During a recent media event that Ruger participated in, Ken Jorgensen was all smiles as he approached me.
“You have to look at this,” he said and showed me a polymer revolver. A plastic wheelgun? No! It can’t be.
In 1959, Remington Arms made the first firearm that used plastics as a major component—the Nylon 66. It was made in a number of variations and finally dropped from the line in the early 1990s. Too bad, as it was the finest utility rimfire rifle of its time and arguably the best utility rifle of all time.
Remington wasn’t alone in its desire to bring polymers to firearms. A company named Heckler & Koch made a weird-looking pistol, the VP70. If it was fitted with a buttstock, the gun became an SMG. (The VP70Z as seen in the U.S. had no provision for a stock or full-auto.) It had a single weight trigger pull (heavy) and the frame was made of polymer. The butt-fed magazine held a bushel of ammunition (9x19mm). Without the stock, the gun fired semi-auto. It was made from 1970 to around 1989.
The VP70 was not an overwhelming success in the U.S., though production ran a long time, and HK went on about their business. In 1982, along came Gaston Glock and his 9mm. In 1993, HK rolled out a large pistol called the USP and was back in the polymer business. The USP started in .40 and ultimately became available in 9x19mm and .45 ACP.
From there, plastic spread throughout the pistol world. There’s even a carbonfiber AR.
Now we have a polymer revolver.
The Ruger Lightweight Compact Revolver (LCR) is a .38 Special rated for +P. The barrel is stainless steel covered by an aluminum sleeve. The upper part of the receiver is also aluminum alloy with a synergistic hard coat. The fire control group is contained in polymer. This makes for a light, compact revolver. A friction-reducing cam smoothes the trigger pull.
A “grip peg”—a stud that protrudes down from the fire control housing—is the means by which the stocks are attached. A Crimson Trace Lasergrip has been available for the gun since its inception. An LCR shipped without a Lasergrip has the Hogue “Tamer,” a rubbery Monogrip with a soft cushion in the upper backstrap area.
The cylinder is stainless steel, cut for five rounds and trimmed down to minimize weight. It’s finished in Ruger’s Advanced Target Grey, a durable treatment for stainless steel.
The package weighs in at only 13½ ounces, less if fitted with the Crimson Trace grips. The width is less than 1.3”. The barrel measures out at just under 1.9”. The gun is 6½” long and 4½” high.
The LCR is of a type often dubbed “double-action only.” That’s common vernacular and covers the subject without a lot of explanation. It’s actually a gun that can only be fired via triggercocking. The trigger runs the hidden hammer back through its arc of travel until it hits the end, trips and comes forward, firing the cartridge.
This prevents the snagging characteristics of an exposed spurred hammer, the alarming tendency of movie-goers to thumb cock a revolver for emphasis in an evolving deadly force situation, and the tendency to snatch at a single-action trigger when “the sight picture is just perfect!” For self-defense, the triggercocking revolver is a good choice.
The front sight is a sloped blade pinned in place. Other front sights can be fitted as they become available. Earlier this year, I handled an LCR at Gunsite that had been fitted with the XS Sights Standard Dot. I made hits out to around 70-80 when I took the little gun on the Scrambler.
I shot the LCR at the aforementioned media event. The ammo provided was Hornady 158-gr. XTP-JHP +P. I wouldn’t have selected 158-gr. +P ammo of any stripe if I were showing my new ultralight revolver to a group of gun writers. I’d want less bullet weight, therefore less muzzle jump, to impress the keyboard crew.
It didn’t matter. The LCR was simply the lightest-kicking flyweight .38 snub I’d ever fired. Even alloy-frame five-shot .38s weighing just a pound give you more grief. I imagine that finding a way to install Hogue Tamer stocks on an alloy gun would help a great deal, but the Ruger people seem to think the polymer body flexes a bit, taking some sting out.
The second thing I noticed was the trigger. It was way smooth for a factory trigger. I asked about it.
Ken said that when they began considering a light revolver, they looked around at their staff. There was no one left from the last time a double-action revolver had been designed at Ruger. They had to start with a clean slate, reverse engineering in some places and in other places using new technologies to arrive at better ways to do the same thing. The LCR was the result.
The trigger is noticeably smoother. Everyone commented on it.
When I arrived at Gunsite for a Single- Action Self Defense class, a few LCRs were available (see SINGLE AND AVAILABLE: New Techniques Revive Single-Action Revolvers, September 2009 S.W.A.T.). I snagged one with the XS front sight, packed it for the duration and did a lot of shooting with it.
I did quite a bit of range work on the square range and the Scrambler. I even participated in the class competitions with the little gun. I can’t say I won, but I didn’t get shut out at the first iteration either. I was shooting the smallest, lightest gun there and, all in all, did pretty well.
I found that the smooth trigger and cushiony Hogue Tamer stocks helped to forestall fatigue. I ran through lots of Hornady ammo, all of it 125-gr. +P. The gun was as accurate as it, the XS sight and I could be. Hitting out past 60 yards wasn’t a regular occurrence, but it happened enough that I wasn’t relying solely on chance. The gun was doing good work.
While Gunsite was fun, line drills, competition and the Scrambler weren’t all the tests we needed. For that, I had to have a sample shipped to base.
