2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Ruger SR9…a great pistol that won’t kill your budget!

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The Ruger SR9, quality and value all rolled into one.

Introduction

About a month ago I was standing in a local gun shop waiting my turn to get the guy behind the counters attention when I spied a Ruger SR9 pistol sitting in the case.  I had seen them advertised in the gun rags and in Ruger promotional materials before but had never given them much attention.  I mean, hell, Glock, Springfield and S&W are the people you go to for polymer pistols, right?  When it was my turn to be helped, even though I came there for ammo I had the clerk take the SR9 out of the case for me to paw over.  Man, if felt GOOD in the hand.  I ejected the magazine and, even though I knew it was a double stack mag, was surprised to find it held 17 rounds of 9mm ammo in the slim grip. I knew I had at least one friend that had one, so I contacted her a few weeks back and arranged to switch my Glock 19 for her SR9 so I could review it.  My friend, Rhonda, had bought it after looking at various pistols with her husband and chose the SR9 because it fit her small hands.  After shooting my Glock she still prefers the grip of the SR9 over the more “blockish” grip of the Glock, understandable…but that is a story for another time.  One thing that grip has going for it is a removable back strap system.  The removal of a simple punch pin (which also doubles as a lanyard loop) allows for the back strap to be removed and the choice of either a rounded or flat back strap is given to the operator.  I prefer the rounded profile myself but either is comfortable to use.  The back strap itself is made of soft rubber that grips in the palm quite well aiding in the stable handling of this pistol.

 

DSCF1430 The SR9 in the center with a standard 1911 on the left (my Kimber Custom II) and a Glock 34 (also mine) on its right.  It is the slimmest of the 3 as far as the grip goes.

 

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The back strap assembly removed, and then views of the arched side and then the flat side installed.

Overview

Even though the SR9 is a full sized pistol the overall impression when holding it is that it is more compact than it actually is.  The slender grip profile, low bore axis and rounded edges greatly contribute to this feel.   The design of the pistol suggest (and it is rumored on the internet, but unverified) that the design is a direct copy of the defunct Kimber KDP pistol.  I cannot verify this but an external comparison of the two does show a striking similarity.  This would not but unheard of from Ruger as their LCP pistol is a direct copy of the Kel-Tec P3AT and the M77 rifle is a copy of the tried and true Mauser bolt action.  Not that this is bad mind you, both the Kel-Tec and Mauser designs are solid and making improvements, as long as they don’t detract from the originals functionality, are a good idea.  If the original Kimber design is indeed the basis for the SR9, well then it itself was a very solid pistol.  More of a pity Kimber did not continue with it.   It includes the obligatory accessory rail under the dust cover so you can attach your lights and whatnot for use.

kimber_kpd The Kimber KDP pistol…did Ruger copy it? Make up your own mind, because it all “Meh” to me..

 

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left to right.  right and left sided views of the SR9, notice the ambi safety and mag releases. The low bore axis of the pistol along with the slim grip profile makes the SR9 seem more compact of a pistol than it really is.

Back to the Ruger, its a “classic” striker fired semi-automatic pistol utilizing a polymer frame and stainless steel slide.  I say “classic” in that if you look at the internals of the firing mechanism you will find several key similarities between the SR9 and the Glock Safe Action System.  So if this is a copy of the Kimber KDP, Kimber must of been borrowing heavily from Glock in the first place then.  Again, not that this is a bad thing.  Despite all the nay sayers, the Glock action has been proven to be safe, reliable and tested in real world scenarios time and time over.  One noticeable difference is on the size of the “caming block” (called the locking block on the Glock), it is visually larger than the one used on the Glock and has much larger rail surfaces for the slide to ride on.  Hopefully, this is a indication of the long term durability of this pistol, my examination will not be able to guarantee this but in some things big is better.  The first generation of the SR9 had a one piece trigger, but after a safety recall (the second in a year for Ruger, the first being on the LCP for basically the same issue) due to a potential discharge hazard if the pistol was dropped, a 2 piece trigger – pretty much an exact copy of the Glock’s – was upgraded to the SR9 to address that concern.  Even though the trigger bars are not interchangeable there is enough of a similarity in the operation to assume that Ruger may be paying some type of licensing fee to Glock for its use..a la the S&W agreement with them for the Sigma line of pistols.   Overall, my impression of the pistol is that it is very well made, the fit and finish are above average and the slide fit is excellent for this type of pistol. The stainless slide on the model I evaluated had a black “Nitrodox” finish on it which is Ruger’s version of a nitriding process akin to the Tennifer finish from Glock or the Melonite finish from S&W.  Its a nice finish on the gun, but personally I think that I would prefer the brushed stainless finish purely for aesthetics myself, just my tastes.

