The Ruger LCR – Range Report!

Today I took my mother to the range to try out the two firearms she purchased last week; a Browning Buckmark (range report) and a Ruger LCR.

For those unfamiliar with the Ruger LCR. It is Ruger’s long-awaited answer to Smith & Wesson’s airweight line.  It is the first polymer based revolver made in the western world. (The Russian’s beat us to it with a break open revolver manufactured by Izhevsk.)

It has a 5 round capacity, and handles .38 Special +P.  The LCR has a strongly fluted cylinder, which reduces weight. I personally find it quite attractive and reminiscent of the the pepperboxes from the 1800’s.  The cylinder and the barrel is made of steel. The front frame is made of aluminum.  The rear of the frame, which houses the firing control housing, is made of polymer.  All of this leads to a fairly lightweight revolver.

For those who are new to the world of firearms. There is an inverse relationship between the perceived recoil of a firearm and it’s weight.  A heavy firearm like the Ruger MK Hunter firing a small round such as a .22LR results in very low recoil. Where as the very small Ruger LCP which fires what is considered a fairly small cartridge, the .380, has a lot of perceived recoil.  Likewise, the LCR is a very light gun for it’s cartridge.

I did have some concern recommending said firearm to my mother. Many have commented on the numerous women who have been sold airweight snubbies by the likes of Jolly Joe behind the counter at the gunstore.  I really did not want to make that mistake.  My mother tends to find the kick of a gun exciting and envigorating.  What she finds difficult is fine motor skills with her thumbs due to trigger finger and carpal tunnel (officer work related).  And that’s one point the LCR excels at; having a nice easy trigger pull.

But I was still nervous that it might be too much kick…


My mother fired the first five rounds.  Her first one was a flyer, but the next four she put all in the red, this was at 12 ft.  That’s a pretty common distance for a personal engagement.  She expressed a little intimidation with the first shot. But said the following four were much easier.  This may have been due to her adjusting her grip or simply knowng what to expect.

Next I had her try it at 21ft. She put all five rounds in the center torso region, including 3 in a 1″ circle in the red center. Pretty darn good IMHO!

I took a shot myself. And while I can say it has a fair amount of kick, it was not overwhelming.  A bit akin to firing a hot .357 in my fullsize 6″ GP100 revolver.  (At some point I’d like to compare it our LCP.  My gutt feeling is that the LCR is slightly less jarring than the LCP.)  The grip does help quite a bit in reducing the intensity; both by providing a soft squishy impact absorbent material and by widening the grip so as to spread the forces over a broader area. At no point did I feel that the LCR was straining to be controlled.

My mother and I went through a 50 round box of Walmart Winchester white box .38 Specials.  Neither of us left with sore hands. In fact, my mother commented shortly before we wrapped up that she was barely noticing the recoil any longer.  That’s not to say there was no recoil. Just that it is maneagable enough not to impede the mere fun of shooting the LCR.

Needless to say, it does not look like my mother will be taking me up on the offer to buy the gun off of her. Oh well…guess if I want to shoot it I can always have her come down for a visit.

Published in: on July 25, 2009 at 7:24 am  Comments (3)  
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  1. I had been searching for the best 38 cal revolver to be used both at the target shooting range and for personal defense. In serious consideration was: Smith & Wesson, model 60-15 with the 3 inch barrel vs. Ruger LCR with a Crimson Trace Laser sight. Tried both, dry firing, in the store and the Ruger LCR definitely had the smoother and lighter trigger pull. Was in the process of ordering the Ruger from my local gun dealer and the manager informed he that he had fired that same revolver multiple times. He reported a whole lot of pain in his hand when firing it. He has very large hands and has a large frame build as well as being a very accomplished shooter. He strongly suggested going to the Smith and Wesson 442 or 642 to reduce the heavy recoil that the Ruger LCR has. In my view, if firing 50 to 100 rounds through a revolver is going to be very painful, then that revolver is worthless.

  2. Hi Clair,

    Here are some things to consider…

    Any firearm will have an inverse relationship between recoil and weight. If the weight goes down, the recoil goes up.

    So a Ruger LCR which falls into the ultra light category of pocket revolvers is going to have more pronounced recoil than say the all steel SP101, and much more than a full size such as Ruger’s GP100.

    Regarding the local deal. The fact that he has large hands/frame is not always a benefit in shooting small firearms. And firearm feel varies from individual shooter.

    I am somewhat concerned about the dealer’s recommendations, or perhaps more so, his reasoning.

    From the mathematics, the S&W 442/642 are about the same weight as the Ruger LCR. In fact, they’re a tad lighter. This means that the “felt recoil” should be in about the same ballpark for both the LCR and the 442/642. Granted a few design factors can reduce perceived recoil. But in that case, most of the favor would seem to fall to the LCR.

    Now mind you, any ultralight snubbie is going to leave you a tad bruised. These are not sport-shooting guns. They’re last minute self-defense guns. They are made extremely light with the intention of primarily being carried and seldom being used. The use for such firearms is usually, just enough to train and practice with.

    Rather, what a lot of people do is cross-train. By that I mean they use a similar firearm (ie: same firearm in steel) and send a few hundred rounds of ammo down range in the heavier firearm with less recoil. This allows the shooter to practice aim and trigger pull on the heavier firearm. The result is a reduced requirement to train using the lighter carry weapon.

