Let’s dive into the new Ruger LCP Max. First, pocket-sized pistols are all the rage these days. I have more than a few friends who don’t consider themselves well-armed unless they have a gun in their pocket. Some also need one on their belt. Heck, I’ll put myself in that category.
There are several – or to be correct, many – pistols that would qualify for that status. Ruger is at the forefront of small pistol manufacturing for a few decades. Today, they introduce a gun that will help cement its reputation in this small-gun genre.
I received an email from a contact at Ruger asking me if I would like to receive what I call a “secret squirrel”. That is, a gun to review but that I cannot publish until a certain date. Of course, I stuck my hand up in the air and immediately said “Please!” Once I figured out that he couldn’t actually see me and I needed to reply to that email, I put my hand down and replied in the affirmative. OK, so I didn’t do that but I sure wanted to.
The gun shipped within the week to my local FFL, friend Duane’s shop. You’re going to like what I discovered when I opened the box.
I have owned, and currently own, other pocket .380s including a Kel-Tec and a Taurus Spectrum. These guns did the job, but were only 6- or 7-shooters.
The new Ruger LCP Max is 10+1 (or 12+1 with the available Ruger extended mag). That takes things to a whole different level for a 10-ounce gun.
Pros & Cons
- Small size and light weight – easy to carry
- Front night sight
- Rear serrated U-notch sight with tactical ledge. Sights are compatible with Smith & Wesson Bodyguard sights.
- Single-action, hammer-fired
- Slide has small “ears” at its rear to help with racking the slide
- 10+1 capacity from the factory with 12+1 available
- Two magazine baseplates and a loader included in the box.
- Pocket holster included.
- Only one magazine ships with the gun
- Trigger has a lot of take-up and some creep
- Accuracy (at least in my hands)
- You need to remove the takedown pin to field-strip the gun, you could lose it if you’re not careful
- Slide release lever is all but useless to release the slide – it’s too small and slick
A Quick Summary
The new LCP Max is the second Ruger to bear the “Max” moniker… the Ruger Max 9 was the first. Coming in at 10 or 12 rounds, the small 9mm Max-9 is selling about as fast as Ruger can make them.
The LCP Max is the next logical step in that evolution. A pocket .380 small enough to fit in a pocket but with capacity and features that set it apart from the competition.
It features 10+1 (or 12, if you buy the extended magazine) capacity. Factor in its 10-ounce weight, steel replaceable sights and no magazine disconnect safety … this gun is going to sell like hotcakes.
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Ruger made a big splash in 2008 when it brought out its lightweight compact pistol, or LCP. Chambered in .380, the gun was a hit.
At the time, there were rumours Kel-Tec would sue Ruger. Why? Well, the LCP bears more than a passing resemblance to the KT P3AT. Since the original wasn’t patented, there was no lawsuit.
The LCP gained a bit of notoriety in 2011. Rick Perry, then governor of Texas, nailed a coyote with one shot of his LCP. He took the shot to stop the coyote from going after his daughter’s puppy during a jog.
Ruger then brought out a “Coyote Special” to capitalize on this story. Things went on for a while, until October of 2016. Then Ruger introduced the LCP II – a slightly-larger .380 with improved sights and trigger. The company even brought out a .22 LR “Lite-Rack” version in January of 2020.
Counting distributor specials, Ruger makes 16 LCPs in various finishes and 15 LCP IIs. Flashy colors and lasers – no matter what you want, they likely make it.
.380 ammo has developed well in the last 15 years. As a result, many carry their .380s with confidence thanks to experience and training. Some .380 loads are very effective. For a short history of the .380, read my Ruger LCP review with Viridian laser. World War I started by an assassination using a .380 – it’s worth a read.
From pre-release spec sheet and my measurements.
|Capacity:||10+1 (included). 12-round magazines available from Ruger.|
|Slide Material:||Alloy Steel|
|Slide Finish:||Black Oxide|
|Slide Width:||0.93" (measured at widest point across slide stop, .965")|
|Grip Frame:||Black, High-Performance, Glass-Filled Nylon.|
|Barrel Material:||Alloy Steel|
|Barrel Finish:||Black Oxide|
|Front Sight:||Tritium with White Outline.|
|Rear Sight:||"U-notch" with Tactical Ledge, Drift Adjustable.|
|Sight Compatibility:||S&W Bodyguard.|
|Trigger Pull:||6 lbs. 7 oz., measured, SAO.|
|Weight:||10.5 oz. with empty magazine.|
|MSRP:||$449.00 (no "Real-World" price yet)|
Ruger LCP Max – Hands-On Review
The Ruger LCP Max arrived in the typical Ruger white cardboard box. Here’s what it looked like when I opened it:
We see the usual printed material (minus the owner’s manual, which I had laid aside before I took the photo).
