Recently I went in search of a pistol to take the place of my Walther PPK/S and my Smith & Wesson Model 60, which have both served me well as off-duty and backup guns for the past 20-plus years.
So the other day when my friendly outdoor store gun salesman handed me the new Ruger LCP, I realized pretty quickly that I may have found what I was looking for. " I just unpacked it and put it in the case this morning," he said. He was trying to get me to buy this .380 backup gun, but I didn't need further encouragement.
The minute I held the Ruger LCP I sensed something that just felt "right" that I hadn't felt in other small .380s. Perhaps it was the apparent quality of the finish, the smooth edges, and the solid but not too heavy, feel. Perhaps it was all of these things and more. Anyway after a swipe of my credit card and a background check call to the State Police, I was heading out the door with my new prize.
One ammunition magazine is provided along with a zipper case and the perfunctory gun lock. A couple of clicks on the Ruger Website got me two additional magazines in short order.
The magazine capacity of the LCP is six rounds with the potential for an additional round in the chamber. I've never subscribed to that option of cramming in an extra round, especially in smaller pistols. There are dynamics that come into play in a magazine after that first round is chambered that I have a healthy respect for, even if I can't quite explain them.
If you chamber a round in any semi-auto pistol and then withdraw the magazine, you'll notice that the top round has moved forward the slightest bit as a result of the round above it being chambered. I've always felt that the smaller the pistol, the more critical that subsequent round's location becomes. Duty-sized handguns generally have less sensitivity or preference, but there is the occasional manufacturer that advises against the practice. The LCP, however, seems to handle the presence of that extra round with no reduction in function or reliability.
Note also that there is no magazine disconnect safety so a chambered round can be fired by its lonesome if need be. The operating manual even goes so far as to tell you that it's OK to do so.
No External Safety
There is no external safety on the LCP other than the generous trigger pull, and I see no reason why one is needed.
The absence of a safety will come as no surprise to an officer who is accustomed to double-action-only and striker-fired weapons that generally don't have external safeties. And if your regular weapon doesn't have one, keeping to a similar system is critical to consider when you look at the extreme circumstances that would undoubtedly require you to bring an off-duty or backup weapon into action. Such an emergency is not the time to bring a different operating system into the equation. In my opinion, too many officers don't take this into consideration when they look at supplemental weapons.
Takedown and Cleaning
The takedown procedure for cleaning and examination of the LCP is pretty painless.
First, always make sure the gun is empty and safe by removing the magazine and clearing the chamber. A takedown pin located on the left side of the frame is easily removed with a few turns of a screwdriver or knife blade. Once it's out, the slide comes off the front rails of the frame, and the barrel and the two recoil springs that are nested together on a guide rod easily come out.
That's it for cleaning. Reverse the process with a slight wiggle in of the takedown pin, and you're back in business.
There is a manual slide lock that must be deliberately engaged on the LCP. The slide will not lock open on an empty chamber. That's a nuance to be aware of. Also, what feels like a smooth double-action-only trigger pull offers only single-strike capability.
You must cycle the slide if another pull of the trigger is warranted in the event of a misfire, as with a Glock or similar system. In doing that, you'll eject the round in the chamber and insert a new one, which is probably a desirable outcome as the odds are rather overwhelming that a second hit on an apparent dud round is going to result in a discharge anyway.
Armed with knowledge of the LCP's nuances, I gave it a good cleaning, packed up an assortment of ammo, and headed to the range. I had a mixture of previously cycled, nicked, and scarred ammo from my PPK/S, including some Remington FMJ and hollowpoints, Blazer FMJ, and Federal Hydra-Shok hollowpoints.
Aiming the LCP revealed that the sights blend into the slide pretty well. But that's OK considering that the pistol is intended for up-close defense. Regardless, my aging eyes always seem to benefit from a dab of white paint here and there so I went ahead and put a microdot of white on the front sight. That made a dramatic difference in the sight picture for me, anyway.
My goal on this first trip was more to check out function and reliability with accuracy evaluation being secondary.
I figured the same light weight that made the LCP so attractive as a backup or "always" gun, might make it a real handful to shoot. And I was right, to an extent. It recoiled a bit but nothing that I would put in the nasty or uncontrollable category, more like "snappy."
Keeps on Firing
OK, so the snappy LCP is not going to be my favorite target pistol. That's fine. I'm more interested in confirming that it will shoot when I need it.
This tiny pistol proved really reliable. It gobbled up all of my rounds with only one failure to chamber hiccup on a Remington FMJ round that I'm inclined to attribute to a weak grip for that particular shot.
Also, my curled down shooting hand thumb contributed to a couple of unintended magazine button releases that went away as I made some adjustments to my grip. Shooters who keep their shooting hand thumb extended shouldn't experience a problem.
I was pleased to see the LCP digest several magazines of the Hydra-Shoks, which was my round of choice in the PPK/S. Once I got used to the trigger pull I found that fast follow-up shots came easily. Something to consider when you're betting all of your chips on a smaller caliber gun.
Looking at the ejected brass casing, I noticed some evident impressions made by the sizable ejector that Ruger chose to go with in the LCP. There is also a quite handy window into the chamber so as to allow you to confirm the presence of a chambered round.
It was no problem keeping all of my shots from the LCP in the important part of a TQ-15 standard police silhouette target at three, seven, and 15 yards. And that's all anyone really needs from this sort of weapon.
Unsupported shooting at 25 yards resulted in some great center hits and a few misses just off the edge of the target. The hits were good enough to let me know the gun can do the job if I do mine.
In all fairness to the LCP, I had already put about 75 rounds through a .40 S&W that afternoon and was on the way to 70 rounds through the LCP, so I think "hand fatigue" was starting to set in.
In order to qualify to carry the weapon on or off-duty, most officers will need to launch at least 12 or so rounds from the 25-yard line, most likely from a barricade or kneeling position. On this occasion I was just standing with a two-handed hold. The next range session will include more time at the 25-yard line in an attempt to dial in some of those borderline shots. I have no doubt that the LCP is up to the task.
Packing the LCP is nothing short of a breeze. It seems to carry well in an Uncle Mike's #10 inside the waistband holster. I was also able to find an elastic belly-band-type holster made for small autos by Passport Sports. It also nestles right into the occasional hollow between panels under the armpit that some of us experience when we wear ballistic vests. A check of the Internet showed more than one holster maker coming out with some nice looking pocket holsters, too.
It looks like Ruger's little .380 LCP is going to be a winner that will find its way into more than one police officer's tool box as a second or even possibly a third weapon. I know that it will always be within my reach.
Mark Maas is a lieutenant and firearms instructor with a state law enforcement agency. His assignments have included patrol, investigations, and training.