When I began looking at guns, I didn’t really know what to look for. So I read a lot of reviews, a lot of blogs, and a lot of message boards. Then I looked at (and held) a lot of guns. Eventually, I fired a lot of guns. Finally, I settled in on the one gun I had fallen in love with, the Ruger SR9c. It is not the gun for everyone, but it was – and still is – the perfect fit for what I wanted. Let me say this upfront: I love this gun!
As I learned more about guns and experimented with different models, I developed a few factors to guide my selection.
- Reliability. The gun needed to go bang every single time I wanted it to. This is absolutely my top factor. Many guns are perfectly reliable, but a surprising number are not. This was news to me as a new gun shopper.
- Shootability. Ok, maybe I made that word up; I’m not sure. What I mean is a combination of accuracy, fit in the hand, and recoil control. As a newbie, I didn’t want a gun that kicked like a mule because a)that hurts, and b)I had a hard time getting back on target immediately. I also realized I needed a gun that felt comfortable in my hand. It’s like buying shoes. It doesn’t matter how nice the shoes are if they hurt your feet. You need a gun that fits. I also learned that not all guns fire consistently. Of course, not all shooters fire consistently, either; but you want a gun that fires in the same spot if you point it at the same spot.
- Flexibility. This is where I might lose you. Many people are happy buying different guns for different situations. But as I studied guns, I found myself gravitating toward the “one-size-fits-all” type of gun. Powerful, but not overpowering. Small enough for personal defense, but big enough for home defense. Smaller without losing accuracy in short to medium range situations or exhibiting too much recoil. This is a fairly narrow niche, depending on how far you take it.
I have no interest in denigrating the other guns I tried and passed on. Some of them are as good, perhaps even better, than the gun I fell in love with. But the SR9c fit me best. It may or not fit you best, but it has many great qualities that make it an easy gun to love.
In terms of the basics, here are some specs provided by Ruger:
- Fires 9mm Luger ammo (but there is also a .40 caliber model)
- 3.4″ barrel
- 6.85″ overall length
- 1.27″ across (at widest point, but the grip is barely over an inch)
- 4.61`” overall height
- Stainless steel slide (there is also a blued version)
- High performance glass-filled nylon frame
- Double-stack 10-round magazine
- Extended 17-round magazine with grip extension comes with some models and is available for all models
- Weighs 23.4oz
- Ambidextrous thumb safety
- Ambidextrous D-shaped magazine release
- Reversible backstrap
- Integral accessory mounting rail
- Dovetailed, high-visibility 3-dot sights that are adjustable
- Slide serrations to improve grip
- Finger grip extension floorplate and well as flush floorplate
- 1.10″ RH twist
But let’s talk about those qualities that made me fall in love.
Reliability. As I said above, this was my top priority. After putting almost a thousand rounds of all sorts of ammo through it thus far, I am glad to say the Ruger SR9c has never failed to fire when properly handled. I have used some great ammo, some lousy ammo, and many varieties in between. I’ve fired it after a thorough cleaning, and I’ve fired it after neglecting to clean it. It doesn’t matter. The SR9c fires every time, and it fires consistently.
Accuracy. Most guns are more accurate than their owners. But I’ve seen some guns that just seem to be something of an experiment every time you fire, no matter how well you aim. I have fired this gun more than any other, so it makes sense I am more accurate with it now than with any other gun. However, I was immediately more consistent with it the first time I shot it than I was with other guns I had shot more at that time. I am not a particularly good shooter. In fact, recently, I shot my brother’s WWII Remington Rand 1911. The 1911 is a beautiful full-sized .45 ACP that feels great in my hand. But I hit an 8″ paper plate only once out of 14 attempts from just five yards. Sadly, I’m not kidding about that. I love that gun, but I can’t aim it to save my life (not the gun’s fault; that’s all me). OTOH, my groupings with the SR9c are within 2 inches at 7 yards. All ten shots were on the plate at 25 yards (free-hand) with about a 4-inch spread. At 7 yards or below, I often just keep enlarging the same hole. The SR9c is just beautifully consistent. It makes me a much better shooter than I really am.
