Ruger announced its first LCP at the 2008 SHOT Show. Not long after, a friend of mine showed me his pocket gun, which was an LCP. He wasn’t a gun guy, but he knew I was. I think he was hoping his little gun would impress me. It didn’t.
My exposure to little guns up to that point had left me with a couple of observations: First, they weren’t easy to hold onto, and second it hurt to shoot them. My friend had not asked for my professional opinion, so I just smiled. I had no desire to follow suit.
Eight years later when the LCP II was introduced, I was commissioned by a major magazine to review it. This was a .22, so I figured the pain in shooting wouldn’t be there. I arranged for Ruger to send me one.
Lite Rack .22 LR
The Ruger Lite Rack LCP II .22 LR should be considered a training tool for learning to shoot .380 or 9mm guns. However, if these higher calibers absolutely don’t work for you, the .22 could be considered a bona fide carry gun. Once, I was adamantly against using a .22 as a defensive gun.
Years have passed, and I’ve found the effects of aging and body abuse catching up with me. I’ve become more understanding. If a .22 is the only option for you, this little gun is built for the job. But it will require some dedicated practice for you to learn to shoot it well.
Let’s talk about how it shoots. The LCP II .22 LR (we call her Elsie Pea 2 in the business) utilizes a blowback operation with a single-action trigger. There’s about a ¾-inch take up with a smooth, crisp break. The pull to get that break averages 6 pounds, 2 ounces on my test gun.
The frame is made of glass-filled nylon and is 5.20 inches long. The slide is made of alloy steel and is .81-inch wide. The barrel is stainless steel, 2.75 inches long with 6 grooves and 1:16 twist. The gun weighs 11.2 ounces total. That weight alone makes it easy to see why people are attracted to it for a carry gun.
The LCP II .22 LR’s Lite Rack system includes slide serrations, cocking ears, and a lighter-than-normal recoil spring to allow for easy slide manipulation. The manual external safety is a bit different because it is oriented vertically while most handgun safeties are oriented parallel to the frame. It’s very easy to push off with your thumb as you’re acquiring the target.
The gun is equipped with a magazine disconnect safety, so it will not fire when the magazine is removed. There’s a blade trigger safety and a drop safety that consists of a sear engineered with strong spring tension. It has a hammer catch to help prevent the hammer from contacting the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled.
Texturing on the front, back, and sides of the grip ensures you can hold the pistol securely while operating the trigger. The fixed front and rear sights are black and integral to the slide. The gun ships with one 10-round magazine, magazine loader, and a pocket holster made from a textured material designed to keep the holster in your pocket when the gun is drawn. 10+1 rounds of .22 LR ammunition makes it a viable defensive weapon in the hands of someone who has trained and can shoot well.
It took a little getting used to for me to shoot the LCP II consistently well. That’s actually an advantage considering training is one of the natural roles of the gun. There’s not enough real estate on the frame for my normally aggressive grip. I can only wrap two fingers around the gun’s grip and then use a modified teacup with my support hand.
The more I shoot the gun, the better I get at adjusting for the small sights and grip. The smooth trigger pull makes it easy to keep sights on target through the break. The ammo is inexpensive, and Ruger says it’s okay to dry-fire this gun, so practice, practice, practice. The sights, though bigger and better than those on the LCP and LCP II .380, are challenging for folks with old eyes.
I know some people like all black sights, but my trifocals required a particular tilt of the head to find and focus on the front sight — that took some getting used to. Ruger says the LCP II .22 LR accepts all LCP II .380 accessories except magazines. I found a couple of lasers that fit to the front of the trigger guard and are grip activated. I think adding one would be a serious consideration if I were to make this a carry gun.
It’s a given that a semi-automatic .22 is going to be ‘ammo sensitive.’ Slow rounds aren’t going to cycle the slide reliably. The owner’s manual for this firearm indicates subsonic or match-grade ammo may not cycle the slide, but it should handle pretty much any factory normal or high-velocity rounds including hollow points.
I put it to the test by trying normal and high-velocity rounds from several manufacturers. At one point, I thought I was having a gun or ammo issue, but it turned out to be me. My strong side thumb was pushing up the slide lock while shooting. This caused the slide to lock back while rounds were still in the magazine. Once I figured out what was happening, I had no issues with any of the six or seven brands of ammo I had in my range bag.
What I like most about the LCP II .22 LR is how it encourages carriers of mouse guns to practice. The argument about how tough mouse guns are to shoot goes away if you practice with them enough to be proficient. In my own experience, over the course of testing this gun, I became pretty good at shooting it. With that improved skill came a new appreciation for how a pocket gun could fit into the lifestyle adjustments people have to make as they age.
How about the LCP Max?
I recently took delivery of an LCP Max. I’m perplexed. Even with my battery-powered digital measuring devices, the difference in size between the LCP II and LCP Max is infinitesimal. Yet, the LCP Max holds 10+1 rounds of .380 ACP. It was time to prove my hypothesis that shooting the little .22 gun would prepare me for shooting the same form factor in larger calibers. It did, and it didn’t.
Shooting the .22 LR had become fun for me. Shooting the .380 is not particularly fun. It’s going to be more of a last-ditch emergency life-saving tool. Or, if it’s the only gun you’ll carry, maybe a first-ditch emergency, life-saving tool. Fun to shoot? I don’t think I’ll ever get there.
It has taken me four range trips and more than 300 rounds to feel as if I’m proficient with the gun. And proficient is a relative term. Put any mid-size 9mm or .380 in my hands and from a distance of 5–7 yards, and I can shoot a pretty tight group around my aiming point. With the .380 LCP, the group is somewhat looser, but all within what could be identified as center mass on a bad guy, and for some reason it’s always lower than my aiming point.
Then there’s the trigger. The trigger pull measured 7 pounds on both guns. The take-up was a little over .75 inch on both guns. The problem I have with the trigger is by the time the take-up is done, and you’re ready for the break, the trigger feels like it’s all the way back against the frame. Essentially it is too.
To me, it just took some getting used to. If I’m not careful about finger placement, my finger gets pinched in the gap between the trigger and the frame, forward of the trigger. It’s because of my short, stubby little fingers. Likely, you wouldn’t have that issue.
One big difference in the guns is the sights, and I’m not sure on a gun with a sight radius of only 3.5 inches that it really makes that much difference. The .22 has a small, notched rear sight with a very small post in front. It’s mostly a point and shoot gun. The .380 has a rather large green dot surrounded by tritium night sight in front with a deep notched rear sight. This sight would work when things go bump during the night. However, in order to make the gun truly accurate, some adjustment to the front sight height would need to be made. My plan is just to aim slightly higher than normal to get my hits where I want them.
With 11 rounds of .380 ACP on board, I have no trouble identifying the Ruger LCP Max as a defensive carry pistol for a competent shooter. For a new shooter who wishes to carry the LCP Max, I say practice, practice, practice. And, don’t let too much time go by before you practice, practice, practice some more.
The gun operated trouble-free for me, and I tried several different brands of .380, both ball and JHP. At close ranges, the .380 cartridge should do a decent job of stopping bad guy activity, if you do your job handling the gun. The economic price of both guns leads me to recommend you get one of each, shoot the .22 a lot, and shoot the .380 enough to maintain proficiency.