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The Gun Safe

Ruger LCP 380 ACP: An Overrated Pocket Semiauto Pistol?

Ruger LCP II .22 LR. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Ruger LCP II .22 LR. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

One good Ruger “LC” handgun review deserves another.

Having recently done a writeup on Sturm, Ruger & Co’s ultracompact LCR double-action (DA) revolver — specifically the .38 Special chambering — I figured it would only be logical to review its semiautomatic counterpart, the LCP .380 ACP, especially since I have heard quite a few good things about it.  

Ruger LCP History and Specifications

The Ruger LCP (Lightweight Compact Pistol) double-action only (DAO) autopistol debuted at the 2008 SHOT Show. As the manufacturer’s official info page proudly boasts in all-caps

“THE RUGER® LCP® IS THE PERFECT CHOICE: LIGHTWEIGHT, COMPACT AND POWERFUL.” Delving into the spec sheet for further elaboration, we get the following:

“Compact and lightweight, the LCP® is designed to fit a variety of holsters.

“Textured grip frame provides a secure and comfortable grip.

“Fixed front and rear sights are integral to the slide, while the hammer is recessed within the slide.

“Rugged construction with through-hardened steel slide and one-piece, high-performance, glass-filled nylon grip frame.

“Includes finger grip extension floorplate that can be added to the magazine for comfort and improved grip.

“Black Oxide, alloy steel barrel.”

Specifications include a barrel length of 2.75 inches, an overall length of 5.16 inches, a width of 0.82 inches, and a height of 3.6 inches. Weight is a mere 9.6 ounces. Standard magazine capacity is 6+1 rounds.

Range Report/Personal Shooting Impressions

So, once again it was off to the dear ol’ Silver Eagle Group indoor shooting facility in Ashburn, Virginia, to rent the LCP II. I purchased 100 rounds of Federal American Eagle 95-grain full metal jacket “hardball” ammo for the event, along with two ICE-QT paper targets. This rental specimen came with the 7-round extended magazine, though interestingly the round-counter holes still stopped at the 6-round mark. 

The first 50 rounds were my typical slow-fire accuracy tests, with 25 rounds of head shots at 7 yards and 15 rounds of torso shots at 15 yards, all fired from Classic Weaver Stance. This was followed by 10 rounds of groin shots – at 5 yards – 5 rounds each of weak-hand only and strong-hand only. 

The second box of 50 rounds went to the rapid-fire stage at 3 yards using “Mozambique drills.” This is the classic failure-to-stop drill of 2 to the chest, 1 to the head, fired as quickly as I could get a front sight index using the old Massad Ayoob “StressFire SightPoint” technique. These rounds were split evenly between two-handed, weak-hand only, and strong-hand only grip. 

Since it was a rental gun, alas, holster and speed reload — or as they call it at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the “emergency reload” — weren’t options for me.

In an interesting parallel with the LCR revolver, the LCP’s trigger stung the heck out of my index finger in slow fire, but the stinging sensation became less noticeable in rapid fire mode — go figure. Who knows, maybe the nerve endings in the pad of my finger simply got numbed. As is the case with its wheelgun counterpart, I don’t consider this a truly fun gun to shoot, but ‘tis still a comparatively more pleasant shooting experience than, say, a J-frame Smith, Ruger SP-101, or Glock 27

Accuracy-wise, in slow-fire and rapid-fire alike, it was more than adequate. At 7 yards, though I didn’t get the gaping, darn-near single-hole groups that I typically get from, say, the Beretta M9, Glock 21SF, or the M1911, the head shots were all nicely centered. 25-yarders were a pleasant surprise for a pocket pistol not intended for long-distance, tack-driving accuracy, with 13 out of 15 shots staying in the 5-zone of the torso and four taking the tiebreaking 5x-zone. Two stayed high left in the paper bad guy’s shoulder and forearm, thus scoring only 2 points each. At 5 yards, eight rounds stayed in the center of the “ouchie” zone, while two strayed rightward into the thigh. 

In rapid-fire mode, I had one complete whiff on my headshot attempts, along with two peripheral jawline hits. Regarding the torso targeting, two rounds strayed into the 4-zone while the rest stayed true to the 5-zone, with nine hits landing in the 5x.

Reliability was…ugh!!! Even before the jams started, I got an inkling that this rental gun was in bad need of a cleaning, as I got powder residue blown into my face during my first magazine. (This just goes to show the vital importance of wearing proper eye protection on the range, along with hearing protection.) In total, I had five malfunctions in 100 rounds fired: one stovepipe jam, one striker reset failure, and three double-feed jams, which are the worst kind. They can’t be cleared with a simple “tap-rack’bang” technique as can be done with a stovepipe, instead necessitating the more time-consuming “tap-rip-rack” AKA “rip-rack-reload” technique. And to make matters worse, one of those instances required multiple extra racks as well as gravity for the fired case to clear.

With the exception of the striker reset bobble, all of the malfunctions occurred during my one-handed drills, so I may very well have limp-wristed the gun. But it goes to show how the tiny autopistols tend to be less forgiving than their larger counterparts when it comes to lack of maintenance and lack of crush grip. 

Want Your Own?

As much as I generally love Ruger products, this one won’t go on my buy list. However, for those of you willing to spend the extra time and elbow grease to give these guns the extra maintenance they need, True Gun Value states that “A RUGER LCP pistol is currently worth an average price of $284.93 new and $194.66 used. The 12-month average price is $280.43 new and $191.99 used.” Current MSRP is $339. Bud’s Gun Shop lists them at a current price range of $262.49 to $292.49, depending on finish and fanciness of color pattern. 

Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 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. 

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NOTE: The picture above is the Ruger LCP but in .22LR. 

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).