Ruger LCP Centerfire Pistol – One Thousand Rounds Later

Terril reviews the Ruger LCP Centerfire Pistol.

Louisiana – -(AmmoLand.com)- The saying goes that “carrying a handgun is not supposed to be comfortable but comforting.” But that isn't the reality for most people.

If you feel the need to have a handgun, I say get the biggest gun you can shoot confidently with. But the truth is that many, if not a majority of gun owners–even amongst first-timers–are turning to pocket pistols for personal defense. Indeed this is a case of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Think of those old TV Westerns. You see nothing but 45 caliber Colts and Smith & Wessons riding in plain view, but the truth is less straightforward. Tiny .22 caliber and .32 caliber pistols were frighteningly common.

Why? Convenience.

People often don't feel the need for a big gun or that a big gun would get in the way of their lifestyle, and many of us are unwilling to change our lifestyle or way of life to carry a gun. Something small and easy to have on you if you need it is the name of the game. It was so back then, and it is so today, except our stereotypical pocket pistols have changed looks. Today, pocket pistols are inevitably tiny auto pistols chambered in 380 ACP. Perhaps the one micro-380 to rule them all is the Ruger LCP.

Ruger LCP Centerfire Pistol

Buy Online Button ClearRuger introduced the Lightweight Compact Pistol in 380 ACP back in 2008–ten years ago, and it has since experienced a series of upgrades including an “improved” LCP II model. Even with that, sales of the original LCP remain consistent, and it is a staple of any well-stocked gun shop. Given my questionable obsession with pocket pistols, it was only a matter of time before I bought one. The desire to test 380 ACP ammunition and the paltry $199 price tag finally made me bite, and I did choose the original LCP over the new LCP II (more on that later).

So, I have a Ruger LCP and lots of ammo. But the LCP has been around for over ten years, and it is still in production. What can I tell you that original reviewers of the gun could not? Maybe something, maybe nothing. After eight months of carrying and one thousand rounds sent down range, I have a few pointers. At the very least, you can call this a referendum on a good design and a wake-up call to the reality of pocket pistols in general.

LCP Features

Ruger LCP Centerfire Pistol
Ruger LCP Centerfire Pistol

The original Ruger LCP has remained mostly unchanged throughout its production run, but the more recent manufatured LCP will have somewhat taller sights and a less distinct magazine release. Overall, there is little to talk about when it comes to the LCP, and its features. Palm-sized and weighing in at only 10.2 ounces fully loaded, the LCP is one of the lightest and most compact handguns you can buy while still retaining the relatively stout punch of the 380 ACP cartridge. The pistol's lightness can be attributed to its polymer frame, and the minimal carbon steel slide, barrel, and internals add very little to the presentation.

The gun frame itself is stippled on the front strap and backstrap as well as the side panels of the grip. On the right side of the grip next to the trigger guard is the magazine release and further north is a miniscule slide-stop and the takedown pin.

That is the features… Done. Well not quite. The gun wears very low profile rear notch and front blade sights milled into the slide. The barrel is short at 2.75 inches, and it interfaces with the slide to lock the gun shut. On firing the barrel cams down to unlock. I am referring to the Browning locked-breech design, and it is getting more common even on small 380s that ordinarily wouldn't need a locked breech to work. The pistol is hammer fired and cycling the slide cocks the hammer partially. A long pull of the trigger finishes the cocking and drops the hammer.

The LCP ships with an inexpensive pocket holster and one six-shot magazine. Overall, a bare-bones gun with a bare-bones presentation.

Disassembly

Ruger LCP Centerfire Pistol Disassembly
Ruger LCP Centerfire Pistol Disassembly

Before shooting any auto pistol, it is a good idea to take the gun apart and clean the factory preservative grease out of it. This factory grease isn't for lubrication but to keep the pistol in good shape for months on end in its cardboard coffin. You will need the end of a pen, a butter knife, or something along those lines to disassemble the LCP. With an unloaded pistol, pull the slide slightly to the rear, tuck the tool under the disassembly pin and pull it out. This action allows you to take off the slide, which disassembles in the usual fashion with the recoil spring, barrel, and slide coming apart in short order. A quick squirt with my favorite 3 in 1 machine oil and I was ready for the range.

