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The Ruger LC9S, a single-stack, striker-fired pocketable 9mm that has sold like hotcakes is a popular gun. It’s small, thin, light, reliable, and cheap. What’s not to like? We’ll examine it in some detail to see if we can determine the answer to that question.
Ruger LC9s Variations
The LC9S is one of a few different models of Ruger’s 9mm pistols. Introduced at the 2011 SHOT Show, the first model, the LC9, was hammer-fired and not too well liked because of its difficult trigger pull. But that didn’t stop it from being named the Shooting Industry Academy of Excellence’s Handgun of the Year in 2011.
So, Ruger listened to shooters and went back to the drawing board. They then came up with a lightweight carry pistol in 9mm that is striker-fired — that’s where the LC9S comes from. It’s the striker-fired replacement that was introduced in July of 2014. Here are three variants:
- LC9S: Manual safety; magazine disconnect; drift-adjustable sights.
- LC9S Pro: No manual safety or magazine; drift-adjustable sights.
- EC9S: (E stands for Essential). Manual safety; magazine disconnect; integral sights; fewer and wider cocking serrations; black oxide finish that can be applied on the production line.
Here are the details from Ruger’s website:
|Barrel||3.12 inches, blued|
|Capacity||One 7-round magazine included; 9-round magazines available with finger extension|
|Slide||Through-hardened alloy steel|
|Controls||Thumb safety (not on Pro model); slide release; bladed-safety trigger; magazine release|
|MSRP||$449.00 (real-world is between $250-$275)|
What’s the Difference Between the Regular and Pro Models?
The only difference is that the Pro model does away with the thumb and magazine disconnect safeties. All models feature a chamber inspection port on the right side of the barrel hood to see if there is a round in the chamber. This port plus the magazine disconnect safety allows the gun to be sold in Massachusetts.
I own the regular model because my gun guy, Duane, didn’t have a Pro model in stock at the time. He told me that he sells the regular model with the extra safeties almost 10 to 1 over the Pro model.
Ruger LC9S Sights
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Ruger LC9S Handling Characteristics
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick one of these guns up is just how small it is. It literally fits in a jean pocket and a pocket holster. Aside from its size, you’ll be struck by how thin it is. The width specification above says it’s less than an inch wide — they’re not kidding. For some hands, it’s too thin. Lack of width helps when you carry it, but shooting it is a different story, especially if you’re shooting +P ammo. It’s rated for +P, but I’d probably limit the amount of the higher-pressure stuff you put through it.
This is a small, lightweight gun, and there are things you can do in order to make it easier to hang on to. I went the cheap route with mine and bought some stair tread tape. I cut pieces to fit the different grip areas and the extremely rough texture of the tape helps the gun to stay planted in my hand.
The advantage of using something non-permanent to aid in the process of adding grip traction is that you can remove it if you ever sell the gun. I also stippled grips, which provide similar texturing to the tape. However, I didn’t want to stipple the very nice-looking molded grip that the LC9S comes with.
Perhaps one of the best solutions to the too-thin-grip situation is the Hogue Hand-All Beavertail grip cover.
This slip-on rubber grip performs a few functions. First, it increases the tackiness of the surface your hand is engaging, causing the gun to not move as much in recoil, allowing faster follow-up shots. Second, it has a small beavertail, giving the web of your shooting hand a nice, soft surface to rest against, up high on the frame. This again aids in faster follow-up shots and overall comfort.
Lastly, there is a finger separator that provides finger grooves. On a tiny gun like this, anything extra that you have to hang on to really helps — believe me. What this means is that if you install the included extended finger grip magazine base plate, you will be able to comfortably get three fingers on the grip.
Shooting the Ruger LC9S
Let’s take a look at some of the experiences I have had while shooting this gun.
Ruger LC9S Trigger
The LC9S’s trigger is the best trigger I’ve ever encountered on any striker-fired gun I owned or have owned. There is very little take-up and NO creep. I had to be careful when I switched to shooting this gun after I shot some others because a couple times. The gun fired just as it was coming down on the target.