Grip. The grip on this gun is amazing. It fits my hand perfectly. I’m a 50-year-old male about 5’9″ with medium hands. I tried a lot of guns. This one feels like it was made for my hand. The interesting thing is, I read reviews online from people with small hands who say it fits them perfectly, and then from guys with big hands, who say it fits them perfectly. I don’t know what manner of sorcery is involved, but everyone who has held it tells me it is very comfortable in their hands. It does have a reversible backstrap, so I presume that helps. It feels very nice in the hand and has enough grippiness to help you maintain solid control of the gun.
Recoil. Yes, it is a smallish 9mm, but I’d say the recoil is only about 15% more pronounced than a full-sized 70s era S&W 59. Of all the smaller polymer guns I shot, the SR9c had the lowest felt recoil to me. That helps me get right back on target very quickly. In fact, even when emptying the magazine as quickly as I can, I’m still more accurate with this gun than when I take my time with others.
Appearance. Ok, so this isn’t really a huge factor, but I appreciate that the SR9c is an attractive gun. Mine has the standard black polymer frame with a stainless slide. It’s a good-looking weapon. I’ve seen some reviews call it “sexy.” I think those writers may be overstating, but it is a nice look.
Build Quality. Ruger is made in the USA and has a strong reputation for standing behind their guns. The SR9c is a gun that should give you very little trouble. The frame is glass-filled nylon, which feels and looks very nice. The slide option I chose is stainless steel, but you can also get black. And I don’t think I can overstate how nice the trigger is on this gun, at least in terms of small triggers with safety blades. It also has a dual-spring system for the internals, and this greatly helps control recoil. It has a strong, heavy-duty barrel.
Features. It has a nice, adjustable 3-dot sight system, the option to use a 17-round full-size magazine (same magazine as the SR9 ) with grip extension, pinky extension, ambidextrous thumb safety, mini Picatinny rail, reversible backstrap, d-style ambidextrous magazine release, loaded chamber indicator, and integrated trigger safety. The rear site is adjustable for elevation, and the front site is adjustable for windage.
A few special notes on the features.
- Thumb safety – Many folks seem to dislike the manual safety when it comes to a personal defense (concealed carry) weapon. However, I strongly preferred to have a manual safety. More and more police units are moving back to safeties due to accidental firearm discharges. The safety can, of course, be left in the fire position. Or you can practice and train with it such that you disengage the safety easily every time when you draw the weapon. My only gripe is that I wish the lever for the safety were a little larger. But I’m used to it now, and it’s not a big deal.
- LCI – It seems many folks hate the pop-up loaded chamber indicator. I have no issues with it. I kind of like the fact that I can always tell if a bullet is chambered, especially when letting someone else try it at the range. You can also feel it easily in the dark, if you’re not sure whether the gun is loaded. The LCI does not get in the way when drawing the gun or when aiming the gun, but some people seem to let it play with their minds. It seemed large at first, but I got used to it very quickly; it doesn’t bother me at all, and I even appreciate it.
- Trigger – The trigger on this gun is some kind of wonderful. It is an extremely consistent, responsive, light trigger. I tried many guns. This is a phenomenal stock trigger, especially considering you can buy the gun for less than $450 new. It has a trigger blade safety and a fairly light, short pull before firing. If you are used to a 1911 style trigger or a revolver trigger, you may find the trigger safety annoying; but if you’re used to Glocks, you’ll feel more at home. Regardless, it is wonderfully consistent and helps make the gun a joy to shoot. I should note that since the trigger is so light, you might want to be careful about carrying it without engaging the manual safety.
- Pinky extension – This really takes grip on the gun to a different level when using the 10-round magazine. Very comfortable, and easy to swap out with the flat base.
- Magazine disconnect – I didn’t mention this above, but the gun has a magazine disconnect and will not fire without a magazine, even if there is a round in the chamber. In fact, firing it without a magazine can potentially damage the firing mechanism. Ruger views this as a safety feature. This is the one safety feature I have a serious gripe with. You can easily remove the magazine disconnect, but I have not done so and don’t plan to. I don’t go around shooting the gun without a magazine, anyway, so it’s more of a theoretical issue than practical. Just don’t forget it if you are ever in an emergency situation and have to swap magazines. FWIW, if you tried a demo SR9c and didn’t like how it fired, I’d be almost willing to bet there is a good chance someone pulled the trigger without a magazine and damaged it a little. My gun shoots FAR more cleanly than the demo model I shot in a local store, even though that one shot well enough. I’m guessing a lot of people held it up and pulled the trigger without inserting the magazine because they didn’t know not to.
