Bill Ruger would have turned 100 years old in 2016, and even though he is gone I believe that he would have been quite impressed with the innovative ﬁrearm designs that continue to appear on pages of his namesake company’s annual catalog. Unlike Colt, Smith & Wesson, Remington and Winchester, which were all operating in the 1800s, the Ruger brand is relatively new. But in just over 60 years, Ruger guns have earned a spot near the top of all American gun manufacturers. In ﬁrearms manufacturing terms that’s a meteoric rise, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing.
The American Compact enters the most competitive arena in gundom, and is the most recent combatant in the ﬁerce battle for carry-gun supremacy. And while Glock may have brought life to the polymer frame/striker-ﬁre gun category, they are hardly the only game in town anymore. Virtually every major handgun manufacturer has some sort of gun that ﬁts this mold, and more are coming.
For the past few years, Ruger has launched several products under the American name (which is ﬁtting, since these guns are made in the U.S.), most recently adding the American Pistol to round out their patriotically themed rimﬁre and centerﬁre riﬂe families. The Ruger American is a polymer-framed, striker-ﬁred semiauto available in 9mm and .45. It offers many of the same features you’ll ﬁnd on competing guns, such as interchangeable grips, a bladed trigger, and an accessory rail tucked under the gun’s muzzle. The price is one that any hard-working American can afford: $579 MSRP, with lower prices around for bargain shoppers.
The standard American has a 4.2-inch barrel in 9mm and a 4.5-inch pipe in .45. With a full magazine, the 9mm version offers an impressive 17+1-round capacity, and while the gun is great fun at the range, it’s a bit big to break into the main channel of the concealed carry market. But Ruger was one step ahead, planning (and now offering) a compact version of the American semiauto pistol.
It’s not as though Ruger needed another compact gun, truthfully. This is, after all, the brand that brought us the LCP and LCP II, LC380, LC9s, SR9/SR40C, and they also now offer a 1911 Commander as well. But the concealed carry market continues to grow, and having a full portfolio never hurts, so they have added the American Pistol Compact to that mix.
THE 9MM COMPACT VERSION of the American (the full-sized model is called the Duty) sports a 3.55-inch barrel (3.75inch in .45) with a length of just 6.65 inches. Designing a carry gun is always a give and take with regard to overall size; small guns are easy to hide and carry, but they aren’t as comfortable to shoot or as accurate (in most cases) as larger, longer-barreled guns. The American Duty pistol is a very comfortable gun to shoot at the range, with great sights and an excellent trigger that mate well with its grip geometry and control layout. But it’s big; too big for most people to carry.
The Compact, on the other hand, does a great job balancing on that middle ground that makes it just the right size for everyday concealment. It weighs right around 29 ounces (a little more or less depending upon whether or not you opt for a manual safety) and measures – again depending on your safety option – just under or over an inch and a half wide at the controls. It utilizes a double-stack magazine that gives you 12 shots in 9mm, unless you live some place that forbids that amount of ﬁrepower, in which case you’ll be deducted a couple shots.
Concealed carry is indeed a numbers game, and the American Compact has the data required to be a serious player. But to do a proper evaluation on any carry gun, we need to take a close look at all the features and see how they stack up against the competition.
I put about 200 rounds of 9mm ammo through the American Compact I was testing, and although it’s hardly torturing the gun, that many rounds offers plenty of feedback on what this gun will do. I used three different loads for the test – Hornady’s American Gunner with 115-grain XTP bullets, SIG Sauer’s 124-grain Elite Performance V-Crown, and Nosler’s Defense Bonded Performance 124-grain +P load. It wasn’t any accident that I chose these loads, either, for they’ve all proven to be effective and accurate, and I’d stake my life on any of them.
There are some striker-ﬁred semiauto carry guns that seem to eat anything you feed them, and the Compact is one of them. I fed it magazine after magazine, ﬁred from the bench at 15 yards and from standing and kneeling positions. I did draws, drills, and double-taps, all in an effort to see if this gun runs. And, in fact, it does. It feeds nicely, the magazine is well built and easy to use with springs that function well but don’t exhaust the hands when loading (if your mitts do get tired, there’s a mag loading tool included with the gun, though).
