By Steve Gash, Gun Digest
The Ruger SR40 is a striker-fired handgun that offers a host of unique features, exceptional reliability, great ergonomics, and excellent accuracy. It is also modestly priced, with an MSRP of only $525.
Recently, the SR40 and SR40c were introduced in the super-popular .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge. This makes a lot of sense, since many justifiably think any defensive caliber ought to begin with a “4.”
Both frame sizes have their place, depending on the intended use. The compact models shave about .64-inch off the barrel and 3.1 ounces off the weight of the standard models. This is not to say the standard models are big. They’re not, but they are a bit larger than the compacts. All four versions have a coordinated set of synergetic features that produce a comfortable, efficient, and reliable shooting system.
The Ruger SR40 is striker-fired and offers a host of unique features, exceptional reliability, great ergonomics, and excellent accuracy. (I might mention that it is also modestly priced, with an MSRP of only $525.)
It features a glass-filled nylon grip frame. The pistol fits my hand like a glove, and—praise be—its angle is exactly the same as a 1911, important to those of us trained on the old .45. When I raise the SR40 to shooting position, the sights are pointed right at the target.
The trigger has a trigger safety lever that prevents firing unless the trigger is completely pulled. An ambidextrous manual safety is also provided at the rear of the slide, which not only prevents firing, but also locks the slide.
Its use is not required because, like most other DAO pistols, the gun is completely safe until the shooter picks it up and pulls the trigger. A flat loaded-chamber indicator, another safety feature, is on the top of the slide at the rear of the ejection port and sticks up when a round is loaded in the chamber.
The trigger pull on my test-fire sample was seven pounds, one ounce. It was a bit gritty at first, but, after a few break-in rounds, it smoothed right up. To me, it felt like a highly tuned revolver—just as a DAO pistol is supposed to—first shot to last. Additionally, the SR40 uses a unique link-less system to lock and unlock the barrel that differs from those pistols in the Ruger P-series. Movement of the slide fore and aft is slick and quick.
Combined with a grip frame that is extremely strong, lightweight, and very pleasing to the hand, felt recoil seems moderated. I also liked that the molded-in checkering on the grips, backstrap, and front of the grip, which provide a good handhold without sandpapering off your skin when firing.
The trim little pistol weighs a mere 27.2 ounces with an empty magazine. Loaded with 15 rounds, it tips the scales at 36.4 ounces. The 4.1-inch barrel has six grooves with a 1:16 right-hand twist. Slides are made of either alloy or stainless steel, depending on finish. My test gun had the stainless slide, and I can report that it had a lustrous and uniformly brushed finish that is very attractive. A black nitride version is also available.
Another nice feature is the reversible backstrap. The pistol comes with the arched side out, but, if you prefer a flat backstrap (as you’d find with the original M-1911), just push out a little pin, turn the backstrap over, and reinstall. It takes all of about 30 seconds, if you go really slow.
The magazine release is ambidextrous. Thankfully, when it is pressed from either side, the magazine is instantly launched out of the grip like it’s jet propelled. Insertion of a magazine is slick and effortless.
The gun, by the way, is shipped in a hard plastic case with two 15-round magazines.
The SR40 has a magazine disconnect system that prevents firing if the magazine is removed. The gun will “snap” with the magazine removed, but it won’t fire with a live round in the chamber.
The rear sight is held in a dovetail and is drift-adjustable for windage, click-adjustable for elevation. It provides a clean sight picture for fast, accurate shooting.
Also, the trigger pull is not the same with the magazine removed as when firing a loaded gun. Importantly, the owner’s manual specifically cautions that dry-firing a SR series pistol without a magazine “may result in damage or unnecessary wear to the magazine disconnect mechanism and/or striker,” and may get you exiled to the Gulag. In other words, don’t do it. The SR40 can be dry-fired without damage to the pistol, when an empty magazine is in place.
