The Ruger LCR: A Revolver for the 21st Century

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Here’s What You Need To Remember: The Ruger LCR series of revolvers are small, pow­er­ful hand­guns packed with the latest in tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tions.

One of the most unex­pect­ed sur­pris­es of recent years is the resur­gence in snub-nose, con­cealed-carry revolvers.

Largely dis­placed in the 1980s by a frenzy of inter­est in low-cost, high capac­i­ty 9‑millimeter pis­tols, new inter­est in these short, com­pact revolvers was led in the late-2000s by the Ruger LCR, an entire­ly new revolver design that skill­ful­ly blend­ed steel, alu­minum, and even poly­mer into a very light­weight weapon.

The modern snub-nose revolver era began in the early 1950s, after World War II, with the pro­duc­tion of the Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special Model 36 revolver. Five shot revolvers cham­bered in .38 Special, they were designed for police use and home defense. The small, handy revolver, although not exact­ly fun to shoot, was dis­crete enough to sit in a desk or bed­side table, or in a shoul­der, ankle hol­ster, or even coat pocket. Snub-nose revolvers, as well as revolvers in gen­er­al, were pop­u­lar in the United States and for decades were a large chunk of the hand­gun market.

The rise of poly­mer-framed, high capac­i­ty nine-mil­lime­ter pis­tols, the so-called “Wonder Nines” typ­i­fied by the likes of the Glock 17 was a tec­ton­ic shift in the world of hand­guns. Not only did such hand­guns — which were often as inex­pen­sive or cheap­er than revolvers — gut revolver sales but their scal­a­bil­i­ty led to small­er com­pact and sub­com­pact ver­sions with up to double the mag­a­zine capac­i­ty of a five-shot sub­com­pact revolver. The Glock 26 for exam­ple, weighs exact­ly as much as a Model 36 revolver yet can carry a min­i­mum of ten rounds with a flush mag­a­zine, and con­sid­er­ably more than that if mag­a­zine weight and bulk isn’t an issue.

In recent years sub­com­pact revolvers have start­ed to claw back, their resur­gence led by the Ruger LCR. First intro­duced in 2009, the LCR was a clean-sheet design unlike any revolver Ruger, or any other hand­gun man­u­fac­tur­er for that matter, had ever built before. The orig­i­nal LCR weighed just 13.5 ounces unloaded. It has a 1.87-inch barrel and an over­all length of 6.5 inches. It has a five shot mag­a­zine and can accept both .38 Special and higher pres­sure .38 Special +P rounds.

The LCR achieves its light­weight through a com­bi­na­tion poly­mer and alu­minum frame. The frame is poly­mer in the grip area, where strength is not needed, but 7000-series alu­minum in the barrel and cylin­der hous­ing. The five shot cylin­der is made of stain­less steel for max­i­mum strength but also fluted to save weight. The barrel is also made of stain­less steel.

The LCR does away with the exter­nal hammer, result­ing in a gun with fewer pro­tru­sions that could be caught up on cloth­ing when being drawn. As a result — unlike many revolvers with exter­nal ham­mers — the LCR cannot shoot in single action mode and is double action only.

Traditionally, revolvers have two firing modes: single and double action. In single action mode, the hammer can be cocked back to light­en the trig­ger pull with the sub­se­quent shot. This reduces trig­ger pull weight, trig­ger travel dis­tance, and can make for more accu­rate aimed shots. The down­side is that it dra­mat­i­cal­ly slows down firing, with the hammer need­ing to be cocked back with each shot. In double action mode, a single longer, heav­ier trig­ger pulls both cocks and fires the pistol. Despite the dis­ad­van­tages, a ham­mer­less revolver can be more quick­ly pro­duced in an emer­gency and with more con­fi­dence that it will not be caught up in the user’s under­shirt when being drawn.

One of the best fea­tures of the LCR is the Hogue wrap­around rubber grip. Older snub-nose ham­mer­less hand­guns, such as the Smith & Wesson 442, lack a recoil-insu­lat­ing grip at the top of the back­strap, where the web­bing of the hand comes in con­tact with metal. The com­bi­na­tion of a two inch or less revolver barrel and .38 Special rounds makes for con­sid­er­able felt recoil, quick­ly making the hand­gun uncom­fort­able and even­tu­al­ly painful to shoot. The LCR, on the other hand, has a rubber grip that rides much higher than other snub-nose revolvers, fully pro­tect­ing the user’s hand from the force of recoil and pro­vid­ing for a much more pleas­ant shoot­ing expe­ri­ence.

In the decade since its intro­duc­tion, the Ruger LCR has branched out into sev­er­al cal­ibers and sub­types. From the orig­i­nal .38 Special +P model the LCR is now avail­able in .22 WMR, .22LR, 9 Millimeter, .327 Federal Magnum, and .357 Magnum. (The latter uses a stain­less steel, instead of alu­minum, cylin­der to handle the higher pres­sures of the Magnum round.) The Ruger LCRx series offers the LCR with longer three-inch bar­rels and low-pro­file exter­nal ham­mers, result­ing in a double action/single action revolver.

The Ruger LCR series of revolvers are small, pow­er­ful hand­guns packed with the latest in tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tions. From one hand­gun in 2009 today there are eigh­teen dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions, with dif­fer­ences both cos­met­ic and sub­stan­tive, for a wide vari­ety of gun owners and their needs. The LCR will be on the market for a long time to come.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and nation­al secu­ri­ty writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he co-found­ed the defense and secu­ri­ty blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami. This arti­cle first appeared in November 2019.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

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