Monday, February 27, 2012

MArooned Product Review: Ruger SR9 Compact

The good folks at Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. were kind enough to send one of their new polymer-framed, striker fired 9mm SR9C for testing and evaluation.

Ruger SR9C

The SR9 was introduced in 2007 as Ruger's first striker-fired polymer pistol (some 20 years after Ruger started making centerfire autoloaders). The compact version arrived in 2010, coming late to the game against other compact polymer autos but bringing a distinctly Ruger flavor to the genre.

I've had a few months to put the SR9C through its paces, both on the range and on the belt, and it's time to put up the scorecard...

The good: Accuracy. Because it has both a trigger-mounted safety and a second physical safety, the Ruger does not require the ludicrously heavy MA trigger pull to conform to the Approved Firearms Roster, and this lighter trigger is noticeable on the range. It's discernibly easier to fire, both initial shots and followups, than other firearms with no safeties that require the heavier trigger. The SR9C showed remarkable accuracy (for its class fired by a duffer like your humble host) from day one:

SR9C target

This is a standard NRA B-34 target shot at 10 yards with 30 rounds of Tulammo 115 grain steel-cased ammo shot rapid-fire. All shots are in the black (at least touching!) and only two are outside the 7 ring; the vast majority can be covered by a fist. Every target shot with the SR9C was pretty much a clone of this one - the groups shrink a bit when taking slow, careful, aimed fire - under all circumstances the SR9C delivers consistent, accurate shots.

Interesting anecdote: I had a "polymer only" range day with Daniel in Brookline where I brought both M&Ps, the Sig P250, and the Rugers, and had the most success with the 4" steel plate at 25 yards using the Ruger SR9C. The full size M&P45 was a very close second, and even the M&P9C wasn't too far behind, but it was easiest to hit the plate with the diminutive Ruger!

Reliability. With one notable exception (more on this later), the SR9C ate up everything fed into it and spit it back out without hesitation. Brass cased, nickel cased, steel cased; it didn't matter what the cartridge was wearing, the little Ruger loaded, fired, and ejected everything with no problems. No failures to feed or eject were noted.

The not-so-good: Magazine safety. Ugh. Loaded chamber indicator. Double ugh. Magazine safeties are neither needed nor desired by the vast majority of non-LEO applications, so it's puzzling why Ruger's default is "include". The loaded chamber indicator is a bizarre red flag that sits atop the slide and literally pops up like a Thanksgiving turkey timer when a round is in the chamber.


I'll gladly trade having to manually inspect the chamber - which you should be doing anyways - for not having something else to potentially catch on clothing while drawing from concealment (note: in all of the practice I did with the SR9C this never happened; I'm only indicating that the potential is there).

The interesting: The muzzle flash on the SR9C is quite conspicuous. I had the Ruger on my club's outdoor pistol range as dusk approached, and the flash from the SR9C was lighting up the entire shooting bay. Now, it's not quite the "donut of death" of the S&W 360PD, and it wasn't severe enough to cause problems with follow-up shots, but it was still more significant than even the LC9.

Much like the LC9, the SR9C didn't care for ammunition from RWS. Out of 50 rounds, the SR9C had three light strikes where the round did not fire. All three rounds fired on the second attempt. The LC9 also had issues with light strikes using the same ammunition (from different boxes!), so there must be something with the Ruger striker that just doesn't agree with the RWS primer. All other ammunition functioned flawlessly.

I noticed some unusual wear on the bottom of the trigger guard.

Trigger guard wear

I’m not sure if I abraded the SR9C with one of the holsters used, or if I overlooked this when I received the firearm back in November. It doesn’t affect the function of the firearm, either in shooting or carrying, but was worth mentioning. Since the SR9C is obviously a concealed carry firearm, I actually prefer it to have some “character” (read: dings, scratches, etc.).

Carrying the SR9C.

The weight and size of the SR9C put it in the lighter and smaller end of concealable semi-autos. It walks the fine line between being small enough to conceal easily, like its smaller brother the LC9, and being large enough to shoot accurately. Most holsters designed for mid-sized or compact semi-automatic double-stack handguns will fit the Ruger - the Crossbreed SuperTuck I bought for the SW99C (which also fits the Glock 30) was a good fit for the SR9C, as was the Remora I recently tried out:

Holstered SR9C

The weight of the gun - 23.4 ounces unloaded - is manageable for all-day carry, and the size does not present any issues with concealment. The fit and finish of the pistol for carrying is excellent, with edges rounded and smooth. The manual safety and the magazine release are both ambidextrous; however the slide release is right-handed only. Most holster manufacturers are carrying holsters for the SR series of pistols, and as with most, holsters that fit the SR9 will also accommodate the SR9C.

Shooting the SR9C.

The sights on the SR9C are three dot adjustable sights, and appeared to hit just a bit high. This may be an artifact of my tendency to compensate for flinching and jerking the trigger by aiming high, or possibly that the sights were set for longer distances (50 - 75 feet). Accuracy with the little SR9C is excellent, with impacts to point-of-aim. Muzzle flash in low light is significant but not overwhelming.

