Ruger LC9S: Gun Review

The Ruger LC9s is offered in 9mm only. It is six inches long and weighs only 17.2 ounces. The magazine capacity is seven rounds, for a total of eight with one in the chamber. The author found it functioned flawlessly.

The Ruger LC9s has its origins in the Ruger LCP, which is perhaps the greatest success story in modern-day, concealed-carry firearms. Introduced in 2008, this little, polymer-frame .380 semi-auto (LCP stands for Lightweight Compact Pistol) soon became immensely popular. Part of that was timing, as the country was heading into a period when more and more citizens were taking charge of their personal protection by carrying a gun.

The concept of a tiny, polymer-frame .380 had been executed years ago, and there were similar guns on the market, so it was not a new idea. Nonetheless, the LCP became a huge success for two reasons. First, it had the backing of the big Ruger marketing machine. Second, and perhaps the bigger reason, the LCP worked. It is well engineered, well built, functions without problems, and continues to do that over time. In short, the LCP was a success because it was a quality handgun that hit the market at precisely the right time.

The only issue I have with the LCP is its chambering. The .380 is not a powerhouse and many ballistic experts think it is underpowered for serious self-defense use.

The concealed-carry market changed again with the introduction of Smith & Wesson’s M&P Shield in 2012 in 9mm and .40 S&W. The Shield has roughly the same silhouette as the M&P Compact but is considerably thinner, at less than one inch in width. It was only slightly larger than the micro .380 handguns, but chambered for more powerful cartridges. As the competition recognized this new market and introduced their own handguns, most ran with the numbers and made their guns in 9mm, a big step up from the .380 in power and performance.

Ruger's first entry into this bigger-caliber segment of the market was the LC9 (Lightweight Compact 9mm) in 2012. This is a double-action, hammer-fired handgun that is just a little bigger than the LCP. But it's clear that the market preferred the better trigger pull of a striker-fired pistol in this style of handgun. This led to the LC9s (the "s" referring to striker-fired), first announced by Ruger in 2014.

The gun has a built-in trigger safety, but it can be ordered with or without a secondary safety on the left side. The non-safety or “Pro” model also lacks the magazine disconnect, so it can fire without the magazine inserted. This feature is considered important by most self-defense pros. As a lefty, I also find the safety to be problematic. It is all but impossible to operate quickly using the “correct” hand, so I simply leave it off, just as striker-fired handguns are intended to be used. But it takes very little pressure to turn the safety on and it can slip into the “on” position while carrying the gun, which is dangerous if I need it in a hurry and expect the safety to be off. My one regret is not ordering the gun without a safety and without the magazine disconnect. Of course, you may not agree. That’s why they sell both.

The gun is offered in 9mm only. It is six inches long and weighs only 17.2 ounces. The magazine capacity is seven rounds, for a total of eight with one in the chamber. The magazine has a finger extension that gives you a bit more gripping surface. I can almost, but not quite, get all my fingers on the gun. People with smaller hands should have no problem with a full grip.

Three compact pistols in 9mm: S&W Shield (front), SCCY (back), and Ruger LC9s (right).

There is a loaded chamber indicator notch milled into the rear of the steel slide. This allows visual confirmation that the gun is loaded with a chambered round, without the necessity of a “press check.” This is a good feature because a press check can be dangerous with a small gun if done incorrectly. It’s also a great safety feature, since you can tell at a glance that the gun is loaded.

The gun is a locked-breech design, which is stronger and safer than a straight blowback design. That means the barrel and slide are locked together when in battery. After firing, they travel together for a short distance, then the back of the barrel drops down to unlock and the slide can continue back to eject the spent cartridge and pick up a new round from the magazine on the forward stroke, where it again locks up with the barrel.

The sights are white, three-dot. Both front and back sights are set in a dovetail with a set screw to secure them. They can be drifted to adjust for windage. Also, with a dovetail installation, it will be easy to replace the sights with aftermarket night sights, which I think are a must on any carry gun.

My LC9s has one of the nicest striker-fired triggers I have seen in this class of handgun. It breaks at 4.5 pounds and the pull is very smooth and clean.

Like any Ruger, it’s rugged and dependable. Mine runs and runs and never complains or jams. I have run a wide range of factory ammo and handloads through it and have not experienced a single problem. I even used some 9mm factory ammo that I know is problematic in other guns, and it ran fine. The gun is accurate enough to easily keep all shots in a tight group at any practical self-defense distance. This is not a competition gun—it’s designed for shooting at close, defensive ranges—but I think with the right shooter it could hold its own in an action-pistol match in terms of accuracy. The gun points intuitively and runs easily—important factors for a defensive pistol.

I found it very easy to control (comparatively speaking) for multiple shots, even with hot +P ammo. The LC9s is rated for +P, but Ruger recommends a limited diet of that ammo because it will wear out the gun faster. That’s fine, as you should only use +P ammo to make sure they will work in the gun. Typically, it’s a good idea to run a few magazines of your carry ammo now and then, but to practice with less expensive standard pressure ammo. Never use +P+ ammo in the LC9s. There are no SAAMI or CIP guidelines on this ammo, and it can be loaded to foolish pressure levels.

The LC9s is an outstanding concealed-carry pistol. It’s small, light, and compact, but chambered for a serious defensive cartridge. It’s also easy to shoot, with an excellent trigger and decent sights.

The most important aspect of any defensive pistol is reliability. Handguns are machines, and no machine can be 100-percent foolproof, but this little Ruger comes very close.

Ruger LC9s Specifications

Caliber: 9mm Luger

Capacity: 7+1 (gun ships with one magazine)

Barrel Length: 3.1 inches

Barrel Material: Alloy steel

Barrel Finish: Blued

Twist Rate: 1:10

Grooves: 6

Slide Material: Through-hardened alloy steel

Slide Finish: Blued

Grip Frame: Black, high performance, glass-filled nylon

Width: 0.9 inches

Height: 4.5 inches

Length: 6 inches

Weight: 17.2 ounces

Trigger: Striker fired with integrated trigger safety

Trigger pull: 4.5 pounds (as measured)

Accessories: Soft case, owner's manual, lock

MSRP: $449