Flexibility. This was the kicker for me. The gun is just very good at everything, and excellent at several things. Is it a competition shooter? No, not really. But it is very consistent and very accurate up to at least 25 yards. Is it the smallest concealed carry option? No, but it is easily concealed and wears great with an IWB holster. Is it good enough for home defense? Sure, especially if you plug in a 17-round magazine. Even without the bigger magazine, the smaller 10-round magazine is respectable, especially for a compact gun. Does it have a lot of kick? No, for the size, it has very little recoil. This is in part due to the dual-spring recoil system. Is it fun to shoot at the range? Absolutely; it’s a joy to shoot thanks to the combination of consistency, low recoil, comfortable grip, and great trigger.
Now, let me talk about some of my experience with the gun.
The size is such that I can comfortably carry it but also rely on it for home defense, especially if you plug in an extended magazine. When I first put it in my IWB holster, I thought, “Man, this might be too heavy.” I had not carried before. It took a little while and some experimentation with holsters to find the right comfort fit, but since then, it feels fine. For any Glock lovers out there (and I know there are a lot of you), it’s almost exactly the same size as a Glock 19 Gen 4, which, incidentally, was my second favorite compact 9mm to shoot. I also have a pocket holster for it. The gun doesn’t fit in many pockets, but it fits in some. Pocket is not my preferred carry option, so that doesn’t matter to me, but I know some folks are dedicated to pocket carry. It can be done with the SR9c, but I’d consider a smaller gun better suited for pocket carry if I wanted to go that route.
Takedown and cleaning is easy. Lock the slide open. Press down the ejector. Remove the take-down pin. Remove the slide (by slowly pulling it forward). Then, remove the recoil spring and barrel. Reassemble by reversing the steps. Yes, there are easier guns to clean, especially those that don’t force you to remove a take-down pin; but this isn’t hard.
Ruger says the gun has a slide lock, not a slide release. At first, I had to pull the slide back in order to disengage the slide lock. That did not make me happy. But I racked the slide over a 1000 times the first night I had the gun. Within just a few days, the slide lock functioned as a slide release, and I was much happier. More recently, one of the good folks on the Ruger Forum informed me that using the slide lock as a slide release will eventually damage the slide lock. So, now, I’m back to the old slingshot/powerstroke method. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted….
And let me just say again, this gun is fun to shoot! The trigger is light and crisp. The grip fits like it was made for me. The recoil is very light. The gun re-centers and allows me to naturally re-acquire the target nearly instantaneously. The gun chews through every type of ammo I’ve ever tried, and it is remarkably consistent In terns of aim.
A note about 9mm as defensive ammo. I believe 9mm is the sweet spot for defensive ammo now. With modern bullet technology, the 9mm hollow-point ammo is very similar in effect to larger caliber ammo, is more readily available, less expensive, and makes the gun experience less felt recoil. That’s not to say it’s the perfect caliber, and I can certainly see using .380 in smaller guns and .40 even in guns the same size, but 9mm is easier to shoot than .40 in guns that are otherwise the same. And it does 99% of the damage. I would avoid going down to .22, and I don’t see a need to use .45 in a smaller gun (but I see no issues using a full-size .45 for home defense). Just my two cents in case anyone cares.
My list of very minor changes I would suggest for Ruger with the SR9c
- Kill the magazine disconnect
- Use a slightly larger thumb safety
- Use a slightly larger slide lock/release
- Use sights that are more easily swappable (I like the sights, but it would be nice to have a standard cut to more easily swap out for night sights and such)
- Make take-down even easier, like the new Ruger American
- Use a full-sized Picatinny rail, like on the similarly-sized Glock 19
Overall verdict– It’s not perfect. But it is a consistent, reliable, fun compact gun with a superb trigger. The Ruger SR9c has been my top choice for EDC, bedside defense, and range practice for the past year. I feel very good about investing in this gun.
UPDATE 12/25/17 – As much as I love the SR9c, I eventually replaced it as my EDC with a SIG P938. I have a bad back back, and carrying the Ruger became problematic for me, due to its size. However, for most folks, it’s still a terrific all-around gun, and I highly recommend it. I love my little SIG, but I wish I could have continued to carry my SR9c.