Ruger has offered an extensive line of centerfire semi-auto pistols in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP since the late 1980s. But none of them have proven popular with law enforcement.
And that's because most of Ruger's semi-autos were rather...Well...shall we say overengineered. That's not to say they weren't rugged, accurate, and easy to use because they were. But most of them had rather generous dimensions, which is a shortcoming in a pistol meant to be carried all day, especially if it has to be carried concealed.
The SR Legacy
In 2007 Ruger set about correcting this deficiency in its product line by introducing its first striker-fired, polymer-frame pistol, the SR9. While the pistol had much to recommend it, like most new designs, it experienced the usual teething problems, which resulted in Ruger refining the product.
A few cases were reported of the SR9 firing when it was dropped on the rear of the slide. Ruger did not merely warn its customers, it recalled every single pistol and retrofitted them with a new trigger mechanism at no cost to the owner.
The original design used a two-piece trigger comprised of an inner and outer "shoe," with the inner one hidden. The improved design uses a visible inner trigger blade, which retards rearward travel unless fully depressed. The redesigned trigger system also had reduced trigger over-travel, making trigger control more positive and rapid follow-up shots easier to achieve. Additionally, once the inner trigger blade is depressed, the length-of-travel is noticeably reduced, a very pleasing feature.
The improved SR9 proved very practical and rugged. Which put Ruger in competition with all the other manufacturers of duty pistols. And since all of its rivals offered compact and sub-compact versions of their pistols, Ruger released the SR9c compact in 2009.
While the SR9 and SR9c have proven steady sellers, the U.S. law enforcement market is dominated by .40 caliber autoloaders. So it came as no surprise to me last year when I received a press release from Ruger announcing the introduction of the SR40.[PAGEBREAK]
The SR40 has much in common with its two predecessors. Its slide is machined from solid stainless steel, and it is the narrowest of any of its contemporaries. The slide also features very aggressive grasping grooves, making it easy to retract even with wet hands or when wearing gloves.
The front sights are mounted in dovetail cuts and are prominent, easy to acquire, and fast to line up while the rear sight is adjustable for elevation so that the pistol can be zeroed in for your preferred load.
When a round is chambered, a loaded chamber indicator rises above the slide, providing a visual and tactile indication of the pistol's condition. The tail of the striker is visible at the rear of the slide when the pistol is cocked. There's also a massive (well, I don't know how else to describe it) extractor with a large claw that ensures reliable functioning.
Locking is via the SR40's barrel hood, which rises up into and bears against the front of the ejection port. This holds the slide/barrel unit together until they recoil a short distance. The recoil makes the barrel cam down, allowing the slide to continue to the rear, extracting and ejecting the spent cartridge case. The dual recoil spring unit under the barrel then pulls the slide forward, feeding the next round from the magazine and pulling the slide/barrel unit into battery.
Made of glass-reinforced Zytel nylon, the SR40's frame is slimmer than much of the competition and has a grip frame angle that feels just like a 1911 pistol. The grip features impressed checkering on the side panels and frontstrap and the tacky feeling backstrap is grooved. Removing a single pin lets you reverse the backstrap to present either a flat or arched configuration (personally I prefer the latter). Lastly, the SR40's frame features a rail for mounting tactical lights and/or lasers.
The slide reciprocates on rails on a steel camblock—which also acts to cam the barrel down during movement—and steel inserts at the rear of the frame. This camblock also serves to disperse recoil pulse through the frame, lessening felt recoil. The SR40 is a striker-fired pistol, and as the slide goes forward into battery, the striker is held in a partially cocked position. Pulling the trigger through a full stroke draws the striker back completely, disabling the firing pin safety plunger and then tripping the sear to release the striker to fire the pistol.
Ruger's SR pistols are unique among today's plastic pistols in that they come standard with ambidextrous thumb safeties. While these are located flat against the frame to reduce the chance of them hanging up, they are serrated for positive manipulation. The SR40's port side bona fides are further enhanced by ambidextrous magazine release buttons.
Ruger kindly provided me with an early production SR40 to evaluate for POLICE Magazine. I was impressed with the pistol's balance and ergonomics. With the arched backstrap installed, the SR40 proved as naturally a pointing handgun as I have every handled.[PAGEBREAK]
Accuracy testing was conducted at 50 feet from a rest with three different types of ammunition. While the pistol happily digested all three brands, it showed a preference for faster-stepping projectiles and as velocity increased the groups shrank in size.
The SR40 proved a pleasingly accurate pistol, shooting to point of aim for all three loads. Of the nine groups I produced, none was larger than three inches while a couple came in under two. Such performance from a service type pistol deserves positive comment.
After the accuracy testing, I set up a combat target, belted on a Galco Yaqui Belt Slide holster, and used up the remaining ammo running the Ruger through the following drills:
- 15 yards-draw pistol and engage target with 10 rounds, slow aimed fire. Perform combat reload and repeat.
- 10 yards-draw pistol and double-tap target, perform a combat reload and repeat. Reholster and repeat three more times.
- 5 yards-draw pistol and double-tap target firing with an unsupported (one-handed) grip. Reholster and repeat three more times.
As I fired these combat drills, my opinion of the SR40 grew. It pointed very naturally and, thanks to its good ergonomics, recoil control was above average. This made for fast, accurate follow-up shots.
During these combat drills, the magazines fell free whether they were empty or not, slide forward or locked back. The generous magazine well opening also smoothed out reloads.
Most of the 44 rounds I sent into the target created a ragged group in the center of the "chest." And lastly, I did not experience a single failure to feed, fire, extract, or eject in the 200-plus rounds I fired.
But I have to mention two negatives about the SR40. It was quite difficult to get the first round into the magazine. After that the remaining 14 went in easily, but that first one was a pain. Also, the trigger pull—while it had a crisp let off—was a bit on the heavy side, although I would expect that to improve with use.
While I am always cautious about sounding too enthusiastic about any new firearm, I was quite impressed with the Ruger SR40. I believe it is capable of doing whatever might be expected of a police service handgun...and perhaps a bit more.
Paul Scarlata has served as an auxiliary police officer and is a frequent contributor to POLICE.