Last summer we picked up a Ruger LCP (Light Compact Pistol) for my wife. She wanted something that would be less bulky than your average sidearm. We fondly refer to it as the “Ladies Carry Pistol”.
The Ruger LCP is chambered for the .380 ACP round. This is essentially a shortened low powered 9mm round. Many regard the .380 as the bare minimum defensive caliber. And it’s not uncommon to hear gunnies exclaim “Friends don’t let friends carry mouseguns.” (A term to describe any of the very small firearms chambered for anything less than a 9mm or .38 Special.)
However, they will often follow that up with. A mousegun is better than no gun at all. And when one’s attire does not allow for a full size or even a compact sidearm. A mousegun may be your only option. One might suggest keeping a sidearm in a purse or briefcase. However, some professions do not have that option. A nurse in a hospital is not likely to be seen wearing their scrubs while carrying a purse. That’s where the Ruger LCP and similar firearms come to play. They provide an ultra-conceable option.
The Ruger LCP is a lightweight polymer frame pistol approximately 5″ in length and weighing under 10 ounces. It has a 6+1 capacity. While the trigger pull is in the double-action weight zone of approx. 8lbs, the firing mechanism appears to be single action. Pulling the trigger only releases the firing pin once. Repeat pulls do not reset the hammer. I may not be completely accurate or correct in my assessment. I have seen it referred to as “Single-strike double-action”. Essentially, it behaves like many of the striker fired pistols out there. There is a slide lock/release but the slide does not lock open after the final round. There is no safety, which is the one feature I’d love to see in a mouse gun this size. I guess it’s small size does not facilitate a feature rich gun. And that’s likely the reason the LCP is neither CA or MA approved. The suggested retail price has now gone up to $347.
When Ruger announced the LCP it became an instant hit. While nearly identical in size and appearance to the Keltec P38T, Ruger’s reputation and quality made it a much more in demand firearm. Many have expressed the fit and finish quality on the LCP to be nicer than the Keltec. I am not sure I’d know how to tell the difference. But I think Ruger has an excellent reputation for standing behind their products and quickly and openly responding to safety issues.
And this is a good thing, as it wouldn’t be too long before Ruger discovered there was an issue with their latest product. However, before we get to that I want to describe our personal experiences.
We purchased our LCP from Freedom Armory in Glenn Rock, PA. We had ourselves placed on a waiting list and about 2-3 months later, our gun came up. $319 got us a petite little black pistol. We were excited!
It was quite petite. Fit and finish seemed good. But not quite on the same level as my Ruger P-345. I think a lot the difference in feel is literally due to the difference in heft of my .45 versus the dimunitive .380. However, the trigger did not feel anywhere nearly as robust. And one can’t really expect it to be it – it is afterall, just a mouse gun.
So we went to the range to give it a try. The short 8 yd lanes were all occupied. So we only had the 25 yd lane available. My wife gave it a try and was hitting dirt. I tried and while I got a round or so on target; wasn’t doing much better. When the 8 yd lane opened up we moved over and gave it another try. I put most rounds on a torso sized target. My wife a couple. The most significant challenge with the LCP is sighting the gun. The sights are almost non-existent. Not much more than a ridge in the front and two small ridges on the back. Combine that with the fact that the LCP is so light, that when you drop it, it simply flutters to the ground like a feather. (Okay, not quite…but you get the point.) Even the impotent .380 caliber gives this little pistol a fair kick. Shooting a mousegun like the LCP can hurt. There is not a lot of width to the gun, so the recoil is much more focused. Driving all the force to a narrow part of your hand’s webbing.
We had a few failures to fire. My wife would try to fire and nothing happened. I’d eject the magazine. Re-rack. And get it to fire. At first I just thought that my wife wasn’t putting the magazine in properly. But I had some issues too. A little discouraged, but I chalked it up to needing more practice.
However, a second time out on the range and we experienced similar problems. Would load and make ready. Pull the trigger….NOTHING!!! It was as if I was pulling the trigger all the way back but it needed to go just a little bit farther to release the hammer. However it’d hit the trigger guard – so there was no further back. So when I got home I cleaned the LCP and did a number of practice dryfires. Confirmation. Something was clearly wrong. Sometimes I could rack the slide, pull the trigger, and CLICK! Othertimes nada…
So we brought it back to Freedom Armory. Their gunsmith reviewed it and determined that it needed to go back to Ruger. This was back in September. Shortly after our LCP was shipped back, Ruger announced a general recall. Now the recall was not for the problem we were having. But was assured that both issues would be taken care of. It seemed to take forever. It was a couple of months before we’d see our little LCP return. Ours was in before the recall, but we wouldn’t get ours back until after many others received theirs in return. That said, when we did receive our LCP back. It came with a really nice hat, an apology letter, a $25 gift certificate, and an extra magazine featuring the new “finger extension”.
My wife and I compared the feel of the LCP both with the original magazine and with the new finger extension magazine. My wife did not notice a significant difference between the two. I on the other hand felt that the finger extension magazine made for a noticeably better grip in my hands. My wife has slender fingers where as mine are short & stubby. And I believe this is what made the difference. She is able to get more fingers upon the grip. Where as the finger extension provides me with a point with which to lock my 2nd & 3rd fingers on the grip of the gun. This makes it much more secure for me.
