[Review] Ruger-57: Handgun-Sized AR?

The new Ruger-57 is one popular gun. When Beth from Ruger said that my requested test gun was being shipped, I became excited – this is one gun that has a waiting list of buyers, at least around here. My good friend Duane, who has owned and operated his sporting goods store since 1986, said he had a waiting list of guys who would plunk their hard-earned dineros down on his counter for one, but he couldn’t get one to sell. So, it was with much appreciation that I opened the shipping box in his store – he is our FFL dealer that my guns get shipped to – and brought out the new, brightly-lettered Ruger box with the gun presumably inside…

Ruger-57 box lid
The box…
Ruger-57 box contents
…and, what comes in the box – the usual manual, decal, warnings, NRA ad, lock.

This box is a new design for Ruger. Nobody will mistake what company made this gun, to be sure. I like it. It’s different, in sort-of bright, showy, billboard-y style.

So, when I was opening the box, I was prepared to be impressed. After all, if the gun was half as impressive as the box it came in, we were in for quite a treat. I was not disappointed. I was all set to unbox this blaster and find the modern equivalent of Buck Roger’s U-235 Atomic Ray Gun…

buck roger atomic ray gun
Buck Roger’s U-235 Atomic Ray Gun

Well, the Ruger didn’t look quite like that, but I’m sure it will be at least as potent. After all, the 5.7×28 is one tiny atomic round, according to some.

Why 57? It Worked For Heinz…

The Ruger-57 is basically their answer to FN’s 5.7×28 caliber pistol, the aptly-named FN Five-seveN ™.

Ruger Five-seveN

This gun, introduced in 1998 and available to civilians since 2004, is used by at least 40 countries including the U.S. Carried by various U. S. law enforcement agencies (including the Secret Service), FN’s 5.7×28 round was originally designed to be used in both the pistol and their P90 personal defense weapon (PDW). NATO requested development of a cartridge to possibly replace the 9mm, and the 5.7×28 was FN’s answer. It did well enough that FN put their PDW and pistol into production. The round is similar in length to the .22 Magnum, but puts V-Max-type bullets downrange very fast, well past the .22 Magnum’s ballistic capabilities. There are other manufacturers who build guns for this cartridge, but only FN and Ruger make pistols specifically for the civilian market (to the best of my knowledge). The round generated not a little gnashing of teeth by some gun control groups when they found out that this little .22 has the potential of breaching some types of Kevlar body armor. That is accomplished by the calibers’ military-issue ammo, but civilians are limited to sporting varieties of ammo that are not quite as potent.

Ballistics

There are military/law enforcement loads (for example, the SS190 which is capable of penetrating a Kevlar IIIA-level vest), but our interest lies with the civilian versions. Federal makes civilian-available ammo for the 5.7, as do a few other companies including the one that started it all, FN. The 5.7×28 shoots a .224 caliber bullet – in typical sporting guise, this is usually a 40-grain Hornady V-Max bullet at around 1800 – 1900 f.p.s. Some lighter-bullet loads are a bit more potent. The ammo is not plentiful, at least where I live – I had to drive a bit to find a box for our tests, and it was not cheap – $27.95 for 50 rounds, but wasn’t unreasonable. (I tend to forget that most of the ammo I shoot for my own enjoyment comes from my reloading bench so I’m not too familiar with store-bought ammo prices. I do buy ammo for most tests, however). The ammo I used was branded F&N, the originator of the species, and uses a 40-grain V-Max bullet. But…what you get for your money – wow! More later on that.

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OK – But Why Would I Want One?

