July 23, 2020
I was as surprised as anyone by Ruger’s sudden embrace of the 5.7x28mm cartridge with the recent launch of their Ruger-57 pistol. On the one hand, it seemed out of place for Ruger to suddenly get behind FNH’s PDW cartridge which, for all intents and purposes, appeared dead in the water. Sure, FNH had made a big splash with their PS90 and Five-seveN pistol when they were first launched, but that was a long time ago. In the years that followed the rest of industry never really embraced the small bottle-neck cartridge, certainly not the major players. At least not to the extent many shooters hoped. I suppose that is the beauty of Ruger’s move. They looked out of the box for a viable market and then built the right product at the right price to meet the desires of their customers. Basically, Ruger is tapping into an underserved niche market. The question is can they pull it off in the long run?
There is quite a bit to like about the new Ruger-57 pistol. Foremost is it feels quite good in the hand despite the long overall length of the cartridge dictating the need for a long magazine. The engineers at Ruger have done their homework and sculpted a pistol which fits most hand sizes. While a large pistol, it doesn’t feel big, awkward, clumsy or heavy. It actually looks a bit svelte with the lightening cuts on the slide. The controls are well laid out, the sights are quite good, it accepts a red dot sight and the trigger is good, although the reset is a tad long. Best of all though is perhaps the price; it is within reach of your average blue-collar worker.
As interesting as the Ruger-57 pistol is though it’s really the cartridge it’s chambered for which contains the magic. The 5.7x28mm is a small bottleneck cartridge with a reputation for high velocity, flat trajectory and mild recoil. Speed freaks love its blistering velocity, similar to how the 7.62x25mm M30, .357 SIG and 9x25mm Dillon all have a certain following. All who have shot a 5.7x28mm pistol comment on its mild recoil allowing very fast follow-up shots and its flat trajectory aiding hits past 50 yards.
The problem with the 5.7x28mm has always been, from a shooter’s perspective, the lack of factory support. The one thing admirers of this cartridge have always clamored for is a very inexpensive training/plinking load. Something they can buy in bulk and enjoy shooting without it costing an excessive amount. The fly in this ointment is the design of the cartridge itself. Many do not realize the case features a dry lubricant to both aid feeding and ease extraction. Lubricated cartridges are a bit of a dinosaur which largely fell out of use in small arms post-World War II. A variety of pre-World War II Italian and Japanese machine guns utilized lubricated cartridges, typically via an oiler on the weapon, for proper function.
In the case of the 5.7x28mm it adds both complexity and cost to the cartridge’s manufacture. It also dissuaded Russian firms, such as Barnaul and Tula Cartridge Works, from attempting to load it on economical steel cartridge cases. So, do not expect to see Wolf branded 5.7x28mm steel case ammunition for sale any time soon.
So, what does Ruger bring to the table in this regard? They have the industry contacts and sales figures to interest and persuade ammunition manufacturers to consider introducing new 5.7x28mm loads. A company the size of Ruger getting behind the 5.7x28mm is big news, and will have an effect on future ammunition offerings. We can already see that with Speer announcing they will be introducing a 5.7x28mm 40-grain Gold Dot load. While this will be expensive, it will be a nice addition to what is currently available. We should also expect to see companies currently offering 5.7x28mm ammunition to ramp up their production. So, finding this caliber on store shelves should become easier. Overall, Ruger’s entry into the 5.7x28mm market should spell good things for the future.
With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the new Ruger-57 pistol. Let me start by saying this is a fairly large piece, even though it’s not bulky or particularly heavy. Overall length is 8.6 inches and the slide is 1.2 inches wide. It’s 5.6 inches tall and weighs in at 24.5 ounces. The frame is manufactured from high-performance glass filled nylon and is nicely contoured to fit the average shooter’s hand. While long, the grip is fairly thin and nicely textured. The trigger guard is both squared off and undercut to aid comfort. The dustcover features a 1913-style rail for mounting a white light, laser or other accessories.