After receiveing the LCP I really wanted to get it back out to the range and make sure it operated properly. However, it’d be quite a few weeks before I found the free time. When I finally did get to the range I had zero incidents of the trigger failure that I had experienced prior. The only issue I had noticed was a slight delay in the slide returning fully to it’s place on two shots. But I chalked this up to the LCP probably needing a bit more lubrication. And that seems to have been the case, after applying a bit more lube, I had no issues.
The LCP is IMHO a close range gun. Not that the gun itself is inaccurate. But the dimunitive size does not lend itself to accurate shooting. However, that is not a bad thing as one is most likely to use the LCP at very close range during an assault or as as a back-up gun after a primary weapon has failed.
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I had the opportunity to go out to the range together. (Courtesy of her mother babysitting our daughter.) We had a great time shooting our Ruger MKIII (reviewed earlier) and the LCP. This was my wife’s first time shooting the LCP since getting it back. And she did pretty good. Getting most of the rounds on the center mass of the target. The group wasn’t very tight. But the bad guy would have been hit pretty good. We shot our .22 some more and then returned to the LCP. However this time my wife did poorly. I figured it was how she was sighting in the LCP. As said earlier, the diminutive sights make it a tad challenging to aim. In fact, I wasn’t really sure how to describe to her aiming. So I figured I’d just fire a magazine off and get a good feel for the sights so I could describe it to her. I aimed our LCP just using the front sight and ignoring the rear sights. Instead of fitting it into the notch sights on the rear. I just made it stick above the profile of the gun. And pulled the trigger very slowly letting it just break and fire naturally.
Then something amazingly wonderful happened. I watched as I put all 6 rounds in a 2 1/2 inch group at 25 feet. The result astonished me as I am not a very good shot. And I just shot one of my best groups ever with an inaccurate mouse gun. What a revelation I had, the discovery that my LCP is truly accurate. My wife teased me about be a show-off, but knew that I had not intended to show her up. And that I myself was quite surprised by the results.
Since that day I’ve been jonesing to get back to the range to shoot the LCP and see if I can replicate what I did the last time. I’ve proved to myself what is possible, now I want to make it repeatable and if possible – natural!
So to any who had any doubts about the accuracy of the LCP. Let me assure you that the LCP is quite accurate when placed in good hands. But it does take a bit of work and training to learn how to handle this little mouse gun.
I’ve fire a few different brands of ammo through the LCP: Winchester White Box, Blazer Brass, Hornady. No issues with feeding so far. One was a round nose, one was a blunt nose and the Hornady was a narrow jacketed-hollow point (JHP). The .380 is a minimal cartridge and for self-defense use one really should consider something other than hardball. The .380 hardball is likely to suffer from many of the same issues as the 9mm hardball.
There has been a significant resurgence of this cartridge in 2008, largely due to the monstrous success and sales of the LCP. Many manufacturers are now offering new .380 JHP designs. Certain brands, such as Hornady’s Critical Defense, now incorporate fillers inside the hollows in order to prevent clogging from clothing and help ensure expansion. They also help facilitate loading by reducing the likelihood of feeding issues. These are probably a good choice for a small pistol like the LCP.
Traditionally, many self-defense experts have advocated firing a 100-400 rounds of whatever you plan to use as your carry load. For many of us, this just isn’t very realistic. Not with today’s ammo prices and shortages. You might not even be able to find 400 rounds of .380 in your town these days. But at a minimum you should put a few magazines full down range. And experiment with a variety of brands and designs. So far our LCP has eaten everything we’ve fed it. Including a variety of bullet designs and shapes. This helps with my overall confidence that it’s not a very picky eater when it comes to ammo. That combined with firing several magazines full of our chosen defense ammo makes reasonable comfortable. But that’s why I mention the filled hollow points. One advantage is that they tend to be less susceptible to feeding issues. The filling helps prevent the edges of the hollow from being caught on the feed ramps and entry points. So if you have to scimp for financial reasons, or large quantities of ammo is just not available in your area – consider some of these newer filled JHP designs.
Lastly, disassembly and re-assembly is fairly easy with the LCP. There is a small retaining pin that requires you pry it out. Small screw drive, key, etc will do the trick. Then it’s pretty straightforward. Slide off the slide, remove the spring unit, slide out the barrel. Just reverse for re-assembly. Note that when placing the pin back into the firearm, that you want to angle the pin as you push it in. This helps facilitate entry. The pin removal and insertion is the only challenging part assembly-wise.
As for carrying the LCP. We have a belly band. But my wife found it to be very itchy. We also have a Nemesis pocket holster. Which is my primary means of carrying the LCP. Which I have taken to do so when my attire won’t facilitate or when I know in advance I may face comfort issues. Such as sitting in the narrow movie theater seats. I want to find or make/modify a holster that will clip over a belt and keep the LCP inside the waistband and hold my iPhone outside the waistband. Such a setup should make carry of the LCP virtually invisible.
All-in-all, this is a great little gun. We had a rough start with a few bumps along the way. But Ruger took care of those issues, and did so very gentlemanly. (Hat, extra mag, apology letter and $25 gift certificate – if only EVER company I had to deal with handled things so well.)
UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that I failed to mention that Crimson Trace offers a very compact laser grip for the LCP. It attaches to the front of the trigger guard. The list price is around $200+ but I’ve seen them for as low as $160 on ebay.
I think these are great tools and assists. Excellent for helping with training. But they are only an aid. You need to be able to aim and shoot if your laser’s batteries are dead or if it’s to bright to see the red dot.
It is my intention to acquire one of these as soon as I am financially able.
Read Sebastian’s review and comparison of the LCP and Kel-Tec P38T over at PAGunBlog.com