Researching the web, it seems the Ruger American Pistol‘s not exactly a hit with some YouTube gun reviewers. After a weekend spent shooting several hundred rounds through Ruger’s new striker-fired handgun, I believe the RAP’s getting a bum rap. . .
I put the first hundred rounds plus twenty accuracy testing rounds through the RAP at Sharp Shooting Indoor Range & Gun Shop, which has a few more in stock and one in the rental case. It ran like a top and chewed up the 10-ring. Strong hand, weak hand, both hands, no matter. That said, I’m not a big fan of standing still and shooting at paper indoors. So I spent Sunday in the woods. Unfortunately, it was around 11° F when I arrived that morning with about 16″ of snow on the ground.
This was rough on function. My function, that is. My gloved yet numb hands dropped the RAP in the snow twice. I literally shook it off, then the pistol figuratively shook it off. The RAP’s metal components were near freezing temperature much of the day, but the gun didn’t care. While this is far from a proper torture test, I’ve had plenty of firearms refuse to function in these conditions. Often it’s due to the manufacturer’s use of a lube that thickens when it’s really cold. The RAP shipped nearly dry, and I ran it as it came.
You can run the Ruger American Pistol almost dry — the owner’s manual suggests only four drops on the whole shebang. That’s down to the company’s extensive use of modern metal treatments. The RAP’s stainless steel slide, chassis and trigger are all nitrided. Most of the other stainless steel parts (e.g., fire control group, barrel, trigger bar, magazines, springs, etc.) are Nickel-Teflon plated. Ruger probably chose the slick coating after it became the solution to sand-induced M9 Beretta magazine failures that the military suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assuming – as one does – that the American could be Ruger’s bid for the Army’s new Modular Handgun System contract. . .
The RAP’s removable chassis is one of its best features. Like the SIG P250 and P320, the Beretta Nano, Pico, and upcoming APX, the American’s grip frame isn’t the serialized part. It isn’t a “firearm” per the ATF’s definition of the term. The “firearm” is the serialized, stainless steel chassis insert.
While the other pistols I mentioned have a removable chassis made from a stamped piece of steel, the RAP’s is milled from billet. It has long slide rails instead of a nub at each corner. It’s rock solid – one reason the RAP is extended-use +P rated – and the machining and finish are excellent.
As stout as the chassis is, the fire control group’s complicated nature gives me concern about long-term durability and reliable function in adverse conditions (dirty, muddy, etc). Ruger produced most of those parts by metal injection molding. That doesn’t bother me for this use, but there are those who look down their nose at the process.
Speaking of noses, the American comes complete with a mil-standard Picatinny 1913 accessory rail with four slots. Also unlike most other Ruger pistols (the SR series, for instance) the Ruger American Pistol has no manual safety and no magazine disconnect safety.
The Ruger American Pistol’s trigger has attracted a lot of attention. On the positive side, it’s an actual, metal trigger shoe with a pleasing shape. On the not-so-positive side, Ruger opted for the ever-so-popular GLOCK-style trigger blade “safety.” In so doing Ruger repeated exactly what I hate about these doohickeys: the safety blade doesn’t stop flush with the trigger face.
The RAP’s trigger safety blade rotates well beyond the face of the trigger shoe. Whereas a GLOCK’s blade bothers some shooters because it doesn’t depress far enough, this one has the opposite problem. I have to say this is worse; it feels like you’re pulling on a skeletonized trigger. The two resulting edges are uncomfortable.
This is the RAP’s only ergonomic sore point (so to speak). The Ruger American Pistol’s grip circumference, shape, angle, and texturing are all perfectly judged. Thanks to swappable, wrap-around grip panels, grip size — rear “hump” as well as palm swells — and trigger reach can be modified to better fit almost any shooter’s hand and preference.
The 9×19 RAP comes with small, medium, and large grip panels, while the .45 ACP comes with only medium and large. That said, medium on the RAP is small on most other pistols.
Ruger integrated a lanyard loop into the grip frame, accessible through a notch in the bottom of the grip panels.
The slide stop is mirrored on both sides, and the magazine release is fully ambidextrous as well. The flared section at the rear of the trigger guard encourages a comfortable, high grip.
The RAP only has slide serrations at the pistol’s rear, defying the current fashion for both front and rear serrations in modern “fighting” guns. The cross hatching on the serrations are more than an aesthetic flourish; the large number of edges and angles are both extremely grippy and easy on the hands.
