January 03, 2011
By Bart Skelton
Not every semiautomatic pistol made today has all three of these all-important attributes, but Ruger's newest offering sure does.
By Bart Skelton
It's always been my opinion that a good service or personal-defense handgun should feel good to the shooter as well as being accurate, powerful, and reliable. Many of today's semiautomatic pistols have one or another of these attributes, but not always all of them. A few years back I had the good fortune to gather with a few colleagues in Prescott, AZ, with the folks from Ruger. At that time the company was just introducing its new SR9 pistol. We had the opportunity to shoot the striker-fired 9mm extensively, and I was immediately impressed with the gun. It had virtually all the qualities I look for in a defense handgun.
While the 9mm cartridge has been utilized by police and military units around the world for more than a century, some don't regard it as the greatest defense round. Without doubt the effectiveness of the 9mm as a manstopper has been proven over and over again, but it certainly doesn't have the ballistic superiority of many modern cartridges. What it does offer, as proven with the Ruger SR9, is its ability to be used in a lighter, more compact pistol.
The .40-caliber cartridge is a newcomer in comparison to the tried-and-true 9mm, but it has proven to be one of the most popular cartridges among police departments globally, as well as with shooters looking for cutting-edge power and performance in a pistol round. The .40 S&W was developed as a shorter, less potent version of the 10mm Auto cartridge. Unlike the 10mm, the .40 became an extremely popular law enforcement cartridge and is now being issued as a standard sidearm caliber by multitudes of departments. Ruger decided to take advantage of the .40-caliber rage by revamping its striker-fired pistol to accommodate it.
The rubbery, nonslip backstrap is easily reversed, allowing shooters to choose between an arched or flat configuration. Simply remove the retaining pin, slide the dovetailed backstrap down and out, flip, and replace it. Note also the very high grip provided by the polymer frame, which greatly enhances recoil controllability.
The new .40-caliber pistol is almost identical to the SR9, with the exception of a slightly thicker slide to accommodate the pressures generated by the more powerful cartridge. The fit and feel are the same as the SR9, resulting in a great handling firearm. The added mass of the slide reduces slide velocity during cycling, lessening perceived recoil. The cam block system is highly efficient, unlocking easily, which is one of the factors in the light recoil. The SR40 slide is 0.0625 inch thicker than that of the SR9 — 1/32 inch on each side. The larger diameter barrel does lessen the SR40's weight, which is only 1 ounce heavier than the SR9, but the recoil is still extremely manageable.
Like the SR9, the SR40 is a full-size, striker-fired pistol with a slide-activated cocking mechanism, an integral trigger safety, and a striker-fired safety that prevents the forward movement of the striker until the trigger is squeezed. The semiauto mechanism is a cam-block recoil-operated tilt-lock design with a full-length recoil spring guide rod. The polymer grip frame is one of the slimmest, flattest grip profiles on the market. The pistol features an easy-to-reach, ambidextrous thumb safety set in the slide as well as a magazine disconnect, which prevents the pistol from firing without the magazine being seated. As an additional safety feature, the SR40 has a loaded chamber indicator on the top of the slide just behind the ejection port. When a cartridge is chambered, the safety indicator is pushed upward and is easy to see and feel. The SR40 is lightweight (only 27.25 ounces, unloaded). The SR40 sports a 4.1-inch barrel and measures 7.5 inches in overall length.
The SR40's trigger features a trigger safety that blocks trigger bar movement until the trigger is squeezed. An internal trigger bar interlock prevents the trigger bar from moving down to release the striker until it is moved backward by trigger movement.
One of my favorite things about the SR40, as with the SR9, is the feel of the pistol in hand. The grip frame is designed for the hand to sit high in the grip. I've always liked a more slender grip on a handgun for several reasons, especially that a thinner grip fits my hand better while shooting and it's obviously easier to conceal. The SR40's grip features a hand-pleasing shape with a soft rubber insert on the back of the grip frame that can be easily reversed, providing either a flat or rounded contour. When gripping the SR40, the web of the hand fits deeply into the grip, which softens the pistol's recoil significantly. The fact that Ruger designed this pistol to fit in the hand so well plus accommodate a 15-round magazine is exemplary.
The SR40 comes standard with a three-dot, adjustable sight system. The rear sight is a low-profile, snag-free design that is fully adjustable for windage and elevation, with a locking screw. At the end of the polymer frame under the muzzle, the SR40 offers a rail for the installation of a laser, flashlight, or whatever accessory the shooter prefers.