In 205 rounds tested there were 205 proper feeds, proper extractions, and proper ejections. The only inconsistency was that the slide didn’t stay open once, but when you’re talking about roughly 40 magazine changes over the course of the test I don’t consider that an issue. In short, the American Compact will function well with good loads. It isn’t particularly ﬁnicky, and it functions well.
I PLACE CONTROL DESIGN AND LAYOUT near the top of my priority list when evaluating a carry gun. Over the course of the last decade, controls on carry guns have been consistently shrinking – in some cases, disappearing altogether – with the idea being that fewer controls are less likely to hang up when drawing and less confusing when shooting. I suppose that there’s some validity to this, but I’ve drawn dozens and dozens of test guns over that same time period and I have yet to have a slide stop or safety hang-up when I was doing my part. What I have had happen – and what seems to happen with some regularity – is that I have tested striker-ﬁred guns with such Lilliputian controls that I have to fuss with a teeny tiny slide stop during a reload.
I offer this lengthy thought to laud praise on the American Compact. I tested the version with an ambidextrous manual safety in large part because a lot of people who carry concealed want a manual safety (if you just rolled your eyes, there’s a version called the Pro Model for you). At its most basic level, the Ruger’s safety operates like that of a 1911 in as much as you press the lever down to ﬁre and elevate it to activate. It’s fairly narrow but easy to ﬁnd and manipulate, a good combination on a carry gun. There’s no ﬁddling with a tiny, heavy button – one swipe of the thumb and you’re ready.
The ambidextrous slide stop is fairly small but functional and, like the safety, shouldn’t hang when drawing. The takedown lever remains tucked out of the way on the front of the frame, but it makes disassembly a cinch. A subtle depression and polymer bump keep the shooting hand thumb in place, and just below that you’ll ﬁnd the triangular magazine release button. If you choose the Pro Model and eliminate the manual safety, it’s a clean but functional control landscape, and even with the safety lever this gun is easy to holster, draw and hide.
Triggers on striker-ﬁred guns range from pretty good to terribly sloppy, and you simply can’t expect the same performance you’ll get from a single action. That being said, the Ruger trigger is on solidly the plus side of striker guns. There’s a good deal of take-up and the trigger breaks at 6 pounds, but the reset is positive and short, so you can deliver fast follow-ups.
THIS GUN IS MEANT TO BE CARRIED, so for eight days the Ruger was my traveling companion just about everywhere I went. I tested it with Versacarry’s new Commander OWB and Quick Slide OWB/IWB holsters, opting for the Commander when I was wearing a jacket or wasn’t as concerned about concealing the gun and switching to the Quick Slide when I wanted to be sure the gun was out of sight.
The double-stack magazine makes the American Compact slightly wider than the ultrathin single stacks from Ruger and others, but with a maximum width of just 1½ inches with the manual safety this gun isn’t terrible hard to conceal, and at 30 ounces it rides well in both holsters without the need for a really heavy belt. It’s also worth noting that the grip angle promotes a positive, high grip when drawing the gun, so it’s easy to be consistent when engaging a target.
There are two options for magazines; one with a ﬂat bottom and another with a ﬁnger extension. Measuring 5¼ inches from top to bottom with the ﬁnger extension magazine installed, the gun is compact enough that you could easily carry with either mag. In fact, I carried with the ﬁnger extension in place the whole time and never had any issues with printing, although it was winter and I wore a light jacket almost everywhere I went. As previously mentioned, Ruger built this gun with speciﬁcations that allow it to be carried relatively easily (though it won’t vanish under light clothing like the LCP II), yet it’s fun to shoot at the range.
Sometimes shooting a compact pistol on the range is a real chore; recoil can be excessive when shooting ultralight pistols with narrow grips coupled with hot defensive loads. The American Compact is much more subdued, feeling (at least with the ﬁnger extension magazine, which you’ll probably using at the range anyway) more like a midsized pistol – Ruger’s American Duty or SR9, a Glock 19/17 or Walther PPQ – than a single-stack ultracompact 9mm. The three rounds tested performed well (see chart) and groups around 1½ inches were the norm when ﬁred from 15 feet off the bench while using sand bags.