 

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Left to right:  The frame internals showing the obvious influence of the Glock design. The slide showing again the Glock influence.  The plunger halfway down the striker is where the magazine disconnect interacts, basically another plunger safety in addition to the “normal” firing pin block just behind the chamber.

The pistol uses a take down pin to remove the slide from the frame (much in the same way as the “P Series” of pistols from Ruger) and also incorporates a means to remove the slide from the frame without having to pull the trigger (kind of similar to the S&W M&P series).  With the slide locked back, reaching into the chamber area and pressing down on the ejector simultaneously disengages the sear in the pistol and activates a magazine disconnect safety as well that allows the slide to come off the frame without having to pull the trigger.  Just like the M&P series from S&W, this also forces the operator to manually and visually check the chamber area for any rounds in the pistol.  A very good system indeed.   If you want you can also just pull the trigger, a la Glock, to remove the slide if you obey all basic safe handling instructions that go along with that method (once again, that being said, somebody just put a round though their floor pulling that trigger after not checking the chamber!).

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left to right: looking down into the chamber area at the ejector/magazine disconnect safety that you depress to slide the frame off of the slide. The SR9 field stripped.

 

The sights on the SR9 are surprisingly well appointed.  It uses a 3 dot Novak style setup in a narrow set configuration that is actually quite easy to bring on target and acquire.  I think that the lack of distance between the center and outward dots in the arrangement does not cause the operator to fuss with “centering” the dot as much and makes them (at least me) concentrate on the front sight that much more.  While not target sights by any means, although they are drift adjustable for windage as would be expected on a service pistol of this type, the rear sight is actually screw adjustable for elevation!  I am unaware if Tritium night sights are offered as an option, but there are after market units out there that can be utilized on this pistol.

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Left to right:  The 3 dot sights on the SR9, you can see the screw adjustment for elevation on the rear sight assembly on the top of the pistol, a standard Novak style sight picture.

 

The control are pretty basic, there is a slide stop and magazine release in their normal locations, and a two position manual safety in the rear where you would expect to find on on a 1911 style pistol.  While the safety and magazine release is ambidextrous, the slide stop is not.  Big kudos to Ruger for putting the safety on the frame and not high on the slide like their other pistols.  Of course this not being a hammered fired pistol there would be no reason to have it in the slide, but you never know.  I guess maybe for design continuity between their pistols they might have decided to keep it in the same location so operators of their other pistols would want to transition.  While some people have said that the safety is small and hard to operate, I did not find this to be the case.  While it is a bit on the “smallish” side, I was easily able to flick it off with my thumb without problems.  If I need to draw and employ this pistol this is the important part of the “on/off” equation.  When you are experiencing duress you need to have the operation of the pistol be as easy as possible, once the situation has been neutralized and controlled, you will have ample time to engage the safety without much concern for time. One thing I would like to have seen on the pistol was the same “red fire, white safe” markings on the right side of the pistol for left handed shooters as there is on the left side of the pistol for right handed ones.  While an ambi slide release would of entailed some re-engineering of the design, all the markings would of entailed was some small relief work on the slide and the application of the paint.

Again, just my personal opinion, but following the Glock philosophy (and design to boot) I feel manual safeties are not required on a striker pistol like this with redundant internal safeties if it is used and trained on properly.  Simple, keep your finger off the bang lever and everything else is a non issue.  The trigger safety, drop safety and firing pin block safeties in the design ensure that, carried and used properly, there is very minimal risk in accidental/negligent discharges in this weapon.  However, being the overly safety minded and caution company that they are, this is a logical control to implement for Ruger and is required by some individuals and other law enforcement and military agencies to have on any pistol considered for purchase. 

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Left to right: The manual safety in the “fire” position, the loaded chamber indicator in its “loaded” position (using snap caps), and the striker status indicator…pretty worthless as a night time safety aid IMHO.