Ruger LCP Centerfire Pistol Break Down
Ruger LCP Centerfire Pistol Break Down

On The Range

380 ammo is expensive, and it took me a while (time & money) to burn through one thousand rounds. This was done off and on in at least a dozen range trips over the last eight months. The LCP digested the following ammunition:

  • PPU 94 grain FMJ
  • Remington UMC 95 grain FMJ
  • Tul-Ammo 94 grain steel cased FMJ
  • Barnes 80 grain TAC-PD
  • Sig Sauer V-Crown 90 grain HP
  • Remington Golden Saber 102 grain HP
  • Federal Hydrashock 90 grain HP
  • Federal HST 99 grain HP
  • Speer Gold Dot 90 grain HP
  • Hornady Critical Defense 90 grain FTX
  • Winchester Defender PDX 95 grain HP
  • Hornady American Gunner 90 grain HP

The LCP is a basic point and shoot interface that is easy to understand, but perhaps not so easy to hold onto. The gun ships with one six-shot magazine and included is a pinky rest for comfortable shooting and a flat baseplate to attach to the magazine for ease of carry. Fresh out of the cardboard, I loaded up some of the various magazines  I brought along, some with and without the pinky rest. The mags loaded well without much tightness, even when loading that sixth round but I can see how some people would want a dedicated magazine loader when dealing with small magazines and even smaller ammunition. Slap your loaded magazine into the well and briskly pull the slide back and let go to chamber your first round. The gun is ready to go as there is no manual safety to flick off and on.

The magazine pinky rests did give me a mostly full grip on the pistol as I fired my first shots on paper at ten yards using some Remington FMJs. On the first shot, the pistol jumped sharply. After tightening my grip, I was able to put my remaining five rounds on target without much effort. The sights moved only slightly with each shot and thanks to the top-heavy feel of the LCP's slide the pistol's sights lined up naturally without any thought. I fired my seven shots and squeezed the trigger again. Click. The LCP's slide does not lock open on the last shot. I was pleasantly surprised that all rounds hit the 9-ring just south of the bulls-eye into a respectable two-inch group. For a gun that is not built for target shooting, that is excellent and far more so than other 380 pocket guns I have tried in the past.

Ruger LCP Centerfire Pistol Seven Shot Group
Ruger LCP Centerfire Pistol: A seven shot group posted at ten yards using Remington UMC 95 grain full metal jacket ammunition.

Most of my shooting was done between 7-10  yards, but I did stretch the little pistol out to twenty-five. Here the small sights appear quite large covering up a fair bit of my Shoot-n-See silhouettes. Even so, my rounds reliably made it into the 8-ring. Soon enough I got bored of paper and started plinking at an eight-inch steel plate. I could hit it if I took my time at that distance but I could rapidly hit it as fast as I could squeeze that long trigger all the way back at ten yards.

After four hundred rounds, I gave the pistol a good cleaning and then again at the seven hundred mark. Regular maintenance will undoubtedly help any pistol through a grueling test, but it won't stop everything, and indeed it did not stop the LCP from having issues.

The first issue was caused by me. On occasion when I first got the pistol, I would rack the slide and not let go of it but ride it back into battery with my hand. Inevitably there were a few occasions where a round would not go all the way into the chamber, preventing the gun from firing.  This is an error that is frighteningly common in new shooters, and the LCP is not so forgiving. Racking the slide and letting it go gave no trouble.

In spite of this, the LCP fed both ball ammunition and hollowpoints reliably. That was until the very end when I decided to finally test the steel cased Tul-Ammo. This ammunition fired, but it often failed to cycle resulting in either double feeds of the ammunition or more commonly not going entirely into battery several times per magazine. And yes, this ammunition failed when using multiple magazines. In the end, I finally found something that would kill the LCP but boy was it a long run.

