Tuesday, May 17, 2022
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Gun Review: Ruger LCP MAX .380 Pistol

Image by Boch.

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Gun makers keep setting the bar higher and higher for new product development. Everyone wants a small and light carry gun, with a good trigger, good sights and decent capacity. And if it shoots well and comfortably on top of that, that’s just a bonus, right?

Sound familiar? I wrote most of the above about the ultra-popular SIG P365 back in 2018 in a review here.

Image by Boch.

I’ve got good news for you, ladies and gents. The good folks at Ruger have done one even better than the P365 in the LCP MAX. If you need a smaller, lighter-shooting round than the P365’s 9mm, the Ruger LCP MAX gives you a gun that weighs 40% less, is 20% thinner and with a half-inch less in overall length. It will cost you about 33% less on the credit card, too.

The bright green, tritium front sight bead looks huge, especially with the white ring around it. Image by Boch.

It feels good in the hand and shoots even better. I’ve carried mine for over three months now, including while on vacation in Florida’s summer heat and humidity. It’s so light, even when loaded, that you completely forget you’re wearing it. Yet if you do think about it, knowing you’ve got 10+1 rounds of ballistic love for bad guys should leave you feeling fuzzier than any 6+1 single-stack .380 that has just been rendered semi-obsolete.

I’ve carried both the 10+1 mag and the 12+1.  At the end of the day, I couldn’t tell the difference in weight.  However, the 12-rounder sometimes hung up just wee little bit when pulling the gun out of the pocket at the end of the day.  Something to consider for those practicing pocket carry.

If you’re like me, you’re not accustomed to seeing the cartridge head from the rear of any handgun. One thing’s for sure: it makes it easy to see if the LCP Max is loaded or not.

Yes, the trigger isn’t quite as good as the P365, but it is still as good or better than a stock GLOCK. The front sight blade has a handy tritium glow-in-the-dark insert  (with a bright white circle around it) which makes this a true fighting gun as most criminal attacks happen in less than optimal lighting conditions.

Ten shots, at twelve feet, with a spent .380 case for scale. I called the top hole as a flier as the shot broke. Image by Boch.

Ruger uses the hybrid double/single-stack magazines first pioneered by SIG in their P365 in the new LCP Max. They work flawlessly and give you the 10+1 (or 12+1 for an extra quarter inch in height.)

With the 12+1 round magazine inserted. Image by Boch.

Interestingly Ruger includes a “free” bonus holster with the gun. I’ll just come right out and say it: you paid for a great, cutting edge piece of hardware, not a cheap, disappointing black holster with a Ruger tag on it. Sorry Ruger: the holster is trash. It collapsed after a few weeks’ use and left my gun rotated in a very wrong direction after only a few hours.  Repeatedly.  Way too often for my tastes.  A DeSantis rig solved that issue.

The Ruger LCP MAX. Image by Boch.

Aside from the holster, this gun sets a new standard for deep cover micro pistols. Or put another way, for those who want to carry a lot but don’t want to carry a lot of gun, this gives them a capable tool with which to repel a bad actor with bad actions without weighing them down.

Specifications: Ruger LCP MAX .380 Pistol

Caliber: .380 Auto
Capacity: 10+1 rounds flush fit, 12+1 extended
Barrel Length: 2.80 inches
Overall Length: 5.17 inches
Width: .81 inches
Height: 4.12 inches
Weight: 10.6 ounces
Sights: tritium with white outline front sight, black rear sight
MSRP: $449 (street about $390)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability: * * * * 1/2
Flawless reliability out of the box. It happily ate everything with only a single hiccup about fifty rounds in. It almost failed to return to battery while using cheap ball ammo, hesitating for a fraction of a second, but it didn’t require my intervention. The Hornady XTPs and Critical Defense fed flawlessly. At the same time I did not clean or lube it after purchase (shame on me). After a clean and lube, I don’t expect any issues.

Accuracy: * * * *
For a tiny pocket pistol it shoots very well. For example: If you have someone holding your mother-in-law hostage at 15 feet (and you like her), you can hit that bad guy in the melon with confidence if you do your part on sight alignment and trigger control.

Ease of Use: * * * * *
So easy a caveman could use it. Mild shooting enough that even recoil-sensitive novices won’t feel beaten up or unable to control it. A comfortable grip texture keeps the diminutive gun securely under control even when wet or sweaty. That big front sight dot is easy to acquire with lots of contrast.

Trigger: * * * * 1/2
Life’s too short for crappy triggers. This one breaks at or a little over five pounds, give or take, according to my scientific trigger finger. This trigger doesn’t walk on water, but it beats a stock GLOCK out of the box. In my book, that makes it respectable for an untuned gun.

Value: * * * *
Street price is typically just under $400. That’s a fair price on a quite capable gun, especially considering a tritium-infused, glow-in-the-dark front sight comes standard.

Overall: * * * * 1/2
The Ruger LCP MAX marks a new generation of improved .380 defensive pistols. It makes the original LCP an obsolete relic (if you have one, I’m sorry). It also pushes a whole lot of other .380, single-stack pocket guns towards obsolescence. If you’re comfortable carrying a .380 with a modern hollow-point round for self-defense, BUY THIS GUN. You’ll have a pistol you’ll forget you’re carrying that will perform well in defensive encounters.


This was a regular production gun purchased from a dealer here in Illinois. Ruger did not send me a copy for testing and evaluation.

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