In case you recently returned from an extended stay in Mongolia and lost track of trends in the American firearms market let me bring you up to date. Gun sales are booming and concealable handguns suitable for self-defense are market leaders. New shooters are an important factor in this equation, accounting for about a third of sales, and women are a large and growing segment of the market. Makers of pistols in popular calibers like .380 and 9mm are selling every pistol they can make and ammunition manufacturers have been scrambling to keep up with demand for ammo to feed these new purchases.
Sturm, Ruger & Company introduced a new 9mm pistol at the beginning of 2011 they call the LC9™, short for Light, Compact 9mm. It’s a “double action only” (DAO) design, meaning it has a longish trigger pull that cocks a hammer then releases it to fire each shot. I have an early version of the LC9™ and I like the light weight, narrow width and ease with which I can carry it in a Galco Stinger strong side belt holster. Later models of the LC9™ I have fired have a smoother, lighter trigger than my pistol, as Ruger has continued to improve the design. The improved trigger was also incorporated into the design of the LC380, a .380ACP version of the LC9™.
Further developing the LC9™, Ruger has a new striker-fired version called the LC9s™. Why a striker? Because, by eliminating the hammer and rearranging the firing mechanism Ruger has greatly improved the trigger. As the design has progressed I’ve had the opportunity to shoot and evaluate two prototypes of the LC9s™. The first had a smooth-faced trigger and a very light and crisp trigger pull. The next version I shot had a trigger safety lever mounted on the face of the trigger. The final version of the LC9s™ I received for testing has a trigger safety and the trigger breaks crisply at just over 5 pounds with a short, positive reset. The trigger feels very light and lively. Are there other advantages to a striker fired vs. DAO design? There are, especially for shooters with smaller hands. The “reach” to the trigger is shorter so the pistol should fit the hand of just about any shooter while the lighter trigger pull weight makes it easier to shoot well.
Otherwise, the LC9™ and LC9s™ are almost identical (okay, the LC9s™ is 0.1 ounces heavier) and share the magazine disconnect and a thumb safety that locks the trigger and slide. Missing from the LC9s™ is the loaded chamber indicator atop the slide Ruger added to their pistols to make them eligible for sale in California. Since laws in California have made it close to impossible for Ruger, or anyone else, to sell new pistols in the state, Ruger has dropped the loaded chamber indicator. The status of the chamber can be checked visually by looking into a small slot cut in the top of the barrel. Both pistols fit in my Galco holsters, the magazines interchange and accessories like the Crimson Trace or Lasermax lasers fit both pistols. The pistol ships with the usual Ruger zippered case, one 7 round magazine and two magazine floor plates; one flat and one with a hook to support the little finger. There is also a bright orange solid plastic practice magazine that can be used to defeat the magazine safety so you can safely conduct dry practice with the pistol after ensuring the chamber is empty and the pistol is pointed at a safe dry practice target. For those of you who might be interested in Ruger collectibles, Ruger is no longer shipping pistols with logo padlocks, substituting instead a new cable lock, so hang on to those padlocks.
Shooting results proved gratifying as the little pistol ran with everything I fed it. Along with an assortment of 9mm ball, hollow point and frangible ammo of various origins I shot the LC9s with three brands of modern defensive ammo:
Federal Classic 115gr. Hi-Shok hollow point
Hornady Critical Duty 135gr. FlexLock
Hornady Critical Defense 115gr FTX
My standard test for defensive pistols is shooting them through the Gunsite 250 School Drill fired at 3,7,10,15 and 25 yards. I figure if the pistol, the trigger, the sights and I work well enough together to clean the School Drill it’s good enough to carry for self-defense. Another test – something a lot of small pistols and I have trouble with – is hitting a 10 inch steel plate from the holster at 25 yards in under 2.5 seconds. I’m pleased to report the LC9s™ and I passed these tests and I deem the pistol ready for concealed carry. As a matter of fact, shooting the 25-yard plate seemed pretty easy so I moved back to 35 yards. That was easy too. Moving back to 50 yards wasn’t a problem either. This little pistol is easy to shoot well from just off the muzzle out to 50 yards…not what I was expecting, but I am very pleased with the results. I think I’m going to select the Hornady Critical Duty load as my carry ammo in this pistol. It shoots great in the little Ruger and the bullet is optimized for penetration and expansion.
I’m going to carry the LC9s™ with a Lasermax green laser. This handy setup installs in front of the trigger guard and has a sliding activation switch I can activate or shut off with my trigger finger or support hand. The three dot white sights on the LC9s™ are very usable but my eyes are getting older and I could use the help of the laser in low light situations. Too, a laser on any pistol you’re going to bet your life on is a very, very good idea and the green Lasermax lasers are far brighter in all lighting conditions than red lasers. Fully loaded, with 7 rounds in the magazine, one in the chamber and the Lasermax laser installed, the LC9s™ weighs an easy to carry 22 ounces.
The little pistol passed one more test; I call it the wife test. Handing the pistol to my wife and several lady friends, I asked each of them to try the trigger and run the slide. I figure if they can’t manipulate the pistol I probably shouldn’t be recommending it to ladies or beginning shooters. In the case of the LC9s™, not only were the gals easily able to run it, their reaction to the trigger was, “Oooooh, I want one of these.” That pretty well sums it up – this pistol is a keeper. If you’re looking for a reliable, accurate, easy to carry and shoot pistol for concealed carry I recommend you give the Ruger LC9s™ a look.
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.