I was aiming at a target with the intent to fire. It’s just that the trigger is lighter compared to other guns I own that I have to re-adjust my technique when shooting it. Have any of you had a similar experience with it? I’m curious about that.
Some of you say a trigger that light has no place on a carry gun. I would agree, but the trigger isn’t dangerously light. It’s me more than anything. I would guess the trigger is around five pounds, but it is incredibly smooth which makes it feel lighter, at least to me. No creep — just a little take-up than bang. Reset is short and positive. To sum it up, this little gun has a great trigger. The controls are all on the left side and are easy to reach.
Ruger LC9S Reliability
This gun will digest whatever I put through it. I’ve never had a bobble with any ammo I’ve fed it, including my reloads. Actually, they feed very well and are really accurate (see below).
I attribute the great functioning of the gun at least partially to its polished feed ramp. This allows whatever I put in the magazine to make its way into the chamber with boring regularity. The only ammo I haven’t tried in it yet are steel-cased rounds., but I don’t buy those as my reloads are cheaper and reliable.
Ruger LC9S Accuracy
My LC9S is the most accurate gun of its type that I have ever shot-it’s even more accurate than some duty-sized 9mms I’ve owned. A 17-ounce, 3.1-inch-barreled gun being that accurate? Yep. As my informal targets show, it will shoot when I do my part. It particularly likes my reloads.
They consist of a 126-grain cast round-nose bullet atop 4.0 or 4.8 grains of Long Shot powder. These are technically below the minimum for this powder but they work well in all my 9mm guns and don’t beat the gun up. The 4.0-grain load clocks right at 905 fps, which is not bad for a three-inch barrel, with the 4.8-grain load faster (see below).
When I use my powder-coated bullets, I get zero leading. All this adds up to an accurate shooting experience. I have taken advantage of the rear sight’s being drift-adjustable for windage, but I have not had to adjust elevation — the loads were right on.
Here’s a target I shot a while back with my 4.0-grain reload. You non-reloaders out their will take comfort from the fact that the factory 115 grain FMJ practice rounds that I’ve shot through this gun (WWB, Tula Brass, Remington, others I can’t remember) shot just about the same group-wise and to a similar point of impact although my load was a little bit tighter. This goes for self-defense loads, as well.
The point is that this gun will be at least passably accurate with just about anything put through it, so I won’t bore you with stats and ballistic information easily obtained elsewhere. For my practical (including carry) purposes, this gun is plenty accurate enough.
Here are four quick velocity stats from my chronograph for those of you who care about such things.
- 126-grain cast RN handload (4.0 grains of Long Shot) 905 fps
- 126-grain cast RN handload (4.8 grains of Long Shot) 992 fps
- 115-grain Winchester White Box 1050 fps
- 115-grain Remington Golden Saber 1035 fps
Why show only one type of powder in my handloads? This just happens to be my favorite of many 9mm handloads and the extra .8-grain of powder makes a difference. It brings it closer to the speed of 115-grain factory practice loads, only with a slightly heavier bullet. That works for me.
The main point I’d like to make is that this gun works very well with whatever ammo I shoot through it, whether I buy pre-assembled factory stuff or shoot a do-it-yourself load with bullets made from wheel weights.
And, in case you’re thinking the targets above don’t show Olympic-level accuracy, you’re right. I was standing on my hind legs holding the gun in both hands, trying not to wobble too much when I shot them. I’m not quite as accurate as I used to be, but any of the loads listed are accurate enough for their intended purposes. The gun and loads are more accurate than I am.
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How Does the Ruger LC9S Carry?
Let’s look now at what I call the carry-ability of the LC9S. As I’ve said earlier, the gun fits in a pocket holster very well (Read: Best Concealed Carry Holsters), especially with the flush-fit 7-round magazine in place.
