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The SR9 Auto Pistol Marks the Dawning of a New Era At Ruger

by Dick Metcalf   |  January 3rd, 2011 1

ST runs more than 5,000 rounds through the new semiautomatic from Ruger — its first striker — fired pistol.


With its polymer frame and striker-fire design, the new SR9 semiauto 9mm is an entirely new platform for Ruger pistols. It is also the first original Ruger firearm design to appear since the passing of company founder William B. Ruger, Sr. in 2002. The new SR9 gives Ruger a handgun that will be a strong competitor for existing powerhouse presences in the personal-defense and law-enforcement markets, such as the Glock, S&W M&P, Taurus 24/7, and Springfield Armory XD.

Ruger firearms enthusiasts–and even fans of the those other modern-standard pistols–are going to sit up and take notice of the SR9. It offers all the features today’s users expect from current state-of-the-art polymer DAO duty-pistol designs in addition to a variety of unique Ruger innovations. It also represents an entirely new approach to the introduction of new products for Ruger.

In brief highlights, the SR9 is a full-size, striker-fired 9mm with a slide-activated cocking mechanism and an integral trigger safety. The semiauto mechanism is a conventional cam-block recoil-operated tilt-lock, with a full-length recoil-spring guide rod.

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RUGER MODEL SR9 SEMIAUTOMATIC PISTOL

Model SR9
Purpose Personal defense/Law Enforcement
Manufaturer Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc,
1 Lacey Place, Southport, CT 06890
203-259-7843
www.ruger.com
Action Type Recoil-operated semiautomatic
Magazine Double-column, 17 rounds
Frame and Slide Material Glass-filled-nylon frame; stainless-steel slide.
Caliber 9mm Luger (Parabellum)
Barrel Length 4.125 in..
Rifling Six Grooves, 1:10 RH twist
Sights Three dot low-profile; front and rear drift-adjustable for windage; rear click-adjustable elevation
Finish Matte stainless-steel slide; matte black frame
Safeties Internal trigger safety; ambidextrous manual thumb safety.
Tigger DAO, stiker-fired
Pull Weight 6.5 lbs.
Stock Material Molded polymer
Overall Length 7.55 in.
Height 5.52 in.
Width 1.27 in.
Weight, Empty 26.5 ounces
Accessories Polythylene blow-molded case, instruction manual, external locking device, two magazines
MSRP $525

The polymer grip frame has the same basic hand-pleasing contour as Ruger’s popular P345 hammer-fired pistol, with the slimmest, flattest grip profile in its class–in spite of the fact the steel magazine holds a hefty 17 rounds. A cushiony rubber backstrap insert can be easily removed and reversed to allow either an arched or a flat grip contour, depending on user preference.

The design also features a truly ambidextrous (not merely reversible) magazine release and a frame-mounted ambidextrous manual thumb-safety system that allows “cocked-and-locked” carry in addition to the integral “must be pulled to the rear” trigger safety. There is also a visible cocking indicator at the rear of the slide, and a visible/tactile loaded-chamber indicator atop the slide behind the chamber. All the operating mechanisms–magazine release, safeties, slide lock/release–are low-profile and conventionally positioned in traditional Model 1911 loca
tions.

The three-dot SR9 front and rear sights are drift adjustable for windage, and the rear sight is also click-screw adjustable for elevation. The SR9 is the only DAO duty-pistol of any type to feature elevation adjustability on a low-profile combat sight.

The bottom front of the frame features an integral equipment rail for attachment of a tactical light, laser aimer, or other accessories. All exterior surfaces are contoured and rounded to minimize holster wear or clothing snags in concealed carry.


The gun is constructed in modular components with separate self-contained fire-control module, trigger module, and cam block inserted into the polymer frame. This greatly streamlines the manufacturing and assembly process in the factory and makes for an extremely straightforward and easy disassembly/reassembly process for user maintenance.

