Gun Review: Ruger LC9 and Versacarry Holster

Note:  Those of you familiar with my writing will detect immediately that the following review isn’t my own work. Instead, this guest review is written by Tony, a law enforcement professional with decades of first-hand firearm experience both at home and abroad. Like Top Gear’s nameless F1 driver The Stig, Tony’s day job requires that he remain otherwise nameless. Some say his blood pressure is measured in copper units of pressure instead of mmHg, and that his duties once required him to wear a fully-automatic Skorpion machine pistol in a shoulder holster. All we can say is, he’s called Tony. You may also know him as the author of the classic Internet text file ‘Loads 2.0‘, the authoritative guide to the defensive ammunition of the mid-1990s.  A good deal of what I know about guns, I’ve learned from him…

Review:

I am pretty conventional when it comes to my handgun concealed-carry methods. In over twenty years of carrying concealed handguns, I have tried just about every carry mode known: belt, paddle and inside-the-pants holsters on my strongside, small-of-the-back, and crossdraw; shoulder holsters of the vertical (Bianchi X15 and 17), horizontal (Galco Miami Classic), and upside-down variety (Bianchi 9R, Ken Null SKR); pocket carry with or without a holster; weakside ankle carry (Galco Ankle Glove) and calf carry (Bianchi 11); briefcase and day planner carry; fanny packs; bellyband and chest (Kangaroo Carry); dedicated holster undershirts from Kramer and 5.11 Tactical, even silly weirdness like a belt with an integral slot holster, the Clipdraw, and a snap-on Kydex trigger guard cover for my Glock pistols (the GlockTech MIC).

Part of the reason I am so conventional (i.e. I strongly favor strong-side carry, either on a stiff gun belt or inside the pants) is that the unconventional stuff just does not work well. I want secure carry, the ability to get a proper firing grip on the pistol before the draw, and a smooth, fast presentation. I also want the handgun in a defensible position and the ability to both draw and holster the handgun using only one hand.

Lastly, of course, I want all-day carrying comfort and good concealment. For me, as for most men, a quality strong-side holster on a properly reinforced gun belt is the best way to go. This is particularly true since I generally carry Glock pistols, which really need a well-designed holster that covers the trigger guard for safe carry.

Sometimes, however, I cannot carry a Glock on my belt, especially on very hot summer days when I may be walking around in shirt sleeves with no cover garment. In the past, I generally handled these situations by carrying a shrouded-hammer S&W Airweight .38 Special revolver in my front pants pocket. This worked very well, and I highly recommend the shrouded or concealed hammer S&W Airweight J-frame revolvers (i.e. the alloy-framed Bodyguard and Centennial series) for pocket and ankle carry. The problem wasn’t the carry mode.

The problem was the handgun itself. While excellent for their intended role – deep concealment – I was limited to five rounds in a heavy-kicking weapon not known for its accuracy, with slow, fumble-prone reloads.

The new breed of mini-9mm pistols intrigued me, and for some time I considered a Kahr PM9. This a tiny, 3″ barrel polymer-frame 9mm pistol with a six-round magazine. I was close to buying one, then I had the opportunity to shoot a PM9 belonging to an officer in a nearby agency. The pistol was remarkably light and compact and shot very well for its size, but the lack of a manual safety really killed the deal for me (he also reported reliability problems).

The Kahr PM9 has a smooth, Glock-like trigger pull, but it really must be carried in a trigger-covering holster to be safe. I wanted a handgun that I could safely carry “naked” in a front pants pocket. Yes, there are many front-pocket holsters on the market, but they are all too bulky for my needs (I own seven pocket holsters from six holster makers; I know whereof I speak). I wanted a lightweight handgun suitable for holster-less front pocket pants carry, like my S&W Airweight, but more powerful, and easier to shoot – and reload – than that five-shot .38 snubnose revolver.

I found my ideal front pants pocket carry handgun in the Ruger LC9. Introduced this year, the LC9 is a lightweight, eight-shot (7+1) double-action-only polymer-framed ultra-compact pistol chambered for 9x19mm and 9x19mm +P cartridges. It features excellent white dot sights and faultless reliability with jacketed hollowpoint ammunition.

