Gun Test: Ruger American Compact 9

Guns and Gear | Contributor

By John Taffin, GUNS Magazine

Last fall, Ruger introduced three new semi-autos in the space of two weeks. The pistols were parceled out to three of us staff writers with my assignment being the American Compact 9, a downsized version of the full-sized American introduced two years ago. The new Compact is easier to conceal and an excellent choice for self-defense.

I have been a satisfied user of Ruger 9mm pistols for 30 years now. The first was the P85, which became generally available in 1987. I had one of the first examples. Although there were several who complained about its accuracy, I never found this to be a problem with mine. In fact, I used it the first time I was invited to take part in the Qualification Course for our local Sheriff’s Department consisting of 200 deputies. The unassuming little P85 managed to shoot a perfect score (the first one ever posted). Ruger went through several changes, offering different models of the P-series in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP over a 20-year period. In 2007 the first Ruger striker-fired polymer pistol was offered as the SR9. This was followed one year later by the pocket-sized LCP 9mm. In 2015 the American was introduced, which now brings us down to the American Compact 9. According to the company’s announcement:

“Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. is proud to introduce a 9mm (PRO and Manual Safety) compact version as a welcome addition to the Ruger American Pistol line. Introduced in a ‘Duty’ size this past January, the feature-rich and moderately priced Ruger American Pistol has already established itself as one of the best duty pistols on the market today. Designed with the latest US Military standards in mind, the gun endured torture tests in the harshest environmental conditions to prove its ruggedness and reliability. Ruger polled law enforcement and military trainers throughout the country to determine the form, function and features of this firearm. The resulting new pistol combines the recoil-reducing barrel cam (which better spreads recoil over time) with a low mass slide, lower center of gravity and the low bore axes to provide better balance, less felt recoil and less muzzle flip than comparable pistols. The Ruger American Pistol also features a pre-tensioned striker system, which allows for a short take-up trigger with positive reset, and a modular wrap-around grip system that adjusts palm swell and trigger reach to fit a wide range of hand sizes.”

Ruger’s American Compact 9 is a trimmed-down version of the standard American.

Despite the name “Compact,” the sighting plane is broad and the Novak sights are quick and easy to acquire.

With the Compact 9, all this boils down to an easy-handling, low-recoiling pistol large enough to be comfortable to shoot and small enough to conceal. It’s just over 6-1/2 inches long with a 3-1/2-inch barrel and a height of just under 4-1/2 inches. It weighs in at just under 28 ounces (unloaded). For a custom tailored feel, the Compact 9 comes with small, medium and large replaceable grip backstraps. A pair of nickel/Teflon-plated steel magazines are provided. One has a 12-round capacity while the other is an extended 17-round version with a grip extension which slips over the magazine to give a longer, more comfortable grip. I’ve shot it extensively with both magazines and I prefer to carry it with the smaller magazine with the extended magazine used as a backup. The 12-round magazine has a small extension “perch” which gives a perfect resting place for my little finger.

There’s a glass-filled nylon frame and, as Ruger says: A rigid, one-piece precision-machined, black nitrided, stainless steel chassis with integral frame rails and fire control housing.”

What this means is the frame is lightweight and the slide is stainless steel, coated with a non-glare black finish. Sights consist of a Novak LoMount Carry 3-dot setup. There is also an integral frame rail for adding a light or laser. In addition to the frame-mounted safety, there is also the typical “safety trigger” in which the center bar must be depressed before the gun will fire.

Normally when shooting slow fire or hunting with guns featuring a traditional trigger, I use the tip of my finger for better “feel” regarding trigger control, however, with these modern-style triggers it is necessary for me to use the first joint of my trigger finger for optimum control and comfort when shooting. The trigger pull on this Compact 9 measures right at 6 pounds, but feels lighter and has a short take-up with a positive reset. This means you don’t have to take your finger completely off the trigger, but with a little practice you can feel just how far forward the trigger has to go before it resets, allowing for fast action.

Cocking serrations are found on the back of the slide. To accommodate all shooters, the easily accessible frame-mounted thumb safety is ambidextrous as is the pushbutton magazine release. The magazine releases and drops positively and there is no magazine disconnect. Both front and rear sights are set in dovetails—the rear has a locking screw to allow for windage adjustment. The interchangeable backstraps and the integral front strap both have molded-in texturing for a positive grip.

Test-firing Ruger’s American Compact 9 was accomplished with 13 factory loads and my one most-used 9mm practice handload. I first started shooting at longer distances and soon found—at least in my hands—this is not a target pistol but one specifically designed for self- defense.

John test-fires the American Compact 9. He was impressed with the short trigger reset and overall ergonomics of the gun.

Seven-yard groups with SIG 115-grain JHP’s (above) testify to the practical accuracy of the American Compact 9. John’s pet 9mm (below) practice handload—Oregon Trail’s 122-grain flatpoint over 7.8 grains of AA7—also produced excellent results.

The Numbers Game

I then set up targets at an appropriate distance of 7 yards. This is the distance across a large room and it’s unlikely a self-defense/concealed carry pistol would ever be employed at a greater distance. My practice handload consists of the Oregon Trail 122-grain FP over 7.8 grains of AA7. This clocks out right at 1,130 fps and basically punches 1-hole groups at 7 yards in my test gun.

Ruger’s American Compact 9 is a welcome addition to my stable of self-defense pistols. I would have no problem choosing this as an everyday carry pistol or as a “house or car gun.”

Although I don’t recommend it, a friend of mine has shown just how rugged and reliable the original full-size American 9mm is. He has fired over 9,000 rounds without cleaning or lubing and the pistol continues to perform flawlessly. Ruger delivers a lot of value for a suggested retail price well under $600.

Fieldstripping is quick and easy. The two magazines shown (above) are a 12- and 17-rounder. John prefers the 12-round for carry. Interchangeable backstraps (below) are textured to facilitate a secure grip, as is the frontstrap.

American Compact 9
Action type: DAO semi-auto
Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 12, 17
Barrel length: 3.55 inches
Overall length: 6.65 inches
Weight: 28.75 ounces (unloaded)
Construction: Stainless steel slide, glass-filled nylon frame
Finish: Matte black
Sights: Novak-style lo-mount 3-Dot
Grips: Integral to frame
Price: $579

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