Riding atop the frame is a black oxide finished through hardened, billet steel slide. This features lightening cuts to reduce weight and to give it a distinctive appearance. The rear of the slide features two drilled and tapped holes for fitting an optic adapter plate. So, out of the box it is red dot compatible, you just need to purchase the correct plate. Riding inside the slide is a 4.9-inch black nitride finished alloy steel barrel. This has a one turn in nine inches Right Hand rifling twist with eight grooves. Beneath the barrel is a captured steel recoil spring with a full-length polymer guide-rod. There is an inspection port at the rear of the ejection port which allows the shooter to visually check the chamber to verify if there is a cartridge present.
Rather than being a conventional striker-fired design, Ruger incorporated their well-proven internal hammer system as seen in their LCP II and Security-9. Ruger calls it their Secure Action fire control system which is a partially pre-cocked double-action design. The hammer is partially cocked by the slide, but pulling the trigger brings it back slightly to full-cock before releasing it. Trigger pull on this design had some sponginess in its initial take-up, but an acceptable and fairly light break. Reset is distinct but a bit long. It’s not a match trigger, but I really had no complaints. The trigger features a blade-in-trigger type safety similar to a Glock. Ambidextrous external 1911-style safety manual safety levers are standard. These are well-placed and easy to manipulate both to Safe and Fire, locking into place with a nice distinct click. Just to the front of the left-hand side safety lever is a conventionally placed slide catch lever. This is well-placed and I could easily reach it without having to change or modify my hold on the pistol.
A conventionally placed push-button magazine release is standard. This is reversible for left-hand shooters. The magazine ejects cleanly from the pistol with a push of the release. The magazine itself features a steel body and polymer base-plate and follower. The magazine is interesting as it’s a double-column design with two-position feeding rather than the standard single-feed. Capacity is an impressive 20 rounds and witness holes are provided indicating five, 10, 15 and 20 rounds. Two magazines are provided with each Ruger-57.
Both the front and rear sight are dovetailed into the slide. The front sight features a green fiber optic for rapid acquisition. The serrated rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation. The snag-free rear sight features a square notch. The sight picture is good and the fiber optic front sight stands out nicely, in bright sunlight especially. I had no complaints in regard to the Ruger-57’s high visibility sights.
Unlike your typical center-fire service size pistol the Ruger-57 does not have a Browning based tilting-barrel operating system. Instead it features a delayed blow-back system. In the Ruger-57 the barrel and slide are held together in battery by the tension of the recoil spring. What is a bit different in this system is the barrel is not fixed in place. Instead, the barrel recoils a short distance, approximately .25-inch, with the slide after a cartridge is fired. At this point a U-shaped recess in the rear of the barrel lug makes contact with a transverse pin in the frame. This stops the barrel’s rearward movement. The slide and barrel are held together long enough for the projectile to leave the muzzle and for pressures to drop to safe levels for reliable extraction and operation. The slide continues rearward extracting and ejecting the fired cartridge case and then loads a fresh cartridge into the chamber as it returns forward. As the slide is returning forward under the tension of the recoil spring, the barrel rejoins it and returns to battery.
Stripping the Ruger-57 is straight-forward with no tools required. You do not need to pull the trigger as part of the disassembly process either. To strip the Ruger-57 start by removing the magazine and ensuring the pistol is empty by checking the chamber. Lock the slide to the rear using the slide-lock. Next press in on the take-down button on the right side of the frame and push it so the take-down lever on the left side of the frame pops out slightly. Rotate the take-down lever approximately 90-degrees clock-wise, release the slide and ease it forward, then push forward slightly on the slide and lift it up and off the frame. The captured recoil spring and barrel can now be removed from the slide. Reassembly is the reverse. Disassembling the Ruger-57 is simple making routine maintenance easy.
The review pistol arrived packed in a hard-plastic case, with a spare magazine, lock and well written instructions. Out of the box the Ruger-57 looked good, there were no issues with its finish, the slide retracted smoothly and the controls all functioned properly. Stripping it for a look inside I found a couple tool marks, but internally the pistol looked good. I also found it to be properly lubricated.
