By Mark Kakkuri, American Handgunner
Photos By Chuck Pittman
Ruger says about the new American Pistol: “Anything else would be un-American.” I think it’s more than a clever tagline. With this gun, Ruger clearly has issued an old fashioned American challenge to the police/duty market — and even to we non-sworn types: buy American or stay home.
These days, if you’re a gun manufacturer, you don’t enter a key market, establish a reputation and gain market share overnight. You don’t even do it with one gun. You do it by making incremental advances on several gun platforms over a long period of time. Then, when the time is right, you launch a product demonstrating clear purpose and value. And you hope the market catches the vision, buys into the product, and signs on for a long-term contract
That seems to be Ruger’s intention with the American, the company’s latest duty-sized, polymer-framed pistol. Time will tell if the gun will begin to displace other entrenched brands. For now, the Ruger American sports a litany of great features and performed with perfection during out tests.
Price. Right off the bat, note the Ruger American’s retail price of $579 (9mm or .45 ACP models). As you learn more, you’ll likely get a sense of the value of this gun — exactly the way we did after living with it for a while. But don’t get trapped into thinking a simple price war will sway police purchasing professionals or the consumers who might consider this gun. Yes, a duty gun needs to be a good value. But it should be more than that too.
Light weight. Pick up an unloaded Ruger American. Your inner sense will suggest Ruger engineers did what they could to eliminate unnecessary weight. Put it on a digital scale and you’ll get a reading of 30.76 ounces. But the gun feels perfectly balanced and does nothing to interfere with a natural draw and point of aim. It “hefts” as they say — right. Interestingly, apparently ruggedness doesn’t need to be compromised by lightweight construction. Ruger assures robust durability in the American. In fact, they say this gun will handle the sustained use of +P ammo.
Front strap checkering. Over the years, we’ve seen frontstrap checkering looking like waffles, checkers, scales, pyramids and other shapes. Some help purchase; some not so much. The Ruger American’s frontstrap sports rows of very small, raised diamonds. They’re excellent, helping my hand lock around the stocks. On the back strap, rows of larger, raised diamonds do their part to increase purchase, too. They are firm, secure, almost like just resting your hand on a piece of 220 grit sandpaper, without the “cutting” feel. I think you could manage a 1,000-round, week-long handgun class with it and not have to resort to duct-taped fingers to prevent bloodshed.
Trigger. With a familiar-looking built-in safety centered in an otherwise semi-flat-faced trigger, the Ruger American offers what it calls a “short take-up” with “positive reset.” The take-up is indeed short at just over .25″, requiring a 5- to 6-lb. pull before breaking cleanly. Words which don’t describe the trigger pull: mushy, vague or gritty. Words which do describe the trigger pull: short, smooth, crisp. In short, I liked it a lot, but only when I stopped to think about it. In fact, my buddy and I found the trigger to be forgettable in all the right ways. We aimed, fired and half-smirked as the Ruger delivered fun, fast, accurate shooting.
If you’ve fired a decently tuned 1911 and enjoyed the trigger pull, you get pretty close with the stock trigger on this gun. It’s just a tad longer in take-up, and maybe a big longer in reset, but once the sear is engaged and let-off occurs, there’s not that disturbing “tiny jump” of the front sight you have with many (most?) polymer pistols. You can take this trigger exactly the way it is and go to work.
Controls. Ruger gave the American a relatively large, ambidextrous slide stop — perfectly placed and easy to manipulate. Loved it. Used it. Use it to release the slide, or just to lock it, either way it worked great and felt fine.
The takedown lever for field stripping is easy to manipulate but not intrusive. This is the fastest and best way to field strip an auto-loading pistol. And don’t forget the ambidextrous magazine release. Other pistols have larger buttons but the Ruger American has its mag release button shaped and located for easy manipulation by either thumb or finger, from either side. No need to change anything; just push the mag release on whatever side you want. If you tend toward slightly longer fingers or thumbs, you can likely mash the mag release while maintaing a firing grip. No fooling.
Individually, these features are welcome additions on any gun, and maybe are simply what we’ve come to expect in a good duty pistol. What’s great is when they all show up at once — on one gun.
But there’s more in the features department. The Ruger American comes with the expected rail, of course. The slide serrations are double-cut, offering fantastic purchase when tugging a locked-back slide to chamber a round from a fresh magazine. The nickel-Teflon plated magazines (two included) hold 17 rounds of 9mm — easily loaded with just my two hands and easily manipulated, with a baseplate offering a grip lip. And the Novak 3-dot sights were more than adequate for the daytime, outdoor range work we did.
