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Preview – Ruger American Compact and Ruger LCP II

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

Ruger Updates its Most Popular Pistol and Adds a Compact to the American Line

With more than 1.5 million examples in circulation, the diminutive LCP is Ruger’s most popular centerfire pistol, and with that kind of commercial success, the decision to launch a new version cannot have been taken lightly. While the company is touting it as an improved version of the original, there are enough changes to the design to warrant looking at it as an entirely new gun.

When first introduced, the LCP was derided by Kel-Tec fans as a rip-off of that company’s competing .380 pocket gun. While Ruger may indeed have, ahem, drawn inspiration from it, they were able to capitalize on the public’s need for a highly concealable defensive firearm in a way that no one else had, before or since. Despite the wheel of fashion turning to favor 9mm Luger, rather than Kurz, owning an Elsie Pea means the number of excuses for not being armed drops precipitously. “I don’t have a holster.” “It’s too big.” “It’ll print under my shirt.” “The weather’s too hot.” All of these are invalidated by the tiny plastic pistol.

RECOIL was one of the first to get hands on with the original Ruger American, and in the year since its introduction, we’ve taken it three-gunning, shot a couple of local USPSA matches, and had the slide milled for a red-dot. Despite digesting a couple thousand rounds of mixed ammo, ranging from +P defensive hollowpoints to lead reloads, it has yet to experience a stoppage. Adding a compact version to the lineup was almost inevitable, and we believe the smaller model is actually the better option for most people. Read on to find out why.

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The Elsie Pea Sequel
Ruger’s publicity materials for the updated LCP tout several key features, the most significant being a “light, single-action trigger.” That’s a bit of a stretch. In comparison to its antecedent, the new operating system is a huge improvement, but it actually uses partly pre-cocked DA lockwork, requiring the user to pull back the hammer a final 1/8 inch before it slips off the sear. In doing so, a Glock-like gas pedal safety in the trigger’s face must first be deactivated. About 5⁄8 of an inch of slop is then taken up before hitting a wall, then a final ¼ inch of mushy rollover pulled through before the gun fires. A 1911 it ain’t. By equipping it thusly, Ruger heads off criticism of putting a single-action trigger without a manual safety on a pocket gun, but its marketing verbiage is worthy of a presidential election campaign.

A last round hold-open feature is a welcome addition. With only seven rounds on board you’ll need it sooner rather than later, but as there’s only one mag in the cardboard box it ships in, you’ll either spend critical seconds looking bemusedly at an empty weapon, or else make a trip to Ruger’s website to order a spare. We recommend the latter, but wish the manufacturer had included another magazine to supplement the pocket holster that comes with the gun.

The LCP II’s sights are significantly better than the vestigial nubs found on the original LCP, but less prominent than those on the LCP Custom, splitting the difference between “snag-free but largely useless” and “hi-vis, but guaranteed to catch on your pocket.” Although they’re integral to the slide and therefore non-adjustable, they’re still usable if you’re content with making 10-yard headshots. We are, so they’re GTG.

The new gun’s field stripping procedure sticks to the tried-and-true formula of the one introduced less than a decade ago. After proving empty, fish out the tiny, dome-headed cam pin located above the trigger, then run the top half off the bottom. Inside the slide, you’ll find a pair of nested, counter-wound recoil springs on a steel guide rod, which can be plucked clear, along with the microscopic barrel.

In the frame, there are full-length, machined steel guide rails that contribute mightily to the LCP’s longevity. While it might theoretically be possible to wear out an Elsie Pea, we’re unaware of anyone actually having done so. But then again, there’s no one in our contacts list who’s that much of a masochist — we think. That said, the new version sports a wider backstrap, so a few hardy souls will be able to sling four or five additional magazine’s worth of ammo downrange before retiring to a darkened room for an ice pack and a stiff drink. Ruger has expended more than few hours of design work on the revised grip, providing enough friction without being abrasive enough to wear through fabric.

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