Next, I needed a quantity of 5.7x28mm ammunition for testing. Rummaging around my ammo room I located a quantity of FN produced 197SR 40-grain V-MAX ammunition. To this I added American Eagle’s relatively economical 40-grain FMJ. I also contacted Elite Ammunition as they offer a variety of interesting 5.7x28mm loads. Elite Ammunition was quick to not only embrace the 5.7x28mm cartridge following its introduction, but they also developed loads which grabbed the attention of shooters. They provided two loads, their 27-grain T6B and their 28-grain DevastaTOR. Both of the Elite Ammunition loads are monolithic solids produced from “exotic copper alloy rod heat treated to 45 on the Rockwell C scale.” Both feature a sharp point. The T6B though has material machined away in grooves. This allows the solid projectile to break into pieces to increase terminal performance.
To check the Ruger-57’s accuracy I began by firing four 5-shot groups off a sandbag rest at 25 yards. Getting to work on the range I noted the metal magazines loaded fairly easily without undue force being required. The magazines inserted easily, and rounds fed smoothly. Recoil with both 40-grain loads is light, and the pistol is quite comfortable to shoot. The trigger has a bit of mush to it, but works well enough. Sight picture is clean and easy to see.
The first load I tried was the American Eagle 40-grain FMJ. This proved to be the slowest load of the group and the point of impact was six-inches low. Accuracy averaged 2.7 inches at 1,689 fps. The FN197SR load averaged three inches at 1,784 fps. Switching to the Elite Ammunition livened things up a bit. Both of these loads were significantly faster. The T6B averaged 2,472 fps for velocity, but accuracy was a disappointing six inches. The DevastaTOR clocked the fastest average velocity of the day at 2,475 fps.
Accuracy of this load averaged four inches.
During testing I did experience three failures to fire with the T6B load. The hammer fell and nothing happened. All exhibited primer strikes and all fired on the next hit. I also experienced one case separation with the T6B load where the neck and shoulder of a case were left in the chamber. This immediately prevented the pistol from loading another cartridge into the chamber, putting it out of action. I removed the piece using a .22-caliber rod and brush and testing resumed. Recoil with the two Elite Ammunition loads was a bit heavier than the others but still relatively mild.
Next, I ran the Ruger-57 through a variety of drills from three to 15 yards firing on EasyShot Targets’ paper silhouette targets. This was done to check the Ruger’s handling, muzzle-rise during rapid fire, and ease of operating the controls. I was also interested to see if any problems cropped up as the round count climbed. Drills were performed using a 1791 Gunleather inside-the-waistband Ultra Custom Concealment leather/Kydex holster. Here the Ruger-57 performed well, recoil is easy to control, the sights are quick to acquire and the controls are easy to reach. While on the large side, the pistol swings quickly as it’s fairly light. The manual safety is easy to manipulate both to place the pistol on Fire or back on Safe. Magazine ejected cleanly with the push of a button. Testing was conducted using the FNH, American Eagle and Elite Ammunition’s DevastaTOR loads with zero issues of any kind encountered.
From here I moved to shooting kneeling and offhand at 50, 75 and 100 yards. Making rapid hits on a full-size steel silhouette did not prove difficult at 50 yards. Slowing down a bit provided similar results at 75 yards. Taking my time I was able to score consistent hits at 100 yards. Point of Impact does vary though between bullet weights and even loads of the same bullet weight in regard to elevation. So, you need to know your POI for the load you are using.
Overall, I rate the Ruger-57 a very fun pistol to shoot. It holds 20+1 rounds, has mild recoil and fires a cartridge capable of impressive velocities. The MSRP is a reasonable $799 making the Ruger-57 a good buy compared to FNH’s Five-seveN. The Ruger-57 stacks up very well compared to the more expensive Belgian piece. If you are interested in the 5.7x28mm cartridge then Ruger’s 57 is a very attractive option.
- Caliber: 5.7x28mm
- Operation: Delayed Blowback
- Barrel length: 4.9 inches
- Trigger: Secure Action Double-Action
- Feed: Detachable 20-round box magazine
- Overall Length: 8.6 inches
- Height: 5.6 inches
- Width: 1.2 inches
- Weight: 24.5 ounces
- Sights: Fiber Optic front sight, adjustable rear
- Finish: Melonite
- MSRP: $799
Ruger-57 Accuracy Data