Soon after the Ruger LCR in .38 special was introduced I had a chance to handle one at TREXPO East.

Ruger's polymer revolver intrigued me. The Ruger rep told me that during testing the LCR had digested 1,000 rounds of +P ammo in addition to being dry-fired 10,000 times without a hitch. That intrigued me even more.

The LCR was an instant success and a couple of years later Ruger is still trying to catch up with the market demand. But the company is not resting on its laurels. New versions of the LCR incorporate an XS standard dot front sight and a Hogue boot grip. And to finally convince me that I had to have one, the folks at Ruger have added a .357 magnum to the LCR line.

These features make the Ruger LCR an excellent backup gun (BUG) option for law enforcement officers.

Rugged and Maintenance Free

I am an avowed fan of the revolver in general and short-barreled revolvers in particular. So I was prepared to like the LCR. And I'm happy to tell you it did not disappoint me.

For this review I tested both the .38 special LCR as well as the new .357 magnum KLCR version. I was curious to learn what made the LCR line different from other small frame revolvers.

The LCR's frame is aluminum with a synergistic coating that is both abrasion- and corrosion resistant. Other parts of this firearm are equally tough. The barrel, cylinder, crane, and some other components are blackened or tumbled stainless steel. Inside, the fire control housing is reinforced nylon, and the trigger, hammer, and other internal components are coated with Teflon.

Maintaining the LCR is a snap. You simply clean it as needed and put a drop of oil on the hammer pivot pin every 1,000 rounds of live or dry fire.

In short, the LCR is a rugged revolver that is almost maintenance free.

Great Features

Although this is a review of the new .357 Magnum KLCR, I'd like to discuss some of the new features on the .38 Special LCR.

Hogue boot grips are an excellent addition to this handgun. A small grip for a small revolver seldom pleases everyone but this design will come close because a lot of thought went into it. The sides are smooth hard plastic while the front strap and back strap are rubber. This allows shirt tails and pant legs to ride smoothly over the grip, unlike some all-rubber grips.

The minimalist design of the Hogue boot grip also allows my hand to get a solid firing grip on the LCR in my pocket. That alleviates a major problem with some snubby grip designs that force you to get the gun free of the pocket before you can close your fist around the grip.

The LCR features the standard Ruger revolver cylinder release, which is my favorite for a police backup revolver because its operation requires the same thumb movement officers use to depress the magazine releases on their service pistols. This design makes it easier for officers to master and remember the LCR's operation.

I also like the new XS sights on the LCR. For years I've complained about the front sights on the small revolver but no more. The XS sight has taken care of that issue and is a must-have component since the requirement for a front sight on a BUG, as with a service pistol, is that the eye must be able to instantly acquire it if a "flash" sight picture is called for.

The XS sight is the only feature on the .38 Special LCR not also available on the  KLCR 357. The only other difference I can see between the .38 and the .357 is that the .357 has a slightly beefier cylinder, which is why it weighs a couple of ounces more.[PAGEBREAK]

Range Drills

On the range I put both revolvers through a series of drills designed to test the gun, the ammo, and the method of carry.

I like to start at 10 yards, just to make sure the point-of-aim-point-of-impact is the same. So I fired five rounds of each type of ammo with two hands and there were no surprises with either revolver even though I was using a variety of bullet weights. For this workout I shot Cor-Bon DPX 110-grain +P, Blackhills 125-grain JHP +P, Federal Tactical 129-grain JHP Hydra-Shok +P, and Speer Gold Dot 135-grain JHP +P.

I need to note here that I have little interest in firing .357 loads in the .357 LCR. For me, the extra weight and the bigger grips on this version give me increased rapid fire control with .38 special +P ammo, which is just fine. I started out with the boot grip on the .38 and the standard grip on the .357. With this combination the .38 did fine but the .357 really wanted to shoot. I am sure those extra few ounces plus the larger grip made the difference.

Next I moved to seven yards and performed a "2+2" speedloader drill from the ready position. I had three different types of "J" frame speedloaders but only the HKS worked, and it was a little slow to release the rounds. It appears that the charge holes on the LCR are just a bit farther apart than those on the "J" frame.

When carrying the LCR as a backup gun you may or may not choose to carry spare ammo for it. However, if you choose to carry it off-duty you should know what will work for you. I need to also note here that I found that not all "J" frame holsters will accept the LCR.

Drawing the weapon is a very important part of testing a backup gun. I like to do it from five yards, and I recommend that when you evaluate a BUG that you use the same technique that you plan to use on the street. In my case, I chose a DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster carried on the support side.

In this segment of the test I fire three rounds quickly, support hand only, and I only count hits in the "torso" of the target or into an area measuring 12x18 inches. This test evaluates the holster and recoil control using duty ammo and only from the support hand. I continue the test by repeating the exact same drill at three yards.

I learned a few things during the range testing of these revolvers. The .38 Special LCR with the boot grip was quick to draw and controllable, but the recoil was noticeable. The .357 with the standard grip was slower to draw, especially from a pocket, because there wasn't as much space to get a good grip but the rapid fire control was much better.

Before doing any more testing, I put the Crimson Trace Lasergrip on the .38 and it made all the difference. It has almost the same dimensions as the boot grip while offering a little more to hang onto, making the .38 much more controllable for me when I resumed the various firing drills. I am convinced that the Lasergrip is a must-have item for a snubby revolver.

Both the .38 Special LCR and the KLCR .357 are excellent backup guns. If you are in the market for a backup weapon and you are considering a revolver, both of these compact guns are worthy of serious consideration.

Retired CIA officer Ed Lovette is the author of "The Snubby Revolver," published by Paladin Press, and co-author of "Defensive Living," published by Looseleaf Law Publications. He is a member of the POLICE-TREXPO advisory board.

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