I agree that the 5.7×28 fills a pretty narrow niche as far as pistol calibers go, but it does have some advantages. Let’s just agree that military and law enforcement agencies and units will have their uses for this caliber, but what about the rest of us? I could see this gun filling a home defense role, for one usage. I don’t mean just two-legged varmints. Where we live, we have critters of all types that hang around. Just four days ago, I took photos of a coyote that was lounging exactly 103 yards from our front yard, across the road. Since we have dogs, cats, hogs and chickens I tend to pay attention to, and take seriously, visits by such critters.

coyote on field

He wasn’t too bothered by my proximity, not nearly as much as I was by his. He even was kind enough to pose for several photos. (It was when I edited these pics that I saw a second coy-dog in one pic that I hadn’t seen earlier). These varmints are one example of a good reason to own a Ruger-57. The 5.7 would make short work of that size critter, especially at that range. What if you live in a more populated area that doesn’t really suffer from an abundance of animals? Well, there are those two-legged varmints we mentioned above – this gun would definitely get their attention. If you had to, for whatever reason, you could effectively shoot through a car door or windshield.

What about self-defense? You could carry this gun concealed, although I don’t think that was envisioned when it was designed. It is an effective round, though – the military’s interest in it verifies that. With its ability to penetrate body armor and similar substances, this little guy is one doozy of a cartridge. One thing folks sometimes don’t think about is repeat shots. This gun’s recoil is very manageable and would allow for quick follow-up shots. With two or more 20-round magazines on you, you would be set.

Another purpose that I could see using this gun for is long(er)-range pistol target competition. I’m not sure I’d want to use it in a steel shoot (they wouldn’t like the neat little holes or dimples that its bullets would drill in their targets), but target shooting way-out-there might be fun. With its flat trajectory and power, this gun would be fun shooting at steel targets starting at about 100 yards or so. Add an optic and your range just got extended. Just a thought, but I’d bet it would be fun.

Then, there’s always the fun of walking up to your stall at the range, letting a few rounds go, waiting for the dust to quit falling out of the ceiling from the blast and then watching the certain-to-form group of inquisitive shooters walk over when the range is safe and drool all over it. Let’s face it…we all know folks who buy guns for that purpose primarily. This gun is drool-worthy, to be sure, but I don’t think that should be the main reason you buy one.

I’m not sure if you noticed that I’d omitted one of my standard, go-to uses for handguns that I didn’t mention for the 57 – hunting. I’m a big fan of handgun hunting and have taken many deer over the years, not to mention lesser critters. But, I don’t believe I would recommend hunting with the 57 unless you are in one of two situations…one, you are hunting pests or varmints and are deliberately seeking to separate their body parts from each other with explosive force in abundance (Buck-Rogers-atomic?). The second situation is if you handload the cartridge down and maybe load a FMJ bullet. A 5.7×28’s 40-grain FMJ bullet at around 1200 f.p.s. would be a decent small-game load, not much more than a .22 LR hunting load. But…shoot a squirrel with a factory, pedal-to-the-metal load and you will be showered with squirrel pieces-parts. A bullet from a cartridge that generates 50,040 pounds of pressure is not one to be trifled with. (By way of comparison, the .223 generates right at 55,000 pounds).

OK – so much for why you might buy one. Now, let’s look at this thing up close…

Features and Pictures

Let’s look at some features of our gun, and then we’ll check out some specifications. Here is a profile shot with a clean background so you can see details…

Ruger-57 profile
Notice the front sight is canted downward a bit. I find that interesting.

Now for some up-close shots I took…

Ruger-57 fieldstripped
Here’s the gun, broken down.

Not much different here. What you can’t see is the hidden hammer – this is not a striker-fired gun.

Ruger-57 barrel
The barrel, with caliber designation engraved on the hood.

Now, for the frame…

Ruger-57 frame left
Here it is in profile.

Notice the take-down lever rotated down…this is an excellent way to separate the slide from the frame. It is captured, unlike the loose takedown pins in the LC9s/EC9s and Security 9 pistols among others. Also note the ubiquitous hammer safety lever blade. And, if you look down into the frame, you see this…

Ruger-57 frame inside
The hammer’s a bit more visible on the left side of the photo.
Ruger-57 frame safeties
The safety levers.

Note how tight they are to the frame, and their length. This is something new for Ruger, and I like it.

Ruger-57 frame slide engraving right
Engraving on the frame and slide, right side…
Ruger-57 frame rail slide bevel
The rail, forward serrations and drastic slide bevel.

