By Mike Cumpston, GUNS Magazine
Ruger entered the striker-fired handgun field in 2007 with introduction of the SR9. A full-featured, compact, lightweight and affordable pistol, the SR series is now a mature design and encompasses 9mm Luger, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. It soon came to include compact models and “State Compliant” variations—10-round magazines in place of the sizes standard in jurisdictions not fully sold on the Utopian Ideal.
The SR9—as with the subject of this review—holds 17 rounds in its wide-body magazine. The width and length of the polymer grip frame is dimensionally indistinguishable from pistols utilizing single-stack magazines with less than half the capacity. Even so, the grip arrangement effectively distributes recoil, enhancing speed of delivery and shooter comfort. The original SR9 has demonstrated reliability with the current crop of premium and generic ammunition and has survived a couple of fairly well-circulated, multi-thousand-round torture tests.
The Ruger approach to applying the “E-ssential” treatment to its rifles, and now handguns, diminishes nothing in the way of quality or material. The 9E pistol incorporates a couple of modifications many buyers might consider improvements. One reviewer noted the slide serrations on the previous SR were sharp and tended to cut into his fingers. The 9E’s wider rear-slide serrations are fewer in number with a melt treatment to remove any edges. They are still easy to grip, attractive and serve their purpose just as effectively. The 9E also eliminates the tactile-loaded chamber indicator required for sale in California (it is required nowhere else and its replacement with a view port simplifies matters and does not reduce safety). Since California has effectively banned semi-autos, Ruger is able to offer the simplified 9E for the rest of the country.
The Streamlight TRL-2G offers 200 lumens through its C4 LED lamp for 1.5 hours and offers a beam with optimum peripheral illumination. A green laser rests below the light, and if both are utilized, run time is reduced to 1.25 hours. The TRL-2G is powered by one 3v CR 123A lithium battery.
The Ruger 9E slide and frame are given a slight “melt” treatment at the front for ease of holstering.
The Ruger 9E, “E” for Essential, comes in a simple cardboard box with one magazine and a cable lock. You might desire to add other essential items
like the Streamlight TRL-2G light for the accessory rail and a Spyderco Delica.
When the 9E is in its “at rest” position, the striker is partially cocked with the rear of the striker visible at the back of the slide. The 9E retains the internal passive drop-safe mechanism to block the striker and the trigger, and prevents firing unless the trigger is consciously pulled. It has the SR9’s ambidextrous frame-mounted thumb safeties absent on many striker-fired “double action” pistols. This seems somewhat redundant, but the thumb safety is easily accessed and could serve as a positive hedge against use against you in a gun-grab.
It also has the Glock-like rocker/block frame impingement safety situated in the center of the trigger’s face. A magazine disconnector works off of the magazine lips and has no influence on trigger pull. The single available finish is basic black and the magazines have the single option of a flat floorplate.
Disassembly for routine maintenance is very simple. Remove the magazine, ensure the pistol is unloaded, lock the slide back and push the ejector downward. The disassembly lever/pin is aligned for easy removal and replacement at slide lock. The ejector should be in the down position for reassembly and insertion of the magazine will put it back into register.
The owner’s manual claims the 9E’s modular construction makes disassembly of the action easy, but provides no further encouragement toward trying this at home. Some users have noted it is very easy to remove the magazine disconnect. There are several excellent reasons to refrain from doing this, or decommissioning any safety feature. (See Massad Ayoob’s In the Gravest Extreme: The Role of Firearms in Personal Protection or his Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right To Self Defense).
The 9E has an ample ejection port and rocker style trigger safety (above). In addition, an ambidextrous thumb safety is provided on the frame within easy reach of the shooting hand. Mike found the controls easy to manipulate. The left side of the gun (below) features the slide stop and thumb safety for right-handed folks.
The Ruger fieldstrips quickly and easily for routine maintenance. Just remember to push down the ejector before removing the slide or replacing it. Insertion
of the magazine will push the ejector back up into operation.
Our 9E arrived in a cardboard box—another cost-saving concession, with a single flat floorplate magazine, cable lock and owner’s manual. The sights are drift-adjustable (with a rear sight set-screw) and feature prominent white dots, with the width of the front sight and the rear-sight opening sized for easy target acquisition. The trigger, partially cocked upon slide closure (preventing double-strike capability), let off at exactly 5 pounds after about a 3/8-inch takeup. Trigger travel is smooth and allows for a steady, straight-back pull and undisturbed release. The usual 25-yard benchrested groups ranged from just over 3 inches to a hair under 5. My worst groups highlight my tentative relationship with precision shooting using a striker-fired handgun, which does teach… humility.