The seven round magazines are high-quality MecGar units fitted with flat or finger-rest floorplates (I typically carry my LC9 with a flat floorplate magazine for better concealment, and my spare mag has the finger-rest floorplate for more secure manipulation when reloading). While certainly no target pistol, I shoot my LC9 pistol much better than I ever shot my .38 snubnose revolvers, and its much greater muzzle energy, better recoil control, larger cartridge capacity, and ease of reloading mean the LC9 completely outclasses the .38 Special snubnose revolvers I long carried for deep concealment.

To put it simply, judged against a larger belt-carry pistol like the Glock, SIG P226/P229, H&K Compact, Ruger SR9c et cet., the Ruger LC9 loses. Compared against its true competition, however – pocket pistols like the S&W J-fame revolvers, .380 ACP autos, et cet: the Ruger LC9 wins – hands down. This is a true pocket pistol that shoots better, and has much more power, than other pocket pistols.

I carry my Ruger LC9 9mm pistol in my front pants pocket, safety catch on, with the flat floorplate magazine, loaded with eight rounds of Hornady “Critical Defense” 115 grain jacketed hollowpoints. The pistol is fitted with the Crimson Trace Laserguard sight (LG-431) zeroed at 50 feet. I carry one spare magazine with the finger-rest floorplate on my weakside hip, behind my cellphone, in a leather clip-on mag carrier. In one second I can draw and fire the pistol into the head of an IPSC target at 20 feet 95% of the time. Yes, the Crimson Trace laser sight helps.

All that being said, I don’t always carry my Ruger LC9 in my front pants pocket. There are times I prefer to carry the pistol inside the waistband. Front pants pocket carry is great for deep concealment, but not so great otherwise. It’s slower and not as conducive to obtaining a proper firing grip as belt carry, and a huge problem if you are sitting down when the need for the handgun arises. Thus I sought a good inside-the-pants holster that could accommodate my LC9 with the Laserguard, and found few options on the market.

An eBay search revealed a few small-maker Comp-Tac Minotaur MTAC-type holsters for the LC9 Laserguard , which I strongly considered. But these holsters seemed larger and bulkier than what I wanted. I already own a Comp-Tac Minotaur MTAC holster for my .40 S&W caliber Glock pistols, and the LC9 Laserguard in such a holster is not appreciably smaller, easier to carry, nor easier to don and doff than my Glock 27 in the same holster. I wanted something with minimal bulk that could be easily slipped in and out of my waistband while seated in my car (a small two-seater sports car), and the Comp-Tac holsters – while truly excellent and a great favorite of mine – do not meet this criterion.

 

Further Internet research brought me to the Versacarry, an odd-looking Kydex clip with a muzzle plug.  (Check it out at https://www.versacarry.com/)

I figured, what the heck, for $24 I will give it a try. Viewing the handy size chart, I ordered the XS size to get the highest ride height and thus the best possible firing grip on my LC9. View the LC9 photographs on the size chart, and you will see how the LC9 looks carried in my belt. Versacarry also offers some helpful videos you should watch if you are interested.

To put it simply, I am quite pleased with my Versacarry XS for my Ruger LC9 Laserguard 9mm pistol. The Versacarry works as advertised. It is safe, solid, secure, low profile, and – most important for me – the absolute lowest-bulk carrying option available (short of shoving the pistol in my belt, Mexican-style, which I refuse to do).

I have carried my LC9 for long hours, including some vigorous exercise, and it has never shifted nor loosened its grip on my pistol or belt (not true for a related carry method, the Clipdraw – I have had Clipdraw equipped pistols and snubnose revolvers work themselves up and out of my waistband, dumping the handguns on the ground. I will never use a Clipdraw again). The Versacarry is ambidextrous, so it works for strong-side carry, cross draw, and even the small-of-the-back carry some men favor (I do not).

