When Ruger introduced their SR9 semi-autopistol, it was a solid step into the world of combative firearms. While several of their current and former guns could be used for such purposes, this was the first time Ruger had decided to court those who wanted a gun for tactical applications (though Ruger did flirt with the sub-machine gun for a short time in the 90’s). The first SR9 I liked a great deal. It was slim, had a reversible backstrap so it felt good in the hand and it had a nice short action trigger that was easy to control. I didn’t care for adjustable sights on a fighting handgun but as others pointed out to me, the SR9 could be a plinker and weekend target gun as well, so the adjustable sights did make some sense.
Unfortunately an SR9 recall began not too long after the gun was introduced. It seems the SR9 could accidentally discharge under some circumstances if dropped. Ruger did the right thing and pulled back all of the guns at their expense, installed new triggers and gave everyone involved a free magazine for their trouble. As sometimes happens, the new trigger was better than the old so I chose to look at the situation as an “upgrade.” The SR9 has been popular due to its slim profile and low cost, though not nearly as popular as the .380 LCP and .38 Special LCR which followed it. Ruger noticed the high popularity of these two compacts, a level of popularity that could not be ignored, and noted their one common trait—they were light, compact, easy to carry concealment handguns. Thus, it only made sense to introduce a sub-compact version of the SR9 service-size pistol.
Rear sight is fully adjustable for both windage and elevation. The two-dot rear sight will be familiar to most shooters. Trigger has a safety lever in its face that keeps the gun from firing unless it is depressed. Magazine release and safety are ambidextrous.
Ruger is certainly on a roll with their new line of combative-grade handguns. Their latest addition to the series is gun is about 0.75 of an inch shorter in length and an inch shorter in height than the full size model, making it similar to other popular sub-compact pistols intended for concealed and off-duty carry. It is chambered in 9mm which is fine as shooting these small guns chambered in the .40-plus calibers can be difficult for many. With a street-proven 9mm load rapid incapacitation is certainly possible if the shooter does their part. The adjustable sights are back but this is not a concern as several aftermarket sight manufacturers are preparing to introduce aftermarket tritium sights for the SR9 in the first quarter of 2010.
The first to get these on the market is XS Sight Systems and I was able to secure a set for testing on the SR9c. While front sight focus will probably be debated until red dot optics are standard on handguns, it is hard to argue the “visibility level” of the XS Big Dot sight. Some claim they are not “precise” enough but in many cases these folks just don’t understand how to look at the sights. To use them properly, the Big Dot covers the point of impact out to about 15 yards, then the point of impact shifts to the top of the sight. I saw Phil Motzer, Chief Firearms Instructor at Crucible Training hit a 12-inch diamond-shaped steel target with his XS equipped Glock 19 at 100 yards which I think is pretty precise. As Gunsite’s Operations Manager, Ed Head proclaims, “If you have trouble seeing your front sight, the XS Sight is the one you need.”
A closer look reveals that the SR9C is more than just a “chopped down” pistol as a few features have actually been improved. First, they replaced the standard recoil spring and guide rod with a dual spring plunger system to get the gun to run reliably with full power 9mm ammo—the loads that bring the 9mm up from a “poodle shooter” to an effective cartridge. Less slide means less weight and mass, and this must be compensated for in the gun’s design. Also, the round magazine release button(s) have been replaced with a D-shaped style that enhances thumb placement. The trailing edge of the button is flat which adds more engagement surface to the thumb and remains ambidextrous. Also, forward cocking serrations have been added which some will like and others will not. I admit to liking these serrations as I regularly chamber check my semi-autos. While the SR9c has a loaded chamber indicator, I admit to being old fashioned and prefer to visually confirm that a round in the chamber. This procedure should be performed slowly and carefully to keep your hand behind the muzzle so I do worry about using forward cocking serrations for a “press check.” While the loaded chamber indicator is a nice feature, I can see a piece of lint or other debris from a concealing garment lodging in the slide and showing the gun as loaded when it is not. The slide just forward of these serrations is nicely beveled, which gives the slide a racy, contoured look.
The rail molded into the dust cover of the SR9c allows for the mounting of white lights and laser units like Insight’s X2L.
Like its big brother, the SR9c has two manual safeties—one on the face of the trigger, the other mounted on the frame like the 1911. I prefer simplicity in arms, and do not engage manual safety levers that are not part of the mode of carry (1911-style cocked and locked) so I do not engage the one on the SR9. Some do prefer to use it, however, so having an ambidextrous lever that can be swiped off with the thumb is certainly a plus. The trigger safety blocks rear ward travel of the trigger so it is engaged without thought when the gun is fired, which certainly meets my simplicity preference.