The Ruger 9E really comes into its own with more practically oriented rangework. The 10-inch plates at the Centex Rifle and Pistol Club were easy marks with a 6 o’clock hold at a moderately rapid pace from 15 yards. I walked through the 50-round standard Texas Concealed Handgun Demo ignoring the par times and variable shot sequences and simply firing when the sights came back on target. The 9E’s minimal muzzle rise allows for a considerably quicker pace than called for in the official course.
The “10” and “X” rings are a central oval of 3.5 inches wide by 5.8-inches tall. The Ruger quickly produced a gaping hole dead center with the widest shot printing an inch—or a little more—outside the 10-ring. The course is shot from 3, 7 and 15 yards. The Black Hills 115-grain FMJ loads hit to the sights at the shorter ranges. The tendency of this pistol to shoot high and right, which had manifested itself at the 25-yard bench became apparent at 15 yards, accounting for the five rounds edging the 10-ring at 2 to 4 o’clock.
While the Black Hills FMJ load was of standard pressure, the rest of my sample loads were +P with the exception of Buffalo Bore’s 95-grain load marked +P+. All except the Black Hills FMJ were JHP’s and the Ruger 9E functioned reliably with all of them. The rear of the grip—resembling the mainspring housing of a 1911—is reversible, giving you the choice of a flat or arched profile (it came arched side up and I left it that way.) The grip angle and overall geometry was so favorable that the felt recoil and muzzle rise of the hottest loads diverged very little from the standard velocity Black Hills load.
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The +P 115-grain load from CorBon and the 124-grain loads from Buffalo Bore produced velocities in the high 1,200 fps range and tied for best accuracy from the bench. Buffalo Bore’s 124-grain JHP +P produced four duplicate velocities in a row and one that was only 2 fps slower. Similar results came with the Buffalo Bore Lead Free 95-grain Barnes JHP +P+. The extreme spread was 22 fps but four of the rounds were duplicates at 1,449 fps. These readings were real. Each consecutive reading the same as the last read “dupe” on the chrono screen. I watched the numbers flip with each shot. Enough readings weren’t duplicates to show the thing was working just fine. Consistency like this is usually rare but occurs frequently with Buffalo Bore loads in various calibers.
The Buffalo Bore +P 147-grain JHP produced the same velocity as the standard pressure Black Hills 115-grain FMJ. The FBI and the San Diego Police Department have both used one or the other loading of this bullet weight and have been pleased with the results. The +P+ Buffalo Bore 95-grain load and the company’s 147-grain +P offering printed near point of aim at 25 yards while most other loads hit several inches high.
A 25-yard group fired hand-held from the bench. Several loads shot high at this distance with the Buffalo Bore 95-grain +P+ and 147-grain +P hitting
close to point of aim.
The Shooting Demonstration required of Concealed Handgun License applicants in Texas consists of 50 rounds from 3, 5 and 15 yards. The rounds outside
of the 10 ring include five of the 10-round strings from 15 yards.
The weight and size of the 9E make for comfortable carry and fast deployment from these slacks from CCW Breakaways (above). The 9E is a little smaller
and a lot lighter than the Colt XSE Commander beneath (below).
Specs, Extras, Final Thoughts
The accessory rail will accommodate the full array of accessory lights and laser sights. The SR9 window on the Ruger Firearms links to “buy now” cites for holster from Bianchi, Fobus, Mitch Rosen and Gould & Goodrich. The 9E is, incidentally, Commander-size. In fact, with the Ruger laid on top of a Colt Commander, the Colt is visible at all points of the compass. The unloaded weight is about 9 ounces lighter than the steel-framed Commander and barely tops 30 ounces with the magazine fully loaded with 115-grain, 9mm rounds. It turned out to be a natural in my quick-deployment slacks from CCW Breakaways.
Covering the basics, eliminating the hard box, the magazine loader and spare magazine shaves about $100 off suggested retail and, given the current realities of the marketplace, lands the real-world tariff at or below the $400 “price point” beloved of the gun-buying public. The 9E should be a solid performer both for the Ruger Company and the quality-conscious armed citizen.
Photos By Robbie Barrkman