To disassemble, you merely remove the magazine, clear the chamber, and lock the slide to the rear with the slide-lock lever. Use your fingertip to push out and remove the takedown pin from the frame and just pull the slide/barrel assembly forward and off. The barrel and captive recoil-spring-guide assembly can then be removed from the slide. It is not necessary to manually hold the slide in any special rearward alignment to remove the takedown pin, just lock it back. Nor is it necessary to pull the trigger prior to removing the slide–an important safety feature that many other striker-fired pistols do not have.

To reassemble, you merely replace the barrel and recoil spring assembly into the slide, place the slide onto the frame and lock it back with the slide-lock lever, reinsert the takedown pin, and let the slide go forward. It’s simple, easy, and safe in the extreme.


The author says the new SR9 points naturally and is comfortable to shoot.

My favorite feature of the SR9 is its magazine-disconnect safety, which can be user-deactivated. As with a majority of today’s semiauto pistols, the SR9 comes from the factory unable to be fired with the magazine removed. However, unlike any other pistol of its type, the SR9′s disconnect can be deactivated simply by plucking out the disconnect link while the gun is disassembled, enabling a chambered cartridge to be fired even if the magazine is inadvertently dropped or damaged.

I believe this is an essential feature for any personal-defense or duty sidearm. There are many circumstances in violent confrontation situations wherein a magazine release can be accidentally depressed or where insertion of a fresh magazine can be fumbled. It has always seemed ludicrous to me for defense pistols to be sold with a feature that leaves you with a dead tool–even with a round loaded in the chamber–just because the magazine is out. And yes, I understand that the reason for magazine disconnects is because the most common cause of negligent discharges with auto pistols is because people remove loaded magazines from their guns but neglect to ensure the chamber is also cleared before pulling the trigger.

The SR9 magazine disconnect is a spring-loaded steel part mounted in the slide. When the magazine is inserted into the frame, it lifts the disconnect out of the path of the striker, allowing the striker to reach the cartridge primer during a normal firing cycle. The magazine disconnect does not affect the quality of the trigger pull during normal shooting; SR9 trigger pulls are factory specced at 6.5 pounds, with a relatively short .48 inch of travel. However, if the trigger is pulled without the magazine in place, the striker drags underneath the spring-loaded magazine disconnect. This may give the trigger pull a heavy, gritty feel while dry-firing without the magazine in place. If the SR9 is repeatedly dry-fired without the magazine in place, this may cause the trigger pull to feel rougher over time, even when the magazine is in place.


Accuracy And Endurance
I had the opportunity to extensively fire several first-production SR9s at the Ruger facility in Prescott, Arizona, prior to the gun’s introduction to the market, and I found them to be reliable, accurate, and extremely good-feeling shooters. And the day after the SR9 was officially introduced and shipped to dealers, I received a production-run review sample. I immediately subjected it to an extended accuracy and performance/endurance workout with a range of different commercial ammunition loads (pretty much emptying my 9mm ammunition locker). The results are listed in the accompanying chart. The overall accuracy performance was well above the generally accepted 4.5-at-25 norm for duty/service/military auto pistols.

As for endurance, I have often commented in these pages that I have no use for so-called “torture tests.” I don’t think they tell you very much. The very term “torture” implies unreasonable cruelty, and you can break anything if you push it past its design limits. Automotive magazines don’t review new vehicles by driving them into bridge abutments at 60 mph. At the same time, I believe an “accelerated normal-use test” (ANU) can provide a very useful indication of whether a product lives up to its maker’s claims for how long it can serve you usefully.

For handguns, an ANU test means shooting a lot of rounds through a gun within a shorter span of days, weeks, or months than a “normal” user would ordinarily fire but without pushing the gun past what a normal shooting session would entail. The standard for such tests was set by the original Austrian Army specification that made Glock famous. It called for an initial 10,000 rounds with a 500-round average malfunction interval (i.e., no more than 20 stoppages in 10,000 rounds) and an initial 15,000-round “main parts” survival interval. So if you buy any decent polymer-frame pistol today, you should reasonably expect it to run–with ordinary care–for at least 5,000 rounds with no more than 10 stoppages before you should need to start thinking about “small parts” replacement. How long would that be in real-world use?


