Ruger LCP .380

Handguns, including your old 1911 and my plastic Glock, are minimal defensive guns at best--they just happen to be very handy, and a man fights with what he has.

Handguns, including your old 1911 and my plastic Glock, are minimal defensive guns at best--they just happen to be very handy, and a man fights with what he has. Introduced at last year's SHOT Show, the Ruger Lightweight Compact Pistol (LCP) is a handy pistol, indeed.

Its size and caliber relegate the LCP to a back-up role for most of us, and there it excels. On the rare occasion when a full-size handgun would print through your red Speedos on the beach, the LCP could serve as a primary weapon. In either case, the LCP is reliable and accurate--attributes seldom associated with pocket pistols.

Other small-gun designs count on the mass of the slide to hold things together during firing, making the pistol heavy. Ruger's engineers started with a locked-breech, tilting-barrel design utilized by many larger pistols. The barrel and slide are locked together when surfaces on the breechblock cam against the hardened takedown pin. As the slide and barrel move rearward after firing, the barrel unlocks from the slide and ejects the spent case as it tilts down to receive the next round from the magazine.

Ruger LCP:

Purpose:Personal carry, back-up
Manufacturer:Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc.

411 Sunspee St.

Newport, NH 03773


Action type:Locked-breech, tilting-barrel semiautomatic
Magazine type/ capacity:Single-stack/6 rounds
Frame/slide material:Glass-filled nylon frame.4130 through-hardened steel slide
Caliber:.308 Auto
Barrel length:2.75 in.
Rifling:1:10 RH twist
Metal finish:Matte blue
Safety:None external
Trigger:Single-strike, double-action
Pull Weight:6lbs. 9 oz. (as tested)
Grip material and finish:Molded-in checkering panels and finger grooves
Overall length:5.16 in.
Height:3.6 in.
Width:0.82 in.
Weight, empty:9.4 oz.
Accessories:Owners manual, softcase, gun lock

Return pressure from the dual-captive recoil springs force the barrel and slide back into the locked position, completing the firing cycle. The system is less sensitive to changes in operating pressures and bullet weights.

The LCP looks and acts like a striker-fired pistol--the action cocks the hammer halfway, and the trigger rotates the hammer to fullcock and then releases it--and could be described as single-strike, double-action-only. The small hammer is never exposed outside the slide. The long, smooth trigger pull--the sample gun's trigger averaged 6 pounds, 9 ounces--is enough to prevent unintentional discharges but not enough to prevent pinpoint shot placement. The other fire controls are very similar to striker-fired pistols and include a magazine release and slide stop.

There is no external safety, and the slide does not lock open after the last round. The slide can be locked to the rear by pivoting the recessed slide lock up into a frame notch. It is a nice feature that allows shooters to show clear during practice and makes cleaning the gun possible without disassembly.

To break the gun down for more thorough cleaning, simply double-check to make sure it is unloaded, remove the magazine, and pry the takedown pin, located on the LCP's left side, out of the frame. The slide slips right off the 7075 aluminum chassis imbedded into the glass-filled nylon frame. The recoil spring is then removed, and the barrel is pivoted down out of the slide. After reinstalling the slide assembly, a small spring detent must be depressed with the takedown pin before it can slide back into place.

Currently, the LCP is only chambered in .380 Auto, a cartridge that has recently undergone a renaissance of sorts. Just about every big ammo company makes premium self-defense rounds in bullet weights ranging from 90 to 102 grains. From the 2.75-inch, broached-rifled barrel, velocities should run 900 fps on the light end down to 820 fps for heavier projectiles.

One big advantage of a diminutive cartridge is that you can build a diminutive pistol to hold it. The LCP is just 5.16 inches long, 3.6 inches high, and 0.82 inch thick. It weighs just 9.4 ounces unloaded--the provided gun lock weighs almost as much as the pistol. With six rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber, the pistol is still comfortable to carry in a pants or jacket pocket all day long. An ankle or inside-the-waistband holster would make the LCP disappear. Full-size pistols carry more weight in a gunfight, but the average guy seldom carries one due to the weight and gun parts digging into his side. Though minimal in terms of firepower, the LCP's size guarantees the gun will be with you when you need it most.

The average person will be unable to get all three fingers on the grip, but an ergonomic design allows complete control of the pistol under recoil. Shallow recesses in the frame under the slide accommodate the shooting hand's thumb, and checkered panels molded into the frame help provide a solid purchase. There are no sharp edges to cut hands or wear clothing.

I was skeptical of the sights at first. In all but arm-length encounters, I use the front sight, which is virtually nonexistent. It matches with an equally shallow square notch cut into the slide. From a benchrest, the little Ruger astounded me by producing five-shot groups of just smaller than 3 inches at 7 yards with several different kinds of ammo. Though small and shallow, the sights work great in daylight. Some low-light drills revealed the sights were hard to pick up quickly, so I indexed the target with the rear of the slide and did well enough.

Ruger LCP Accuracy

Factory LoadGroup #1Group #2Group #3Group #4Group #5Average
3.80 ACP
Hornady 90-gr. JHP/XTP2.361.892001.642.152.01
Remington UMC 95-gr. LF/FN2.772.833.012.662.462.75
Remington 95-gr. MC3.092.823.233.113.543.16
Remington 102-gr. Golden Saber3.462.993.553.243.823.41
Notes: Accuracy is for five shots fired from a sandbag benchrest at 7 yards.

Obviously the LCP was not intended to replace the carbine or full-size duty pistol. It is a back-up gun or something for times when nothing else will work. I often train for high-country hunts by humping a frame pack filled with shot bags around the neighborhood. The pack's waist belt prevents me from carrying even a J-Frame S&W. The LCP carried in a pocket or ankle holster sure beats throwing rocks.

I put more than 200 rounds through the pistol with no malfunctions, and if I took my time, I was able to keep all my shots inside a 5-inch bullseye out to 10 yards. That kind of performance inspires confidence, even in a tiny pistol chambered for .380 Auto.

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