But the real test for this gun was how it handled off the bench, and it performed quite well when delivering double-taps, performing lateral and horizontal movement drills, and when drawing and ﬁring. The trigger, as previously mentioned, has a short reset, and that high grip and a relatively low bore axis helps keeps recoil manageable for quick follow-ups. Those Novak sights are a nice touch, too, and even in dim light or with poor eyesight you’ll be able to see the white dots.
The American comes with three easily interchangeable grips, so if you want to change the feel of the gun, it’s easy to do. There’s also a Picatinny rail, so if you want to add a laser or light that won’t be a problem either.
In closing, the Ruger American Compact is a great gun for those who appreciate its simple-to-use design, good trigger and reliable engineering. It’s a crowded and tough market out there, but the American deserves a spot on your short list when comparing 9mm carry guns. ASJ
The innovative LCR design has been a hit with shooters since the original Ruger LCR .38 Special +P was released in 2009. That design was optimized for concealed carry with a ﬁve-round cylinder, 1.875-inch barrel and hammerless, double-action-only trigger. Since that time Ruger (ruger.com) has expanded the line by chambering the gun in new calibers and adding new features. The LCRx model added single-action capability by introducing an exposed hammer to the available options but retained the short barrel length.
In late 2014 Ruger released the LCRx with a 3-inch barrel. This variant is again chambered in .38 Special +P with an exposed hammer that allows both double-action and single-action activation. The 3-inch tube has a full-length rib and fulllength underlug. The black rear sight is adjustable for both elevation and windage. The serrated front sight features a white square to aid in sight acquisition. The sight is pinned to the barrel and can be easily removed and replaced with one of the other front sight options available from Ruger. The package is completed with the installation of a full-size Hogue Tamer grip in place of the shorter grips on the previous models.
The rest of the gun follows the general LCR pattern: The two main structural components are the aerospace-grade aluminum frame mated to a polymer ﬁre control housing. The lock work includes a patented friction-reducing cam that eliminates stacking and reduces the perceived trigger weight. The stainless-steel cylinder is heavily ﬂuted for weight savings with a durable black Ionbond Diamondblack ﬁnish. The push-button cylinder release is in the normal Ruger location on the left side of the frame behind the cylinder.
THE BARREL UTILIZES a stainless-steel liner and aluminum shroud with a polished muzzle. The ejector rod is the same length as on the 2-inch barreled models. The one-piece grip ﬁts onto a shorter grip peg molded as part of the ﬁre control housing. The grip can be removed and replaced by unscrewing a single screw in the butt.
The ﬁrst thing I noticed about my review model was the size. While the LCR heritage is evident, this is no pocket gun. The extra inch of barrel, full-length rib, and larger sized Hogue grip add enough to the physical envelope to push it into the small side of the medium-frame revolver category.
The 3-inch barrel increased the overall length to 7.5 inches, while the full-length rib and larger Hogue grip make it taller at 5.8 inches. The LCRx 3-inch weighs 15.7 ounces. For comparison, the standard 2-inch-barreled .38 Special LCR is 6.5 inches long, 4.5 inches high, and weighs 13.5 ounces.
I had my gunsmith measure the trigger pull with a Lyman digital gauge when I picked up the revolver. This revealed a pull weight of 11.5 pounds for double-action and 7.0 pounds for single-action.
I tested the gun with a variety of .38 Special loads provided by Hornady Ammunition. This included their Critical Defense Lite 90-grain FTX load, their Critical Defense 110-grain FTX standard and +P loads, their 125-grain XTP load, and their 158-grain XTP load.
I warmed up by shooting a few rounds at a plate rack at 15 yards to give me a general feel for the double-action and single-action trigger pulls. I then ﬁred for groups at 25 yards while seated at a table with my hands resting on the LCR’s zipper bag for padding. All ﬁring here was single-action.
The best group, measured from the furthest distances of the holes, was almost exactly 2½ inches.