Ruger’s new approach to announcing new products is to have guns assembled and ready to ship at the time the announcement is made. In that fashion, SR9s are being shipped as you read this report.

Firearms manufacturers tell me the average civilian-owned handgun only makes it
to the range maybe three or four times a year at best, for an average 200 to 300 rounds total annual rounds fired. At that rate it would take nearly 20 years before 5,000 rounds would go down that barrel. For an ANU test, we can do that in 10 days, shooting 500 rounds a day, four sessions each day, not stressing the gun.

My procedure is to spend about a half-hour first thing in the morning, shooting 125 rounds–one magazine every four minutes. The gun doesn’t even get hot. Before lunch, I’ll run another 125 rounds; mid-afternoon another 125; evening another 125. I start with the gun just as it came from the factory, without any preliminary maintenance, and track how long it takes to dirty up and start misfiring because of firing residue build-up. Then I’ll give it a standard fieldstrip maintenance and continue shooting.


The slide is smooth-contoured to minimize wear on clothing when carried and features a large tactile cocking indicator in the center. The low-profile rear sight is click-screw adjustable for elevation and drift adjustable for windage.

Given the quality of all modern reputable-brand handgun manufacturers and the quality of all major-brand commercial ammunition, I have come to expect malfunction-free 5,000-round-plus performance from just about any gun I review. In fact, these days, I’m surprised and disappointed if I don’t.

The Ruger SR9 did not surprise me. It digested all types of 9mm ammunition I fed it without mechanical malfunction or broken parts. Again, this was no surprise because Ruger had submitted individual prerelease SR9s to tens of thousands of rounds prior to signing off on the design.

However, I did encounter four ammunition failures to fire during the 5,000-round run. One came at round 1,257, one at round 2,864, one at round 3,675, and one at round 4,989. That last one really irritated me, coming only 11 rounds shy of the end. Each time, I ejected the magazine, extracted the failed round, noted that the primer showed a light indent, and set the round aside while I stripped and cleaned the gun, paying particular attention to the firing-pin channel. Then I put the failed round back on top of the magazine, loaded, and continued. Each time, the “failed” round fired on the first pull.

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9mm Ruger SR9 25-yard Accuracy

FACTORY LOAD VELOCITY (fps) STANDARD DEVIATION (fps) 25-yard ACCURACY (in.)
Remington 88-gr. JHP 1478 19 4.00
Federal 115-gr. JHP 1025 9 3.13
Hornady 115-gr. FMJ 1177 15 3.50
Remington 115-gr. JHP 1138 16 2.85
Speer Blazer 115-gr. TMJ 1039 11 2.88
Winchester 115-gr. FMJ 01189 22 3.00
Winchester 115-gr. Silvertip 1238 17 2.83
Federal 124-gr. MCSWC 1092 6 2.75
Hornady 124-gr. HP\XTP 1016 11 2.88
Remington 124-gr. BJHP +P 1169 10 2.75
Speer 125-gr. Gold Dot 1145 8 2.50
Federal 135-gr. PD Hydra-Shok 1028 5 2.50
Black Hills 147-gr. FMJ/Subsonic 981 27 2.63
Winchester 147-gr. FMJ/Subsonic 986 7 2.25
Notes: Accuracy is the average of five, five-shot groups fired from a sandbag benchrest at 25 yards. Velocity is the average of 10 rounds measured 10 feet from the gun’s muzzle

This tells me the failures were simple “crud duds” caused by accumulation of firing residue in the chamber or striker channel, which had the effect of slowing and/or cushioning the impact of the firing pin against the primer. It also validates the well-known reality that the vast majority of all pistol malfunctions are due to poor maintenance, not mechanical or ammunition failure, and that the vast majority of all so-called “dud” rounds indeed go bang when given a second chance.


