September 19, 2022
First, let’s get the biggest news about the new LCP MAX out of the way. It has a magazine capacity of 10 rounds, and an optional 12-round magazine is offered as an accessory. That’s twice the capacity of the previous .380 ACP LCP and LCP II pistols, which, by the way, are still in production. Ruger accomplished this increase in firepower by developing a double-stack magazine that is, surprisingly, not much wider than the original single-stack magazine.
Like the other LCP pistols, the new LCP MAX’s slide has cocking ears, grasping grooves (front and rear), and an external extractor. The top edges and the muzzle end are beveled for concealment and a smooth draw.
According to Ruger’s website, the LCP MAX has a 2.8-inch barrel, but according to my Stanley tape measure, the sample barrel measures closer to 2.75 inches, which is the specified length for the LCP and LCP II pistols. Either way, the barrel is finished in black, and the muzzle is crowned. The recoil guide rod is full length. And the chamber has view ports on both sides that serve as loaded-chamber indicators; they are not on top of the chamber like on many other pistols.
Whenever a .380 ACP pocket pistol is reviewed, readers ask whether it is blowback or recoil-operated because a lot of the older small-caliber, small-size semiautomatic pistols are blowback. The LCP MAX is a recoil-operated autoloader.
Like its predecessor, the LCP MAX utilizes a tilting-breech design. When a cartridge is fired, the steel barrel and steel slide remain locked together for a short distance of slide travel, after which the breech end of the barrel cams down, out of engagement with the slide. The slide then moves fully rearward, extracting and ejecting the fired case. Then the dual recoil springs return the slide to its forward position, picking up a cartridge from the magazine and chambering it. As the cycle is completed, the breech-end of the barrel cams up and locks into the slide.
The LCP MAX uses Ruger’s Secure Action fire-control system similar to the Ruger-57 and Security-9 semiautomatic pistols. When the slide cycles, the recessed hammer is cocked fully. Squeezing the trigger (which involves pressing the built-in safety lever to allow the trigger to move fully to the rear) releases the hammer to strike the firing pin. The slide automatically locks back on an empty magazine.
Speaking of magazines, the double-stack 10-round magazine that comes standard with the LCP MAX also comes with an interchangeable finger-extension baseplate. It doesn’t increase the magazine capacity, but it offers a bit more to grab onto. I didn’t use it in my shootout because I had a secure purchase using the flush-fitting magazine baseplate. (For the record, I wear medium-size gloves.)
But switching the baseplates is easy. Just push a pin punch or similar tool into the magazine seat where it protrudes into the hole on the baseplate. Slide the baseplate forward toward the front of the magazine. Use caution because the magazine spring is under heavy tension and can cause the forcible ejection of the magazine spring seat and the spring. The magazine spring seat, the spring, and the follower can be removed for cleaning at this juncture. Then just reassemble the parts, switching the baseplates.
The magazine’s metal tube has two witness holes on the right side; one has the number 5 near it, and the other has the number 10, indicating the round counts. The LCP MAX does not have a magazine disconnect safety, so that means it will fire with the magazine removed just like the earlier LCP and LCP II pistols.
The magazine release on the pistol’s frame can be switched from the left-hand side to the right-hand side. This procedure is a bit more complicated but still fairly user-friendly. The pistol needs to be disassembled, so let’s go through those steps first.
Once you’re certain the pistol is not loaded and the magazine has been ejected, pull the slide fully to the rear and engage the slide stop. Visually check the chamber one more time to be sure it is empty. Retract the slide and release it. Pry loose the takedown pin with a flat-head screwdriver or other blunt tool, then remove the takedown pin entirely with your fingers. Move the slide assembly forward and off the frame. The recoil spring guide rod assembly and barrel can then be removed from the slide.
To switch the magazine latch, first look down into the front of magazine well and locate the magazine latch. A wire coming up from the lower part of the magazine well engages the magazine latch, and it serves as the magazine latch spring and retainer. Use a pointed steel rod, such as a scribe, to approach the spring from the bottom of the magazine well. Push the wire to the side it is bent towards while prying it towards the rear of the magazine well until the wire comes free of the latch. The spring does not need to be removed.
Remove the magazine latch by pushing on the striated button side and pushing it all the way through the grip frame. Rotate the striated edge up to get around the end of the magazine latch spring and then down again to remove it from the frame.
Reinstall the magazine latch by starting the striated end into the opposite side of the grip frame. When the latch reaches the spring, rotate it past the spring and then rotate it back to reach the opposite side of the frame. The spring should lie against the flat on the magazine latch.
Use the pointed scribe to manipulate the wire magazine latch spring sideways, away from the striated button, until it locks itself into the magazine latch.
Reassemble the barrel and recoil spring guide rod assembly in the slide and install the slide onto the frame. Always check for proper function after reassembly before firing live ammunition. The company states it is safe to dry-fire an empty LCP MAX in moderation without damaging the firing pin or other components, but using a snap cap is recommended for continued dry-firing.
The pistol’s rear sight is all black with horizontal striations on the face and a U-shaped notch. The front sight has a green tritium dot with a white-outline ring around it. It and the rear sight are dovetailed into the slide. If windage adjustment is desired, drift the rear sight in the direction you want to move the point of impact on the target.
The high-performance glass-filled nylon frame has an aluminum insert and a rounded trigger guard that has coarse horizontal texturing on the front. The grip portion has fine texturing on the sides, the frontstrap, and the backstrap.
The LCP MAX comes with a pocket holster, a trigger padlock, and a polymer magazine loader.
I fired the new LCP MAX with eight .380 ACP factory loads ranging in bullet weight from 60 to 100 grains. The pistol functioned perfectly with all loads. Overall average accuracy for three, five-shot groups with each load at 25 yards was 4.49 inches. Its best single five-shot group measured 2.50 inches, and it came with Federal 99-grain HST ammunition. That load’s average accuracy was 4.00 inches. Shooting offhand at 10 yards with the Federal 99-grain HST ammo placed a full magazine of 10 rounds into a gaping ragged hole with all shots nearly touching.
The LCP MAX weighs just 10.6 ounces, so some recoil is expected even with the low-recoiling .380 ACP round. Some loads were pretty snappy in terms of felt recoil, but none were uncomfortable. The trigger pull averaged 6 pounds, 14 ounces for a series of 10 measurements with an RCBS trigger pull scale.
The only complaint I have from my shooting session doesn’t really have anything to do with the gun’s quality or function, but the sights were a tad fuzzy. But that is due to my poor eyesight.
Obviously, it’s time for me to get some new eyeglasses!
Ruger LCP MAX Specifications
- Manufacturer: Sturm, Ruger & Co., ruger.com
- Type: Recoil-operated, hammer-fired autoloader
- Caliber: .380 ACP
- Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
- Barrel: 2.8 in.
- Overall Length: 5.17 in.
- Width: 0.94 in. (slide is 0.81 in.)
- Height: 4.12 in.
- Weight, Empty: 10.6 oz.
- Grips: Integral to polymer frame
- Finish: Black oxide
- Sights: U-notch, drift-adjustable rear; tritium/white-outline front
- Trigger: 6.85-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Safety lever trigger, internal striker block
- MSRP: $449