June 01, 2020
By Joel J. Hutchcroft
In 2008, when Ruger introduced its tiny .380 ACP LCP pocket pistol, the company set the gun world on fire. It was, as the cliché goes, a stroke of genius. The firm immediately sold truckloads of the little semiautomatic pistol, and other big-name gunmakers scrambled to get on the bandwagon.
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then, and the original LCP has gone through a few updates and redesigns. Ruger announced the LCP II .380 in 2016, and now there is the brand-new Lite Rack LCP II chambered in .22 LR. That’s right, .22 LR, and it’s intended to be a trainer pistol for the .380 ACP LCP and LCP II and the slightly larger 9mm EC9s and LC9s pocket pistols. No serious handgunner thinks a small .22 LR pistol is an effective self-defense gun, but .22 trainers for practicing on a shooting range are perfectly legitimate. Many major pistol makers have introduced .22 LR trainers, including Glock, Smith & Wesson, and Taurus. Let’s take a close look at Ruger’s new pocket pistol.
The new .22 LR Lite Rack LCP II has some distinctive differences from the .380 LCP II. First, it has a thumb safety on the left side. Second, it has cocking ears at the rear of the slide. Third, the recoil spring is lighter for easier slide operation.
About the thumb safety, it is a push-forward-to-fire mechanism, and when it is engaged, the trigger is disconnected and the hammer is blocked. The hammer must be cocked in order for the manual thumb safety to be engaged. Other safety measures that Ruger has carried over to the .22 LR Lite Rack LCP II include the Secure Action lever-safety-type trigger mechanism and the magazine disconnect, which prevents the pistol from firing when the magazine is removed even if a live round is chambered. The internal hammer is visible when cocked, so it can serve as a cocking indicator.
As you can see from the photographs, those cocking ears protrude subtly on both sides of the slide, but they help the shooter get a better grip on the slide when racking it. The slide also has generous grasping grooves in the traditional rear location and also at the front of the slide.
The .22 LR Lite Rack LCP II comes with a linkless, 2.75-inch, stainless-steel barrel and a 10-round magazine. The magazine’s patent-pending floorplate extends the grip for a full two-finger grasp, and when the magazine is run dry, the pistol’s slide automatically locks back on the empty magazine.
The black fixed sights are integral to the through-hardened alloy steel slide. And the one-piece, high-performance glass-filled nylon frame does not have an accessory rail. The grip’s texturing, which is the same new pattern that was introduced on the .380 LCP II, provides an effective gripping surface.
The disassembly process is simple and straightforward. First remove the magazine. Pull the slide to the rear and lock it open with the slide lock. Verify that the chamber is empty. Retract the slide slightly and then release it fully forward. Pry loose the takedown pin from the left side of the pistol with a flat screwdriver. Remove the takedown pin. Move the slide assembly forward off the frame. Compress the recoil spring assembly and remove it from the slide. Remove the barrel.
Dry-firing the .22 LR Lite Rack LCP II is safe with an empty magazine inserted. The pistol comes with a pocket holster, a trigger padlock, and a magazine loader.
The .22 LR Lite Rack LCP II is a hammer-fired, tilting barrel blowback-operated autoloader. That means the slide is held closed by the recoil spring at the moment of ignition. After firing, the slide recoils to the rear, extracting and ejecting the fired case and cocking the hammer. As the recoil spring returns the slide to the closed position, the slide picks up a fresh round from the magazine and chambers it. When the last round in the magazine is fired, the spring-loaded slide lock automatically locks the slide open. There’s not much new with that concept. What is new is the reduced tension of the recoil spring that has to be overcome to rack the slide. This new design requires less strength from the shooter to manually cycle the slide, hence the new version’s name. Ruger came up with the design to provide an easier-to-rack semiautomatic pistol that’s comfortable to operate regardless of hand size and hand strength. According to the company, it is ideally suited to new shooters and those who struggle with racking traditional slides.
Ruger states the new .22 LR Lite Rack LCP II is optimized for use with high-velocity .22 LR ammunition, so I fired several of those loads, and I also fired several standard-velocity loads. Ruger says the .22 LR Lite Rack LCP II will not function with subsonic ammunition and some “Match” loadings that do not generate sufficient energy to cycle the slide. Let’s look at how the Lite Rack LCP II performed during my range session.
I fired 22 different .22 LR loads in the new pistol, and as you would expect, I achieved varying degrees of accuracy. The ammunition ranged from 3.01 to 4.99 inches for two, five-shot groups at 25 yards with each load. The best average accuracy came with CCI Clean 22 High Velocity 40-grain PLRN ammo. Aguila’s Super Extra High Velocity 38-grain CPHP loading was not far behind, averaging 3.17 inches. The accuracy results for all 22 loads are listed in the accompanying chart.
Obviously, this is not a match-grade .22 LR Bullseye competition pistol, but that’s not its purpose. Again, this gun’s main purpose is to serve as a trainer for its larger-caliber, personal-protection siblings. Therefore, I ran the .22 LR Lite Rack LCP II through the same course of fire as the new 9mm Mossberg MC2c that’s featured in my other gun review elsewhere in this issue.
Just to recap those shooting drills, the first involved a series of cardboard targets set at various distances from seven to 25 yards plus two steel plates. Each cardboard target was fired on with two shots and then the two steel plates had to be rung to count. The drill required the shooter to move. The other drill used seven steel plates set up in a row and placed seven yards from the shooting line. The object was to see how fast the steel plates could be hit.
The shooting session was probably the most fun I’ve had shooting a pocket pistol in a long while. The pistol functioned perfectly, and it was really comfortable to shoot. While the 25-yard accuracy was nothing to write home about, I expect this pistol will rarely be used for shooting at that distance. On the close-up cardboard targets and steel plates, accuracy was more than adequate.
At 11.2 ounces, the .22 LR Lite Rack LCP II weighs just a little less than the .380 LCP II, but it has exactly the same dimensions for overall length, width, and height as the .380 LCP II. The .22 pistol’s Secure Action trigger is the same as on the .380 LCP II pistol, and the sights are exactly the same, too. So, the .22 LR version is truly the proverbial understudy to the .380 ACP pistol. As such, it is being marketed as a .22 LR trainer. I think it will also serve well as a kit gun and a fun-to-shoot, casual plinker.
Ruger Lite Rack LCP II
- Type: Blowback-operated autoloader
- Caliber: .22 LR
- Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
- Barrel: 2.75 in.
- Overall Length: 5.2 in.
- Width: 0.81 in. (slide)
- Height: 4.0 in.
- Weight, Empty: 11.2 oz.
- Grips: Integral to polymer frame
- Finish: Matte black
- Sights: Integral to slide, fixed rear, post front
- Trigger: 5.25-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Manual thumb safety, integrated trigger safety, hammer catch, magazine disconnect
- MSRP: $349
- Manufacturer: Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc., ruger.com