Shooting Impressions

The Ruger LCP exceeded even my most optimistic expectations. Some 380 pistols are sensitive when it comes to feeding hollow point ammunition, but all defensive ammo tested fed like a champ. The pistol ran into bobbles only with the cheapest, roughest stuff you can buy. It powered past grit and plenty of pocket lint going from holster to target. Accuracy was far better than you would give the gun at first glance, but that leads me to my next point.

The LCP's lack of features that make it easy to use also make it hard to shoot.  This pistol was intended for close range self-defense, so little thought was put into sights. They are impossible to disturb and will not snag on the draw, but they are very low and may be hard to see or acquire. I think they are excellent for their intended purpose and I encourage you to use them whenever possible while practicing. You will shoot more accurately which is crucial because you will only have up to seven shots at your disposal. Reloading the gun can be awkward if you are changing magazines with a big hand on that little grip. For me, the small slide and its smart serrations allowed for an excellent grip to rack the slide and chamber a new round. Pressure from the gun's recoil spring is quite light compared to other pocket pistols but I can see how a small slide paired with hands that may be injured or impaired can be an issue for some people–unfortunately some of the very people who choose the LCP as a first or perhaps only gun. Speaking of new shooters, we need to talk about trigger pull and recoil a little more.

The gun's locked breech absorbs a surprising amount of recoil. Unlike some other guns it was never painful to shoot, but had some jump when lacking a full grip–as is the case when using the flat magazine baseplate instead of slipping on that pinky rest. While not an all-day shooter, I could go through one hundred rounds in a session without any soreness or fear of shooting the gun.  That is something I can't say for some small pistols.

What can certainly be a challenge is the gun's trigger pull. Touching the trigger will not set the gun off. The trigger weight on my pistol breaks in at seven and a half pounds. This is not a light trigger, but it is not the heaviest. In fact, I am used to triggers nearly twice that heavy. It takes surprisingly little effort to draw that trigger all the way back until it breaks. This long travel and weight finishes cocking the hammer and fires the gun. The trigger cannot be pulled over and over again to strike a dud round a second time. The slide will have to be drawn back to reset the hammer.  While certainly not a trigger to win matches, the weight and length of pull brings a degree of comfort despite a lack of a manual safety.

Carrying

For months, the LCP has lived in my front pants pocket. The gun's light weight, thin profile, and the inclusion of a decent pocket holster with the purchase allowed me to retire my Smith & Wesson 638 revolver. The pocket holster, by the way, is of decent quality. I won't brag about it but it does its job by covering the trigger guard, breaking up the outline of the pistol, and keeping gunk out of the works. The hook at the end of the holster keeps it in the pocket when the gun is drawn. Even with this free option, there are tons of holster options for the LCP. The pistol would be natural in the waistband or on an ankle rig, but I saw no reason to change things up. This pistol is forgettable whether I am in khakis or jogging pants. There were early complaints about the magazine button being too exposed and easy to depress while in a pocket. Ruger minimized the button, but I recall two incidents where the button became depressed in my pocket. Both times were when I was breaking in new pairs of pants. So it looks my days of skinny jeans, and Starbucks lattes are over.

Ruger LCP Centerfire Pistol Model Madness
Ruger LCP Centerfire Pistol Model Madness

Final Thoughts

The emergence of the Ruger LCP II Pistol with its arguably better grip, sights, and lighter trigger, some have wondered why the original LCP is still in production. The answer is simple. The original works just fine and sometimes it is about saving a few dollars that keep many people from committing to buying a pistol. I actively chose the LCP because I felt I did not need a slide-lock, sandpaper grip, or taller sights.  The LCP already hit the nail on the head, and the heavier longer trigger pull was an asset to me as assurance against accidental discharge while the pistol is in a pocket. I saved a few bucks, sure, but I felt I wasn't losing anything in the process.

