Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ruger SR9
With Very Little Fanfare Ruger Brings A New Entry Into the Service Pistol Arena

The SR9 is Ruger’s entry into the ever popular Double Action, striker fired, polymer framed, high capacity semi-automatic pistol. I stumbled upon this pistol in the display case at Gander Mountain and it was so new that they did not even have a price tag affixed to it. Turns out that it was $449.00 for the pistol complete with 2 magazines, an almost worthless loading tool, manual, and the requisite bicycle lock (almost worthless—I mean how many bicycles do the gun manufacturers think I have?)—add to this the fact that Gander Mountain throws in a free trigger lock and I can truss this pistol up seven ways to Sunday.
In checking Ruger’s website they state that the lack of prior press was intentional. They did not want to announce the pistol until it was on dealer’s shelves. No need to build consumer enthusiasm only to disappoint them with production delays. (“Earth to Kimber, Earth to Kimber. Where’s the KPD that you have been advertising for 3 years? Earth to Kimber, over.”)
Outside of the very reasonable price and Ruger’s reputation for making rugged and reliable handguns, it was the 17 round magazine capacity and the width of the pistol that drew me into making the purchase that day. The width on the RS9 is deceiving. When I first picked it up my assumption was that it probably had a magazine that held 9 or 10 rounds. I was happily surprised when I dropped the magazine and saw that it was a double stack mag with a 17 round capacity. Virtually everyone who has held the pistol says, almost verbatim, “I can’t believe this is a double stack magazine”.
The SR9 is, in a word: sleek. In fact, its profile is very close to the aforementioned, almost non-existent Kimber KPD.
(The SR9 bears a striking resemblence to the Mythical Kimber KPD)
The Ruger is lightweight, (once again) thin, and the front-to-back measurement of the grip is fairly short giving you a total grip circumference that you can really get your hand around. I suppose if you play center for an NBA team you might find it too small but most people are going to love the fit and feel of this pistol. This is not, however a pocket pistol, just a very well designed service handgun. The width would make it very practical for inside-the-waistband carry.
Let’s compare the specifications of the SR9 to some competitors. Below is a spec comparison of the SR9 to the CZ P01 (a remarkable handgun that is very well known throughout the rest of the world but doesn’t get the respect it deserves in the USA) and the Glock 17 (which is certainly the 9mm service pistol standard).
CZ P01 Glock 17 SR9
Ammo: 9 mm 9mm 9mm
Magazine capacity: 14 17 17
Weight: 1.7 lbs 1.4 lbs 1.6 lbs
Overall Length: 7.2 in 7.32 in 7.55 in
Barrel Length: 3.9 in 4.49 in 4.125 in
Height: 5.3 in 5.43 in 5.52
Width: 1.4 in 1.18 1 in
Trigger mech: DA/SA DA DA
Sights: Fixed Fixed Adjustable

Now that Double Action, striker fired pistols have been on the market for about 20 years, police departments are asking for modifications and a small cottage industry has sprung up for gunsmiths who can alter the Glock pistol. The Glock is a good pistol but many people felt that it could be improved with a better trigger pull, better sights, manual safeties, modified grip angles, and on and on.
In terms of municipal modifications most City Attorneys greatly fear the accidental or negligent discharge so many police departments have asked for heavier trigger pulls. I do not have a trigger pull gauge (yet) but I would guess that the SR9’s trigger pull is around 7 or so pounds. The standard issue Glock comes with a 5.5 lb trigger pull, however the New York State Police has Glock put an 8 pound trigger pull on their issue pistols and, not to be outdone, the New York City Police Department requires a 12 pound trigger pull on their Glock pistols. Yes, the NYPD officer who wants to fire his or her pistol will be a very determined individual. One might also speculate that the 12 pound NYPD trigger might be the cause of the NYPD’s less than admirable accuracy record in officer involved shootings (well, in fairness, the trigger is probably a contributing factor but a retired NYPD Sgt. relates that the main culprit is probably a lack of practice). If one thinks that a light trigger pull is OK on a service pistol I would direct you to the video shown in the concealed carry class I attended. The video shows a news report of a felony traffic stop by the Las Vegas Metro police. One officer has the suspect face down on the pavement as he is applying the handcuffs while two other officers stand about six feet back and cover the suspect with their Glock pistols. As the first officer is about apply the second handcuff one of the officers providing cover accidently pulls the trigger. Fortunately she was not a good shot and the point of impact was about 1 foot in front of the prone suspect’s head. At lease she immediately holstered her weapon. There is a tendency that when one police officer fires his or her weapon, the other nearby officers assume there is trouble and react by firing as well—this could have resulted in a dead suspect and a dead officer. While some may make light of this situation it was nearly a tragedy averted, one that would have provided the negligent officer with endless guilt.
Another modification that police departments are starting to ask for on their Glocks is a manual safety. This is again requested in order to mitigate the negligent discharge. There have been more than a few instances of a nervous and adrenaline stoked officer who forgets to remove his/her finger from the trigger guard when reholstering the pistol—the trigger finger jams against the top of the holster and as the trigger finger reacts by retracting it pulls the trigger. Whether the cause is due to the weapon’s design or a lack of training negligent discharges do happen. To answer this emerging request, Ruger makes an ambidextrous manual safety a standard feature. It is right where a seasoned 1911 shooter would expect it to be, but rather than the over-sized safeties that have become en vogue on high-end 1911’s the SR9’s manual safety is small, but very usable. It will not hinder concealed carry.