What’s in the box?
- A lock
- Extended mag baseplate (which I stalled)
- A magazine loader
- A Ruger-branded pocket holster
Here are photos of the gun…
The main difference between this gun’s first look and the older LCP II is the sights. These are serious, visible sights that are easy to acquire. Another difference, for those familiar with the LCP II, is the height. The older II is 3.71″ high, with this new, 10+1 model coming in at 4.12″. Not a whole lot of difference there, but it is taller. The slide has a width of .93, with the LCP II’s slide measuring .75. Again, not a large price to pay in order to go from a 6-round magazine to a 10-rounder (with improved sights, to boot!).
Who Should Buy This Gun?
A small, pocket .380 is not for everybody. They can kick pretty good, and are hard to sight. This gun can’t do much about recoil, but it is better in the sights department than others of its class. Even so, I would hesitate to recommend this gun to a beginning shooter – it can be a bit much to handle with some loads.
For experienced shooters, I say go for it. If you are familiar with small ‘snappy’ guns in, then you should have no trouble with Ruger’s newest “Max”. A good yardstick is a lightweight .38 snub-nosed revolver. If you can shoot one of those proficiently with proper ammo, then you should be good to go with this pistol.
Comparing Two Pocket .380s
This new Ruger LCP Max will sell like hotcakes, part due to its small size and high capacity. It would stand up well against other small .380s in size and totally win the capacity category. So, I wanted to compare this new Max with another, older, pocket .380. The only one I had access to was my Taurus Spectrum, not a bad gun in its own right. Here is a photo:
The Spectrum, with laser, on the left with the Max – it’s actually longer than the Max – 5.4″ vs. 5.17″. You immediately notice the difference in the sights. The Taurus sights are almost not visible versus those of the Max.
In height, the Spectrum measures 3.8″ versus the Max which comes in at 4.12″. A lot of that difference is sight height. When you measure from the front of the rear sight of both guns (minus the magazine) you will find the Spectrum is 3.472″ and the Max is 3.693″.
Not a large difference. They both carry easily in my pocket. Plus, the extra rounds with excellent sights inspire confidence. The Taurus carries its extended 7-round magazine, because that’s what I carried in the gun. The basic 6-rounder would be a flush fit.
Grip width measured at .90″ for the Spectrum and .938″ for the Max. I expected this. The Max carries three or four more rounds in its magazine compared to the 6- and 7-rounders of the Taurus.
I’m betting that Ruger won’t be able to make these fast enough. The pistol’s dimensions are comparable with older guns that hold 40% fewer cartridges.
Ruger LCP Max – Features
Let’s look at the gun up close.
First off, we notice that the frame is marked to warn us that it will fire without a magazine in place – finally! This is one of few Ruger pistols that will do so. The magazine release is reversible – instructions on how to make this change are in the manual.
The frame, left and right. Note the full-length slide rails.
Front sight. This tritium night sight should serve you well in low light.
Rear sight and sight picture. Rear is serrated and adjustable for windage. Remember that Bodyguard sights will fit these dovetails.
Ruger LCP Max – Ergos & Handling
With a decently-textured grip, the LCP Max is easy to hang on to when you shoot it. I will stipple the grip on mine, anyway. That’s not an indictment of the factory texturing job. I like over-the-top, rough texture on my poly-framed guns. It helps me hold on to the gun when I shoot it.
The texture pads are on both sides, the front and the back. The shape of the grip and the slightly-undercut trigger guard make it easy to handle.
Here are the barrel and recoil spring – the spring is not captured, but it isn’t hard to replace it after cleaning.
The barrel cam is proprietary to this gun and designed to reduce felt recoil. Also note the double-wound recoil spring. It kicks when you shoot it, but it isn’t bad.
The magazine. No doubting the brand, caliber or capacity here.
Here’s the trigger and the mag release. The trigger does not pinch my finger like some small auto triggers do. Also note the grip texturing – this is the pattern Ruger puts on its pistols these days. It works.