An accessory rail is provided at the bottom front of the grip frame, to which the user can hang all manner of accouterments like a laser sight, high-intensity light, or a pistol bayonet. Up top, it seems to be an article of faith that all defensive pistols have fixed sights, never mind that they don’t always hit where they look and you can’t change them, but guess what? The SR40 has excellent three-dot sights with a fully adjustable rear.
There’s a click-adjustment screw for elevation and a set screw that must be loosened to drift the sight for windage. The rear sight adjustment worked like a charm, and it stayed put. Another revelation is that the width of the rear-sight notch is actually wide enough to see light on either side of the front sight. Both sights are dovetailed in place, so fussbudgets can install after-market replacements, if desired.
Field striping the pistol for cleaning is a breeze. First, make sure the pistol is unloaded, then lock the slide back and remove the magazine. Push the ejector down and forward—you can’t fieldstrip the pistol unless you do—then remove the takedown pin assembly and, while holding the slide, release the slide stop and ease the slide off the grip frame.
Field striping the SR40 is a snap. With the recoil spring and its guide removed, the barrel slips right out for easy cleaning.
Remove the guide-rod assembly and its spring, then remove the barrel. Reassembly is in reverse order. After the takedown pin is replaced and the slide is still locked back, the ejector then must be pushed up to its original position. This can be done either with your finger or simply by inserting the magazine back in place.
On the test range, the SR40 was accurate and reliable. I tested 13 factory loads and 20 handloads. Mercifully, there was none of the “first shot out of the group” nonsense so common to many semi-autos. Reliability is absolutely paramount in any defensive pistol, and there was not one failure to feed, fire, or eject with any of hundreds of rounds I tested. Also, it was a lot of fun to shoot. Like Goldilocks said, “It’s not too small or too big, it’s just right.”
Next, accuracy and tech specs
Overall accuracy of the SR40 was excellent. With either factory ammo or selected handloads, groups averaged from two to three inches for five shots at 20 yards from a rest; 10 loads handily beat two inches. This is outstanding accuracy for any defensive pistol.
Several loads with new “wonder” bullets offer an optimum combination of penetration and expansion, even through clothing or other barriers—essential for self-defense or law enforcement work—and muzzle energies exceeded 400 ft-bs.
The two mid-weight Hornady 155-grain loads were powerhouses, with the Custom XTP load registering a sizzling 1,152 fps and 457 ft-lbs of muzzle energy, and the TAP/FPD version close behind at 1,098 fps and 415 ft-lbs. The various 180-grain loads clocked about 900 to 980 fps, and the SR40 favored the Hornady 180-grain Custom XTPs and Winchester’s economical USA JHPs.
A bonus with all these rounds was the SR40’s excellent adjustable rear sight, which made switching loads easy. It was tough picking a “best” load, but I finally settled on the Hornady Custom XTP load, because of its excellent accuracy and a crunching 457 ft-lbs of muzzle energy.
I liked the performance of this pistol so much, I broke Gun Writer Rule No. 2*—“Never Buy Test Guns”—and sent Ruger a check. The SR40 is now my regular carry gun around the farm.
Its user-friendly ergonomics, quality construction, excellent accuracy, total reliability, and modest price make it worth a look for anyone considering a self-defense handgun—or just a neat auto pistol for lots of shooting fun.
Ruger SR40 Specifications
Type: Striker-fired, semi-automatic, DAO pistol
Caliber/Gauge: .40 Smith & Wesson
Capacity: 15+1, two 15-round flush-fit magazines provided; 10-round versions available
Barrel length: 4.14 inches, 1:16 right-hand twist six grooves
Weight: 27.2 ounces (with empty magazine)
Overall length: 7.55 inches
Overall width: 1.27 inches
Sights: Fully adjustable three-dot sights
Finish: Brushed stainless steel (tested) or black
nitride alloy steel slide; glass-filled nylon frame
Stocks: Nylon, integral with grip frame
Contact: Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. (www.ruger.com)
This article is an excerpt from the Gun Digest 2014 annual book. Be sure to take advantage of Gun Digest’s free downloads to learn all about Gun Values, AR-15 Optics, Glock Accessories and Concealed Carry Holsters.