This summer’s introduction of Ruger’s LCP Max .380 is sure to make a huge splash in the micro compact pistol category. They have reengineered their LCP .380 and LCP II .380 into a handy, well-designed, easy to operate pocket pistol that’s great for a concealed carry gun or even as a backup to your concealed carry gun.
I owned the original LCP (Light-weight Compact Pistol) and I have to tell you it was not fun to shoot, but the size has always filled a niche in the market. From the conception of the LCP in 2008 to present, Ruger reexamined the needs of today’s shooter to turn its little pocket gun into a monster in the industry.
The first major difference I noticed, and it’s hard to miss, is the introduction of the tritium fiber optic day/night front sight. It has a distinct white circle enhancing the green tritium rod to help settle the front sight nicely and quickly into the cup of the reconfigured rear sight, even for my aging eyes. No more trying to find the tiny black ramp and fit it into the tiny black notch. Both front and rear sights are dove-tailed to make them adjustable for windage right and left. (With my tinkering skills, or lack thereof, I should emphasize that it makes them adjustable by a reputable gun smith.)
The next improvement over the original LCP is the trigger pull. The difference is like walking through a pool of mud versus walking through a pool of water. You will still need to use a little bit of effort, but you’re not going to exhaust yourself in the process. The LCP Max .380 has a single-strike, double-action-only trigger meaning the only job the trigger has to do is release the internal hammer so that it can strike the firing pin. This makes it relatively easy to cleanly pull the trigger. There is a well-defined wall past the slack that leads to a smooth, crisp, short break.
I really liked the redesigned grip. Even though it’s small, in my opinion Ruger gave it the perfect Goldilocks’ amount of texture – not too aggressive, not too smooth. Compared to the original LCP, the additional contour on the back of the grip allows for an improved fit into my palm and keeps the gun in place between shots so that I can better control the recoil. Ruger also smoothed out the ergonomics of the grip as compared to the LCP II. All of these improvements got rid of the sting from trying to hold onto a rectangular-shaped chunk of plastic through explosive whiplash.
I did have to adjust my shooting to accommodate the smaller grip. I typically shoot with both my thumbs pointing forward at the target, but couldn’t keep my support thumb in place for follow-up shots. I changed my grip to a revolver styled, thumb over thumb grip and was able to pull in my groupings significantly for multiple shot strings. Another thing I noticed in my shooting with the LCP Max .380 was my tendency to use the distal interphalangeal joint (big words for me – the bending point on your finger that is closest to your finger nail) rather than the pad of the finger or fingerprint. “Too much finger” caused me pull shots to the right of my intended target. I wasn’t using the first joint because I needed more finger strength for a heavy trigger pull, as the trigger pull on the LCP Max .380 is significantly less than the average double action revolver. With my smaller hands, my index finger is accustomed to remaining parallel to the frame. When I correctly placed my fingerprint on the front face of the LCP Max .380’s trigger, the lower section of my finger is now at a 30 degree angle away from the grip. It’s just not what I am used to yet and certainly something I need to work on.
Less about my shortcomings and more about this nifty gun.
Another great enhancement is leaping from the original 6+1 capacity to 12+1. The +1 comes from being able to chamber one bullet, then insert a full magazine of 6 or 12 rounds. The pistol comes with a flat based, slim, double stack 10 round magazine for super concealment and less pointed edges on the grip to get caught on clothing or poke out. In this configuration, half of my pinky finger hangs off the edge of the grip. Many people with larger hands may not be able to even get their pinky on the grip. Thankfully, Ruger has also included a finger extension base plate that is easy even for me to install, although I did launch the magazine spring seat across the room on more than one occasion changing between base plates. With the finger extension, I am able to get a full grip on this pistol. I also picked up an additional 12 round magazine. I’m sure this will help even more people get a complete grip and I love the extra ammo capacity. I do have to say that when I chambered a round, then tried to load a full magazine, I had to give the base of the magazine additional force to lock it into the magazine well. However in all of these +1 set ups, the first round went off with no malfunctions, which does not always happen with all semi-automatic pistols that claim to have a +1 capacity.
There are quite a few miscellaneous features that prove Ruger’s mission to provide an exceptional, detail-oriented gun. They have redesigned the magazine release so that it is easy to find and press. It’s also reversible for our left-handed friends. There is a loaded chamber view port to visually check for any cartridges loaded into the barrel. They have enhanced the slide serrations slightly to make racking the slide easier. Ruger has also rounded the edges a tad to keep the pistol smooth for concealment and drawing. There is no external safety on the slide which is in line with their charge of concealability, but they do have a trigger safety and their Secure-Action internal safety mechanisms ensuring that the pistol will not fire unless the trigger safety is disengaged.
As a side note regarding ammunition, in today’s market I was able to find and run the elusive and expensive .380 cartridges in Winchester (FMJ, 95 gr), Fiocchi (FMJ, 95 gr) and Parabellum Research (TMJ, 100 gr). I did not have a single malfunction with any of these brands in my limited test run. As ammunition becomes more readily available and hopefully less expensive, I do want to try hollow points. Ruger does specify in their instruction manual in bold red letters “Do not to use “+P” ammunition.” so pick your defensive ammunition carefully.
Field stripping the gun for cleaning was a breeze. Simply pry out the takedown pin with a small screwdriver, pop the slide forward and dismantle the pistol. (To me prying metal with metal is like scratching a black board with your fingernails so in the future I will fashion a “screwdriver” out of a toothbrush handle.) Clean per the instruction manual. Nothing fancy needed with this pistol. Putting it back together was almost as easy. After reassembling the gun, you just need to use the takedown pin to find and push down the catch in the takedown pin hole in order to completely seat the pin.
With a pistol this small, your options for concealment are endless, including ankle holsters, thigh holsters, on your belt or in a belly band. Don’t forget about all the concealment purses/bags you can carry, including an itty bitty clutch. Remember whatever holster you use, you have to ensure that the trigger is completely covered and, if you put it in a concealment purse, it must still be holstered with no other items in the compartment. I use Kydex® trigger guard holsters (similar to this one from GunGoddess.com) and trigger shields in belly bands and soft holsters, like the pocket holster that comes with the Ruger LCP Max .380. Unfortunately, I was not able to try the pocket holster because women’s pants do not have big enough pockets to fit the holster. (Is there anyone in the women’s fashion industry reading this article?)
Although new shooters can shoot the LCP Max .380, I would not recommend using this as the first gun they shoot. As with any micro compact gun, it is harder to grip and control the recoil. A new shooter needs to concentrate on the basics without having to deal with these additional issues. I also would not recommend using it in a class where 200 or more shots will be fired. Holding onto the small grip is tiring to the hands.
Ruger’s redesign of the iconic LCP hits it out of the ballpark. They have taken the needs of their self-defense minded consumers to advance the sights, trigger and grip, just to name a few improvements, and produced a micro compact pistol that you actually enjoy shooting, therefore practice with more. It continues to lead the market in concealability by keeping it slim, short barreled, light and sleek. On top of all the great features of this pistol, I am thrilled that it is American made by a company known for reliable, long lasting firearms. With the price point of just under $450, this is a pistol every self-defense carrier should invest in.