Gun Review: Ruger LCR-22

When Ruger released their LCR unto the world, gun pundits hailed the “Lightweight Compact Revolver” for possessing the world’s best wheelgun trigger. Better than Smith & Wesson’s best? Yup. The LCR’s patent-pending friction-reducing cam creates a positively glassine trigger pull without a hit of sticking or stacking. Added to a polymer housing, aluminum cylinder and stainless steel barrel, the LCR is, was and will be a perfectly practical pocket pistol. As the proud, happy owner of an LCR chambered for .357, I approached the LCR-22 with high hopes . . .

Initial impressions: more of the same. Despite the reduced (as in barely noticeable) recoil of the .22LR round, the LCR-22 comes equipped with the same Hogue Tamer Grip as its larger caliber cousins. The LCR-22′s front sight is a pinned blade; you can swap it out for another style if you please. As you’d expect for a pocket revolver, the LCR-22′s rear is a barrel length channel. Snubbie-loving sharpshooters may beg to differ, but chances are you won’t win any trophies for distance shooting with an LCR-22.

The significant difference between the LCR-22 and the same gun in .38/.357 calibers: weight. The smaller chambered revolver tips the scales at 14.9 ounces, versus 17.10 ounces for models offering more ballistic punch. A lighter weight lightweight gun in a less recoil-generating caliber. What’s not to like?

The design? The LCR’s parts bin aesthetic makes you wonder if Ruger told its designers to do everything possible to deny the LCR the classical elegance of a Smith & Wesson snub-nosed revolver. While I like the LCR’s space age looks, most gun folk reckon the revolver rivals the Chiappa Rhino on the other end of the “uh OK” scale. More troublesome: the $792 LCR-22′s finish is just average. The cylinder arm showed wear after just wiping it down with CLP after my first range session.

Upon unboxing, I noticed two small marks near the firing pin housing (when the cylinder is swung outward). I didn’t think much of it at the time. The extractor shaft was a tad tight into the cylinder. The extractor lacked the smoothness of the LCR .357. When I pushed on the plunger, I could hear a slight grating sound of metal on metal.

You don’t have to hit the range to know that the Ruger LCR-22′s trigger is, in a word, diabolical. While it’s as predictable and creep and grit-free as its bigger brother’s go pedal, contestants on The Biggest Loser start the show with less weight than the LCR-22′s trigger pull. James Bond’s bartender couldn’t pour a drink stiffer than this trigger. It’s so heavy it’s off the charts on a trigger pull gauge. Literally.

Not to belabor the point, but the LCR-22′s trigger pull is heavier than the pull on my Ruger GP100 in .357 Magnum. And that’s saying something. Sure, a .22′s trigger needs more weight to ensure reliable ignition strikes on rimfire ammunition. But this is an LCR; the gun that revolutionized revolver triggers. In this case, not.

A strong wind was kicking-up dust during my first range session with the Ruger LCR-22. Even when I wasn’t shooting the revolver, the wheelgun was collecting a nice layer of sand and grit. Under those conditions, accuracy testing was relatively pointless.

I will simply say that the LCR will shoot to point of aim. If you’re plinking, you can fire away with a reasonable chance of hitting your target. As with any snub-nosed revolver, precision shots require a lot of experience and good technique. As a short-range self-defense weapon, the LCR gets it done.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LgxJPvx2vg

To check the LCR-22′s reliability, I shot 50 rounds (each) of CCI Stingers, Velocitors, Velocitor hollow point and .22LR Shot shells. No problems. Ditto Federal Premium Target Loads and Winchester Super X (Hyperspeed Hollowpoints). When I fired 100 rounds of CCI Mini Mags Solids, I had more than a few “duds.”

The LCR-22′s owner’s manual—well, the insert inside the standard LCR manual—points out that rimfire manufacturers use different types of brass for their cases and various lubricants on their bullets. The company advises LCR-22 owners to avoid ammunition with heavy coatings of bullet lubricants. (Thanks for that.) Ruger has one recommendation for any extraction issues or misfires: clean the weapon.

When the LCR-22 went click instead of bang, I took a small patch and wiped down the frame area by the firing pin and cylinder channel. The problem dissipated; I attributed these misfires as gunk build up.

And then I fired Federal Premium Game-Shok Solids. After a few cylinders, the trigger was almost impossible to pull. I had to use a small ammo box to push/force the plunger to extract the rounds. I didn’t make it through ten rounds.

Firing (or attempting to fire) Hollowpoint CCI Mini Mags led to total lockup. Another frame wipe didn’t solve the problem. I didn’t make it through 16 rounds.

After my range session, I checked the LCR-22 again to see how the finish held up. New marks had appeared. It seems that the starfish shaped ejector was cutting into the frame below the firing pin, causing the marks as the cylinder rotated during firing.

When I rotated the cylinder and tried to lock it back up into the frame on some chambers, the release button would pop out immediately (as it should). On others, the button would take a brief moment to pop back out (maybe half a second). Perhaps the cylinder was not fitted properly to the frame and/or the timing was off.

Other reviewers have recommended the LCR-22 for elderly or less-abled buyers looking as a relatively foolproof (compared to semi-automatic pistols) lower recoil (compared to higher caliber handguns) self-defense firearm. I don’t see it. The LCR-22′s ammo issues are deeply worrying. And there’s no getting around it: the revolver’s off-the-charts trigger pull makes the LCR-22 a no-go for shooters with limited hand strength.

Given LCR-22′s steep price of admission, RF’s identical trigger troubles with the SP-101 in .22, and Ralph’s condemnation of the SR-22′s stiff double-action trigger pull, I believe older or new shooters would be better off with a “regular” .38 caliber LCR—damn the recoil. Either that or a Smith & Wesson Airweight Model 351PD, seven-shot .22 Mag revolver.

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Ruger LCR .22LR
Caliber: .22LR
Magazine capacity: 8 rounds
Materials: Polymer and Stainless Steel
Weight empty: 14.9 oz.
Barrel Length: 1.875”
Overall length: 6.5”
Sights:  Replaceable, Pinned Ramp
Action: Double Action only
Finish: Matte Black, synergistic Hard Coat
Price: $792 retail

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Style  * * * *
A space-age futuristic concept revolver made real. Alternatively, fugly.

Ergonomics (carry)  * * * * *
A lightweight, easily concealed handgun that fits any LCR holster, of which there are many.

Ergonomics (firing)  * *
Heavy trigger pull ruins the gun. The effort required to make the LCR-22 go bang may reflect Ruger’s desire to avoid light primer strikes at any cost, but at $792 (retail) I expect more. Or less.

Reliability  * * *
Fired all types of ammo—save the mini mags and highly lubricated ammo.

Customize This  * *
Laser grips and that’s it. Not a big deal for a snubbie.

Overall Rating  * * *
Its big brothers offer the world’s best revolver trigger. The LCR-22 does not.