Coming in now at the sub $200 mark, the LCP is an attractive option to many, and I challenge anyone to find me a pistol at that price point that has the same build quality and track record. The LCP does filter out to the wrong crowd, first-time gun buyers especially. The LCP is not the easiest gun to shoot well and going for a larger gun before going smaller is a safe bet. At the very least you won't have many problems with the LCP. Those who buy a gun to use as a magic charm will be equally disappointed. It takes some practice to shoot a small 380 well, and some care is needed to maintain the pistol. But as an everyday pistol, the LCP is the one I would go with. It is not the pistol that inspires during confidence building exercises on internet forums. Indeed, no one would brag about owning one. But it still the best pocket pistol on the market today and the ideal candidate for an “always” EDC gun. The gun you can have on you at all times even when you are unable to carry a larger, more capable gun. In every category, the LCP by Ruger delivers when others in its class will inevitably fall short.


About Terril Hebert:Terril Hebert

Terril Hebert is a firearm writer native to south Louisiana. Under his motto-Guns, Never Politics-he tackles firearm and reloading topics both in print and on his Mark3smle YouTube channel, where he got his start. Terril has a soft spot for ballistics testing, pocket pistols, and French rifles. When he is not burning ammo, he is indulging his unhealthy wildlife photography obsession or working on his latest novel. Scourge of God, published in 2017. See more from Terril on youtube under Mark3smle

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    DylanReed CundiffJeremy SteinerJuanOldGringo Recent comment authors
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    Reed Cundiff
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    Reed Cundiff

    Colonel Cooper once noted that most of the folks who competed at IPSC Nationals carried .380s and snubby .38 specials in real life.

    Jeremy Steiner
    Guest
    Jeremy Steiner

    I bought my LCP from the local pawn shop 130 bucks I figured I’d give it a shot. I did do a sweet pea trigger upgrade a really nice slip on rubber grip and swapped out the 6 rd mag with a 10 round mag with that bigger magazine gives me more to hold onto the Trigger action is really good now and I put about a thousand rounds through it I really like it. it’s what I carry on a daily basis And the accuracy on it is dead on.

    OldGringo
    Guest
    OldGringo

    David” Were you shooting steel cased ammo at the time? It is know to be hard to extract and hard on extractors in several of the small guns. I always wipe the steel cases ever so slightly with some lubricant or silicone before it goes n the gun. I do the same thing with 556. Some of the coated cases need that to not cause extractor problems. As I have said in this post I disliked them when they came out and until I found the little custom with the big visible sights, it is a great little gun 100%… Read more »

    David Phillips
    Guest
    David Phillips

    I bought a lcp 380 on 11-19-18 shot it 23 time an the ejector came an hit me.

    Juan
    Guest
    Juan

    Just fired my brand new lcp. At around , round 30 started to fte on every round. After a quick inspection realized the entire ejected was gone!! Going back to rugar. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to trust this gun again. Got it because being in Florida sometimes my Glock 26 is a bit much. Really disappointed .

    Dylan
    Guest
    Dylan

    Bought a brand new lcp and very next day I put maybe 50 rounds through it and the extractor and extractor spring flew out and was gone. I was very disappointed took it back to acadamy sports where I bought it they sent it in to Ruger. Just talked to Ruger they said they replaced the barrel and slide and it’s on the way. Sent it in almost two weeks ago. Hopefully it works better now I can’t wait to find out when I do I’ll update.

    jstert
    Guest
    jstert

    ruger should offer the lcp in 32acp. in 380acp it is too snappy for enough comfortable practice, and with insufficient practice any ccw becomes a worthless ornament. there are alot of women, seniors, etc who would do just fine with a well honed ccw in 32acp.