The test gun came in a nice black polymer frame/stainless steel slide combination that I happen to like. The trigger on my test compact is superior to the upgraded trigger in the full size SR9 and breaks right at 6 pounds. This trigger feels a bit smoother with less overtravel, which will result in a more accurate gun. Arthur Viani, the manufacturer of the popular Ghost Connector for Glock pistols will have introduced a similar product for the SR9 by the time you read this. I have worked with several of his production prototypes of an SR9 “connector” and I think he has once again created a worthwhile aftermarket product that will improve performance.
While the grip of the compact is shorter, it retains the reversible backstrap that can help fit the gun to the individual shooter’s hand. The grip is similar in length to the Glock 26/27 but is noticeably thinner in profile. The gun comes with two magazines; a short 10-shot version that can be fitted with both a flat or extended floorplate and a 17-shot magazine that is fitted with a grip “boot” giving it the same feel as the full size SR9. While I used to prefer the short, flat magazine floor plates for concealment purposes, I now realize that they come up short, literally, in other areas that are important for controlled but rapid fire. I can certainly work around a short grip, but I prefer not to have to, thus I will go with the extended floorplate and probably grind off the “hook” at the bottom along with any excess material that extends beyond my pinky finger. Also keep in mind that short magazine can also be a problem during a reload as the magazine being inserted into the short grip can pinch the heel of the hand which can be quite painful. Make sure you either extend the pinky finger or curl it around the ring finger to keep it clear.
Holsters for the compact will be available shortly and while holsters for the full-size gun will work, who would want a short gun in a long holster? I found two in my collection that would work, one from BlackHawk and the other from The Wilderness. The Wilderness Zip Slide holster has available for two decades and is merely a nylon adaptation of the Yaqui Slide holster. The 100D Cordura nylon holster body is formed around a polymer inner-core that holds the gun tightly in place, thus each Zip Slide is molded for a particular gun. Its easy on/off Velcro strap system makes the holster convenient, light and fast into action. I used my Zip Slide designed for the Glock 9mm with great effectiveness. It is not optimal as the holster is individually molded, but it will work okay until specifically designed holsters are available.
BlackHawk also offers a nylon rig, though it does not offer the same stay open capability as the Zip Slide. The Ambidextrous Flat Belt rig is designed to work on any belt up to 2 inches wide and fits most small to medium frame automatics and revolvers. It has an adjustable thumb break, which is fully ambidextrous. Made of ballistic 1000 denier nylon, it is a fully ambidextrous design that is both flat and light. Again, not optima for long term use, but certainly very functional. As far as magazine pouches are concerned, Kydex is the way to go, as the speed of reload from a Kydex pouch is unrivalled. In addition, Kydex never stretches, so pouch adjustment remains constant. Many of the Kydex manufacturers offer SR9 pouches and any would be a good choice for the SR9c. If the pouch is a little long, just use a bench grinder or belt sander and slowly remove a bit or material from the top of the pouch. By doing so, you will add more space to grasp the magazine. It is my opinion, and only my opinion, that a quality magazine pouch should cover half the magazine body to offer a proper grip.
Ruger’s SR9c proved to be quite accurate with a variety of combat proven loads.
The SR9c proved to be an outstanding performer on the range. I tested the compact for accuracy by bench resting it at 25 yards and shooting at Birchwood Casey’s Dirty Bird bullseye targets. I used the new Giles Accu-Bag from The Wilderness to act as a rest. Available in various sizes, shapes and colors, the Giles Accu-Bag is designed to offer a field-expedient rest that fit nicely in a range bag and offer a solid shooting rest. I selected some street proven 9mm loads and shot five rounds each for both accuracy and velocity using my Shooting Chrony chronograph placed 15 feet from the gun’s muzzle. The average of the five rounds fired is reported from 25 yards.
All of the selected ammo styles proved to be more than accurate enough for a personal carry gun and when used in rapid fire at 3 to 10 yards, all printed tight groups in the target. This is where the XS sight system shines. While they can be “precise” with practice, they are hard to beat for up close, fast on target shooting. I fired an additional 400 rounds of various factory ball and reloads without a single hitch. Ammunition is still hard to get in my neck of the woods, so this is all I had on hand. The adjustable sights were the only problem I encountered as they shot a foot high from the box and needed to be zeroed, which is a valuable lesson—don’t just load your new carry gun and assume that everything is correct. Nothing will replace knowing that you carry gear will work as intended.