For me, the best snubnose revolvers have always been made by Smith & Wesson. I own, and have owned, a large number of S&W J-frames. I have never found a small revolver design I liked as much–until now. Like a bolt out of the blue, veteran gunmaker Sturm, Ruger and Company has burst onto the scene with a fantastic snubby revolver–the Lightweight Compact Revolver, or LCR. I can’t start this review without saying how happy I am that Ruger chose to build this gun. Under the legendary Bill Ruger’s leadership, Ruger built great guns, but did not always support the concealed carry market. However, new management at Ruger has reversed this course in recent years, offering new full size pistols, as well as the Light Compact Pistol (LCP), and now the LCR. Welcome back to the concealed carry market, Ruger!
A new design
The LCR is not a new version of Ruger’s venerable SP101 revolver, nor is it a copy of anything else on the market. For this gun, Ruger started with a clean slate, and built the best snubby revolver they could conceive. The result was the most innovative concealed carry revolver introduced in quite some time.
Even at first glance, the LCR stands out from the crowd of small revolvers on the market. The actual frame and barrel shroud are aluminum alloy, and the barrel and cylinder are stainless steel, but one of the first things you notice is that the grip frame and trigger guard are black polymer. The beauty of polymer is strength with very little weight. More important, it is not nearly as expensive as titanium, magnesium, “unobtainium,” or whatever other exotic metals are often used in lightweight revolvers.
As amazing as that is–the first production revolver using polymer frame material–the polymer frame isn’t the only innovative feature of this advanced design. The list of innovations is long. Ruger also incorporated the most aggressive cylinder fluting ever seen on a production revolver, further reducing weight. The innovative materials and the lightweight fluted cylinder, bring the weight down to a mere 13.5 ounces. This is within an ounce or so of the lightest (and most expensive) .38 revolvers on the market.
The internal lockwork of the revolver is also a new Ruger design. The inner workings are remarkably simple, and feature an entirely new friction reducing cam. Ruger’s website can explain the cam operation better than I can, but the result is a noticeably light trigger pull for a snubby revolver, with no perceptible stacking. The improvement over the typical out-of-the-box snubby trigger is amazing. I have had revolver triggers before like this one, but not without some serious attention from a gunsmith.
The real story of the LCR, however, may be the ergonomics. This small revolver really fits the hand. Ruger worked closely with Hogue to engineer the standard factory grips, and they feel great. Some extra padding in the area contacting the web of the hand is very welcome, and the design keeps the grip hand high on the frame to help control the gun. This simply feels great in the hand.
The sights are excellent for a gun of this type. The rear sight is a generous groove in the top strap. The standard front sight is a serrated black ramp, but the front sight blade is interchangeable, so other options are undoubtedly coming. It won’t be long before we see a front night sight option, and maybe others.
The LCR is a typical five-shot snubby in .38 Special. Interestingly, however, there are no limitations on +P ammo or bullet weights. If this Ruger is like other others before it, durability should not be a problem. Ruger is known for over-engineering its products, and I tend to believe the LCR will hold up very well. For some added protection, the alloy frame is finished in a synergistic black hard coat, and the stainless steel cylinder is coated with Ruger’s Advanced Target Grey finish. The LCR has an internal hammer, so there is no chance of snagging on the draw. Of course, there is also no option for single action–this gun is double action only. I am hopeful that Ruger will consider a shrouded hammer model in the future.
A potent performer
All of these innovations create a great handling revolver. The LCR is light and quick, of course. The sights are very good, and easy to acquire. Ruger has made the rear sight notch wide enough to show some daylight on each side of the front sight post, which is helpful for a quick sight picture. As mentioned previously, the trigger pull is light for a revolver, and smooth. I also noticed that the cylinder stop drops quickly with the first movement of the trigger, making it possible to do a function check with a margin of safety, even without the benefit of an external hammer.
Loading and handling drills presented no problems with the LCR. The standard Hogue grips are nicely relieved for speed loader clearance. Extraction of fired casings was easy so long as the ejector rod was given a firm smack. My only complaint was the operation of the cylinder release, which requires a press in, rather than a press forward. I don’t find the Ruger cylinder release to be as fast as other designs, but this drawback can be overcome with practice.
One of the most noticeable characteristics of this gun is the lack of perceived recoil for a gun of this size and weight. The combination of excellent grips and excellent ergonomics has really tamed the snubby recoil. Shooting .38 Special +P loads is very manageable, and shooting standard pressure .38 Special is easy. Kudos to Ruger on figuring out some way to cheat the laws of physics. Functioning of the gun was perfect with a variety of ammo, including a large quantity of Hornady .38 Special 125 grain JHP/XTP and Winchester .38 Special +P 125 grn. JHPs. Both rounds performed very well in the gun, as shown in the accompanying chart. I would not hesitate to carry either load.
Accuracy is also very impressive. The excellent sights and trigger certainly help realize the mechanical accuracy of the gun. My offhand shooting at 15 feet produced groups that measured less than 1.5 inches. The LCR was deadly accurate on pie plates at 25 feet. And when I stretched the range to 45 feet, I could still keep all rounds within the “A” zone of a standard IPSC target if I went a little slower. I think that more than qualifies this gun as combat accurate, and then some.
In a very smart move, Ruger partnered early with Crimson Trace during the development of this revolver. As a result, CT’s excellent Lasergrips are already available for the LCR, either as a factory option, or direct from Crimson Trace. Lasergrips are a perfect accessory for small revolvers, and work very well with the LCR. The Lasergrips aren’t quite as comfortable under recoil as the standard Hogue grips, but the increase in functionality is worth the trade-off if you want a laser sight.
Ruger has also worked with a number of holster makers to ensure availability of holsters. The trigger guard on the LCR is significantly larger than on snubbies from other manufacturers, so fitted holsters for other gun models are unlikely to work. Some current makers supporting the LCR are listed on Ruger’s website. The pocket holster shown is a Pocket Defender from K&D Holsters. The LCR is perfect for pocket carry, and the Pocket Defender worked very well in this role. Just be certain if you use a Crimson Trace Lasergrip, that you order a holster compatible with the grips.
The final analysis
Ruger has truly accomplished something with the introduction of the LCR. I believe this will be a very popular gun. By integrating high tech materials with great ergonomics, Ruger has taken a strong new step into the concealed carry market. As with any new model, the LCR still needs to prove its long term reliability and durability, but that is rarely a problem for Ruger.
The LCR has a suggested retail of $525 with Hogue grips, or $792 with the Crimson Trace Lasergrips. Once supply catches up with demand, street prices on the basic LCR should start below $500. In addition to being a great gun, it’s a great value.
As I implied at the outset, the Ruger LCR is going to become a carry gun for me. I really like the combination of light weight and excellent ergonomics. I suggest you get your hands on a Ruger LCR and see what I am talking about for yourself.