This cut should help in re-holstering, but it doesn’t go all the way down. Looks good, though.

Ruger-57 front sight
The front sight.

Note the downward angle and bright fiber optic insert.

Ruger-57 grip
Grip.

Notice the texture pattern that Ruger started with the LCP II. It is a good thing that they kept that pattern going on different models, as it helps with immediate brand identification and grip commonality among Ruger guns. The texturing is just enough to stick the grip securely in your hand. Also, note that the trigger guard is undercut so as to allow your hand a higher purchase, closer to the bore axis.

Ruger-57 rear sight left
Rear sight above and below.

Note the white locking compound under the sight. That rear sight is not going to move. It’s under the front sight, too.

Ruger-57 rear sight
Nicely adjustable and heavy-duty with serrations to cut glare.
Ruger-57 front sight slide-cut
Top slide cut-out….
Ruger-57 slide optics ready
Slide is optics-ready…

Ruger-57 slide top

Ruger-57 slide top rear

Ruger-57 slide underside
The underside of the slide. No extraneous machining marks here.

What I like about it

As we can see from the photos, Ruger has built a very nice-looking pistol here. As is usual with this company, this pistol shows no extraneous machining marks or chatter, no roughly-finished surfaces and no rounded edges on the gun that shouldn’t be. Ruger has always (well, since I bought my first one in 1978 at least) had very nice adjustable rear sights and this one’s no exception. The adjustment clicks are secure and the blade’s rear surface has some lines machined into it to break up reflections or glare. The front post, with its bright green insert, is wonderful. Talk about standing out against a dark background…

Another feature that I noticed were the safety levers. Usually, thumb safety levers tend to be short and stick out a bit. This is so your thumb can engage them quickly. The Ruger’s levers are longer than most and don’t stick out very far. I’m not quite sure what their reasoning is for this, but I like it. I doubt if this pistol will be carried much in a concealed role, so the non-beefy levers are well-suited to this gun. They click on or off with a positive “snick” (that’s the official sound of a thumb safety being moved up or down, of course). Plus, there’s one on each side of the gun – a feature we lefties appreciate.

The slide is relieved (cut out) just aft of the front sight, presumably to cut down on weight. I guess this is a good thing – it’s hard to judge the difference you might feel since we don’t have an un-relieved slide to compare against. But – it sure looks good!

Another random thought – ammo price. I paid about 28 bucks for the box of ammo I bought to test the gun with. That box was one of few options available at the time. The store had ammo for the gun, no problem, but it wasn’t cheap. RCBS, Hornady, Redding and Lee all make reloading dies of one sort or other for this caliber, so reloading isn’t out of the question. I would think that a set of dies, some Hornady V-Max 40-grain bullets and the right powder would allow you to churn out cheaper ammo than the factory-loaded stuff, meaning it would allow you to shoot more for the same amount of money as you’d spend on factory loads.

The last point I want to cover is the grip. It just feels good in your hand. The grip is well-designed and works well to help keep the gun anchored in your hand. Texturing is good as well – not too little or too much. With its undercut trigger guard and pronounced beavertail, this gun is very comfortable to shoot.

Specs (from Ruger’s web site and my observations)

Capacity:20+1. Two magazines included in the box
Grip Frame:High-Performance, glass-filled nylon
Barrel Length:4.94"
Overall Length:8.65"
Barrel Material:Alloy Steel
Barrel Finish:Black Nitride
Front Sight:Fiber Optic
Rear Sight:Serrated; windage and elevation adjustable
Action:Ruger Secure Action ™ with internal hammer; double action only
Safety:Ambidextrous thumb; bladed trigger; hammer catch internal safety
Trigger Pull:3 lbs 8.2 oz., measured. Trigger had some creep, but broke cleanly.
Magazine Release:Reversible
Slide Material:Alloy Steel
Slide Finish:Black Oxide. Slide has lightening cut in its top and is drilled and tapped for optional optic plate.
Weight:24.5 oz. It feels lighter.
Slide Width:1.2"
Frame Rail:5-slot Picatinny
Height:5.6"
Grooves:8
Twist:1:9" RH
MSRP:$799.00
Real-World Price:Around $600

