A couple of months back, in my column about new products from the 2009 SHOT Show, I reported that I had the opportunity to test fire the new Ruger revolver, the LCR, at the Media Day event. LCR in this case stands for Lightweight Compact Revolver and it follows on the heels of the Ruger LCP (Lightweight Compact Pistol) that was all the rage at the 2008 SHOT Show. I was initially impressed with the LCR, but actual hands-on time at the range in Orlando was limited by the circumstances and the need to share with others. Since that time I have been waiting for a chance to spend some serious testing and evaluation time with the LCR, just to see if my initial impressions would hold up. The opportunity finally arrived last week, when my colleague Massad Ayoob brought an LCR by the gun shop during our annual open house. It was the first one we had all to ourselves, so after playing show and tell all day at the shop, I was anxious to get some trigger time with it on our range.
Before I get to that, I suppose I should briefly review what the LCR has to offer, so any testing can be kept in proper perspective. The LCR, as the name implies, is a small, 5 shot, .38 Special snubby revolver, that should be able to fulfill all the roles we have come to expect from such revolvers in a law enforcement or personal protection setting. Certainly, small revolvers of all brands have earned their stripes many times over, so what is so revolutionary about this one? Well, probably the biggest thing is that Ruger has chosen to use what they call "Long Strand, Glass-Fiber Filled Polymer" for a significant portion of the frame. Specifically, the parts of the frame that house the firing mechanism and the grip are polymer, which is responsible for a good bit of the "Lightweight" part of the name. This polymer technology, combined with an aircraft grade aluminum housing surrounding the cylinder and the exterior of the barrel, along with a stainless steel cylinder and barrel liner, allows the LCR to weigh in at 13.5 ounces and still be tough in all the right places. That alone makes the LCR revolutionary, in my book. But there is more.
The cylinder has unusual looking, deeply fluted, rounded chambers and has an "Advanced Target Grey" finish, that not only looks good but seems to have a "slickness" to the surface that minimizes powder residue accumulation and surface marring. The other thing that impressed us immediately when we got to shoot the test gun in Orlando was that the trigger is not what we have come to expect from a Ruger. Please understand, Ruger has made excellent quality revolvers for decades, including ones with short barrels, such as the SP101. But Rugers have always been synonymous with rugged, almost overbuilt workhorses that have a long and somewhat heavy trigger pull. The trigger mechanism in this new Ruger, however, has a whole new feel. Ruger engineer Joe Zajk, the man behind the new trigger design, explained it all, including showing us all the internal parts, during the melee that was the Media Day. The simple explanation is that the trigger components have been completely redesigned, employing a new operating cam mechanism that is not like anything in any other revolver. It has a smooth, non-stacking pull that breaks cleanly and measures a reasonably light ten pounds on our Lyman trigger pull gauge. So, the LCR is lightweight, looks sort of "space age" and has a really great trigger. How does it shoot?
One other thing that impressed me when I shot the LCR in Orlando was that the recoil seemed very mild for such a light gun. Before I did anything else at the range, I wanted to see if that was still the case using .38 Special +P loads. My first cylinder was loaded with the Speer Gold Dot 135 grain +P Hollow Point ammo, which is specifically designed for short barreled revolvers. It is the load I would anticipate carrying in the LCR for serious defensive purposes. I chose a distance of four yards for the first test firing, since I would generally expect to use a snubby for close-in work. The results yielded a head shot group that measured one and one half inches overall for all five shots, with the best three in three-quarters of an inch. I use the "best three" as a measure of the gun's potential inherent accuracy, finding that doing so usually factors out any poor shooting on my part.