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Ruger P90: Ruger’s First Double-Action .45 ACP Auto Pistol 

Ruger P90
Ruger P90

Meet the Ruger P90: Out of the “Big Three” U.S. handgun manufacturers, Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. was the last to produce a traditional double-action (DA) .45 ACP semiautomatic pistol.

Smith & Wesson got there first with the Model 645 and 4506 in 1985 and 1988 respectively, followed by Colt in 1989 with the Double Eagle.

Ruger finally followed suit in 1991 with the subject of this current article, the P90, but quite a few folks would reasonably argue that Ruger saved the best for last; not only was the P90 the longest-lasting of the bunch, being in production for 19 years versus three, 13, and eight years for the M645, M4506, and Double Eagle respectively, but also the best in terms of quality.

Ruger P90 History and Specifications

As noted by an article on Glock Talk (ironically enough), “Ruger was originally developing a 10mm Auto version of the P89 since the 10mm Auto was the new hotness and the FBI just recently adopted the cartridge in S&W’s Model 1076. But that market crashed and burned with the FBI starting to have issues with the gun and more importantly, the lack of overall sales that Big Blue’s 10mm Auto failed to garner with agencies across the US. So Ruger redesigned their 10mm project by re-chambering it in .45 Auto and releasing the Model P90 in 1991.” 

The gun came with a barrel length of 4.5 inches, an overall length of 7.75 inches, and a weight of 34 ounces – making it five ounces lighter than the M1911 – with a blued steel slide hard-coated aircraft quality aluminum frame with polycarbonate grip panels. Factory standard magazine capacity was seven rounds.  

Arguably the biggest advocate of the P90 in the gun writer and law enforcement community alike was Massad F. Ayoob, founder of the Lethal Force Institute (LFI) and a former Captain for the Grantham (New Hampshire) Police Department. Capt. Ayoob was absolutely effusive in his praise for the P90, and as those of you who’ve been following his writings as long as I have will know, Mas is not the sort of gun writer who doles out praise lightly; for instance, while he was fond of the Smith .45 autos, he did a decidedly unflattering write-up of the Double Eagle in an issue of American Handgunner Magazine.  

The P90 was discontinued in 2010, succeeded by the P97 and P345, which are also now out of production. Current Ruger pistols chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge are the striker-fired American Pistol and SR1911.

Personal Shooting Impressions

I got to try a rental P90 at the Los Angeles Gun Club in Downtown L.A. back in August 1992, just before the start of my senior year at North Hollywood High School. It left a *very* positive first impression, with a “love at first shot” feeling I’d only previously experienced with the Beretta 92F (M9)Colt Series 80 Government Model M1911-A1, and the CZ-75. DA and single-action (SA) trigger and grip ergonomics felt optimal, and 21-foot head shot accuracy and 50-foot center-of-torso accuracy were impeccable (alas, the lanes at LAGC only go out to 50 feet, ergo longer-distance accuracy testing wasn’t an option for me), as was the reliability with the range reloads. 

I found the Ruger P90 to be waaaayyyy more enjoyable to shoot than the Smith and Colt DA .45s. As was the case with the CZ-75 and Beretta 92, I was planning to buy one…then life kinda got in the way, as happens all too often. Well, I finally made up for lost time in 2002 and 2017 by purchasing a Beretta and CZ, respectively, so now that I’m 47 years old and approaching midlife crisis, perhaps it’s time to do myself a favor and follow suit with a P90, n’est ce pas?

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.  In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports. 

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Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).