The Ruger LCP (Lightweight Compact Pistol) pocket auto is arguably the company's most successful handgun model of the last ten years. Introduced in 2008, it was immediately a backordered item at most gun stores. The pistol got even more publicity when former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was out jogging in 2010 with his daughter and had to shoot a coyote attacking his daughter's dog with his laser-sighted Ruger LCP. Perry killed the coyote with one shot, and according to him the coyote "became mulch."
The folks at Ruger asked me not to publish the actual number of LCPs they've sold, but you should probably add a zero to the end of whatever number you have in your head. As Brandon Trevino, one of the product managers at Ruger told me, "It is fair to say that sales of the LCP are probably responsible for a good part of the .380 ammo shortage."
It should be no surprise that various limited edition models have been offered through distributors, including a Coyote Special model celebrating Gov. Perry. In fact, as I write this, Ruger lists no less than 6 "distributor exclusive" versions of the LCP on its website. However, the only difference between them is frame color.
The Ruger LCP is popular, but has definite room for improvement, and American gun owners never seem to be satisfied with "good enough." Is anyone surprised that many gunsmiths have started doing custom work to the small gun? Now Ruger is offering a custom model straight from the factory which offers consumers more than just a different look. Enter the LCP Custom.
The Ruger LCP has proven itself to be reliable, but even its fans have had several complaints about the design, notably the lack of real sights and a trigger pull far too long. The LCP Custom is Ruger's attempt to offer a factory model which addresses all of complaints customers had about the original design, successful as it was (and still is).
The Ruger LCP should meet just about anyone's definition of a pocket pistol. An affordable .380 Auto with 6+1 capacity, weighing less than ten ounces, it is small enough to conceal just about anywhere: 5.2 x 3.8 inches and only .82 inches thick. The pistol has a glass-filled nylon frame and alloy steel slide for ease of construction and reduced weight and price.
Like most .380 autos it is a straight blowback design and as a result has a rather stiff recoil spring. The slide has aggressive flat-bottomed serrations at the rear to help with manipulation, but to be honest there isn't a lot to grab hold of on such a small gun.
The Ruger LCP has a magazine release in the usual place, and there is a small lever on the left side of the frame with which you can lock the slide back for disassembly (the slide doesn't lock back on an empty magazine). Other than those, the pistol is free of controls, smooth and snag free.
The first thing anyone will notice about the Ruger LCP Custom is the trigger. Maybe not the fact that it is now a skeletonized aluminum model but rather that it is ruby red. However, the new trigger's design is more important than its color.
The second most common complaint about the Ruger LCP's original trigger system (after length of pull) was trigger bite. The original trigger could pinch the user's finger at the bottom. This trigger eliminates that. The face of the new trigger is flat and feels good under the finger and has a rounded tip. A wider trigger also generally helps reduce the perceived weight of a trigger pull.
The trigger looks very much like a "Sweet Pea" model from Galloway Precision. I'm guessing the folks at Ruger were smart enough to not hoe the same row twice and worked out a deal to use this aftermarket upgrade in their pistols. Personally I'd prefer a black trigger, but the color of the anodizing does not affect performance (and nobody can see the trigger when the pistol's in your pocket).
In a recent column, I talked about Ruger's not-so-secret upgrade of the LCP's trigger system. It's rare for a company to do an upgrade to an existing product and not announce it, but that is exactly what Ruger did with the LCP last year. Current LCP models — all of them, not just the Custom — have much shorter trigger pulls than the original model.
The Ruger LCP has a hammer, and it is visible at the rear of the gun. On the new model, LCPs the hammer starts visibly farther back. It will be hard for anyone to notice the differences unless you have two LCPs and hold them up side by side. The easiest way to spot the new LCPs is by the serial number — the new versions have no dash in the serial number.
Total trigger travel length in my sample was .6 inches when measured at the tip of the trigger. That is nicely short for a pocket gun, and much shorter than the length of pull on original LCPs. It makes the gun eminently more shootable. Pull weight wasn't bad either at 8.25 pounds. A trigger pull above eight pounds would be unacceptable for a duty gun, but on a pocket gun where the trigger pull generally acts as the safety, it is the standard method to reduce the chances of an AD.
While it is a hammer-fired gun, the pistol has no re-strike capability — if the gun fails to fire with a pull of the trigger, pulling the trigger a second time does nothing. You'll have to work the slide and chamber a new round.