The SR9’s magazine release, slide-lock lever (arrow), and manual safety are placed in conventional locations.

Once I properly cleaned the gun, the problem evaporated. Anyone who doesn’t give their life-defense pistol a routine cleaning at least every several hundred rounds fired needs to rethink his maintenance policies.

New Era For Ruger
The world has been watching the Ruger organization very closely since Bill Ruger’s health-driven retirement from direct management of his company in 2000. As is the case with any human entrepreneurial organization created and directed by a strong founder, Ruger’s most critical test is to successfully survive the founder’s passing.

As the first new Ruger product platform to emerge from the “post-Bill Ruger” era, the SR9 is a key indicator of the company’s ongoing direction–both in terms of its quality and performance and in the new and different way Ruger brought it to market–representing an unprecedented coordination between the announcement of Ruger’s new product introductions and the actual presentation of these new products for sale.

In the past, Ruger has had a reputation for announcing new products, providing early prototypes to firearms publications for review, and then lagging in actually putting them on dealer shelves for sale. No longer. The new Ruger system, as exemplified by the introduction of the Ruger SR9, is to announce the new product, ship full-production quantities of the actual guns to dealers, and send review samples to the firearms press, all on the same day! Which means a Ruger customer can see the first news of a new Ruger product on the Ruger website or a firearms magazine website in the morning and go to his local dealer to handle and purchase the new gun in the afternoon–if he beats all his friends to the front of the line.

In practice, this process removes a lot of customer resentment at having premature enthusiasm whipped up for yet-unavailable products, and it also solidifies the bond between Ruger, its distributors, and the firearms press–who no longer have to bear the brunt of complaints about guns people have been reading about but can’t get. And for a modest introductory product run (2,000 guns in the case of the SR9) ordered largely on faith by Ruger’s distributor-partners, Ruger gets an immediate read on real customer demand and a flock of real orders for a product it is geared to immediately produce.

The element of the “New Ruger” of most interest to Ruger enthusiasts, of course, is neither manufacturing nor marketing/sales, but the catalog of Ruger products themselves and the list of new Ruger products yet-to-be. Here, too, today’s Ruger is much different than it was under the founder. There is great demand in the present firearms marketplace for the type of firearms that simply didn’t exist when Bill Ruger went into business, and throughout his life he evinced little interest in designing or refining any type of gun that he did not perceive as a “traditional” or “established” design. Polymer-frame, striker-fired auto pistols simply didn’t interest Bill Ruger. So it is a telling indication of the new Ruger approach to product development that the first major new-platform firearm to be introduced by the company in the post-Bill Ruger era is the SR9.

At the same time, the Ruger company is continuing its strong tradition of improvements and upgrades to existing designs, such as the recent re-engineering of the Ruger Mini-14 and the development of a refined new trigger mechanism for the Model 77 bolt-action rifle line. Plus, Ruger has jumped with both feet into the growing firearms industry practice of forming “strategic partnerships” with ammunition manufacturers to introduced entirely new cartridges and build new guns around them, such as the .480 Ruger, .17 HMR, .204 Ruger, and .375 Ruger from Hornady and the new .327

Federal Magnum revolver cartridge.

Today’s Ruger is still Ruger, but with an aggressive, innovative new lift in its step. What’s next? These days Ruger doesn’t tell anybody anything in advance, but once you understand how the company is now being steered, it doesn’t take much prescience to make some informed guesses. For example, with 48 states of the Union allowing some form of civilian concealed carry, how much interest do you think there might be in a compact, concealable, lightweight Ruger auto pistol for personal defense? A compact polymer-frame “SR380″ perhaps?

  • Mark

    I bought My SR9 a couple weeks ago. I went to the range and shot 250 rounds through it. Very Very happy with the accuracy and feal of the gun.

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