Once I got a sample LCR, I got to take it on several range trips between monsoon squalls. I found that hot .38s still aren’t comfortable to shoot, not even the LCR. At Gunsite, when other issues intruded—like trying to learn something— I didn’t notice so much. But after pouring buckets of .38 Special through the sample, I was ready for a rainy day.
I found a heavy hitch in the trigger when the gun first arrived, kind of a “nudge” at the end of the pull. It wasn’t stacking, but it was a bit out of sorts. After brushing some debris out from under the extractor star and dry firing a lot, the nudge vanished. Using the Brownells Recording Trigger Pull Gauge, I found an average weight of pull at 11¼ pounds for 12 tries. That sounds heavy to some people, but when the trigger is smooth, 11 pounds in a DA revolver feels more like five or six pounds in a semi-auto.
I found that HKS Speed loaders fit the LCR, but get hung up on the big Hogue stocks. Speed Strips from Bianchi and Quick Strips from Tuff Products work just fine.
Holsters? I used SP101 holsters from Kramer and Bulman and J-frame pocket holsters from Safariland and Tuff Products.
The Josh Bulman FBS (Full Belt Slide) holster I have for the SP101 happens to work for the LCR. It’s a modern rendition of a pancake: the FBS has an “FBI tilt,” with the muzzle raked aft. It’s not a true belt slide in the sense that the entire front of the gun is covered, with no exposed barrel/muzzle. The extended front and rear flaps have belt loop slots. Pull the belt tight and, in spite of the LCR’s short barrel, the butt is pulled tight into your side. The FBS is a great holster, but to me the LCR is a pocket gun pure and simple.
I also used the Kramer Pocket Holster, made for the SP101, with the LCR. Good fit and fast out of the holster. The solid side of the rig, with the plastic laminate reinforcement, disguises the shape of the holster and revolver.
The Tuff Products Pock-A-Roo holster is a pocket holster that holds a gun and spare ammo. The pouch holds the gun and a smaller pouch on the tailing end holds Tuff Products’ new 5 Round Quick- Strip™ in .38/.357. The holster is fabricated from Tuff™-Tack Laminate. Tacky on the outside, this holster sticks to pocket linings. The Pock-A-Roo is ambidextrous and fits small revolvers like the LCR. A 5 Round Quick Strip in .38/.357 is included with the holster.
I carried the LCR a lot in the Pock-ARoo. The only time I had to go to another holster was when the pants pocket was too small for the longish Pock-A-Roo. Then the LCR went into the Safariland Model 25 Inside-the-Pocket holster for revolvers. The Model 25 is very thin and made of rigid SafariLaminate. The holster is rigid enough to remain open for ease of reholstering. The synthetic outer material grips the pocket liner, keeping the holster in the pocket and preventing shifting.
Originally designed for a federal agency, the Model 25 is deep enough to cover the muzzle of the LCR, protecting the crown and your clothing. A molded detent fits inside the trigger guard for added security.
While the LCR is much better than anything else out there in its size range for comfort, hot .38s are not a joy to shoot in this gun. Still, it’s a relatively soft jolt, largely owing to the oversize and very soft Hogue stock and perhaps the polymer frame.
Rounds fired included Remington 125-gr. SJHP +P, Federal 129-gr. Hydra- Shok HP +P and old Federal NyClad standard pressure HP ammo. Some unjacketed lead was shot as well.
I elected to try an old-fashioned, 25- yard, bench-the-gun accuracy test. Little guns with trigger cocking actions aren’t easy to test this way, but some surprises awaited me.
I’d like to say I shot a lot this way, but it was clearly no fun. I tried only three rounds for accuracy. One was the pre- Short Barrel Gun load from Speer, the 125-gr. Gold Dot +P. The next was the Speer 135-gr. Gold Dot HP +P, specifically made for short barrel guns. Finally, I tried the CorBon 110-gr. DPX +P Compact Gun load.
The group for the Speer 125 was definitely a fluke at 6½”. The load is better than that and I believe the gun to be as well. When I tried the Speer Short Barrel load, the group came in at 2¾”. When I put five CorBon DPX bullets into 2 7/8” out of the LCR, I knew the territory the gun would group in.
While the LCR has milder recoil than other flyweights, there is still a fatigue factor. My good friend, retired deputy Jack Morgan, tried the LCR out while he was home from overseas. He acquitted himself nicely.
“Wow, that trigger!” was his first comment. After shooting awhile, he said, “That’s pretty good. I think Ruger has something here!”
He’s right. Ruger does have something here. They have a small, light revolver that’s reliable and more accurate than it needs to be. Say hello to the coming wave in improved revolver technology. The LCR is handy to carry and will get you home at the end of the day.
Check it out for yourself. Don’t be surprised if it follows you home.
Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.
Southport, CT 06890
P.O. Box 361
Newry, PA 16665
P.O. Box 369
Sturgis, SD 57785
Crimson Trace Corporation
9780 SW Freeman Dr.
Wilsonville, OR 97070
7841 Foundation Dr.
Florence, KY 41042
Kramer Handgun Leather
P.O. Box 112154
Tacoma, WA 98411 USA
3120 E. Mission Blvd.
Ontario, CA 91761
2299 Snake River Avenue
Lewiston, ID 83501
Tuff Products Brand
1031 Bay Blvd Ste. V
Chula Vista, CA 91911
XS Sight Systems
Fort Worth, TX 76105