A couple of other good features on the SR9 are adjustable sights and changeable backstraps. I really like adjustable sights and Ruger has done a great job on these. They are of the 3 dot variety which have become industry standard nowadays. The front dot on these types of sights are becoming more and more of a blur to my rapidly aging eyes, however Ruger was thoughtful enough to put a really big, fat white dot on the SR9’s front sight making it much easier to see. The rear sight is adjustable for windage & elevation and Ruger has put the adjustable portion of the sight into a very solid housing making it much less likely that the rear sight can get accidentally knocked out of alignment. In reality however, I have not yet found the need to adjust these sights; for me they are shooting pretty good right out of the box.
The backstrap is made of rubber ( a great material for the part of the pistol that will make contact with the web of your hand upon recoil) and is reversible. There is a small pin at the rear base of the grip and when removed allows you to slide the backstrap down and off. One side of the backstrap provides an arch that mimics the old arched mainspring housing of the classic 1911 pistol and the other side provides a straight profile such as seen on the current crop of 1911s. For me, I like the arched version.
One other feature that I forgot to photograph is Ruger’s loaded chamber indicator. This is the same device that they introduced on their last new pistol; the P345. The loaded chamber indicator sits atop the frame between the ejection port and the rear sight. When a round is in the chamber it pushes the indicator upward at an inclined angle through the top of the slide (picture a backwards tailfin from the Batmobile).
The pistol is also very easy to disassemble:
1. Retract and lock the slide to the open position, checking to make sure that the pistol is clear of any ammunition.
2. Remove the magazine.
Looking down into the pistol, push the ejector down with your finger or the eraser end of a pencil.
3. Push out and remove the barrel retention pin. (The nice thing about the SR9 is that unlike many other pistols such as the CZ, 1911, Browning Hi-Power, etc. the SR9’s slide does not have to be manually lined up with any notch or marking on the frame in order to remove the pin. It has been engineered so that the pin is in the proper alignment when the slide is locked in the rearward position.)
4. Push the slide straight forward and off the frame (Another nice engineering feature is that, unlike the Glock and other pistols, the trigger does not have to be pulled in order to release the slide. This is very good news in the event that an errant round remained in the chamber.)
5. Remove the captive recoil spring and barrel
Upon purchasing the pistol I came home and read some internet postings relating problems new owners were having with the pistol many of whom decried the quality of Ruger. I thought this odd in light of Ruger’s reputation of reliability. I intentionally waited until after my second outing to write this review so I could better evaluate my pistol against the problems that others were writing about. In these two outings I have put a little over 550 rounds through the SR9. I will list internet reported complaints and comment below:
1. Upon firing the slide does not always completely return to battery staying about 5/16” to the rear. Yes this happened…about 2 to 3 times during the first 50 rounds. In the subsequent 500 shots fired it has not reoccurred. No real problem here, chalk it up to the normal break-in period for a tightly fitted pistol.
2. The magazines are too stiff and you cannot get all 17 rounds into them. On the first outing this did seem to occur during most of the session, however by the end of the day and all through the subsequent outing I was able to load all 17 rounds with relative ease. As with #1 above, give the magazines a good break-in before condemning the pistol and the manufacturer.
3. Failure to Feed. I found this an interesting complaint seeing that the magazine springs were stiff enough for people to complain about difficulty of loading. Nonetheless, I had 0 failure to feed malfunctions and I put 150 rounds of PMC hardball, 300 rounds of Remington hardball and 76 rounds of hollow-point ammunition from six different manufacturers through the SR9 without so much as a hiccup.
4. The magazine loader was difficult to use. Agreed. If some hand aliment necessitated the continued use of a loading assistance device I would find an after market tool that performed better.
5. Failures to extract fired cartridges. No problem here and the extractor on the SR9 is a pretty massive affair; I cannot imagine that this would provide anything but positive extractions.
(The SR9's extractor is large and efficient)
6. The trigger pull is heavy and gritty. No. It is not light, but a service handgun should not have the 2 pound trigger of a custom pistol built for bullseye competition. The trigger pull is on par with any double action pistol and better than most. It is certainly much better than the double action pull on the CZ P01 which is one of my favorite all-time handguns. I did detect some slight grit when dry firing the pistol (which the manual states should only be done with the magazine in place) but did not notice it at all on the range. There is a striker block that prevents the striker from making contact with the cartridge when the magazine is removed and some say that removing this block (which can be done at home) will improve the trigger pull. I would have to give this careful consideration. First of all the trigger is pretty darn good as it comes out of the box and will get better with use. Secondly I don’t think, from a liability standpoint, that it is a good idea to be removing manufacturer designed safety devices.
Let’s See How She Shot
21 foot target with 30 rounds of PMC 115 grain FMJ ammo.
16 rounds of Remington 115 grain FMJ ammunition fired at 21 feet.
19 rounds of Remington 115 grain FMJ ammo fired at 25 feet.
34 rounds of Remington 115 grain FMJ ammo fired at 40 feet.
50 rounds of PMC 115 grain ammo fired at 40 feet.
100 rounds of Remington 115 grain hardball fired at 50 feet.
10 rounds of Federal HydraShok 135 grain Hollow-point ammunition fired at 21 feet.
9 rounds of Speer Gold Dot 147 grain Hollow-point ammo fired at 21 feet.
10 rounds of Winchester Supreme 147 grain SXT Hollow-point ammo fired at 21 feet.
5 rounds of Federal Premium 147 grain Hollow-point ammunition fired at 21 feet.
15 rounds of Magtech First Defense 92.6 grain Solid Copper Hollow-point ammo fired at 21 feet.
20 rounds of Federal 147 grain Hydrashok jacketed hollow point ammo fired at 21 feet.
The SR9 is a great pistol and I hope that the Ruger team can produce a compact model…oh say one with a 3.5” barrel and a shorter grip with a 13 round magazine. I would think it would be a hot seller for those with a concealed carry permit—I know I would line up for one.