The look of the trigger on the SR9C will be familiar to anyone conversant with the Glock or XD triggers; there's the requisite safety lever that must be depressed in order for the firearm to fire. It's a smooth, even pull, somewhere in the vicinity of 7-8 pounds, with a longish reset. The one issue I had with the SR9C had to do with the grip. The shape of the upper part of the Ruger backstrap lends to the grip digging into the base of my right thumb in a standard grip. It's noticeable after extended range sessions, and most evident when using a higher grip than normal.

Care of the SR9C.

The SR9C takes down fairly easily, with steps that differentiate it from other firearms. There's a sear disconnect akin to the M&P series that must be pushed down in order to field strip the SR9C for cleaning, but also a takedown pin that must be pushed out and removed. This is easily accomplished with a cartridge or pen cap, and the SR9C is otherwise quite simple to maintain. It breaks down into slide, barrel, spring and frame in moments.

SR9C field stripped

The SR9C was cleaned twice during the test period - once after the initial range trip of 100 rounds, and once after about 250 additional rounds. It didn't really need it - no stoppages or incidents - but guns were being cleaned anyways and it was dirty, so... Ruger recommends cleaning "at regular intervals"; this SR9C has gone approximately 400 rounds of several different types of ammunition without a hitch, and is likely to run quite a bit more before it needs cleaning.


With an MSRP of $529, and an off-the-shelf price closer to $400 (the gun shop where I picked the SR9C up has them for $399), the SR9C is an inexpensive option that is definitely not cheap. The accuracy is superb, the size is a good mix between concealably small and shootably large (and yes, I did just make those terms up), and the reliability is very good. It's a Ruger, which means that it has both superfluous safety features and is built like a tank.

For anyone in the market for a small 9mm polymer firearm, the SR9C is definitely worth investigation.

That is all.


Yankeefried said...

Yes, indeed, very nice. I preferred it to the M&P 9c by far.

Did you try it with any "self-defense" ammo? +P?

Jay G said...

I put two magazines of Winchester Ranger frangible +P 9mm with no issues. The muzzle flash was interesting... :)

Dave H said...

Doesn't CA require a loaded chamber indicator on handguns? Maybe that's why Ruger included the turkey timer.

It wouldn't be quite so bad if they hadn't added the engraved "LOADED WHEN UP" message on it. That just looks tacky. But when you're dealing with nanny state safety requirements I suppose subtlety doesn't comply.

Brad_in_MA said...


Miss Cherry (my Ruger 22/45 mk-iii) also has a loaded chamber gizmo, but it is located on the left side of the frame. As you said, typical nanny-state nonsense.

BTW . . . I'll say the new W.V. sucks ass. Bots must be getting better at reading those things.



Weer'd Beard said...

Dave, Mass Requires a loaded Chamber indicator. I can't recall what state cares about magazine disconnects, but it isn't Mass...tho this state produces a ton of borked guns with that horrible feature.

zeeke42 said...

Weerd, Mass requires *either* a loaded chamber indicator, *or* a mag disconnect. 16.05:(3)

Fargazer said...

My wife owns a Ruger SR9c, and loves it. It's her favorite gun; the only other that she likes near as well is her Kimber Custom Aegis II.

Ancient Woodsman said...

Which would you recommend, SR9C vs. Glock 26? For a non-MA person?

I would appreciate your thoughts if you have a minute.

And Dave, when the LCI blows off after 200 rounds, it only says, "Hen Up" maybe its a chicken timer, not a turkey timer.

I got my SR9 about the same time Mr. G got the 9c, put 200 rounds through it with that result, sent it off to Ruger (no charge, mind you. Good service!), and just got it back. Maybe it will be perfect forever, but there will always be that nagging, "What if...?" waiting for it to happen again.

Yankeefried said...

@Ancient Woodsman

Having shot both, I'd go for the G26. Smaller, fit my hand better, probably a better holster selection, etc.

But that is just me. You need to try them before spending money....and the M&P 9c with a non-MA trigger.

Ancient Woodsman said...


Glen said...

Great review. Thanks! Move to Texas, we'd love to have you! I think I'll be buying one, just not a Glock guy and I keep hearing that the accuracy of SR9C is excellent.

God, Gals, Guns, Grub said...

Jay... I'll admit my bias as I carry a Ruger SR9c daily and have several SR9/Sr9c's...

I believe the magazine disconnect is due to CA and MD, while the loaded chamber indicator is due to CA and MA... I disliked that too, but I realize from the company's perspective... CA and MD represent about 50 million folks, many of whom are gun owners...

I do have an SR9 that has now passed 11,000 rounds without problems...

I recently reviewed the two guns and found very similar results...

A link if you're interested:

Thanks for the review...

Dann in Ohio

MikeK said...

I recently tried both the SR9c and the M&P9c at the local range, they had both of them available for rent. Put 85 rounds down range total between the two guns and alternated between each after 10 shots. At 7 yards both had 3" to 4" groups but the SR9c had slightly tighter grouping. The biggest difference I noticed while shooting is the muzzle flip on the M&P9c was more noticeable. Initially I was thinking of getting the M&P but after shooting both side by side it will be the SR9c, it just felt a little better to me.

GRuanova said...

That's a good price. Which shop has me at that price? Thai you.