean, brightly lighted building. If you’ve ever been in an old New England firearms factory you’ll understand why I mentioned clean and brightly lighted. Production numbers at the Prescott factory are a closely kept secret but I don’t think I will give anything away if I mention the Ruger plant can put out more finished guns in a day than some companies produce in a month. After all, Ruger sold more than 2.5 million guns in 2016 and lead the industry in sales numbers.


The American compact features genuine Novak 3 dot sights, interchangeable grip modules for fitting the pistol to your hand, easy takedown that doesn’t require the trigger be pulled, ambi slide stops and magazine releases. The pistol comes with two nickel-Teflon plated steel magazines so they’re slippery inside to promote feeding and aren’t going to corrode. A 7 round magazine with a pinky rest and an extended 10 round magazine with a grip extension are provided with the pistol. The pistol is rated for +P ammunition and is remarkably soft shooting, even with the high-pressure loads. This comes about from a combination of features that include the excellent grip shape and angle, low mass slide, low bore axis and a recoil-reducing barrel cam. While the pistol feels substantial, with all the weight on top when empty, it only weighs 28.6 ounces dry and 34.2 ounces with 8 rounds of Hornady’s excellent 220 grain Critical Duty ammunition. That means the American Compact carries easy yet has enough mass to dampen recoil.

Speaking of recoil, shooting the Compact is easy – I could shoot it comfortably all day and would recommend it as an excellent candidate for a weeklong pistol class at Gunsite. I started my test firing as I often do by shooting the pistol just as it comes out of the box through the Gunsite 250 School Drill, an exercise involving rapid shots at 3, 7, 10 and 15 yards. After shooting that drill clean I began working on various exercises like pairs, hammers and failure drills with a selection of ammunition.

I’ve fired thousands of rounds through Ruger American pistols in 9mm and .45ACP and I’ve concluded the
9mm models are incredibly reliable while the .45s can be a bit less so with certain kinds of ammunition. It’s my impression the American .45 is biased towards shooting the heavier bullet weights and the hotter defensive loads – it shoots these flawlessly – but I’ve experienced a couple of issues with light bullets that generate a very small recoil impulse. This particular pistol didn’t like the Polycase/Ruger ARX load, consisting of a very light 114 grain bullet, as it choked a couple of times and failed to fully extract the empty case after firing. I imagine breaking the pistol in with a few hundred rounds or bothering to lubricate it before firing might fix this issue.

The trigger on this pistol is very good, one of the best you’re likely to find on a striker fired pistol. There’s a bit of takeup then the trigger breaks crisply without over-travel. Reset is crisp as well. I often find I need to reach further into the trigger when firing pistols with drop safety lever thingies on the trigger but the opposite is true, in my case, with this pistol. Too much finger doesn’t allow me to depress the lever so I have to revert to my 1911 trigger finger placement of pressing the trigger with the center of the fingertip. The trigger breaks at a very consistent 5 pounds 12 ounces, which, if my math is correct, comes out to 5 ¾ pounds. The trigger is very usable and helps promote good shooting.

The .45ACP cartridge is about as American as it gets. Designed by the greatest gun designer of all time, Saint John Browning, it’s still going strong. Shooting a great American cartridge in an all-American pistol created by a great American gun company makes sense to me. If it makes sense to you the Ruger American .45ACP is as close as your local gun store.

Ruger American Pistol Compact Version Spec Sheet.

About the Author:

Ed Head is a regular on Shooting Gallery, Gun Stories and Down Range TV. He has worked for almost 30 years in law enforcement, first in the United States Air Force and then with the United States Border Patrol, retiring as a Field Operations Supervisor. During his Border Patrol career, Ed worked in a variety of patrol, investigative and training capacities. Ed has an extensive background as a firearms instructor, having trained thousands, ranging from beginners to police, military and special operations personnel. Having taught at Gunsite for 20 years, Ed first trained there under the world famous shooting school’s founder, Jeff Cooper, then later ran the school as the operations manager for more than five years. Ed lives in Chino Valley, Arizona, where he continues to teach and write.

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