The only real complaint I have about the trigger system is the two-click reset. Releasing the trigger, there is a very positive click halfway back, but if you stop the reset there and try to pull the trigger at that point it won't move, and the gun won't go off. It's only when you fully reset the trigger and hear the second click that the trigger can be pulled again. The Ruger LCP Custom has also been provided a polished stainless steel recoil spring guide, a nice upgrade from the original version.
The sights on the Ruger LCP Custom have been markedly enlarged from the original's "hump and a bump." I know some of you are scratching your heads and saying, "The original LCP had sights?" Yes, it did, but they were miniscule and weren't'¦what's the term? Oh, yeah, usable.
The Ruger LCP Custom's new rear sight is steel, tall, with a wide notch and is dovetailed into the slide. It is drift adjustable for windage. The sights are actually larger than the set found on Ruger's next size up carry pistol, the LC9/LC9s. FYI the striker-fired LC9s with its short/light trigger pull has been so successful that Ruger has all but discontinued the original LC9 which had a trigger as bad or worse than the original Ruger LCP. I'm sure that had some bearing on the company's decision to offer an upgraded trigger on the Ruger LCP.
The front sight is a steel post the size normally seen on a full size gun. Not only that, the front sight has a photo luminescent dot. Photo luminescent paint glows for a while after being exposed to bright light, and the front sight dot of this LCP glowed bright green in a dark room, just like a night sight, after I brought the pistol in from outdoors. While not quite a high-speed as a true tritium insert night sight, this option is substantially less expensive, and Ruger has kept the cost of the LCP Custom to $419 by going this route.
Some might argue that sights on a pocket pistol are superfluous, as guns of this type are most commonly used at spitting distance and more often pointed than aimed. While they're not wrong, I subscribe to the "worst case scenario" school of thinking. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to make a more difficult shot, wouldn't actual sights be a nice thing to have on your handgun?
The larger sights and beefier aluminum trigger have added weight to this version of the Ruger LCP. Empty weight of the gun has risen from the original's 9.4 ounces to'¦.9.75 ounces. That's right, the upgrades have added only a quarter of an ounce to its total weight.
Ruger supplies the LCP Custom (and every LCP) with one magazine and two polymer basepads — a flush model and one with a finger hook. The magazine has numbered index holes for each round. Additional magazines are available from Ruger for $34.95 apiece. Personally I'd recommend always having at least one spare magazine for every pistol you own. After all, if you've got only one magazine and it gets damaged or stops working'¦..your gun is out of commission until you get another magazine. I've heard the definition of an optimist is the guy who carries a reload for his snubbie, but magazine-fed weapons even as small as the LCP are much faster to reload than a revolver. A spare magazine in the other pocket would hardly be noticed.
The gun is so small that even with the magazine finger hook basepad in place I can get only two fingers on the frame, and I don't have big hands. But the Ruger LCP and guns this size are popular because they are easy to carry and conceal, not because they are necessarily easy to shoot. Recoil can be a bit sharp when shooting one handed (at least when compared to a full-size 9mm) but accurate shooting as fast as you can aim and pull the trigger is easily accomplished.
No one chooses a small gun because of its knockdown power. The .380 isn't a powerhouse to begin with, and when fired out of a sub-3-inch barrel, you'll really see a drop in velocity. Most advertised velocities for .380 ammo seem to be out of 4-inch or 5-inch test barrels, but who has a 5-inch .380? Does anyone even make a 5-inch .380?
For example, Hornady's 90-grain XTP hollowpoint has an published velocity of 1000 fps. Out of the Ruger LCP Custom's 2.75-inch barrel, it averaged 851 fps, and most other ammo will provide the same reduced velocity over advertised numbers. Am I saying the .380 is worthless? Far from it. Someone once killed an elephant with a .22 Long Rifle. The mere presence of a firearm is often enough to convince bad guys to take their evil intent elsewhere without a shot having to be fired. And if you do have to shoot'¦.6+1 rounds of .380 ACP should stop any likely threat most people will face. It is a far, far better thing to have a gun with you when you need it, even if it is small, than no gun at all because you didn't feel like packing your big heavy pistol.
With all of the extra features it is surprising to me that the suggested retail price of the Ruger LCP Custom is only $30 more than the basic LCP: $419 versus $389. Personally I think the upgraded sights alone provide more than $30 value. While I'm at a bit of a loss to explain why Ruger decided to go with a red trigger on this model, I am willing to put up with the 'out of place on a serious pocket gun' trigger color simply because the overall package provides so much added value when compared to a standard Ruger LCP.