Interestingly, it was almost exactly the same when measured from the top- to bottom-most holes as when measured from the furthest left to the furthest right. This was the standard-pressure 158-grain FTX load.
The second best group was from the Critical Defense 110-grain standard-pressure load that printed at just over 3 inches, from furthest edge to furthest edge, with pronounced left-to-right stringing.
Unfortunately, the deliberate single-action, slow-ﬁre shooting revealed a mechanical problem that I hadn’t noticed during the more casual ﬁring at the plate rack. The hammer was noticeably more difficult to cock on one of the chambers than the others. I later consulted with a gunsmith friend who said the likely cause was due to out-of-spec machining on the lobe of the star corresponding to that chamber. (I later cleaned the revolver and the problem was still there during dry ﬁre with the clean gun.) The one bad hammer pull made the precision testing more difficult. I only got the best two groups later in the test after I identiﬁed and compensated for the issue. At ﬁrst the heavier and grittier pull on that chamber both threw off my concentration and also caused me to break my grip. This also made it impossible to determine if any particular load was more accurate in the gun. A typical “bad” group was 5 inches or so, often with one ﬂyer that messed up an otherwise good group.
IN EXCHANGE FOR THE LARGER size and weight over the ﬂagship LCR, you get a revolver that is easier and more fun to shoot. The grip is large and comfortable, the hammer is easily accessible for single-action cocking, and the longer sight radius and more visible sights help practical accuracy. The extra weight over the standard .38 Special version helps make the gun more pleasant to shoot as well. While the +P rounds had some noticeable sting, they weren’t bad, and the polymer trigger housing and generous grip soaked up the recoil of the standard-pressure rounds nicely.
The only disappointment in the design was that the gun retained the short 2-inch ejector rod of the parent models. While it’s understandable that Ruger wouldn’t want to spend the money on a dedicated 3-inch ejector rod for this model, having that full ejector rod stroke would have been a nice touch. Note that I didn’t have any problems with the shorter ejection stroke; I just prefer the longer ejector rod when possible.
The Ruger LCRx 3-inch would make an excellent choice for a lightweight trail gun, as a concealed carry gun in a belt holster, or as a home defense gun. As with most revolvers, the limited ammo capacity is an issue, but if you want a lightweight revolver that shots like a medium-frame gun, this is one to get. ASJ
As you can imagine, this revolver is very large for its caliber. You’d expect a double-action GP revolver from Ruger to be large and sturdy, and it is. If you are looking for some power when you go plinking, this could be the gun for you.
According to my trigger pull gauge, the single action broke at 6 pounds, while the double action broke between 19 and 20, which is certainly extreme. It has a 10-shot cylinder, and since it is a .22, recoil is virtually nonexistent. I wouldn’t recommend dry ﬁring it much, if at all, because, as with all rimﬁres, if the ﬁring pin hits the edge of the chamber some damage may occur.
It is a massive, well-built revolver made from stainless steel, which means that weight may be an issue for those who may plan to carry it a lot. The rear sight is adjustable, and the front is a ﬁber optic, which makes it easier to pick up, especially in less than ideal lighting conditions. It comes in the durable case and, of course, the ever-present lock is included. The grips have a wood center panel and rubber on the outside where you hold it, and they are both comfortable and attractive. It also comes with Ruger’s patented transfer bar mechanism, which provides an unparalleled measure of security against accidental discharge.
SINCE IT IS SO STURDY, I’d like to see it chambered for the .22 rimﬁre Magnum, either as a replacement cylinder or as another variation of the gun. While the cartridges will chamber, it isn’t a good idea to shoot .22 rimﬁres in a magnum cylinder. The .22 LR ammo may split, and wouldn’t be accurate even if they don’t.
This gun is built so well that I don’t think it could be worn out regardless of how many rounds are put through it, especially since the .22 is a low-pressure round that enhances the life of any gun chambered for it. Because the DA trigger break was so high, I did the majority of my shooting single action. I don’t possess strong hands and can’t get any accuracy shooting DA. Hitting cans is easier using single action even out to 25 yards, and better shooters will be able to extend that range, as the gun has excellent accuracy.