    A couple of benefits from this are:

    – less bruises
    – less wear on a carry gun
    – increase in generic shooting skills

    You still need to shoot your carry guns for the experience and familiarity with the weapons. But there is no need to abuse your hand. Rather, the combination of the above method in conjunction with “dry firing” will often lead to better results than shooting hundreds of rounds downrange in your snubbie.

    Dry firing is the shooting of a firear unloaded, and preferbly with snap caps. This allows you to practice trigger pull, aiming, reloading, drawing, etc. And can greatly improve your shooting overall.

    “In my view, if firing 50 to 100 rounds through a revolver is going to be very painful, then that revolver is worthless.”

    I a going to tell you that your view is wrong. Please do not take this wrong. But realize that you don’t use a screwdriver to drive a nail, nor a hammer to drive a screw. (At least not without much difficulty and hardship.) Likewise, you use the right gun for the right job.

    a S&W chamber in .454 Casull is going to be a much better one shot stop than a .38 special. But…you’re not going to carry a huge revolver around wherever you go. So we compromise…

    Both the LCR and the S&W airweights are compromise guns. And the compromises if much further toward lightness for carry than comfort for shooting.

    You see, these guns are primary and pretty much solely for self-defense. And for that purpose you are NOT going to shoot 50-100 rounds. So for their intended purposes, they do fine.

    But if you are looking for a firearm for training and practice, neither the LCR nor the S&W 442/642 (which is going to have the same heavy recoil of the LCR, if not worse) are likely the right choice.

    S&W Model 60 and Ruger’s SP101 give you a bit less compromise. These guns are about 5oz – 10oz heavier. They will have reduced recoil in relation to the lighter guns. But they will also be heavier and more cumbersome to carry on your persons.

    here are some of the weights of the different firearms:

    15 oz – S&W 442/642

    17 oz – Ruger LCR

    22 oz – S&W Model 60

    26 oz – Ruger SP101

    If you can only afford one gun, you might want to consider something like the SP101. It’s heavier, but still small enough to be carried on your person. It’s added weight will make it much easier to practice with. As you become more comfortable shooting, you can purchase a second lighter revolver. Having now much more experience shooting.

    Also consider buying either the Ruger LCR or S&W ultralight (whichever one you can get a better deal on). And then buy a larger, heavier, cheaper firearm such as a Taurus or Charter Arms to practice with. No, they’re not regarded as reliable as the S&W or Rugers. But this would just be your practice gun. You may find that practicing with a less smooth firearm might lead to better performance with a higher end revolver.

    Realize that dealers get a lot of promotions/kickbacks from gun manufacturers. A dealer might get more money selling you that S&W then he will the Ruger. So he might push you in that direction.

    Know this, that all ultralight revolvers are going to leave you with a sore hand after 50-100 rounds. Going with the

    If you really want to know the difference in feel. Find a range that allows rentals. In our area Pennsylvania we have Freedom Armory, and I believe they rent both firearms.

    Lastly, a few other considerations.

    1. There is a potential concern regarding S&W. Many manufacturers have included internal locking mechanisms in their firearm. Both S&W and Ruger have done so. There were a number of issues with S&W’s internal locks actually locking up on some models. Usually larger firearms I believe. So some people have avoided newer S&W revolvers for this reason. I think this probably occurred more with earlier models. But it is something to research.

    2. The same holds true with pistols. I own a Ruger LCP. It is a small gun and it will bite. I am sure if I shot a 100 rounds through it my hand would be in much pain. But I’ve not shot much more than 25 rounds. And that can leave my hand sore.

    But I do not hone my shooting skills with that little firearm. I use a full size Glock or my Ruger .45 ACP. I shoot the LCP just enough to be familiar with it’s mechanism and sights.

    3. LCR is a newer design, this does mean a greater risk of a problem being found in the design. However, Ruger is a very good company and really takes care of its customers. S&W is a very old, tried and true design. (Also, please note, that while Ruger has had two recalls. S&W and many other firearm manufacturers have had recalls as well. Some for much more grave issues IMHO. Ruger just is more prominent and up front. I believe Sig referred to their recall as a “mandatory hardware upgrade”.

    4. S&W has greater collectibility and resell value. (But that is probably not a factor in this case.)


    Below is a post by an owner of both. It is fairly revealing IMHO.

    I was quite happy with my 642 Airweight…UNTIL…I picked up an LCR.
    After shooting/carrying both of them for two weeks – I, too, sold my Airweight!

    The Ruger is just a superior shooter. There’s some kind of magic in that polymer. The LCR exhibits about the same recoil with +P rounds that the 642 did with standard rounds!
    My LCR has the Crimson Trace laser…the non-laser model has special Hogue anti-recoil grips, so I can only assume that IT shoots even softer!

    The combination of reduced recoil, laser sights and a remarkably smooth trigger/action adds up to greatly improved accuracy.

    I have a S&W Model 36 that I had a custom trigger/action job done on.
    The Ruger trigger is smoother ‘out of the box’ than the custom 36!

    Mike Harvey

    PS – The consensus of the first page of the thread seems to be almost unanimous in preference of shooting the LCR over the 442.

    I hope this has helped answer your question and given you some food for thought and a better understanding of the factors involved. (lighter gun = greater recoil, although grips and design can mitigate some of the felt recoil).

    If you have any more questions, or further questions on this topic, please feel free to ask.

  3. I absolutely love my Ruger LCR. I carry it always and everywhere. Do not shoot 158 LRN rounds, as the “snap” of the recoil will advance the round and jam the cylinder. Stick to P+ ammo low bullet weight ammo.

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