    OldGringo
    Guest
    OldGringo

    jstert: I humbly disagree. I carried the little 32 Secamp for many years, it weighs more than the lcp and was more “snappy” as you call it. I am 70, you might read my earlier comment about learning to deal with recoil. The only way to learn is to shoot and gloves make all the difference. When you hear people say the 32acp is almost as good as the 380, do not believe it. Remember, these guns have a 2-3 inch barrel. I once shot an armadillo digging under my hot tub with my 32 acp. At 5 feet away… Read more »

    Dave M
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    Dave M

    Have an LCP Custom & absolutely love it. Wanted a second .380 so I tried everything else out there & thought seriously about the Remingtom RM 380 & Taurus Spectrum; absolutely hated the triggers and/or trigger guard design–I shoot year round, including with gloves in the winter (own range). Got another LCP with the Savage Silver Cerakote finish for hot weather. Neither gun has ever malfunctioned with any ammo (never tried Tula, I think it is junk). Next I want the 10th Anniversary Edition. The LCP is a 21st century take on the old west derringers for intended purpose.

    OldGringo
    Guest
    OldGringo

    When they first came out, I fired two of them, and found them lousy, so poor accuracy I would not have one. I have carried handguns over 45 years, in 4 law enforcement agencies, and over 20 military. I have been a CCW instructor since 1996. Wife and have 5 handguns in 380 About 4 years ago, I ran across the LCP Custom, then one with the red trigger, large sights and luminescent front sight. At 50 feet from a weaver stance I can easily shoot 2 inch groups. The first two I shot, probably would not group 12 inches… Read more »

    doyall
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    doyall

    The frame on my LCP cracked after about 1000 rounds. Ruger did replace it but I do not think I will be putting that many rounds through the new one.

    Number Tucson
    Guest
    Number Tucson

    Unfortunately not, according to the current Roster.
    https://www.oag.ca.gov/firearms/certguns
    Not much available in affordable semi-auto pistols for the working person in the tarnished Golden State. You’ll have to find one through a PPT (Private Party Transfer).

    Brad
    Guest
    Brad

    I’ve had my LCP for 5 or 6 years now and still carry it often (though, I replaced it as my main EDC last year with an LC9s). After 3 years of frequently shooting the LCP, I did end up having to replace the recoil spring, but it has always been flawless, otherwise. For both the LCP and LC9s, I do recommend adding a $10 Hogue grip. I put one on both pistols and it was night and day. They aren’t so thick that they impede carrying (pocket or IWB), but add enough that I can quickly get a more… Read more »

    Kristensdad
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    Kristensdad

    I agree absolutely about the hogue grips. They make it easier to get a good grip. Love my lcp’s. Mine and my wife’s pink hogue grip. Yes, there is a bit of recoil especially if you do not have a good grip. Reliable and light.

    USMC 8541
    Guest
    USMC 8541

    I’ve literally carried mine everyday for the last ten years. Either in my front pocket or in my ankle holster while on duty. Before, I retired and had access to a firing range. I tested this little mighty mouse of a gun. I shot heavy leather jackets, ballistic gelatin and expired body armor to see how different ammunition measured up. This LCP ate all the expandable rounds I fed it. Winchester had the best 90 grain results. It penetrated leather jacket’s, heavy coats and did a nice hole into a car door, all at 14 feet. Average F.P.S. of 885.… Read more »

    Michael Melugin
    Guest
    Michael Melugin

    I have a half dozen “carry” guns but the LCP is what ends up on me 95% of the time. If I knew I was going to need a gun I wouldn’t want a pistol and if it had to be a pistol I’d choose my CZ Shadow 2 because I’ve fired it the most recently. But really the chances of me needing a firearm at any given outing is miniscule and the LCP is invisible.

    Paul M Hamilton
    Guest
    Paul M Hamilton

    Are these legal in Ca.

    Colonialgirl
    Guest
    Colonialgirl

    I’ll Stick with my SR9c ; it can hold a 17 round Magazine (kept as a reload ) and it is normally IWB with a 9 round magazine with the “pinkie grip”. It fits my small hand wuite well and has plenty of PUNCH.

    Clark greathouse
    Guest
    Clark greathouse

    Mine blew up and split barrel 4 ways.