When I use the 9-rounder with the longer finger extension that I bought, it is better if I carry it IWB. I use a DeSantis Inside Heat holster that was originally designed for a S&W Shield 9mm. I guess the single-stack characteristics of the two guns are similar enough that the Ruger fits snugly, as if it was made for it. The holster was a Christmas present, so I use it.
Being what a lot of people consider wrong-handed, I have a hard time finding holsters. I’m glad the Ruger fits the S&W holster. It disappears inside my belt with just enough sticking out that I can get a proper grip on the gun.
When carried with the 9-round magazine in place and one in the chamber, I have ten rounds of Hornady Critical Defense or Remington Golden Saber ammo at the ready (Read: Best 9mm Ammo), all in a package that weighs just over a pound and is practically unnoticeable in its hidden holster. That can give one a sense of peace.
Downsides of the Ruger LC9S
Let’s look at a thing or two that I’m not overly fond of concerning the LC9S. I’ve already discussed how thin the gun is which may be an issue for those with big hands. This is more of a preference thing, though, and not what I’d call a real issue. There is, however, one area that I believe Ruger could improve greatly concerning the LC9S — takedown. Any time you have remove a part completely, out of the gun, there’s a chance you will lose it.
Ruger LC9S Takedown Process
The takedown process for the LC9S is similar to that of the LCP and the Security 9 pistols. Without going into minute detail (there are plenty of Youtube videos that cover the process), here are the basics.
- After removing the magazine, make sure the chamber is empty.
- Once clear, slide the takedown pin keeper down. it will click into place, exposing the round takedown pin. Take pressure off the slide by moving it slightly to the rear (similar to taking down a Glock, at least to this point). You then will look at the left side of the pistol, at the point where the slide’s relief cut for the takedown pin is. Pull the trigger (LC9s Pro) or insert the plastic orange magazine that comes with the regular magazine-safety-equipped LC9S and pull the trigger to release the sear.
- Line up the slide cutout with the pin, and use a small pointy tool to push, from the right side, the pin out. Once it starts out, it should then come all the way out by pulling it with your fingers, or even fall out with gravity’s help. Put it someplace special so you don’t lose it.
- You need to practice holding the slide back to get the slot lined up for the pin to come out with your left hand while your starboard hand is using a tiny punch, screwdriver, nail etc. to start pushing the pin out from the right side.
This is the same basic takedown for the three models of pistols listed above. At least the Security 9 has a pin with a lip on it that allows you to use a case rim or something similar to pull it out once it’s been freed from the right side.
It really isn’t that bad, taking the LC9S down — it just takes practice. After the slide’s off, proceed as you normally would with any striker-fired pistol’s cleaning process. Remove the recoil spring and barrel, and go to town getting the grunge out.
To put it back together, get the spring and barrel in the slide, replace them on the frame, and line up the little cutout on the slide with the hole in the frame. Stick the takedown pin in, left to right, and once it’s flush, slide the pin keeper lever up until it clicks into place. Cycle the slide and make sure the gun functions, and you’re done.
Ruger LC9S Colors and Finishes
The LC9S, through its many distributors, is available in several colors/ finishes. At last look, the Ruger website showed 14 variations with the LC9S. Here are a few examples to get you started.
You can buy a new LC9S in a whole lot of different finishes and colors, something for everybody.
I believe that there may be better carry guns out there, and the LC9S is one of the best carry guns around, regardless of price or quality.
To carry it, stick it in a pocket holster and go. Rest well in the knowledge that the gun will fire every time you pull the trigger and will hit what you aim at if you do your part. There are several 17-ounce pocket pistols out there, but not a whole lot of them will shoot the 9mm.
Most small pistols are .380s. If you want to have a lot of firepower in a pocketable package, take a look at the LC9S or EC9S — you won’t be sorry you did. As always, I’d appreciate hearing your experiences with this gun below-leave a comment. Happy shooting, and be safe!
(Disclaimer: According to the information I received, the LC9S and the LC9S Pro are being discontinued in favor of the EC9S, but the guns are still widely available and (with the exception of the differences noted above), everything I say about the LC9S will apply to the EC9S).