The takedown pin and slide release. You will need a screwdriver to take this gun apart. Don’t count on the slide release to actually do that, to release the slide – it’s small and slick. It is more of a slide stop. You also have “ears” at the rear of the slide that will help you rack it. Speaking of taking it apart…
Field-Stripping The LCP-Max
Here’s the drill. (A longer version is in the owner’s manual. Another reference is this video – it is easy to follow).
- Make sure the gun is empty and remove the magazine.
- Using a small flat screwdriver or other tools, pop the takedown pin loose. Come at it from above and don’t scratch the slide!.
- Remove the pin and move the slide forward off the frame.
- Separate the recoil spring and barrel from the slide. Clean and lube the gun.
- Replace the barrel and recoil spring assembly in the slide.
- Place the slide back on the frame rails and move it to the rear, into normal position.
- Place the takedown pin in its hole at an upward angle, and press it into the hole. You must overcome the keeper spring’s pressure as you press the pin into place. It will “click” when seated. That’s all.
Be sure to read the manual’s recommendation on lubing the gun. The trick is not to overdo it.
Shooting The Ruger LCP Max
My range time with this gun was mixed. I shot four loads – two factory, and two handloads at 10 yards from a rest. The gun seemed to like the factory stuff, but not my handloads so I won’t post those targets here. I reckon I’ll have to put more development into another load for it, since factory ammo is still practically non-existent. At any rate, here’s what I found with the two factory loads.
This load is a good one for practice and target range time. It is exactly what its name implies. You can buy a few boxes of (when ammo comes back) and head to the range well-prepared for whatever you need to do. Fiocchi ammo is made in America and has been, in my opinion, excellent value. Here, it was OK in the Max, but wasn’t quite as good as the American Gunner load. Here’s a target…
A bit of vertical stringing is evident. I was still getting used to the gun’s ergos at the bench, so a big part of this stringing should fall on me. I’ve only had good results in the past with Fiocchi ammo. For practice at typical .380 distances, this will suffice. When it is more available, the cost is not that much, either, so you can afford to practice with it.
This load was a bit more accurate than the Fiocchi or my two handloads. I had exactly five rounds left in the box, so I thought what a good way to use them, in this review. At least they were on the paper and somewhat centered, with four of the five in the yellow. By the way, if you like my targets, you can download them from this site for free.
One factor in the accuracy department is the trigger. With a lot of take-up and then some creep, it did not allow the gun to exhibit Camp-Perry-type accuracy. But then again who would expect that?
The 6 lb. 7 ounce trigger break is better than I originally thought it was going to be, so that was a plus. This is a gun for close encounters of the nasty kind, what I call a “get off me!” gun. For that role, it’s perfect. Another plus is, with the trigger the way it is, an accidental discharge would be hard to accomplish.
To sum up, it is accurate enough for its intended purpose. Its reliability was perfect initially – zero failures to feed or fire. That, to me, is more important than gilt-edged accuracy. I did experience the slide failing to lock back a few times after the last shot. That is something that happens sometimes due to ammo used or the magazine – I’ll keep an eye on it. It functioned well on the bench.
However, as you will see from my YouTube video I did experience a few feed issues. It’s been fine since I put a few more round through it. However, I’m keeping an eye on it. If I have other troubles I’ll be sure to report on that in a follow up review further down the line.
So, how did this little guy do in the recoil department? About as you would expect a 10-point-something-ounce gun that can accommodate just about two and a half fingers on the grip to do…
It was a bit snappy, but wasn’t bad. I equate it to shooting 9mm out of one of the new “micro 9s”. I own both a Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP and an XD-S (review coming soon) in 9mm. They are a bit snappy, as well, but that’s expected. At least the extended magazine baseplate helps you to control the gun a bit more. Let’s face it, if you are going to carry any centerfire pistol for defense … you’d better practice with it until the recoil is not noticed and has no effect on your shooting.
If it really bothers you, or you have a physical reason that will not allow you to shoot guns that have much recoil, there are always the rimfires. Modern .22 LR or magnum ammo has come a long way – you could do worse.
So, what’s out there for the Ruger LCP Max? Well, to be honest, I don’t know, as it’s a brand-new model. But…one saving factor is that it is just about the same size as the LCP II, so holsters shouldn’t be an issue.
I do think that if you tried to carry this in a belt holster, you might have a bit of trouble finding its “handle” as you reach for the grip. I recommend pocket carry. It sits very well in my front pocket in its included holster. That’s my humble opinion. For female shooters, pocket carry still works or purse carry is an option. I’ve read of several decent purses designed to accommodate a gun.
