The Ruger American Compact 9mm

The compact American version is one full featured handgun that smoothly combines the best of the currently popular features available on duty type pistols all in one package.

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Ruger has come a very long way since its first service type semi-automatic 9mm pistol-the P85. Introduced in 1985, the P-85 featured a traditional Double Action/Single Action trigger and safety system much like that of its competitors, the Smith and Wesson Model 59/659/5906 and the Beretta 92. The P-85's frame was aluminum alloy, while the slide was carbon steel. The major components were investment cast. The later P-89 was a bit more refined and featured stainless steel slide construction.

Even though the overall appearance of the Ruger P series pistols could charitably described by most as "klunky" compared to its competition, the P-89 managed to appear in a starring role in the 1994 hit movie "True Lies".

The P-85 and the later P-89-both of which were the first "issue" handguns used in my police academy-were decent shooters and quite reliable. They made good basic training handguns and home defense handguns, but never became popular as law enforcement duty handguns. Remember that when they were introduced, a shall-issue type concealed carry permitting system did not exist in Ohio, which could have boosted their popularity. The Ruger "P" line of pistols was manufactured until 2013. If you are looking for a solid home defense or carry gun for a reasonable price and find a used P-89 or P-85 in good shape, you may want to give them your consideration.

By 2000 or so Ruger realized that the lifespan of the of the P series guns as a flagship handgun-even with later enhancements-was drawing to a close, and that striker fired duty type handguns were the wave of the future. In 2007 the striker fired trigger safety SR series of pistols was introduced, the first of which was the SR9 in-you guessed it-9mm caliber. Later versions were introduced in .40 and .45 ACP calibers.

The SR series of pistols are fine handguns. Very trim for a double stack handgun, the SR's were targeted at the law enforcement community for backup or concealed carry as well as the civilian concealed carry market, which by the time the SR was introduced was thriving in Ohio. For whatever reasons, the SR pistols, like the P series guns, never made major inroads into the law enforcement duty market. However it has found favor as an off-duty handgun in the "C" or compact version.

Ruger continued to improve their defensive handgun line even further and has worked to develop a new striker fired pistol that could be a top choice for uniform duty carry, off-duty carry, and civilian home defense or concealed carry. This time I think they have achieved their goals in the new Ruger American pistol series.

Ruger sent me a sample of the compact American in 9mm. I had previously fired the full size version at a writer's conference last September and really liked it. I wanted to get the feel for the American as a civilian concealed carry piece or off-duty law enforcement gun.

The compact American version is one full featured handgun that smoothly combines the best of the currently popular features available on duty type pistols all in one package.

When I pulled the compact American from its plastic hard case, I noted its strong resemblance to new HK VP9, which gives the American a capable, all business appearance. The good news about the Ruger American is that form follows function-it performs as good as it looks.

The American Pistol has a polymer frame like nearly all of today's striker fired handguns that is topped with a stainless steel, black Nitride finished slide for extreme corrosion resistance. Riding atop the slide are genuine Novak Low-Mount three-dot fixed combat sights. The slide has rear cocking serrations-there are none up front-which is what I prefer in a combat handgun. The Nitride coated stainless steel barrel measures 3.55 inches in length, which is a good compact length, yet still long enough to take advantage of the velocity capabilities of the 9mm cartridge.

The frame has a built in Picatinny rail up front for mounting lights and accessories. The trigger guard is curved with enough room for a gloved finger while the trigger safety is a lever style similar to that of Glock. While the Professional model has no manual safety, an ambidextrous manual safety is found on the standard model, for those who wish for extra security.

Speaking of ambidextrous, the American features an ambidextrous magazine release-a real one-with buttons on the left and right side of the frame. There is nothing to change or switch-it is ready to rock right out of the box. The slide release is prominent, easily reached AND ambidextrous. The only non-ambidextrous control is the takedown lever, located on the left side of the frame.

The trigger is likely the best I've felt to date on a striker fired gun. There is approximately one half inch of "forgiveness" takeup slack before the release begins-which is crisp and precise. This combined with the 28 ounce weight, low bore axis, and light recoil of the 9mm cartridge make for accurate shooting, even with the shorter grip frame.

To custom "tailor" the Ruger American to the individual shooter, two modular palm swell/back straps are included. The American comes with the medium swell installed. The small and large size swells are included in the box. The medium size swell fit me perfectly. The front and back straps of the American are checkered, and the sides of the swell are textured for sure grip, making the American very comfortable and controllable.

I tested the Ruger American at my police departments range at Village of Baltimore along with Lieutenant Jason Harget and Officer Andrew Patten, in order to get their impressions-and their impressions were excellent. Palm sized groups fired at 30 feet, two hand standing were easily achieved using a variety of loads from Hornady, Wilson Combat, and Sig Sauer. The gun was fired straight from the box and there zero malfunctions. Both officers gave the Ruger American high marks in all areas, and would be perfectly comfortable carrying the American as a duty or off-duty handgun.

The Ruger American Compact comes with two Teflon coated stainless steel magazines which loaded very smoothly-a compact 12 rounder with finger extension and a full size 16 rounder. A polymer sleeve is included to cover the gap between the base of the grip frame and the extra length of exposed 16 round magazine. For concealed carry, I would load the American with the 12 round magazine, keeping the 16 rounder as the reload.