The recoil spring guide rod assembly is all-steel and the recoil spring is flat wire, captured on that guide rod. It seems ruggedly designed and built. Interestingly, the barrel design mating to that spring assembly has a patent-pending barrel cam design allowing a longer “dwell” time during recoil. This longer time “in-recoil” imparts an impulse feeling softer than a standard design. This also allows a lighter weight slide.
Unlike other designs, Ruger took a page from SIG Sauer concept and uses a “chassis”-type action assembly allowing all-metal rails for the slide to run on, rather than small metal inserts. All of the moving metal bits of the slide are moving on metal-to-metal contact points with no polymer in the mix. This “chassis” is also the serial-numbered portion of the pistol, not the frame, also like certain SIG designs.
Ruger’s action group has what they call a “pretensioned striker-ignition” system. When the slide is cycled, the striker remains fully cocked and the trigger pull only needs to release the sear, not complete the cocking cycle as on some guns. The trigger has that built-in safety lever which blocks the sear, prohibiting movement until the trigger is fully to the rear.
According to our information, our test gun is the “Pro” model, and the “Standard” model (which will be introduced later) will come with an external safety, magazine disconnect safety and the features contained on our test gun.
Also included in the Ruger American case are two other grips. The gun comes with the medium sized grip installed which was perfect for my medium-sized hands. The smaller grip felt pretty good but not as good as the medium. But the large grip was just too much. The large equates to a 2.85″ trigger reach, while the small offers a 2.55″ to give you an idea. That small amount translates into a huge difference for different hand sizes. Installing them and removing them was a breeze as they slide into place and lock down using an included #10 Torx wrench.
At The Range
Spoiler alert: The Ruger American gave us 100 percent reliable shooting, with accuracy to match.
A word about conditions on the range. It was springtime in Michigan which means we were enjoying, nay, enduring, a 30-degree day with a steady wind. Brisk isn’t the right word here. The wind bit into our faces and numbed our hands. Pushing cartridges into magazines, carefully manipulating the controls and trigger — were several levels more difficult than usual. So we had plenty of excuses for the American not to do well. But, despite the cold and despite never being cleaned, the Ruger American showed up and delivered. And we just continued shooting.
Ammunition tested included Federal Hydra-Shok 147-gr. JHP, Black Hills 124-gr. JHP and American Eagle Syntech 115-gr. TSJ (Total Synthetic Jacket). The 6-land and groove stainless steel barrel is rated to be used with jacketed or lead ammo right from the factory.
In any case, the Ruger American put its rounds on target — reliably. When we weren’t shooting for groups (tough in this weather!) we moved from side to side and aimed at the handful of steel plates and steel silhouettes available to us. These maneuvers only proved our experience with the other targets — the Ruger American is shooter-friendly and a quick-study.
Groups ran between 1-1/2″ and 3-1/2″ at 25 but we think the blustery wind and freezing temps may have affected things just a bit! We’re looking forward to warmer weather tests with a broader range of ammo, and will let you know what we find out.
As we fired, ejected brass traveled three feet to the right and about one or two feet back. Not one got near head or face. Every round fed, went into battery, fired, and ejected properly. And just for fun, I loaded up one of the Ruger American’s 17-round magazines with 17 rounds of 9mm out of my “random” 9mm ammo box. You know that box — the one where all the stray rounds end up, waiting to be sorted one day. Well, I stuffed a magazine with JHP’s, target loads, brass-cased, steel-cased, and with bullet weights and lengths all over the scale. The Ruger devoured all of them — like it was its duty to do so.
Ruger says they reached deeply into their bag containing specs for a past military pistol bid process while they designed the American Pistol. One of those specs said “Every component must survive 20,000 rounds of firing without the need for replacement or repair.”
So, after the design was finalized Ruger subjected the American to an endurance test. It flew past the 20,000 round mark without a hitch, and Ruger continued to abuse it by firing over 25,000 rounds of NATO-spec 9mm, which operates at near +P pressures. All without fail.
As Ruger says about the American Pistol: “Anything less would be un-American.”
Capacity: 9mm 17+1, .45 ACP 10+1
Weight: 9mm 30 oz, .45 ACP 31.5 oz
Height: 9mm 5.6”, .45 ACP 5.7” Width: 9mm 1.4″, .45 ACP 1.4″
Height: 9mm 5.6″, .45 ACP 5.7″
Length: 9mm 7.5”, .45 ACP 8” Barrel: 9mm 4.2″, .45 ACP 4.5″