 

Other safety “features” of note are the striker status indicator, the loaded chamber indicator and what I like to call the Ruger B.A.L.  (Big Ass Lock).  The striker status indicator is basically a hold in rear of the slide that allows you to see the striker move back and forth.  Personally, I don’t get it.  Its a black striker moving in a black hole that doesn’t even protrude while cocked (like the XD pistol from Springfield) so you cannot see if the pistol is charged in the dark.  I though that maybe painting the rear of it yellow or orange would provide some improvement, but still without it protruding to let you manually feel if the pistol is cocked, its kind of like dressing up a pig.  The loaded chamber indicator on the other hand is very helpful in determining the status of the pistol.  It sticks out of the top of the frame quite a bit when a round is in the chamber and displays a red dot on both sides.  Not only is it visible when handling the weapon, it can easily be indexed in the dark to indicate the status of the weapon if need be.  The last safety feature is the B.A.L. Ruger gives you a big ass lock for the pistol, no cable lock here, this thing is tempered steel and probably weighs half as much as the pistol itself.  Put through the action and this pistol turns into a huge paper weight.

The pistol comes with two high cap 17 round steel magazines that are well made.  Bill Ruger is probably spinning in his grave knowing his company is selling large cap mags these days…and an AR to boot.  For those of you unfortunate enough to live in areas where we can have more than 10 rounds in the mag, pistols with 10 round magazines are available for you folks.  To help load all of those 9mm rounds, a steel (yes steel) magazine loader also comes with the pistol standard.

  

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The included magazines are steel and well made, a steel mag loader is included with each pistol.

Price

OK, so the Ruger SR9 seems to be a pretty damn nice pistol well equipped with features.  Probably runs upward of $599 or so and competes at the same price point as the Glocks, S&W M&P pistols and Springfield XD poly pistols, right?  Wrong.  Right now in Columbus, Ohio you can pick one of these up for under $450!! That’s right $450, perhaps lower (or slightly higher) depending on which shop you purchase it at.   That puts the Ruger SR9 right up there with the Bersa Thunder and Stoeger Cougar as one of the best values in price vs. quality that I have come across on this blog.  Hell based on that alone I am almost tempted to go snatch one up.   I have been thinking about picking up a compact 9mm lately and the SR9c model (compact) would be a nice addition for the price.

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The SR9c (compact)..maybe, just maybe one will find its way to my house…

But how does it shoot?

This is one question that I still have to answer.  The day I took it out to the state range in Delaware, Ohio it was raining so I only got to run a couple of boxes of Winchester 115 grain white box FMJ rounds through it.  Rain is the reason that you will not find a range video of it below also.  Those rounds were fired at a 8” target 45’ away (the length of the range at that place).  While shooting at a closer target would of let me establish grouping patterns better, at this distance I was regularly able to hit the 8” circle as long as I did my part to make it happen.  As I stated before the sights worked well when acquiring the target.  I did find that the trigger is a bit gritty and hard compared to what I am used to.  By cleaning out the packing grease that had been left on the pistol and apply some Slipstream in its place I was able to smooth out maybe 1/2 a pound off the trigger, but it was still at least a 6 pound pull.  There wasn’t much slack in it and it broke evenly once the sear broke off the trigger.  I did find that when dry firing there was a noticeable improvement in trigger pull when firing with the magazine in as opposed to an empty well.  This undoubtedly has something to do with the magazine disconnect/ejector. I know that Rhonda has not shot the pistol a lot so I am hoping this trigger will smooth out even more over time for her.  Some info on the internet leads me to believe that this will be the case. I had no FTE/FTF problems or any other type of malfunctions in that 100 rounds, but again I was firing FMJ ammo and did not have either the time or available spare HP rounds to test in it.  Still, based on experience I feel that this pistol is a reliable shooter whose accuracy has yet to be tapped by this reviewer.

 

Conclusion.

Well, whether copied from the Kimber KDP or not, I think Ruger has a solid pistol for sale in the SR9.  And for the price I think that you would be hard pressed to find another in its class that is as good of a value as the SR9.  Unfortunately, Ruger does not have the same “street cred” in this market niche as Glock or some of the others that I keep mentioning in this review.  That and the early recall on these have hurt sales for them I think.  Still, if you look at the product as it is now against others in its class, I think you will find a very nice pistol for the taking at a bargain of a price point.  The fact that I am actually considering buying one of these is my personal recommendation of the Ruger SR9 as being a pistol worthy of your money.

My Video Review

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