The sights are easy to pick up, which is always an asset when shooting or hunting in reduced light. I have chronographed many calibers in both riﬂes and handguns, and depending on the load and other factors, velocity is commonly from 200 to 400 feet per second faster in the long gun as the shorter barrel and ﬂash gap reduces velocity. During my testing of the GP-100, the ammo was about 200 fps slower than from a riﬂe.
Making reloaded rimﬁre ammo isn’t worth the time, trouble and expense involved, so factory loads are your best bet. As with any gun, this one will show a preference to a speciﬁc load or loads, and there are a variety of good factory ones to test what this particular revolver likes.
I consider the .22 RF round as one of the most dangerous in existence. Because it is small, people tend to underestimate it. But it is dangerous at longer distances, and you should never shoot it at a ﬂat surface, as it will ricochet like any other cartridge and the shooter has no control as to where it will go.
The .22 LR is a decent small game load. I have shot a lot of squirrels and rabbits with it, especially when using hollow points. The .22 is also good for training someone because the lack of both recoil and muzzle blast will not intimidate a new or younger shooter. In addition, the .22 RF remains less expensive than centerﬁre rounds, even though they have gone up in price in the last few years.
If you shop around, good deals are available, especially for 500-round bricks. Such purchases will cut down the cost on shooting and for most uses the inexpensive ammo works as well as the pricey stuff. I have shot a good amount of rimﬁre ammo, and the cheap stuff is nearly as accurate as the pricey fodder, especially in noncompetition guns.
When it comes to having fun shooting there is nothing like a .22 rimﬁre. It is easy on the ears and pocketbook, and a family can buy a 500 pack of ammo and shoot all day. Many shooters, including yours truly, started with a singleshot .22 riﬂe.
I always ask other shooters for input during a gun test, as people tend to have different preferences. For example, I have a single six with both cylinders and I prefer it for daily carry, as it is lighter and more compact. But the GP100 could be ideal for someone who shoots often because I don’t believe you can shoot it enough to wear it out. It is one rugged design, and most of the shooters I spoke with liked it.
At the conclusion of any gun test, I have the choice to either return the gun or buy it. But sometimes someone I know will purchase it if they want it, and that is exactly what happened to this gun. ASJ
Now, your vote may be swayed by the current AR platform rage, but that involves multiple calibers and brands. I’m talking about the most popular single gun, and the Ruger 10/22 owns that honor, hands down.
Not bad for a riﬂe that ﬁrst hit the market in 1964.
The 10/22 became my go-to riﬂe pretty quickly. How could I not love it? It’s extremely dependable, accurate and, as I mentioned, you can trick it out as much as you want. But it was my quest to hunt the elusive whistle pig (which in southern Idaho, where I shoot, refers to a Townsend’s ground squirrel) that led me to desire a higher level of accuracy, which in turn led to this article.
I love hunting varmints in the spring, and on good days I’ll shoot 400 to 500 rounds at these ornery targets. But if you’re like me when shooting hundreds of rounds using a gun with a small capacity clip, you’ll get frustrated, and I mean fast. In fact, it’s easy enough to get frustrated if you don’t have two or three fully stocked 25-shot banana clips on hand.
As my experience progressed, it got to be fun to see how far out I could hit whistle pigs. I hit one a year or so ago at 197 yards, and then another at 207 yards. If they hold still and let you get three shots to zero in, you can hit them out there. Of course, the gale-like winds we encounter regularly out on the high plains here in Idaho don’t help with long-range shooting.
I noticed that while sighting in with a new scope, I’d have one or two ﬂiers out of a 10-round group. Then, when I listened good, I observed that there’d be a diﬀerence in the loudness or volume of the report, which meant it had a little less powder than the previous shot.
I then begin to doubt the ammo more than my shooting ability, a conclusion that was conﬁrmed when my buddy told me that even with good ammo, match shooters weigh their bullets and kick out those with the highest and lowest weights. I also shot his tricked-out 10/22, and although I thought he might have gone a little overboard with his, it got me thinking about which steps I should take with mine to achieve a higher level of accuracy.
In other words, which items helped me and which ones did not?
