Rugerís New LCP Lightweight .380 Pocket Pistol

 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

February 29th , 2008

 

 

 

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At the 2008 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, probably the most anticipated new gun introduction was held at the Ruger booth on the morning of the first day. About a week earlier, I had heard rumor of what was to be introduced, but still joined a massive crowd at the booth to see the new pocket pistol from Ruger. I stood near the back of the crowd, but told Boge to get up front and get some good pictures, which he did. Since that day almost four weeks ago, we have been flooded with emails asking us to please review the new Ruger LCP. Here it is.

The LCP, which stands for Lightweight Compact Pistol, is a new type of auto pistol for Ruger. Sturm, Ruger, and Company was founded upon their excellent .22 Auto Pistol, and they have produced several other auto pistol designs since, but the new LCP is Rugerís first true pocket auto. Chambered for the .380 ACP cartridge, it is squarely aimed at the concealed carry market. Having a lightweight glass-filled nylon frame and a steel slide, the baby Ruger weighs in at just 9.42 ounces empty on my scale. The LCP is a very lightweight little pocket pistol.

Right from the start, the LCP has been compared to the Kel-Tec pocket guns, so we might as well address that now. The Ruger LCP is very similar in size and weight to the Kel-Tec P3-AT .380 auto pistol. The physical dimensions are listed below:

  Kel-Tec P3AT Ruger LCP
Weight 8.3 Oz 9.42 Oz
Frame Width 0.798" 0.790"
Barrel Length 2.745" 2.796"
Slide Width 0.748" 0.741"
Overall Length 5.14" 5.172"
Overall Height 3.576" 3.612"
Cartridge Capacity 6+1 6+1

The P3-AT and LCP are very similar pistols, built for the same purpose, and both are priced about the same. The Ruger has a manual slide hold-open, and the Kel-Tec does not. Both come with one magazine and a zippered soft case. The extractors are different. The recoil springs are different. Other than that, they are pretty close to the same, with the Ruger being just a bit beefier, resulting in the slightly heavier weight.

The trigger pull on the test gun was very good for a small pocket gun, just about ideal. The pull weight measured a smooth five pounds, six ounces. Ruger specifies eight pounds, but my sample measured lighter, and much better than comparable pistols of the type. The pull length is just over one-half inch, and measures 2.514 inches from the backstrap to the center of the trigger blade. There is ample room on the grip for two fingers, leaving the little finger off the grip entirely. For those who prefer a finger hold for the little finger, I expect that Pearce Grip will have one available immediately to replace the standard magazine floorplate. The little LCP is very controllable, and was fired for accuracy at seven, fifteen, and twenty-five yards. I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy of Miss Elsie Pea. She performed better than I expected, and no attempt was made to shoot from a rested position, as this is not a target or hunting handgun. It is a defensive fighting pistol, and was fired as such. Twenty-five yards is stretching it for a .380 pocket gun, but keeping all the shots from a full magazine in the kill zone of a half-size human silhouette is easy to do, standing on my hind legs and shooting like a man. At seven yards, keeping seven rounds in the head zone of a half-size silhouette rapid fire was equally easy, and slow fire standing offhand at fifteen yards grouped five shots into two inches. For a pocket gun with tiny sights, that is good accuracy. For any social situation in which the Elsie Pea is likely to be used, that is all the accuracy that anyone needs.

The magazine release on the LCP is easy to reach with the thumb of a right-handed shooter, or the trigger finger of a left-handed shooter. It pushes in easily, but not so easily that I had any problems with the magazine popping out while in my pocket. The Elsie Pea operates on a locked-breech system like larger pistols instead on the blowback principle, and as a result, the gun is lighter in weight and does not have an excessively heavy recoil spring, as do many .380 auto pistols. The LCP uses a dual-spring system on a steel guide rod. Take down for cleaning and lubrication is easily done by dropping the magazine, making sure that the chamber is empty, and sliding out the disassembly pin. The magazine has a removable plastic floorplate, and is also easy to take apart for cleaning. When the magazine is emptied, the slide does not lock to the rear, but the LCP does have a manual slide hold-open latch for inspection and cleaning. All sharp edges have been eliminated on the LCP, and it is as smooth as a used bar of soap, reducing wear to both clothing and skin. Also, the trigger does not tend to pinch my finger as sometimes happens with other small pocket pistols.