The clever Versacarry design allows for any underbarrel accessories – in my case, a Crimson Trace Laserguard. But some may carry white lights or light-laser combos, and the Versacarry accommodates those, too. No metal touches the handgun, so there are no wear issues. The Versacarry is small, low-profile, and rather innocuous-looking. I keep one in the right-side door pocket of my car and have no fear any passenger will ask “why do you have a pistol holster in your car?” The Versacarry looks like an iPod or cell phone carrier or something equally innocent. No-one would take it for a pistol holster.

All gun-carrying choices involve trade-offs, of course, so what are the drawbacks of the Versacarry? There are only three: two quite minor, one major.

Drawback #1 (minor)

The Versacarry leaves the handgun almost entirely exposed, so there is no protection for the firearm’s finish from your sweat and dust. This means nothing to me, as my LC9 rides between my belt and trousers (on the outside) and my shirt and underwear (on the inside). Thus my sweaty skin never contacts the LC9. If, on some odd occasion, I was wearing the LC9 next to my skin, I still would not worry. I keep a Hoppe’s Gun & Reel Silicone Cleaning Cloth in my desk drawer and just wipe the LC9′s blued steel slide once in a while. Works like a charm, and never a rust concern.

Some might worry that the firearm’s safety catch – being wholly exposed – might work itself from “safe” to “fire” without your knowing it. All I can say is: that has never once happened with my LC9 in all my months of carry. The Ruger LC9 safety catch was specifically designed to be easily swiped from “safe” to “fire” by the shooter’s right thumb, but my waist flab has been unable to accomplish that task.

Drawback #2 (minor)

Since the LC9 pistol rides pressed directly into my right side, it does not present the ideal positioning for a firm firing grip. This is true for all inside-the-waistband holsters, however. If you want maximum concealment, you have to give up something. Also, one-handed re-holstering is impossible, it takes two hands. You have to remove the Versacarry from your waistband, snap-insert it to the pistol, and then place the pistol (with its installed Versacarry clip) back into your waistband. This is not a big deal for me, since I would not be returning the LC9 pistol to the Versacarry. I would simply make sure the safety catch was engaged, and then put the pistol in my right-hand trouser pocket.

Drawback #3 (major)

The Versacarry is only suitable for pistols that have a manual safety catch. Since the trigger is completely exposed, it is possible that something could enter the trigger guard and discharge the pistol. I would never carry a Glock with a loaded chamber with the Versacarry, for example. Since defensive concealed carry pistols are always properly carried with a loaded chamber, that means the Versacarry is not suitable for many popular pistols like the Glock, Kahr, SIG/Sauer, Ruger LCP, KelTec PF9, et cet.

I carry my LC9 with a fully loaded magazine and a loaded chamber, and the safety catch set to “safe.” You could, of course, carry your no-safety-catch pistol in the Versacarry with an empty chamber – that is what Versacarry recommends – and then draw and rack the slide “Israeli-style” when trouble threatens. But that method assumes you will have two hands free to ready your weapon for firing. That assumption does not always comport with reality.

In my experience, if you are going to need a defensive handgun, you are going to need it really quickly at very short range, and your weak hand may be busy fending off the attacker while your strong hand draws your sidearm. Empty chamber carry will do you no good in this common scenario. Empty chamber carry assumes you will have (a) adequate forewarning of the danger, and (b) enough time and distance from the assailant to draw and rack the slide of your pistol. You might…but I doubt it.

In sum, I very much like the Versacarry and recommend it for anyone seeking a minimal-bulk inside-the-waistband concealed carry method for a pistol with a manual safety catch. The Versacarry is particularly useful for anyone who carries a pistol with underbarrel accessories and/or need to put on or take off a sidearm multiple times a day in confined spaces (like a car) due to job requirements e.g. entering secured facilities like courthouses, jails, prisons. I have such a job, and such a pistol, and the Versacarry works very well for me.

Whenever possible, I carry a .40 caliber Glock pistol in a secure belt holster. But when that isn’t an option, I carry a Ruger LC9 Laserguard in my pocket or with a Versacarry, and I have full confidence in my choice.

P.S. If you think my concern about trigger guard intrusion accidental discharge is silly or far-fetched, you should read this news article about an experienced, highly-trained SWAT police officer who was shot by his own .40 caliber Glock 22 pistol. There have been multiple cases like this: just ask Plaxico Burress.