Concealed Carry

Review: Ruger LCP MAX .380 ACP Pistol

Ruger LCP MAX pistol with ammo

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 pistol
The Ruger LCP MAX .380 pistol is neat, compact and made with Ruger quality.

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.

XS front pistol sight
The Ruger’s front sight is among its best features.

MAX Improvements

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.

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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.

Ruger LCP MAX on orange target
At the end of the day we had shredded a lot of paper! The LCP MAX is a formidable handgun.

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.

Man shooting pistol
Firing quickly, offhand, the pistol provided good performance.

Concealed Carry

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

What do you think of the Ruger LCP MAX? Let us know in the comment section.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (5)

  1. Just purchased an LCP Max 2 days ago and fired 2 magazines of ball ammo through it the same day. I was surprised at the accuracy of the gun. I left with the belief that I could hit my taget without too much trouble, at least in a no stress environment. That does help with the whole self protection concept. I don’t like to carry a pistol in a holster either inside or outside my waistband so the Ruger should do the trick. Even then, I work on federal property so it never can go to work, but it should be in my pocket the remainder of the time. Thanks for the review it helps to know that I made a good purchase.

  2. LCP is an always carry. It’s easier to carry an LCP than a cell phone. That is the original 6rnd with all its faults. (Sights, grip recoil, etc)
    LCP will deliver 9mm Kurtz to a pear sized target reliably at 2 car lengths. There are skills required but those skills are obtainable by most people. (A little tougher than a .380 snub hammerless which takes some work)
    The LCP Max offers 9mm Kurtz 10 or 12 rnds + 1. The capability comes at a neglible wieght/size cost not including the ammo.
    2. Functional sights into low light conditions. Manageable trigger pull, good grip to manage recoil.
    3. LCP Max remains the always carry that is the LCP. Rule 1 of gunfighting – have a gun.
    4. LCP Max is as reliable as its ancestors (so far) My anecdote is 100% daily test, first shot to target no failures after being carried all day.The LCP was a test and as such was not maintained in any way.
    5. .380 auto is inadequate. Para bellum vs. Kurtz 9mm. Hold a pear under your chin. It doesn’t matter what round hits that area. Critical damage to the airway, probable damage to the CNS with potential significant damage to the brains blood supply. (note that is where Ashli Babbitt was shot – 1 round stop the threat)
    The only concern is a miss high right or high left. The LCP Max gives at least 10 more chances to land a telling blow. Very good foundational fire arm to carry
    There are many other firearms a person can wish they had at hand in time of need

    Good luck and God bless

  3. I purchased 2 LC9’s for me and wife. LCP was LEO only, (California). works fine and would rather have 7 9mm than 10 .380

  4. I really enjoyed the informative article on the LCP MAX as I have had an LCP II for several years as my go to concealed carry. I have smaller hands so it is very comfortable for me to handle and the ease of concealment. After reading the article and having my LCP II I would seriously consider this weapon for the fact of the increased capacity. Thanks for the informative article

  5. Bravo! Another excellent, balanced, informative article. With all the merits, and no real downsides, Ruger’s LCP Max is a winner in my book. Thanks for reiterating the need for constant practice. This is yet another gun on my ‘get’ list.

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