Ruger’s LCP, LC9 and LCR concealed-carry handguns are good examples of the gunmaker’s art. Many owners refer to the pistols, with affection, as “Elsie.” There are a lot of Elsies protecting good guys and girls. Long and unpleasant experience with our protein-fed, ex-con criminal class tempered my preference for personal defense. And many years of serious study alloyed that personal experience. I prefer a Commander .45 or a mid-frame .357 Magnum.
However, there are times when fashion, circumstance and weather demand a more discreet sidearm. While the concealed hammer revolver still has much appeal, often as not, my pocket gun and hideout is the LC9 9mm Luger. The 9mm has a considerable advantage over the .380 ACP and is as light as I am willing to go in a defensive handgun.
The Lightweight Compact (LC) 9mm has a lot going for it. In my opinion, despite the more potent chambering, the LC9 is easier to fire and use well than the smaller .380 ACP caliber Ruger LCP.
The LC9 is a lightweight handgun—make no mistake—and features a barrel just over 3 inches. This handgun is only 6 inches long and 4.5 inches tall. Best of all, it is 0.9 inches thick—that is thin! The pistol weighs just over 17 ounces unloaded and features a polymer frame and steel slide.
The grip frame actually allows a good grasp by an average-sized hand. The pistol features a functioning slide lock. I like a pistol that tells you when it is empty. The LC9, unlike many of the small .380 pistols, locks open on the last shot as the slide stop catches on the magazine follower. The LC9 is a double-action-only design.
The trigger action both cocks and drops the hammer. The recoiling slide resets the action for another shot, which makes a lot of sense in a pistol carried close to the body. Another feature that makes sense is that the pistol is snag free: run your hand or a tacky article of clothing on the LC9, and you’ll find it has almost no sharp edges.
Yet the subtle stippling of the grip frame gives good adhesion to the hand. The trigger action is long but smooth. By pressing the trigger and letting it reset with the same cadence—press, reset, press, reset—you have a rhythm set for good control.
The trigger action breaks at a little more than 6 pounds and is clean for a double-action-only trigger. The pistol features excellent service grade sights, which are adjustable for both elevation and wind. I like that because the LC9 is accurate enough for serious shooting to 25 yards or so, unlike most small pocket pistols. With concentration on the sights and trigger action, you may make X-ring hits far past conversational distance.
I have stressed that it is important to have good sights on a small pistol since there is a greater chance of sight misalignment in a pistol this size. The bold, combat-worthy sights of the LC9 are excellent examples of serious gear for a serious handgun. Frankly, I find the LC9 a better choice for personal defense and all-around use than a number of pistols costing several times as much. When compromise is inherent in the design—designing a small pistol that shoots as well as a large pistol—the LCP is a great engineering accomplishment.
When practicing with a light 9mm, attention to detail is everything. The trigger press and sight alignment are important. For inexpensive practice, a load that burns clean and delivers good accuracy is important, with one of the more attractive choices being remanufactured 115-grain FMJ. With that load, the pistol is accurate enough for meaningful practice. As an example, at 15 yards (a realistic distance to test a short-barrel defense pistol), I was able to place five rounds into a 3-inch group firing from a solid barricade position.
That is good performance from such a light handgun. Fast follow-up shots are possible with attention to detail, and I am surprised that I enjoy firing the pistol so much. The grip shape, overall design and ergonomics are pleasing to the eye and hand. Overall, the LC9 is a good platform from which to deliver ordnance when the weight must be light and the package small. In personal defense, load selection is critical, with expansion and penetration balance of prime importance. The short barrel curtails velocity to an extent. However, the 9mm is a high-pressure cartridge with good efficiency, and most loads maintain at least 1,000 fps from the LC9’s 3-inch barrel.
When carrying the pistol, I have used cross-draw holsters that offer an excellent draw angle. When seated or driving, the handgun is at the fingertips for a rapid presentation. Cross-draw is not for everyone, although for those who understand the advantages, it is a great holster. After firing the LC9 extensively and living with the pistol for some time, I find the little Ruger a welcome addition to my defensive battery. It is reliable, easy to carry, ready for defense on a moment’s notice, affordable and worth a hard look by anyone needing a good defense pistol.
Share the ways you use and love the LC9 in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.