When it comes to personal defense, every handgun is a compromise, and the Ruger LCP Max is no exception. For self-defense, we must choose between carrying a gun that may not be effective and concealing the gun easily.
The minimum carry gun in my daily carry is a reliable compact 9mm. My backup is a .38 Special revolver. Just the same, on the basis of design, function, and innovation, I have the greatest respect for the Ruger LCP MAX.
The pistol has earned a place in my right front pocket as a backup, and it may replace the snub .38 as the home-ready back-pocket gun. When I am carrying the Commander .45 in an inside-the-waistband holster, the smallest lightest backup is pretty attractive, and the LCP MAX is at the top of the list.
There are many shooters who simply cannot conceal a larger gun comfortably. I get it. If you are going to carry a small gun, it should be a good one. When it comes to the backup or hideout gun, some things should never be compromised.
Reliability is the baseline. If the handgun isn’t reliable, nothing else matters. The pistol should also have good sights. Too many small pistols have simple nubs on the slide. That isn’t enough to aim with. Sure, the gun may be designed for arm’s-length affairs, but sometimes you may have to respond across the parking lot.
Ergonomics should be as comfortable as engineering can make possible.
The modern Ruger LCP may be concealed as readily as many small .25 Automatic pistols of a generation ago. That is big news. For those with a busy lifestyle who try their best to be armed at all times but struggle, the LCP MAX may be a godsend.
Ruger LCP MAX Features
The original Ruger LCP was a very popular handgun. The LCP II, with the improved trigger and sights, is even more desirable. I have never seen an unqualified malfunction with either pistol. They are light, handy, and easy to conceal. The LCP is more accurate than most would believe, although getting into a proper firing position to get hits with such a small gun is something of a stunt — practice, practice, practice…
The LCP MAX brings the Ruger LCP into double-digit capacity from seven to 11 rounds. The grip is longer and fits my average-sized hand much better. The pistol holds more rounds and feels good in the hand, and there is more. This surfeit of ammunition comes with a 0.5-inch longer grip.
That is trivial as far as concealment goes, and the longer handle results in a better feel and more comfortable shooting. For some shooters, it will be a slight difference. For others, the new handle is just enough to make the pistol a handgun they are able to control, when compared to one that kicks too much.
An extended finger grip is supplied with the pistol, but I did not use this add-on. The grip is nicely pebbled, with a good balance of adhesion and abrasion. The pistol offers a good firing grip, but it isn’t uncomfortable when firing.
The handle is a great improvement. The new high-capacity magazine results in a slightly thicker grip — about 0.5 inch — as far as I can measure. With a tad greater height as well, this is a minimal change.
As for the well-designed steel magazine, it was difficult to load to 10 rounds with the first few loadings, but then it was broken in. Be certain to load three or four rounds, tap the back of the magazine to seat the cartridges, and repeat until the magazine is loaded.
I was pleased to note both the magazine release and the slide lock were modified. This is an improvement, with a larger magazine release and slide release, as well as roughening of the surface areas.
The trigger action is very similar to the LCP II. The trigger is tight and breaks after a modest take-up. There is a blade in the center of the trigger that acts as a safety lever. Be certain to press the trigger safety fully, as you fire the pistol.
The trigger breaks at just under seven pounds. Reset is sharp. Reset is as important for rapid accurate fire as a tight, crisp trigger break.
The slide serrations on a small pistol must be large and properly designed for manipulation. The LCP MAX works well in this regard. The slide is thin enough at only 0.8 inches.
The sights are a great improvement. Perhaps they are the finest personal defense sights on any pocket pistol (save for adding XS Sights to the Glock 42).
The rear sights feature serrations on the rear face and a U-shaped sighting notch. The front sight is a large dot with a tritium insert. This is the ideal setup for fast, accurate shooting. Small guns need good sights more than larger guns, due to the short sight radius and greater difficulty in aiming.
I like the features of the new pistol, it is quite similar to the LCP II. I am not fond of the takedown involving a takedown pin that is pressed out of the frame. Just the same, you must work with what you have in such a compact pistol.
Once fieldstripped, you see a recoil spring and steel guide rod. The recoil spring is the spring-within-a-spring type that aids in controlling recoil. The spring is compressed during recoil and then smartly snaps the pistol back into battery.
Accuracy and Handling
The Ruger LCP MAX is functional. During the firing test there were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject — save for two short cycles in the first magazine. This was written off as a break-in glitch, not uncommon with new handguns.
The primary load used during evaluation was the Fiocchi 95-grain FMJ. This load is a tad hotter than most .380 ball ammo at 980 fps, runs clean, and offers good accuracy. Accuracy is difficult to quantify in this size pistol. You have to hold tightly and be certain the sights are properly aligned before firing. This is a more difficult pistol to fire well than a larger gun.
At only 11 ounces loaded, the pistol squirms some in recoil. It isn’t sharp or unpleasant, but one must get a good grip on the pistol. I brought the pistol on target at the five-yard line and fired. I was rewarded with center hits in the X-ring — when I did my part.
My experience on the firing line started with a bang! Then, as the pistol recoiled, I allowed the trigger to reset. During that same time, I focused on controlling the recoil. When I did my part, I was immediately back on target and ready for a follow-up shot.
I fired again at seven yards with similar, positive results to my experience from the five-yard line. Standing and firing for best results at 10 yards, the groups were only relatively tight and centered, but I was able to keep the shots in the center of the chest area for the most part.
The pistol is accurate enough for personal defense, if you practice trigger control, sight picture, and follow-through. This isn’t a gun to be limp wristed. It is a small pistol and demands attention to detail.
I also fired the Fiocchi 90-grain JHP and Fiocchi 90-grain EXTREMA using the XTP hollowpoint. I don’t want to sacrifice penetration and might opt for FMJ loads in this caliber. The Fiocchi EXTREMA load, however, features a bonded JHP with good performance.
I have fired several types of ammunition in the pistol with good results. The latest was the Hornady FTX Critical Defense.This load also functions and gives good results in the Ruger LCP MAX.
There are minimal handguns that are designed for close-range defense. The Bond Arms Derringer, the North American .22 revolver, and this piece are among them. Firing these micro models past 10 yards may be a stunt, but you’ll learn something.
I took a solid braced firing position over the hood of my truck and fired a magazine at a man-sized target at 15 yards. I did not fire slowly or quickly, but in a cadence in which I recovered the sights and aimed each shot carefully.
I kept all the shots in a five-inch circle. I was well pleased with this performance. At times, I had three shots in a much smaller group. Likewise, I was able to strike small objects at close range, making the pistol useful for dusting-off pests and reptiles.
I usually carry a compact pistol — a Shadow Systems 9mm or Commander .45 — in an inside-the-waistband holster. I don’t like pocket carry. Pocket carry is slow, and I don’t like the pistol moving around. The snub .38 just isn’t shaped right and is too heavy for pocket carry for me.
The Ruger LCP MAX in its supplied holster is, however, perfect. I mean ideal! The flat slide and light weight make for an ideal pocket gun. The pistol also rides well in a Crossbreed ankle holster. Th LCP MAX is a bright spot in the small pistol world. There really isn’t anything quite like it.
Ruger LCP MAX Specifications
- Caliber: .380 ACP
- Capacity: 10+1 (Flush), 12+1 (Extended)
- Barrel Length: 2.8 Inches
- Overall Length: 5.17 Inches
- Width: 0.81 Inches
- Height: 4.12 Inches
- Weight: 10.6 Ounces