SOME THINGS ARE BETTER THE SECOND TIME AROUND
When Ruger introduced the LCP (lightweight compact pistol), it quickly became popular with shooters. Americans fell in love with the petite gun—despite snappy recoil, a safety recall on early models and a less-than-recommended chambering for self-defense. The LCP also had practically nonexistent sights, a very heavy trigger pull that limited the handgun to fairly short ranges in the hands of most shooters and a locked-breach design that made it very hard for many people to cycle the slide.
However, the gun was also small, light-weight and easy to carry, meaning folks would actually carry the gun on a daily basis and have it on hand if truly needed—this was the genius of the gun. Regardless of any problems, issues or concerns, folks just seemed to be willing to drop the LCP into a pocket or another holster every single day.
Eventually, Ruger realized the gun could be improved and came out with a custom version with a better trigger, better sights and an easier-pulling slide. However, the recoil was still quite snappy, and the slide still didn’t lock back on an empty magazine.
… RUGER HAS ONCE AGAIN REDESIGNED THE LCP SUFFICIENTLY TO CALL THE NEW VERSION THE RUGER LCP II.
Now, eight years later, Ruger has once again redesigned the LCP sufficiently to call the new version the Ruger LCP II.
There are several differences in the two versions that are readily apparent, especially when placed side by side. The first is the width, particularly of the backstrap, which provides more area to distribute felt recoil. And while the slide on the LCP II looks wider than the original, it is actually .06 inch smaller. However, the new version is slightly longer and taller, providing a negligible, 1-ounce heavier weight.
The look and feel of the Ruger LCP II is very similar to the LCP. The main differences are the backstrap, sights and the trigger. The sights are significantly larger, providing a much better sight picture when on target. In fact, the new sights actually allow shooters to use the sights, rather than feeling that the only way to aim the gun is by point-shooting down the top of the slide.
While the wider backstrap should help with felt recoil, very little actually mitigates what a shooter feels when a .380 round is expelled from the barrel of this gun. In that regard, not much has changed. Both the original LCP and the II are very light handguns in a caliber that might be considered on the low side for defense; however, most .380 Auto loads still put a 90-grain bullet out of a standard 4-inch test barrel at 1,000 fps with 200 ft./lbs. of energy. Of course, with a 2.75-inch barrel, the Ruger LCP II can’t produce that level of speed and energy, but the gun still averages more than 900 fps in most loads; this means significant recoil in a gun that weighs well under a pound.
REGARDLESS OF WHERE THE GUN WAS PLACED, IT WAS LIGHT AND EASY TO CARRY, MEANING IT WAS EASY TO FOLLOW THE FIRST RULE OF CONCEALED CARRY: ALWAYS CARRY A GUN. IN FACT, THE GUN ALMOST DISAPPEARED INTO THE ETHER WITH ALL CARRY METHODS.
Because the Ruger LCP II is new and a little different from the LCP, many would think there are fewer holster options. However, most non-moldable holsters that fit subcompact handguns will work for the LCP II. In addition, there are also multiple companies that have already introduced Kydex, nylon and leather holsters in a variety of configurations.
For instance, Alien Gear has six options—both inside and outside the waistband—while DeSantis has already introduced both Kydex and leather holsters for the LCP II. Galco even has an ankle holster available for those wanting to carry the gun in deeper concealment or as a backup. In addition, all brands of bellybands provide an option for everyday carry.
When shooting the pair side by side, both handguns exhibit snappy recoil with a variety of ammunition brands. Accuracy, however, was much better with the LCP II, because the sights and trigger made for a much more pleasant shooting experience.
While the II’s fixed front and rear sights—integral to the frame—are not of the combat variety, they are much more pronounced than the simple cutouts of the original gun. This provides a much better sight picture for accuracy, especially in self-defense situations.
The trigger, which now has a blade safety within the trigger itself (similar to the LC9), provides a lighter pull that averages 5.5 pounds compared to the 6.5 pounds of the LCP. While the trigger is only 1 pound lighter, it feels much better when pulled. Ruger describes the system as single-action-only, because the trigger only releases the hammer when pulled, rather than via the cocking and releasing function of a double-action firearm.
Once the blade safety is disengaged with the finger, the trigger depresses freely about halfway until it stacks against the mechanism. At that point, the trigger pull is short and crisp, providing an excellent feel when firing. The new trigger is a major design improvement, even though it doesn’t provide second-strike capability in case of a misfire.
Another key improvement on the LCP II is that the slide now locks back on the included magazine when empty. This is significant; because it provides a visual notification that the gun is empty and makes reloading much faster. Even better: Six-round magazines from the LCP will work in the LCP II. However, the slide lock mechanism will not engage on the older magazines. Also, seven-round magazines that worked in the LCP are not compatible with the newer version. Another new feature is that the slide is much easier to pull back, making the gun more functional for those with weaker hand strength.
… RUGER’S SUBCOMPACT .380 HAS NOT CHANGED. IT IS STILL A HANDGUN THAT SHOOTERS WILL BE WILLING AND ABLE TO EASILY CARRY EVERY TIME THEY WALK OUT THE DOOR …
EVENTUALLY, RUGER REALIZED THE GUN COULD BE IMPROVED AND CAME OUT WITH A CUSTOM VERSION WITH A BETTER TRIGGER, BETTER SIGHTS AND AN EASIER-PULLING SLIDE.
At the range, the Ruger LCP II performed more than just adequately with three different manufacturer loads (Hornady American Gunner and American Eagle, as well as Federal Premium Practice & Defend) fired at 7 and 10 yards to determine both accuracy and function. The 10-yard groups measured slightly larger, as expected.
After a 100-round break-in, three-shot groups were fired from a bench. During break-in and accuracy testing, the pistol had few issues cycling, but every few magazines, cases from Federal Premium Practice would fail to eject, causing a stoppage.
Accuracy was on par with most subcompact handguns, averaging about 3.5 inches at 10 yards and about an inch smaller at 7 yards. Felt recoil was about what was expected, as well; with the Federal Premium Defense load providing the heaviest kick. The Hornady American Gunner load was the most manageable and even provided the best groups averaging a half-inch smaller, both from the bench and freehand.
In addition to accuracy testing, the LCP II was run through a few drills to determine its practicality in real-life scenarios from both “low-ready” and “presentation.” Unfortunately, the small size of the gun made it a little bit difficult to obtain a shooting grip from a holster. Also, it was impossible to obtain a full four-finger grip, because the pinky finger hung below the magazine as a result of its size. However, the gun still admirably placed fast singles, double-taps and hammers, along with several failure drills, on target with excellent self-defense accuracy. (The only down side was that long shooting sessions resulted in a fairly sore hand.)
NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT
Daily carry of the LCP II was conducted with the included-in-the-box pocket holster and a Sticky Holsters medium-sized holster. The provided holster worked well in both the pocket and when slid down in a boot, while the Sticky holster was used to carry the gun in the strong-side position.
Regardless of where the gun was placed, it was light and easy to carry, meaning it was easy to follow the first rule of concealed carry: Always carry a gun. In fact, the gun almost disappeared into the ether with all the carry methods.
In that way, Ruger’s subcompact .380 has not changed. It is still a handgun that shooters will be willing and able to easily carry every time they walk out the door, as is recommended. But now, the gun is simply easier to manipulate and fire-improvements that make this popular pistol an even better option for those interested in not being a victim.
Sturm, Ruger & Company
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the March 2017 print issue of American Survival Guide.