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Ruger LCP .380 ACP…the Ultimate Backup Gun

Some police officers use numerous excuses for not carrying a backup or off-duty firearm. Some feel the guns are too big and heavy. Others do not care for ankle, shoulder, or waist holsters. Some think backup guns are difficult to put on and take off. Still others find the purchase of a second firearm too expensive.

Officers rationalize not spending the money while reasoning they will probably never need a backup or off-duty gun. Well, there is a new firearm that negates all of these arguments. It is a small, lightweight, and inexpensive pistol that is well made and can be there to save your life when you do need it.

New Direction for Ruger

Sturm, Ruger & Company started out in 1949 with the introduction of William B. Ruger’s Mark I .22 Long Rifle target pistol. Bill Ruger possessed a mechanical and engineering mind. He was an inventive genius with a natural intuitiveness for improving on a firearm’s design. The Mark I was based on the Japanese Nambu’s action and used both the sleek grip angle and tapered barrel of the famous German Luger.

This target .22LR was superbly accurate but cost much less than its competition due to its advanced manufacturing process. This standard continued with the Blackhawk single-action revolver, an improvement on the Colt Single Action Army, which boasted extreme ruggedness, accuracy and economy. Even the small frame Bearcat revolver was an improvement on the old Remington pocket revolver from the 1800s.

Although Bill Ruger passed away in 2002, his tradition is carried on today by firearms infused with improved design, which are then offered at reasonable prices. Company President Stephen Sanetti introduced the Fairfield, CT manufacturer’s newest product at the 2008 SHOT Show. Ruger had never before offered a compact, concealable pocket protection firearm.

The passage of citizen concealed-carry laws in many states has grown the market for small pistols. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but a viable profit potential is the mother of specialized products. The Ruger LCP (Lightweight Compact Pistol) is a handgun that brings new vitality to the backup and concealed carry / off-duty market for both police officers and civilians.

Fit, Finish and Function

The .380 ACP cartridge is considered to be the least powerful round that is still adequate for stopping an immediate threat. Smaller cartridges are available, but they are not considered desirable for self-defense. The Kel-Tec P3AT is Ruger’s only real market competition in the ultra small hideout pistol arena. The LCP sports a glass-filled nylon frame and a through-hardened 4140 chrome moly steel slide.

The Ruger, with its locked breech design, is much smaller and lighter than the blowback designed Walther PPK, the standard .380 for police officer’s backup or off-duty carry. The LCP is smaller and much flatter than a J-Frame Smith & Wesson snub nose revolver. The vintage Colt 1908 Vest Pocket Hammerless is smaller than the LCP, but it fires the weak .25 ACP-caliber round, and it weighs more due to its steel frame.

The Elsie Pea’s (its Internet nickname) trigger is double-action only with a long pull that measured 7 pounds, 9 ounces on a Lyman digital trigger pull gauge. No manual safety is present, and one is not really needed as the long trigger pull means the gun should not go off accidentally when carried.

Instead of a heel magazine release, common on tiny handguns, the LCP has a standard push button located just behind the trigger guard. The button’s one-handed, tactile operation, common with full-size duty guns, is a desirable feature. The magazine ejects smartly when empty and drops free of the frame. There is no magazine disconnect safety, meaning the gun will fire without its magazine inserted. A loaded chamber viewing port allows inspection of the chamber to confirm the presence of a live round.

The fixed sights are very shallow to make them snag free when carried in a pocket. The entire gun lacks sharp edges of any kind. The slide is nicely finished in flat black with the LCP model name engraved on the left side. The Ruger name and its eagle emblem are both sharply molded into the checkered frame. The gun does not feel like cheap plastic. It looks and feels solid and purposeful.

Holsters are already available from Don Hume, Fobus, Uncle Mike’s, DeSantis, and others. The DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster breaks up the LCP’s outline and allows it to disappear in your pant’s front pocket. It’s so small with its 2.75-inch barrel that the LCP can slip into an outer vest or uniform shirt pocket. Its size—9.4 ounces (unloaded) and slim .82 inches wide—makes it unnoticeable. This mode of handy backup carry sure beats an ankle holster for draw speed.

One caveat for pocket carry is that lint can build up very fast. The Elsie Pea’s hammer is visible at the rear of the slide, and this, along with the gap between the slide and frame should be inspected and cleaned regularly. Disassembly of the pistol is straightforward. Once the magazine is removed and the chamber inspected to be sure it is empty, the take-down pin is pried out to the left with a flat screwdriver tip. The slide then moves forward off the frame. The dual recoil spring, guide rod and barrel lift out for cleaning.

Every police officer who checked out the little Ruger became instantly enamored with it. At first they figured it was a .22LR, .25 ACP or maybe a .32 ACP caliber weapon. All were surprised to find the LCP to be a .380 ACP and amazed that it held six rounds in its magazine plus a seventh in its chamber. This is the same as the larger Walther PPK. The suggested retail price of $330 is also attractive, as is the fact that the gun is made right here in the United States at Ruger’s Prescott, AZ facility. The gun comes with one magazine and a zippered gun rug emblazoned with the company logo.