Reliability was excellent with the little Ruger. One failure to feed was traced to a dented cartridge case. How it got dented, I do not know, but it came out of the box that way. I tried every type of factory .380 ACP ammo that I had on hand, along with a favorite handloaded hollowpoint load. The variety included jacketed hollowpoint, round nose full metal jacket, flat nose full metal jacket, polymer tip PowRBall, hollow cavity homogenous copper hollow cavity, and cast lead flat nose bullet ammunition. Everything fed, fired, and ejected perfectly. I fired Elsie Pea one-handed, two-handed, held upright, sideways, and upside down. The short barrel posted respectable velocities, clocked over my PACT Professional chronograph. Air temperatures were around the 50 degree mark (Fahrenheit), at an elevation of approximately 400 feet above sea level. Velocity reading were taken at ten feet from the muzzle, and are listed in feet-per-second in the chart below. FMJ is full metal jacket. JHP is jacketed hollowpoint. DPX is a Cor-Bon load using Barnes XPB bullets. JFN is full metal jacket flatnose. HC is a hard cast lead flatnose bullet. Glaser Safety Slug is a pre-fragmented bullet. PowRBall is a polymer-tipped ball inserted into a hollow cavity jacketed bullet. Bullet weight is listed in grains.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Buffalo Bore HC 100 1110.4
Buffalo Bore JFN 95 1012.5
Buffalo Bore JHP 90 1077.6
Glaser Safety Slug 70 1190.7
Cor-Bon PowRBall 70 1210.3
Cor-Bon DPX 80 1021.1
Cor-Bon JHP 90 948.8
Remington JHP 88 877.5
Remington FMJ 90 827.2
Federal FMJ 90 849.6
Handload JHP 88 879.9

Recoil with all loads tested was very controllable, but of course snappier with the heavier, faster loads. The laws of physics must be obeyed, and the Buffalo Bore loads dealt out more recoil, but also deliver more power on target than does standard ammunition, and that power is worth the extra recoil. In any small-caliber handgun, penetration is paramount, and the heavier bullets from those Buffalo Bore loads penetrate flesh and bone better than lighter bullets. However, I would carry the LCP with any of the first six loads listed, as I think that all of those do a pretty good job for such a small pocket gun. No concealable handgun carries the power of a medium bore rifle, and in any handgun fight, I would never count on one shot stopping any attacker. Keep shooting until the punk knows he has been shot, and expires or leaves the fight. This rule applies with even a .45 auto pistol, and especially with any smaller cartridge. Elsie Pea holds six rounds of .380 ACP ammo in her magazine, for a total loaded capacity of seven. Much smaller and lighter than the lightest .38 Special revolver but holding two more cartridges, she is a dandy choice for a pocket pistol that can always be with you, no matter where you are or what you are wearing. I can easily hide this little pistol in my jeans pocket. Heck, it will even hide in a shirt pocket. That is the beauty of little guns like this; they are always with you. If I was to get caught in a fight, I would prefer a shotgun, rifle, or for a handgun, a big .45 auto pistol. However, I hardly ever carry one of those on a regular basis. While you, thankfully, will never see me on the beach wearing a Speedo, in hot weather, I seldom wear anything but jeans and a tee shirt, and a big pistol is near impossible to hide, but I always have a smaller handgun in my pocket. Always. Little guns like this LCP can always be within reach. I stress the word ďalwaysĒ because we never know when trouble will come. We need a gun that can be reached in a fraction of a second. When an attack takes place, the victim is found in the unfair position of having to react to an attack in progress. The attacker has time to plan the event, carefully select his victim, and proceed with the crime. The victim is at a great disadvantage, and is almost always taken by surprise. The gun must be within reach. That nice high-dollar custom 1911 in the glove box of the pickup will do you no good if you canít reach it. It is the gun that you have with you that must help you to win the fight. Elsie Pea can always be with you.

The Ruger LCP began shipping today (February 29th, 2008). Priced at this time at $330 retail, many dealers are pre-selling the little guns for under $300. Ruger has orders for several thousand of the little pistols already. If they all prove to be as accurate and reliable as mine, they certainly have a winner in the new LCP. Elsie Pea is a dandy little gun, and I highly recommend her as an everyday, everywhere handgun, and a great little pocket protector.

Check out the full line of Ruger products here.

To find a Ruger dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at www.lipseys.com.

To order the LCP online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.

For more details on ordering any of the ammunition listed above, go to www.buffalobore.com, www.cor-bon.com, www.remington.com, and www.federalcartridge.com.

Jeff Quinn

 

For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to: To buy this gun online, go to:

 

Author tested the LCP with a variety of ammunition.

 

 

Seven-yard offhand rapid-fire group shows the LCP would be a handy defensive companion.

 

 

Fifteen-yard offhand slow-fire groups demonstrates the accuracy of the LCP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

Ruger's new LCP (Lightweight Compact Pistol).

 

 

The LCP is lighter and not much bigger than Jeff's pocket knife.

 

 

The LCP easily disappears into a jeans pocket.

 

 

Hammer does not protrude from rear of slide or frame.

 

 

Sights are small, but useful and unobtrusive.

 

 

Manual slide hold-open latch.

 

 

Magazine release is easy to operate.

 

 

Six-shot steel magazine.

 

 

 

 

The included padlock is bigger and heavier than the pistol!

 

 

The LCP also comes with a soft case.

 

 

Disassembly is quick and easy.

 

 

Feed ramp is nicely smoothed and polished, adding to the reliability of the weapon.

 

 

Reliability is further enhanced by a beefy extractor.

 

 

Steel guide rod is surrounded by dual recoil springs.

 

 

The LCP is tiny even when compared to a pocket revolver like Jeff's Smith & Wesson 342PD.

 

 

 

 

It's easy to visually check loaded condition.

 

 

Lyman digital trigger pull gauge shows the LCP's trigger pull is excellent, much lighter than maximum specs.