Proven Mec-Gar-built magazines are anti-friction coated and hold a plethora of ammo: 15 rounds to be exact. They're reliable and work extremely well.
The SR40 magazine, manufactured for Ruger by Mec-Gar, features an anti-friction coating. Any shooter who has spent much time with high-capacity magazines knows that loading the last few rounds can be a strenuous effort. The SR9's coated mags make loading much easier. While some consumers might criticize the use of non-USA manufactured mags, Mec-Gar builds a great product. The SR40 mags are high quality and function extremely well.
One of the issues with the early SR9 was with the trigger, which was rather inconsistent and heavy. Ruger has addressed that problem with the SR40 and has made vast improvements on the trigger-control system. I measured my test gun using an RCBS trigger pull scale and noted a consistent 5.75-pound release. Ruger also addressed the magazine release on the SR40, which is much smoother than the early SR9 release.
Though the SR40 is a true high-capacity semiauto, it's particularly thin for a .40-caliber handgun. The slide is only 0.0625 inch wider than that of the 9mm SR9.
Just Plain Smooth
I carried the SR40 out to my shooting range in the New Mexico desert for a workout and was more than impressed the first time I fired it. I started out plinking with a variety of factory ammunition. As expected, the SR40 felt great, and recoil was light. The high fit in the hand made the SR40 a breeze to shoot rapid fire, particularly when shooting double taps. The pistol was just plain smooth. Out of the box the new pistol shot about 6 inches high. With a quick adjustment to the rear sight, I was popping cans and various other targets with ease.
I next set up a sandbag rest at 25 yards and tested the accuracy of the SR40. Unfortunately, the wind was not ideal for accuracy testing. Though it was a clear day and a nice 70 degrees, the wind was blowing about 20 mph. I fired several three-shot strings using Hornady 155-grain XTP, Winchester 180-grain FMJ, and Federal 180-grain JHP ammo. I fired the Hornady ammo first, with a 3.5-inch group being the tightest. For the next string I shot the Winchester 180-grain FMJ, which produced an outstanding 1.75-inch group. The first two shots with the FMJ stuff were almost in the same hole. The final string was fired with the Federal 180-grain JHP, which printed a cool 1.5 inches.
|Barrel Length:||4.14 inches|
|Overall Length:||7.55 inches|
|Weight, empty||27.25 ounces|
|Stock:||Integral polymer frame|
|Finish:||Brushed stainless slide, black frame|
Needless to say, the SR40's accuracy is second to none. I was a bit concerned at first, as the pistol's trigger takes a little getting used to; however, the results were magnificent. €¨It was clear, however, that the SR40 much preferred the 180-grain ammunition to the lighter 155-grain stuff. Regardless, the groups fired with the lighter Hornady bullets were respectable, well within the standards for a combat/self-defense pistol. I'm curious to see how well the SR40 will shoot on a windless day, after a few hundred more rounds.
I am thoroughly impressed with the Ruger SR40, and there are very few things I would change or add to this fine little pistol. I'd like to see a set of night sights on the gun, which is an easy fix. It might be asking for too much, but I still prefer a little bit lighter, smoother trigger on a defense pistol; however, Ruger has made some long strides in improving the trigger system since the early SR9 days. When shooting rapid fire, the SR40's trigger was quite acceptable, and with some practice it should be no trouble to master.
The SR40's performance was flawless. I had no malfunctions of any kind, and the pistol was accurate and easy to shoot. I recommend Ruger's new .40 for anyone looking for a great personal-defense handgun.
|Ruger SR40 Accuracy|
|Load||Muzzle Velocity (fps)||25-Yard Accuracy (ins.)|
|Hornady 155-gr. XTP|| n/a|| 3.50 |
|Federal 180-gr. JHP||980|| 1.50 |
|Winchester 180-gr. FMJ|| 1040 || 1.75 |
|NOTES: Accuracy is the average of several three-shot groups fired from a sandbag benchrest in a 20 mph wind. Velocity was measured 8 feet from the gun's muzzle.|
Though the author isn't a particular fan of polymer-frame pistols, the SR40 won him over with its shootability, reliability, and accuracy. Chambered in the capable .40 S&W caliber, it's a solid choice for law enforcement and armed citizens alike.