Shooting The 5.7

When the gun arrived, I did not have any ammo for it. It was a while before I could drive to the only store in my area that had ammo, which eventually did happen. Then, I put off shooting it because I wanted one of our sons, our other resident firearms expert in the family, to be able to shoot it. Plus, I wanted some photos of him shooting it. It hasn’t happened yet, so I went ahead shot it. I was anticipating that something great was about to happen. I’m not sure if anything “great” happened, but it was a heck of a lot of fun to shoot. The recoil was less than that of most 9mms I’ve shot. The fireball, although not overly large, was nonetheless impressive.

Here is one of the better targets I shot…

target shot with Ruger-57

The shot furthest left was not part of the group. I was shooting from a rest at my usual distance, about 20 yards. I’d shot a few other groups but this one worked out to be one of the better ones. Here’s what I was shooting:

FNH ammo box

This ammo averaged 1751.2 f.p.s. out of the gun, with an attendant 273 ft. lbs. of energy. There are other loads that are faster, but they tend to use lighter bullets. I wanted to stick with 40-grain bullets, but the lighter bullet loads are out there if speed is your thing. These little guys are also very effective in the penetration department. As the box says, this is the SS197 “Sporting Cartridge” version of the 5.7 round. The ammo has been made by Fiocchi under license for FN since 2006 and is distributed by Federal. The blue polymer tip is a giveaway as to the identification of the round. Its predecessor, the SS196, used a red tip and was loaded about 100 f.p.s. slower. As I said above, military loads tend to be hotter.

Taking the 57 Apart

After shooting, I always try to clean my guns. I’m not anal about it, but I do like to keep them clean. You take this gun apart just about like any other gun that has a takedown lever. Lock the slide back (empty gun, of course, with mag out). Press the takedown lever’s “button” on the right side of the frame with a magazine baseplate or similar object to pop it loose from right to left, and swing the lever clockwise down about 90 degrees, or until it stops. Drop the slide release as you ease the slide forward about a half-inch and then lift it off the frame – don’t try to slide it off the front of the frame. Pull the recoil spring and barrel out, clean away to your heart’s content then put it back together. The spring and barrel go into the slide, and the slide gets set back in place on the frame-put it on about a half inch forward then slide it back into its place. Lock the slide back and then rotate the takedown lever upwards until it clicks into place. That’s it.

Final Verdict

The Ruger-57 is not a gun for everyone. This is a specialized tool, one that you would use if you were headed into harm’s way or if you just wanted one to shoot one of the flatter-shooting pistol cartridges out there. Generating in excess of 50,000 pounds of pressure, the 5.7×28 is one serious cartridge. If you are looking to put bullets through that old frying pan you hung up behind the shed, this might do that… at least you’d put some major dents in it. Milk jug water penetration test? Don’t put anything valuable behind your row of jugs. Trying to get rid of that pesky racoon that eats your cat’s food? Just make sure it’s in the clear before you shoot and not in front of anything important that you don’t want ventilated. I’m not sure that every shooter might need a pistol that generates almost as much energy as does a .223 out of an AR, but it sure is fun to shoot. Not much recoil, but the blast is impressive! If you do end up with one, check out reloading for it. That will lower your cost per round and allow you to shoot a little more for the same cost as buying factory loads.

As always, leave a comment below if you have experience with this gun or the caliber (or if you’d like to!). I hope you can get out to shoot, and please – be safe!

Mike
Written by Mike

Mike has been a shooter, bullet caster and reloader for over 40 years. Never one to be satisfied with the status quo, he is often found at his reloading bench concocting yet another load. With a target range in his backyard and after 40 years of shooting, his knowledge of firearms and reloading is fairly extensive. He is married, with four sons and daughters-law and 9-and-counting grandkids.

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