Firing the LCP

The next question police officers wanted an answer to was, of course, how does it shoot? I feared that the sights and trigger pull, along with its diminutive size would hinder the gun’s ability to hit accurately. I did not doubt Ruger’s ability to produce an accurate barrel and tight tolerances on its pistol, but the gun does feel tiny in my large hands.

A long, double-action trigger pull sometimes requires shooters to use the first joint of their trigger finger to fire the weapon. But this LCP is so small that my index finger would go right through the trigger guard and touch my thumb or the left side of the frame and not allow the gun to go off. I had to use the pad of my finger as if I were firing a target rifle. When the LCP did go off, it went off every time with Winchester FMC, Winchester Silvertip hollow point, and Cor-Bon hollow point ammunition. There were no malfunctions of any kind occurred.

The top round in the Ruger’s magazine sits very high and almost in line with the barrel. The barrel’s feed ramp almost seems unnecessary. The magazines are made in Italy by Mec-Gar, and attention to their design appears to have paid off. The dual recoil springs allow the slide to be retracted rather easily.

If a live round needs to be manually removed from the chamber, care must be taken to pull the slide rearward in a hard and fast motion to eject it. The ejection port is made to allow passage of short, empty brass cases, so a live cartridge can become stuck. There is a manual slide stop that can be pushed upward to lock the slide open. The slide does not stay back when the last round in the magazine is fired.

Fired in a two-hand combat hold at 7 yards, it was easy to keep 13 rounds (2 magazines plus 1 round in the chamber) in the ten ring on a silhouette target. My groups widened to the 8-ring at 15 yards. Center mass body shots at 25 yards are obtainable by police officers with average skills.

The .380 ACP cartridge barks a bit in a small and light gun such as the Ruger LCP. It bucks in your hand, but it never feels like it is getting away from you. A firm grip was retained with my middle and ring fingers holding the frame. Follow-up shots came naturally once the sight picture was regained.

An Excellent Choice

The LCP is not the type of gun you would use for thwarting an active shooter at a distance in a shopping mall. But for an on-duty backup gun, it’s an excellent choice. As a concealed carry handgun for off duty, the .380 Ruger LCP could be a lifesaver with a street or convenience store robber.

The old adage that the small gun you have in your pocket is always better than the big gun you left at home rings true. Many police officers don’t utilize a backup gun because they don’t care for ankle or other hideout holsters. Slip this lightweight and flat semi-automatic in your duty pants’ tactical pocket or your uniform shirt’s pocket, and you’ve got a backup plan if anything happens to your duty gun.

The LCP is advertised as a carry gun. It is shown in a fanny pack while jogging and tucked in a briefcase or purse on Ruger’s Web page. Due to its lightweight and super compact design, the Ruger LCP is a superb backup pistol for on-duty carry. Sturm, Ruger & Company’s motto is “Arms makers for responsible citizens.” An additional slogan for the LCP could also be, “America’s police officers—we’ve got your back!”

Steve Tracy is a 20-year police veteran with 18 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He also is an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force less-than-lethal force and scenario based training. He can be reached at

Published in Tactical Response, Sep/Oct 2008

Rating : 9.8

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Factory laser equipped

Posted on : Feb 15 at 4:39 PM By Steve Tracy

Ruger now offers a factory laser equipped model of the .380 LCP. Several frame color versions are also now in production pink, desert tan, green.


Posted on : Mar 20 at 4:55 AM By Steve Tracy

Unfortunately, Californias DOJ requires newly manufactured pistols to have a magazine disconnector and a loaded chamber indicator viewable from a certain distance. The LCP doesnt have these features and its too cost prohibitive for Ruger to engineer them just for one State. It may be possible to obtain one under a law enforcement exemption, but there may be considerable red tape involved. UPDATE #1: My LCP was picked up on a Monday by UPS for the recall and returned to my front door the following Friday yes thats just four days. I received a free LCP b-ball cap and a free extra magazine with the pinkie extension on the bottom. Thats the way to perform a recall! UPDATE #2: I purchased the Crimson Trace laser and a DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster that fits the LCP with the CT. The laser attached easily in minutes and I sighted it in so that the red dot dances just above the front sight at 15 yards. The whole package retains the same overall dimensions and still fits in my uniforms breast pocket.

CHP Investigator

Posted on : Mar 12 at 7:37 PM By Chad Moran

Great article....Im sold. It looks like the perfect backup/off-duty weapon. I want one. Only one problem. I live in the Peoples Republic of Kalifornia and from what Ive been able to find online, this gun still isnt California approved. Can TRMag find out what Ruger is doing to get it approved.

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