Ruger’s website is a good place to start, when looking for extras for your LCP Max. Bear in mind that the Max is just a touch larger than the LCP II. I would hold off buying a fitted Kydex or another rigid holster until specific ones are available for the Max. Ruger should have an accessory page up for the Max by then.
There are six lasers shown on the LCP II page – I have not verified this with Ruger, but I don’t see why those wouldn’t fit the Max. The 12-round extended mag should be available, as well.
Unless you are buying a soft pocket holster, I’d hold off buying anything rigid or attached to the gun. Shortly, Ruger LCP Max accessories should be available.
What other small .380s are out there that are similar to this one? Well, let’s first look close to home – Ruger home, that is. There are three Rugers that you might consider.
Starting at $309, Ruger shows 16 different LCPs on its site. This does include distributor specials, as will the tally on the LCP II. Ruger does a lot of specialization for its distributors. With a 6+1 capacity, this is the smallest .380 Ruger makes. If you are looking for a backup gun for your backup gun, this will work… it is tiny.
Check out my Ruger LCP review with Viridian laser.
Ruger LCP II
Here, we have two models in .22 LR and thirteen in .380. With a capacity of 6+1 and a price starting at $409, this gun has served the needs of concealed carriers for a good while. Its improved handling and more visible sights make it easier to shoot than the LCP. I do believe that once the Max is out, LCP II sales might take a nose dive. Let’s face it… 10 rounds against 6, in a gun that is barely larger yet includes “real” sights and costs exactly $40 more? To my way of thinking, that’s a no-brainer.
Check out my Ruger LCP II review.
For those who need to have a larger gun, Ruger still makes the LC380. This is basically an LC9 chambered in .380 but using a DAO hammer action. The original hammer-fired LC9 was not very popular due to its overly-long and stiff trigger, but the striker-fired version (S) seems to have fixed that. With the LC380, you still have that original trigger but the gun is easier to hang on to for some people. Plus, the replaceable sights are pretty easy to see.
This is another small, smooth .380 with a 6- and 7-round capacity (both mags included). The Spectrum was really popular when it was introduced. Heck, I even bought one. You can read my full Taurus Spectrum review. The gun was available in, if my memory is correct, 14 different finishes and/or colors when introduced. I remember my friend Mitch had to have the one in teal and white and waited a good while to get one. Nowadays, they’ve done away with all but two finishes. To paraphrase Henry Ford, nowadays ‘you can have this gun in any finish you want, so long as it is black or stainless’. For a full MSRP of $224, it’s not a bad deal. Mine’s been reliable, and with the extended 7-round mag installed, it’s pretty easy to shoot.
Check out my full Taurus Spectrum review.
Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380
For $385, you can pick up the popular M&P Bodyguard in .380. It comes with two 6-round mags, one with a flat baseplate and the other with a finger extension (shown). The aftermarket is active for this gun – remember that sights made for this gun will fit the Max, as well. This gun is available with a laser from the factory. The model is very popular with folks who want a small .380 that has “Smith & Wesson” engraved on the slide. It is an attractive alternative.
Check out my full Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 review
Perhaps the closest to the Ruger LCP Max in size (except width) is the Kahr CW380. For $439, you get a single-stack (6+1), skinny (slide width .75″) gun that could go just about everywhere with you. I’ve owned Kahr guns before – they work. The only thing I didn’t like about them was the takedown procedure, but that’s getting picky. This is one of the smallest .380s that I’ve seen, and is a reliable alternative to the Max.
So, you want a pocket .380 that holds more than the usual 6-7 rounds? Well, to paraphrase the old saying, the Max is your huckleberry. This gun will be one of Ruger’s best-sellers, and that says a lot since this company produces a lot of best-sellers. People who like the .380 (I’m one) will appreciate its capacity and small size.
For me, the one feature the market will welcome is the sights. I truly like the sights. The Tritium front sight is great, and the U-notch rear complements it. The only sight improvement I could see might be a Tritium rear. But, if that’s the only improvement I can think of, then that’s a good thing. I will carry it with confidence.
If a .380 shot can start a world war, I am confident it is up to the task of self-defense. This is especially so with the new ammo we have now. I’ll be interested to read below what you think of this new gun, and when they’re out, I’d like to hear from buyers as well. As always, keep ’em in the black, and stay safe!