    Jaime Martinez
    Guest
    Jaime Martinez

    What model are you talking about?

    Mike
    Guest
    Mike

    I have the lcp and lcp 2 but both of them are safe queens since the Remington RM 380 came along with a slide lock on last round and second strike capability. The RM380 also shoots better then the Ruger. Only drawback is a really long trigger pull, which I corrected w an aftermarket spring set. I have over 500 rounds w no failures. And by the way, both my lcp’s have been sent back to Ruger, one w feed ramp issues and the other was a slide replacement. Shoot the RM380 and get back w me.

    Larry Hasbro
    Guest
    Larry Hasbro

    To each it’s own. I love my LCPII. I trust my life on it. Depend on it. It’s a great pocket protector. Would never be without it.

    Tom Mangan
    Guest
    Tom Mangan

    Completely agree with this article….I purchased an LCP shortly after they came out..( essentially a slightly better kel tec 380 pocket pistol…that Ruger made )…conveinance and comfort are unbeatable…reliability excellent…this pocket pistol …perfectly meets the criteria for what it is…I do not see the need for the upgraded version..that is slightly larger …to me …that is counter to what it was designed for…the original is a great little defensive pocket pistol that gives a person a feeling of comfort knowing that …if needed…they have a firearm on them ….

    Niversen
    Guest
    Niversen

    I find this a little ridiculous. I am sure that the LCP is a very good handgun. I might get one someday; however the statement “Unlike some other guns it was never painful to shoot” is a flat out lie. It is a very bitey pistol and hurts quite a little too shoot. I have experienced as well as comments from many friends.

    My take is its wonderful to carry and will serve you well for protection but don’t plan on enjoying a trip to the range with it.

    Mitchell
    Guest
    Mitchell

    Your friends need a better recoil spring kit then. Mine was harsh on my wrist but when I changed the spring a simple $8 easy replacement when I cleaned the gun made the thing so much more enjoyable.

    Bill-e
    Guest
    Bill-e

    I guess it depends on what you’re used to. I compete with 45’s and I find the LCP II a pleasure to shoot Fiocchi Extrema as well as my cast reloads.

    Mitchell
    Guest
    Mitchell

    Mine loves hard cast rounds. But I also don’t get to use many fmjhp at the indoor ranges so I don’t know if it’s overly picky.

    Gordon Blalock
    Guest
    Gordon Blalock

    I have one with the red dot system. Bore sighted! If the dot is on the target you hit the target at what ever distance. We can talk about ft. Lbs. And penetration later.

    M Reyna
    Guest
    M Reyna

    I have owned the original and now currently have the Lcp ll. I personally prefer the Lcp ll, I can shoot it More accurately than any other pocket pistol I’ve owned. At 10 yards I can keep all shots in the red. At 7 yards it’s a one inch group. Quick draw at 5 & 7 Yard I can hit a man size target every shot. I’m Talking about drawing and shooting in about one second. That is my preferred all day carry weapon. But it does have a big brother that accompanies us When we travel. I’ve been carrying… Read more »

    Dave P
    Guest
    Dave P

    I bought the LCP when it first came out and carried it for years. My experience, and that of several others I know that also owned one, was that it can be very ammo sensitive, especially when closed with slide lock lever. The Hornady Critical Defense (pictured in the article) seemed to be reliable in all of our guns. I moved to the LCP II and never looked back.

    Ansel Hazen
    Guest
    Ansel Hazen

    Good review. The LCP is indeed an ideal candidate for an edc. My preference runs toward full size Steyr automatics but I don’t have the build to cover up something that size in dress clothes. My modified LCP with it’s nylon cordura OWB holster gets pulled out for the occasional fancy affair I can’t talk my way out of. My hands aren’t small and the first time I took the gun out the slide bit me good. Also after about 50 rounds my trigger finger knuckle was pretty beat up. The Hogue grip sleeve and their magazine extender gave me… Read more »