Gun Test: Ruger Security-9 Pistol
By Daniel T. McElrath, Shooting Illustrated
A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, a Ruger Security-9 in every holster?
Yeah, we know; we just mixed FDR with Herbert Hoover. But the affordable functionality of the new Ruger Security-9 may just allow it to perform like a universal personal protection safety net—a simple, easily operated semi-automatic pistol of adequate chambering that just about anyone can afford. It works as a concealed-carry piece, a woods gun or a home-defense pistol and probably fits 90 percent of adult hands, yet offers 15+1 rounds of firepower.
Perhaps it would be more proper to reference Henry Ford since he came pretty close to making sure the car in most garages was a Model T. He did that by making it uncomplicated, practical and low-cost. Then again, the millennials reading this probably think Henry Ford is that old guy who played Han Solo, so enough with the historical allusions.
The point is that Ruger has unveiled something in the Ruger Security-9 that many new guns aspire to be—an Everyman (and woman) gun. In this age of individuality and specialization, the idea of an all-purpose handgun that in terms of basic function and firepower will put the owner on par with any adversary he/she is likely to encounter has great appeal.
The Ruger Security-9’s MSRP of $379 trumps virtually any potential shortcoming short of malfunctioning. That price tag makes the Security-9 tough to argue against, but, you know what? The Security-9 doesn’t really need to play the price card. In most respects, its existence is validated by its competence alone.
The Surety of Security
For those who came of age after the era of the wheelgun, Ruger’s first double-action revolver was called the Security-Six and chambered in .357 Mag. Thickly constructed of investment-cast steel, it held six rounds, was simple to disassemble, sturdy and reliable, and proved a big hit with both law enforcement and civilians. It was also affordable.
Resurrecting the “Security” name is meant, I’m sure, to evoke the virtues of the Security-Six revolver and establish the new gun in the consumer consciousness as a basic, reliable and easy-to-own semi-automatic pistol. While the Security-9 incorporates established, proven features, it is not on the cutting edge of design. It is not intended to wow, but to comfort.
The Ruger Security-9 is a polymer-frame, double-action-only (DAO) pistol, but it’s not striker-fired, though we now tend to think of all those terms going together. This new pistol has an actual hammer. Called “Sure Action” by the company, the fire control is derived from Ruger’s LCP system, which likewise incorporates a hammer. The system is featured in both this and the LCP II. I’d speculate that by using a known and established system rather than dedicating resources to unneeded research and design helped keep costs—and the subsequent price—low.
The chassis itself is made of hard-coat anodized aluminum and includes full-length rails. The chassis sits in a slim but tough frame fabricated from glass-filled nylon. Both the slide and barrel are constructed of through-hardened steel. That means that, rather than merely hardening the surface while leaving the interior relatively soft, the steel is hardened all the way through.
The single best thing, other than price, about the Ruger Security-9 may be its size. Speaking for myself, this pistol fits my hand almost ideally. There is just enough space on the grip for all of my fingers. The barrel is the right compromise length for concealability, steadiness, quick handling, sight radius and muzzle velocity. Moreover, I believe this is the narrowest double-stack 9 mm pistol I have handled. You can be forgiven for double-checking to make sure it’s not a single-column gun the first time you pick it up. I did.
This may be the perfect size for a belt-carried concealment pistol. It requires no more effort to conceal than a much smaller, less-powerful pistol, yet offers the firepower and shootability of a much larger gun.
Ruger Security-9 Controls
Taking a look at the controls, the sights immediately come in for comment. They are plastic. Moreover, they lack the ledge design that some insist is crucial on a carry gun. While many will roll their eyes or cluck their tongues over plastic sights, remember, this is a polymer-frame gun. If polymer is good enough for the frame…Also, while lacking the ledge essential for racking the slide during a one-hand reload, the Ruger Security-9’s sights are contoured to be snag-free. At the risk of irking armchair commandoes everywhere, which do you think is a greater, more reasonable concern: not snagging your garment on the draw or being able to rack the slide with one hand if you have to reload your 15-shot pistol should one hand become disabled and you happen to be carrying a spare mag?
Both the front and rear sight are dovetailed into the slide, but only the rear sight, held in position with tension and a setscrew, is drift-adjustable for windage. The sight picture is formed by a white-outline rear notch and a dot-adorned front post. Some pooh-pooh this sight picture, as it’s not overly precise. Though not my favorite, I nonetheless like it because it’s very fast while being adequately precise at typical engagement ranges.
Incorporated into the Ruger Security-9 is a thumb safety. It is tiny. Its mere size suggests it’s an afterthought. Most people purchasing a DAO pistol will typically be looking for one without a manual safety. However, some consumers—especially first-time buyers—like having an added safety. Instead of going to the expense of offering multiple SKUs, Ruger has included a safety that is so small that the former group can pretty well ignore it while the latter gets what it wants, too. The safety is easier to disengage than it looks, but putting the pistol on “safe” requires a bit of dexterity.
