The Ruger LCR — The Most Advanced Revolver in the World

By Bob Campbell published on in Guest Posts, Handguns, Pistols, Reviews

Revolver history is interesting. I am leading up to something because the revolver on my desk as I write this has me going back over everything I have learned about the revolver.

A Bit of Revolver History

The revolver is older than commonly believed. Double-barrel and combination barrels were common during the flintlock era, although they are not true repeaters. Revolvers with multiple chambers were not rare—they were expensive. The revolving-cylinder handgun dates back to at least 1540, so it was a case of the technology of the day not catching up with the thinking man’s dreams.

The German Wender is among the most interesting revolvers, as is the two-chambered Jacques Gorgo design, with two chambers around a single barrel and dual flints for ignition. In the 1700s came the Collier, with five chambers that rotated around a single barrel, most manually operated. You fired one chamber, then unlocked and rotated the cylinder by hand.

Charcoal gray Ruger LCR with stippled grip, barrel pointed upward in a man's hand with the spent cases being ejected.

The Ruger always ejects spent cases in a positive way.

The Pepperbox is debatable, although by definition it is a revolver. By 1830, double-action-only Pepperboxes that used an operating bar (pawl) to push up a ratchet were common. Colt did not invent the revolver, but he perfected and changed the revolver from a curiosity to a fighting handgun more people could afford. Colt’s English Patent #6909 secured the rights to a revolver using a fixed barrel and a pawl linked to the hammer.

Just as importantly, the Colt included a means of locking the cylinder in place. However, there was room for improvement. The Adams revolver, arguably, was stronger than the Colt due to its one-piece forged frame with top strap. Finally, in 1889, Colt introduced the swing-out cylinder, solid-frame revolver. Now we had machined, steel, cast and sintered parts. The coil spring has replaced the leaf spring in modern revolvers.

Many modern revolvers have changed little in a hundred years or so. Some believe the Colt Detective Special, Smith and Wesson Combat Magnum and Ruger GP 100 perfected the revolver.

Maybe.

The Most Modern and Innovative Revolver

Charcoal gray Ruger LCR with stippled grip, barrel pointed to the left on a woven gray-and-white background.

The LCR has many good features, a modern appearance and excellent performance.

Arguably, the most modern and innovative revolver in the world at the moment is the Ruger Lightweight Carry Revolver.

The LCR weighs a light 13.5 ounces, and the original features a hidden hammer for snag-free use. A new version with exposed hammer and a single-action option is now available. That configuration has some appeal to outdoorsmen, although a concealed-hammer type is best as a dedicated personal-defense handgun. The LCR features a fully shrouded hammer to dampen recoil and a smooth, double-action pull, plus it is rated for +P loads. Thankfully, the LCR fits most J-frame holsters, so holstering the piece is not a hassle.

The most interesting feature of the LCR revolver is the polymer frame. The LCR comprises an upper cylinder/frame and barrel assembly; the lower assembly is the action. Then there is the cylinder and crane assembly, which is a mix of polymer and plastic parts, along with steel in the right places and aluminum in others.

Many of the parts and pins are hardened steel. The barrell fitting is different from any other revolver I have examined. Ruger used threads so precise that there is little or no fitting in the forcing cone during assembly. The LCR also relies on fewer moving parts than most revolvers.

The finish, hard-anodized coupled with a baked-on powder polymer surface filler, is particularly rugged. According to Ruger, the finish has a hardness of RC (Rockwell hardness) 60. While the Ruger design emphasizes toughness, compactness also is an asset. The cylinder diameter is smaller than any 5-shot .38 Special I know. Instead of locking on the ejector rod, the revolver locks at the rear and the crane. The center pin of the ejector rod and the front latch insert are titanium.

The Ruger LCRin black with black grip on top of a traditional J frame with light brown grip and silver frame on a woven white-and-gray background.

The Ruger is scantly larger than the traditional J-frame, fits the same holsters and is lighter. Note: The trigger guard easily accommodates all hand sizes.

There is no side plate, but that is nothing new with Ruger revolvers. The hammer, sear and trigger are in the lower housing. Unlike the larger GP100, the hammer is in the lower mechanism. Torx head cross-screws keep the revolver together during the stress of recoil. Recoil actually moves the parts together instead of loosening them—a big step in engineering.

I must admit that I had concerns about any firearm with a steel and polymer interface—especially a hard-kicking revolver. After much study and examination, I find those concerns groundless. The LCR may be the best hard-use, snub-nose revolver in the world.

There are practical aspects of the LCR I find appealing. As an example, the grip frame’s soft rubber handles are excellent—designed for hand fit and control. This is as comfortable a standard revolver grip as ever designed, while retaining a compact outline. After all of this engineering revolution, Ruger did not leave us with a heavy trigger action.

The double-action-only trigger is an action requiring less resistance among the moving parts than any previous design. The bane of small, double-action revolvers has been the hard trigger action. If you or your partners have limited hand strength or an aging parent has limited strength and finds other designs too heavy, The Ruger LCR just might be the best choice.

