Ruger LC380: Surprisingly Unsurprising

First off, I have been remiss in writing this post, and for that I ask your forgiveness. I actually tested out the LC380 nearly a week ago, but between family stuff (Little Brother was in town for a few days) and work, I just never got around to posting about it. Mea culpa.

Anyways, I rented the LC380 during my most recent range trip, and as the post title suggests, the gun surprised me. Not because it blew my socks off, but because it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t dislike the LC380, but I don’t love it either. I liked it. Liked it a lot, actually, but I went into the range expecting to absolutely love it.

Okay, enough meandering. Onto the good stuff.

The Ruger LC380 is a sub-compact semi-automatic pistol chambered, as its name suggests, for the .380 ACP cartridge. It has a single-stack magazine that holds 7 rounds, for a total capacity of 8 rounds in the gun. The pistol weighs 17.2 ounces with an empty magazine, making it just a tenth of an ounce heavier than the LCR .357 I shot the week prior. It is six inches long, four and a half inches tall (with the standard baseplate installed on the magazine) and just a hair under an inch thick in the grip.

The pistol features a manual safety, loaded-chamber indicator, and a magazine disconnect, meaning the gun cannot fire if there is not a magazine in the grip. Some folks might consider those extra safety features deal-breakers, but personally I don’t care one way or another. The manual safety is small and unobtrusive enough that, given the pistol’s double-action-only trigger, you can choose not to use it if you so desire. Likewise, though the loaded-chamber indicator is positioned atop the slide, it does not come up far enough to even come close to interfering with your sight picture.

Speaking of the sights, they are low-profile in design, but they sport standard three-dot markings and are just large and bright enough to be very easy to acquire, even during rapid-fire shooting strings. Night sights are not available from the factory, though as the LC380 is essentially just a re-chambered LC9, aftermarket sights for the LC9 should fit perfectly.

As I said, the gun features a double-action-only trigger mechanism, of a sort, anyways. I say that because it is not a “true” DAO system as I understand them. Working the slide, either through recoil or chambering a round, pre-cocks the hammer, enabling a lighter trigger pull. However, when the hammer is “all the way down,” the trigger will not actuate it, i.e. the gun does not have a second-strike capability. Personally, I think I’d rather have a slightly heavier trigger and a true DAO mechanism, but the lack thereof doesn’t sour the gun for me. I thought going into the shooting session that the gun had a true DAO trigger. I was mistaken. Nothing against the gun at all, I was just ignorant/misinformed going in.

Speaking of the trigger, though the pull is rather long, it is extremely light. Again, I don’t have any way of measuring it, so I can’t give you an exact weight, but it felt much lighter than the LCR’s trigger. The pull was very smooth with a constant pull weight, no stacking or staging whatsoever. It did, however, feel a little ‘numb,’ i.e. didn’t provide much feedback in the way of how much further you had to pull it. But still an excellent trigger nonetheless.

Now, Ruger bills the pistol as “the lightest-recoiling centerfire handgun they’ve ever produced,” and a lot of reviews I’ve read and watched since the gun came out earlier this year claim the recoil is so light it feels like you’re shooting a .22. Now, having fired .22 pistols, I have to say that the LC380 has noticeably more recoil than a .22, but even so… holy smokes! Granted, it’s “only” chambered in .380, but for a polymer-framed, sub-compact defensive handgun, the recoil seems almost impossibly light.  The only pistols I’ve ever fired that have recoil comparable to the LC380’s are the Browning Hi-Power and the Kimber Stainless Target II, but those are full-sized, all-steel 9mms that each weigh over twice as much as the Ruger.

Ruger claims this super-light recoil is the result of the pistol’s Browning-derived locked-breech action and a light recoil spring (much lighter than the LC9, I understand). A by-product of this arrangement is that the slide is very easy to rack, much easier than any other sub-compact pistol I’ve handled so far.  Because of the light recoil and ease of manipulation, I would definitely recommend the LC380 for someone buying their first gun and looking for something that they can easily conceal.

The pistol also features two baseplates for the magazine: a standard flat baseplate and a slightly extended baseplate that features an extended pinky rest, though it does not increase magazine capacity. The rental I fired had the standard baseplate installed, so I was able to get a two-and-a-half finger grip on the pistol. If I were to buy my own and carry it, I think I would install the extended baseplate. Sure, it would sacrifice concealability a bit, but I think the extra controlability would be worth it.

That actually brings me to the one complaint I have with the gun: the magazines. Or, rather, the lack thereof. Ruger, for whatever reason, includes only one magazine with a new LC380. Not one spare magazine, one magazine total. And extra magazines are nigh impossible to find right now. Every online retailer that I’ve checked doesn’t even list LC380 parts and accessories in their catalogs yet. And the LGS I was at had exactly one LC380 magazine in stock. To put that in perspective, they had dozens of LC9, LCP and SR9 magazines. But only one LC380 magazine. Now LC9 magazines should fit in the LC380, but because the 9mm is longer than the .380 ACP, I do not know how well they will feed, if they even feed at all.

However, this problem ultimately stems, in my opinion, from the fact that the LC380 has only been on the market for a few months. Spare magazines should become readily available within a (hopefully) short timeframe.

One last plus in the LC380’s favor: because it is basically a re-chambered LC9, holsters, mag pouches, and accessories (like grip socks and laser sights) for the LC9 will work with the LC380 with absolutely no problems.

Overall, I liked the LC380. Didn’t love it, but liked it. It’s nothing special or groundbreaking (aside from the impossibly-light recoil, of course), but then again it wasn’t intended to be. It was designed to be a sub-compact CCW pistol, and in my opinion it fulfills that role extremely well. In fact, it’s moved to the top of my list of Possible Carry Pieces. Granted, it’s “only” a .380 ACP, but I actually like that because .380 is readily available in my area, whereas 9mm is still nigh impossible to find. And IMO, better a “weak” gun that you can practice with than a “powerful” one that you can’t get ammo for. So that’s definitely a plus.

Until next time, peace.

-Raptor

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