The slide-lock lever release is likewise diminutive. It is generally accepted these days that coming over top of the slide with four fingers is the best way to manipulate the slide, and that’s really true of the Ruger Security-9. You’ll likely have to reposition your hand and/or apply a heck of a lot of pressure to the little lever to cause it to release the slide. The slide of the hammer-fired Security-9 is claimed to be easier to rack than similar striker-fired pistols. Three female staffers were asked to manually lock the slide of the pistol, then release it. All were able to do it.
A value-priced gun typically has a very short list of positive features. Not so with the Security-9. There are front cocking serrations. A cut-out at the rear of the barrel hood serves as a loaded-chamber indicator. There is an integral rail below the dustcover for attaching a light and/or laser. The grip surface, including the side panels, frontstrap and backstrap, includes fine stippling, maybe too fine. It works, but could actually be a little rougher for even better purchase. On the other hand, it didn’t snag cover clothing during practice draws.
Finally, the Ruger Security-9 offers a simple manual-of-arms, including nearly idiot-proof disassembly. All you do is remove magazine, ensure clear, then very slightly retract the slide of the unloaded pistol, pop the takedown pin with a flat screwdriver, then slip off the slide, compress and pull out the captive recoil spring, then lift out the barrel. That’s it. Note the process does not require a trigger pull.
OK, so where did Ruger cut corners? Well, as mentioned, the company made the Security-9 a one-size-fits-all proposition as much as possible. The controls aren’t ambidextrous. Also, there are no interchangeable backstraps or palm swells for customizing the grip. Further, the barrel is not nitro-carburized, nor is the slide coated with the latest and greatest high-performance treatment in the hue of your choice. Both are blued—you know, the way guns were for about 150 years.
Trigger Time With the Ruger Security-9
The Security-9 is surprisingly easy to shoot, due mostly to its size and simplicity. While the grip angle seems more vertical than some other pistols, the gun holds level when held with a straight wrist. The grip is narrow enough to give a sense of total control over the pistol, but there is sufficient room for the support hand (for most shooters). It clears a holster quickly, comes up on target easily with a fast-to-acquire sight picture and swings nimbly between multiple targets.
We experienced one failure to extract, but that was the only reliability hiccup, and we provoked that only by mixing different brands of ammunition in different weights and pressures (standard and +P) in the same magazine.
While not great, trigger pull wasn’t awful, either and sort of good for this Ruger Security-9’s intended use. Light initial pressure collapses the safety blade within the trigger face, then additional pressure takes up about a quarter-inch of slack, followed by a moderate heaviness that continues until the break. The pull weight is not excessive (6 pounds), nor does it stack. It is substantive but predictable in a way that’s bad for target shooting, but good in a self-defense gun. There is a fixed trigger stop in the lower rear of the trigger guard, but in practice the trigger stopped before ever reaching it.
Playing the Price
Accuracy? Well, did I mention the gun retails for $379? That fact, which quashes all objections, finally needs to be applied when it comes to the gun’s accuracy. Truth be told, the Ruger Security-9 shoots to its price point. You’re not going to get bullseye accuracy (or anything close to it) at that price. But do you really need to? I’ve successfully engaged metallic targets with an iron-sighted Republic Forge pistol at 225 yards, but—though I’d love to—I don’t own one. Nor do I own a Mercedes Benz automobile or a Breitling watch. But you bet I could afford a Security-9 and would happily carry it if my circumstances demanded.
Most self-defense engagements take place at conversational distance. At 10 yards, the Security-9 will get it done. Beyond that, groups open rapidly, though not as much as numbers might indicate. As often happens with semi-automatics, the Ruger Security-9 puts the first, manually chambered round in a different zip code from the rest of the group. A few times that turned a 2-inch group into a 5-inch group.
It’s tempting to toss out that manually chambered round, but the last time I checked, they don’t give Mulligans in gunfights. Moreover, one shot may be all you’ll get.
The difference seemed more pronounced with certain loads. Experimenting might help you identify an ammunition that minimizes the tendency. Also, you may want to get in the habit of double-tapping, which can be a good idea with any defensive handgun.
That aside, the Ruger Security-9 is a pretty handy pistol. Its size is perfect for a lot of people who choose to carry concealed. It’s slim and ergonomic, yet capacious. It’s snag-resistant and quick to get on target. It’s got a decent trigger for its intended role and, well, it’s got that miniscule $379 price tag.
Has Ruger created the ultimate “people’s gun”? Probably not. No one will, as Americans resist conformity, especially in something as deeply personal as an EDC gun. What it has done, though, is lowered the barrier for those desiring an affordable pistol that’s fundamentally competitive with others in the marketplace in terms of firepower, reliability, portability and ease of use. It’s a good first personal protection piece or fine for someone desiring basic protection but who just really isn’t into guns beyond that.
Neither is a market to be overlooked and Ruger can look forward to selling many thousand units of the Security-9, for just as there is security in numbers, there are numbers in Security.