Despite the fact that semi-auto pistols now dominate the police and civilian handgun markets, the popularity of the small frame "snubbie" revolver continues unabated. In fact, this class of handgun accounts for the majority of revolvers sold today and the reasons this type of handgun is so popular are not difficult to fathom.
The snub-nosed revolver offers concealability, simplicity of operation, safety, and utter reliability. It's also available in models that are chambered for powerful cartridges. This combination of features makes snubbies a natural choice for concealed carry by undercover officers, for backup carry by uniformed officers, and for off-duty carry by all officers. For these reasons, I believe that the future of the snubbie revolver is assured.
Over the years I have often stated that "...an engineer from the 1890s would find little about modern, double-action revolvers to remark upon. The basic concept, design, and construction of the revolver has not changed in the past 110 years and, for all practical purposes, has reached the apex of its evolutionary ladder."
Well, as I have freely admitted in the past, that statement wasn't the first wrong thing I said...and it probably won't be the last.
At this year's SHOT Show, Ruger wowed the attendees when it unveiled one of the most radically new handguns that has been seen in decades, the Light Compact Revolver (LCR).
A Plastic Wheel Gun
Despite the howls of protest they continue to engender from traditionalists, I have long been a fan and proponent of polymer frame pistols. In fact, I have often opined that it was a shame no one made a polymer frame revolver. Well, I no longer have reason to complain because that is exactly what Ruger has done with the LCR.
I can already see the shaking heads and astonished stares out there. Yes, folks, the LCR uses a plastic frame. In fact, the revolver is composed of three modular subcomponents: an upper cylinder frame/barrel assembly, a polymer lower frame "fire control housing" assembly, and a cylinder/crane assembly.
The cylinder/frame/barrel assembly consists of a 7400 aluminum forging, which serves as a housing for the cylinder/crane assembly and the cylinder release catch. When you look at the recoil shield you will notice two hardened steel bushings: one for the cylinder center pin to lock into and the other for the firing pin. The 1.875-inch stainless steel barrel is threaded into the barrel shroud.
The cylinder/crane assembly is constructed from stainless steel and features a unique black finish. The five-round cylinder has deep fluting and a narrow cross-section (it is the narrowest cylinder of any .38 snubbie on the market), which not only sets the LCR apart from all other revolvers on the market today but goes a long way toward paring weight.
Cylinder locking is by means of the titanium cylinder center pin latching into the steel bushing in the recoil shield and a spring-loaded latch (also made from titanium) on the front of the ejector rod housing, which mates with a cutout in the crane assembly.
All of the moving parts other than the cylinder release catch are contained in the LCR's fire control housing (FCH). This unit is constructed from high-intensity, glass-filled polymer and provides all the advantages that it does in semi-auto pistols. These include resistance to wear and resistance to damage from abrasion, oils, solvents, salts from perspiration, and environmental extremes. In addition, the polymer fire control assembly diffuses recoil pulse, making the LCR one of the smoother shooting revolvers of this class.
The FCH is attached to the upper cylinder/frame assembly by means of two torx-head cross screws and a captive nut behind the fixed notch rear sight. In addition, the large torx-head screw that holds the cylinder crane in place extends through into a threaded titanium insert embedded in the front of the FCH.
All of the lockwork is contained inside the FCH. To produce the smooth trigger pull, Ruger engineers utilized a patent pending interface between the trigger and hammer, which has a small friction-reducing cam on the toe of the trigger. This positions the two parts so that they operate in tandem when the trigger is pulled rather than resisting each other, as has been the norm in all earlier double-action revolver trigger systems.
Ruger offers the LCR with a choice of Hogue Tamer finger groove rubber grips or Crimson Trace Lasergrips. Removing the grips exposes an internal safety lock that uses a key to immobilize the mainspring, preventing unauthorized firing of the revolver.
Ruger's Ken Jorgensen kindly provided me with an LCR to evaluate for POLICE. When you first handle an LCR, you are immediately aware of three things: its light weight, its excellent ergonomics, and what can only be described as one of the best double-action triggers I have ever felt on an out-of-the-box revolver.
As fellow writer, gunsmith, and firearms trainer Pat Sweeney told me at the SHOT Show, "The LCR has a trigger you would have to pay a gunsmith big bucks to get on any other revolver."
The trigger pull on my test gun was smooth, stage free, and, according to my gunsmith's trigger pull scale, broke at 10.25 pounds. But to me the trigger pull felt considerably lighter than 10 pounds.
Shooting the LCR
At my first opportunity I took the LCR out to the range and ran it through its paces. While I see little sense in trying to shoot tiny groups from a rest with this type of handgun, many readers find it informative so I fired a number of groups with three brands of .38 Special ammunition.
After chronographing the three brands of ammunition, I proceeded to run a series of offhand drills on a D-1 target set out at seven yards.
Thanks to its polymer construction and the Hogue grips, felt recoil was less than I had imagined and fast, accurate follow-up shots were easy to perform. Much to my surprise considering how light the Ruger is and thanks in no little part to its excellent trigger pull, every round I sent down range ended up in the X and 10 rings of the target.
I carried the LCR in a Gould & Goodrich ankle holster for several weeks and, thanks to its small size and light weight, was rarely aware that I had a handgun on me.
If you or your agency are looking for a lightweight, easily concealable handgun for undercover officers or as a backup or off-duty handgun, I believe that you will find the LCR a most viable choice.
Paul Scarlata has served as an auxiliary police officer and is a frequent contributor to POLICE.
For more information visit Ruger online.