The action is smooth and useful in rapid-fire drills. However, I could not stage the action. Staging is an old trick in which you bring the double-action trigger almost to the point that the pistol fires. You affirm the sight picture and break the shot. This makes for increased accuracy at longer range. It is more difficult to stage the Colt Detective Special than the Smith and Wesson Chief’s Special, and the Ruger does not stage at all. Considering the smoothness and feel of the double-action trigger, that is more than acceptable. You should fire a defensive firearm double action at all times.

Ruger claims that the LCR will prove more comfortable to fire than any revolver in the weight class and durability is excellent. There is no way I could fire enough rounds to break this revolver, and I tested the piece with a good mix of ammunition.

Light and bright green box of Remington Golden Saber ammunition on top of a charcoal colored Ruger LCR on worn wooden planks.

The Remington Golden Saber is a formidable defense load well worth its price.

A few years ago, I did a hand-loading project involving 190- to 196-grain bullets in the .38 Special. With careful loading, I was able to convince a Tennessee Valley Bullets 190-grain SWC out of a 2-inch .38 at 850 fps. That seems useful and pressure is normal, plus momentum and wear on small parts was up there. Heavy loads do not blow up guns when worked up carefully, although they are hard on small parts. I fired my last 50 in the LCR.

Recoil was there, but I admit it was much more manageable than most small revolvers. The Hogue-designed grip and lower bore axis are payoffs from starting the design with a clean slate. The broad and easily acquired sights are another big plus.

White-haired man in blue jacket with white ear protection points the Ruger LCR at a green target set against a backdrop of leafless trees.

This dog will run—a great shooter and a modern revolver on which you can bet your life.

Among the .38 Special loads I keep on the shelf for my ready-carry guns is the Remington 125-grain Golden Saber. This load pushes the well-designed bullet to just over 900 fps. When firing this load from the LCR, recoil was manageable. Well, actually the revolver was pleasant to fire. When firing off of a solid barricade rest at 15 yards, I placed all five rounds into a three-inch group—even though I could not stage the trigger.

The sights are well regulated for this load. With 158-grain loads, the revolver shoots a little high. The snub-nose .38 Special revolver is a traditional defense gun and a good, go-anywhere revolver for the fishing kit, backup when hunting or to get rid of dangerous reptiles.

The LCR is a great choice—a revolver that should give good service. It is the most modern revolver in the world.

Have you tried the new Ruger LCR? Share your thoughts in the comments 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 Shooter’s 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.

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Comments (6)

  • Carl Bradley

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    None of the DAO pistols I’ve owned or shot have been favorites as I have gotten older–I like being able to fire a pistol single-action if so desired, for more carefully aimed shots. With the altered hammer feature, the LC9 might be a good choice. I would be interested to know if the Ruger with altered hammer also experiences an absence of “staging.”

    Reply

  • Don McElyea

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    I have the 357 LCR and it was my first carry gun until Oklahoma passed the open carry.
    I purchased the LCR also in 22 WMR for the wife. The trigger is way too strong for her but I still like having it in my collection of Rugers. You can’t go wrong with this shooter.

    Reply

  • stormy1

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    I fail to see the big advantage over a Smith Airweight or many other small revolvers. It weighs an ounce less, but is larger and it won’t stage. The best I can tell it is black, polymer and it looks cool. So does a S&W 442. The larger grips are nice when you practice a lot, but are a drag for coming out of the pocket in a hurry. I practice my draw with my pocket pistol as much my shooting. Sorry, but for me that is not enough to earn the label, “the most modern and innovative revolver in the world.” There is not much innovating left to do with these little puppies, but IMHO, the LCR is hardly a quantum leap,

    Reply

  • blackhawkxx

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    This is my daily carry piece with the factory C.T. lazer. I love it. You guys that pan it should try it. The trigger is smoother than the others out there and the lazer really helps get on target at night when I am out the most. I love this gun.

    Reply

  • JMB

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    The Ruger 357 LCR/CT and SA XDs 45 are my pocket carries. The LCR with 158gr is a bear, and it hurts like hell to shoot the big stuff. I purchased the Pachmayers, which is the other grip that it comes with when new. Not much help there. Wad cutters are a pleasure and most 38s. My carry ammo is Magsafe frangibles 70gr.

    I was looking at many pistols and revolvers to carry M&P shield, LCP, Air weight S&W and others. and this had the best trigger of all. One thing that I don’t like it’s hard to use a speed loader the way it’s configured.

    Reply

  • smoke

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    The title of the article is somewhat misleading in that he only specifically ends up talking about the 38 version of the LCR – there are several versions. I have the 357 magnum version which has some extra stainless steel heft to it & weighs about 17 ounces – still very LIGHTWEIGHT, with a 5 shot cylinder. But I ONLY have it “at the ready” with lightweight 38 sp. Hornady Critical Defense. Very manageable with quick ON TARGET low recoil hits if I have to defend myself or some other innocent.

    Fits perfectly in my FRONT PANTS POCKET for EASY LIGHTWEIGHT LEGAL CONCEAL CARRY. And with maximum centerfire REVOLVER RELIABILITY & a superb & smooth trigger pull.

    For self-defense concealed protection – to ME, this can’t be beat.

    Reply

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