Hunting whistle pigs requires a scope because they’re small targets. You may have to take head shots when they pop out of their holes, so I didn’t begin this test using open sights. In fact, with a cheap scope and Remington ammo I was already getting between .65-inch and 1.0-inch groups at 25 yards. Then I shot some Eley ammo and got my groups
down to .4 inches.
The ﬁrst thing I did was install a Leupold VX2 4-12 AO CDS scope that I’d had painted in the company’s Custom Shop to match my new Boyd stock. Now I could really focus in and I was able to get my shooting down to groups of .6 inches with the Remington ammo and .4 with the Eley.
My original trigger had a pull of 5.5 pounds but it had a rough spot and some drag, which hurt my accuracy. So after adding the scope I installed a Timney trigger with a 2¾-pound pull. This lighter setting aided my squeeze immensely.
Installing a Timney 10/22 trigger was super simple. In fact, my son-in-law located a YouTube video that showed everything we needed to do, so we did the ﬁrst one together. The video said to remove the stock and pull the pins. Well, we removed the stock and two pins fell out, so I looked at him and said, “I assume those are the two pins we’re supposed to take out.” They had been held in place by the stock, so the process couldn’t have been simpler.
Despite the wind being pretty bad, with the new scope and trigger I was able to shoot groups between .5 inches and 1.0 inch using Remington ammo, and with the Eley I was consistently getting .5-inch groups. I now felt as if I had a good shooting riﬂe.
The next step was to put on a Brownells barrel and a Boyd Stock. Removing the barrel was also pretty simple. First you remove the stock, and then there are two Allen bolts holding a block that pins in the barrel. Remove them. My barrel was tight, so I ran home and used a wooden dowel rod to tap it oﬀ. To mount it again, just reverse the
order of steps. Then I slid on the Boyd stock and tightened it down with the one screw. What a sweet-looking riﬂe!
The following day I had to teach some seminars at Sportsman’s Warehouse, but as soon as I was done I took oﬀ for the plains. Now, I didn’t measure it, but I’ll estimate that the wind was blowing around 15 miles per hour. The next day there was a little less, probably 8 to 10 mph, so that helped. But with my new, tricked-out 10/22, I was able to achieve .4- to .6-inch groups with the Remington ammo, and .2- to .3-inch groups with the Eley. I now had a shooter.
If you believe diﬀerent brands of ammo vary in your bigger caliber riﬂes (and I do), the variance is even more so with a .22. So on the ﬁnal day, just for the sake of this article, I shot four brands. Here were the best groups that I obtained with each brand.
Federal Target Grade Performance: 1.3-inch group
Winchester M22: .9-inch group
Remington Golden Bullet: .4-inch group
Eley Force: .2-inch group
Tests were performed at 25 yards oﬀ a stable bench with Altus shooting bags;
Distances were set using a Leupold RS-1200iTBR/W Digital Laser Rangeﬁnder;
Five-shot groups were ﬁred;
Shooting was done out on the prairie, so wind was a factor. For example, using Eley ammo indoors, I believe I could have obtained .1-inch groups.
Here is how I would rank (from 1 to 5, with 1 being the most important) which item most aﬀected and/or improved accuracy besides choice of ammunition:
1. Scope You must be able to pinpoint one spot or you just aren’t going to be accurate.
2. Trigger If you can’t get a good squeeze, you just aren’t going to be able to tighten up your groups.
3. Boyd stock My stock is super comfortable and I feel like I have a good grasp of my riﬂe. Does that really help the accuracy? I think it does, if only minutely. Your mind will not drift oﬀ thinking how awkward or uncomfortable it is to hold. And although it is not a factor on a .22, Boyd claims that they help reduce recoil on larger caliber riﬂes.
4. Bull barrel I think this add-on would play a bigger factor on hot days when you’re pouring out the ammo. A lighter barrel would get warm.
5. Cool factor If you want to have a riﬂe that takes people’s breath away, a scope out of the Leupold Custom Shop and a Boyd stock will surely help. Tell Leupold what type of stock you’re buying and they’ll paint your scope to match it. What’s cooler than that? In addition, both companies have options too numerous to mention. ASJ