At the cost of complicating the fire control group, Ruger designed the RAP so it can be field stripped without pulling the trigger. The field stripping process is fairly standard: lock the slide to the rear, flip the takedown lever clockwise until it stops, then release the slide and pull it off the front of the frame. You can’t rotate the takedown lever into the disassembly position when a magazine’s inserted in the frame. You can’t insert a magazine if the takedown lever is already in the disassembly position.
The Ruger American’s flat-wire recoil spring is captured on a steel guide rod. Under the slide is a Steyr-like, skeletonized feed strip. Ruger touts the American’s new “Recoil-Reducing Barrel Cam.” Of course, I have no way of knowing what the Ruger American pistol would feel like with a “standard” barrel cam design. But I can say that the unlocking process takes more slide travel, and happens more gradually, than it does with many other pistols on the market. Comparing the American side-to-side with a GLOCK, that difference is pretty obvious. It could make the RAP a great suppressor host.
Moving beyond the owner manual’s instruction for field stripping, you can remove the chassis by simply pulling the takedown lever all the way out of the left side of the frame, then pulling the chassis up, out of the frame and a bit forward. A hook on the rear of the grip frame slides into a notch in the rear of the chassis.
Putting the chassis back into the gun proved frustrating. The takedown lever comes to a hard stop short of fully re-installed. Turns out that gold-colored bar, which prevents takedown while a magazine is inserted or the insertion of a magazine during takedown, needs to be manually moved forwards to clear the takedown pin. To accomplish this, push forward (towards the muzzle) on the dingus seen above. Hopefully this helps somebody avoid a bunch of four-letter words.
On The Range
The Ruger American Pistol feels great in my hands. Control is excellent and the grip angle is natural, without a whole lot of gun sticking up above the hand. It suits my tastes aesthetically and functionally. Ruger claims a “Low Mass Slide.” At 353 grams, my kitchen scale says it’s all of five grams lighter than a GLOCK 17 slide (no barrel or recoil spring in either). The “Low Center of Gravity” may be less of an exaggeration, as the RAP’s frame weighs 293 grams to a GLOCK 17’s 138 grams. A featherweight it is not.
The gun’s ride height would be lower if it weren’t for the RAP’s fat butt. The Military Arms Channel beat the RAP for this section of the frame. The butt’s width and generally square-ish shape abused the heck out of Tim’s thumb knuckle, and that of a handful of his colleagues. Apparently I grip a pistol a bit differently, as do the other folks in my neck of the woods. Everybody here who test-drove the RAP found the grip comfortable; nobody was plagued by the dreaded Ruger American Pistol thumb knuckle issue.
That said, it will be an issue for some people. I can reproduce Tim’s complaint by cramming my hand upwards hard into the bottom of the frame and/or by pressing my right thumb hard into the frame. I usually ride my right thumb on top of my left thumb. Shooters who hold their right thumb lower (which seems to make that knuckle stick out more) and shooters who overlap left thumb on top of right may find the back corner of the frame in direct contact with their knuckle…with uncomfortable, if not painful results.
The size of the Ruger’s internal chassis is what causes the grip frame to be so wide at the rear. Because the frame isn’t the “firearm,” though, there’s much less risk in modifying it with stippling and sculpting. If Ruger (or the aftermarket) releases different sized and shaped frames for the American Pistol, they should be fairly inexpensive and can be sold straight to the customer (without an FFL). By way of example, spare grip frames for the Beretta Nano run $25 to $30 and for the SIG P250/P320 they’re about $44.
In my initial impressions post the 3-dot steel Novak sights weren’t working well for me. It turns out low light was partially to blame. I’m not so great at picking up the Ruger American Pistol’s front sight in other than bright light conditions, as it’s too similar to the rear. My indoor range’s lighting is darker in front of the shooting bays than it is back at the benches, where the sights worked much better for me. Outdoors they were great.
As great as standard fare 3-dot sights can be, at least. They certainly aren’t my preference. Thankfully replacements are already available (as are holsters and spare mags). There’s a farrago of Novak options — plain black rear, line rear, box rear, black front — at just $9.95 each. Trijicon front and/or rear with tritium inserts are also available. Fiber optic fronts and other options are apparently on their way soon.
For all the bragging Ruger is doing about the “Short Takeup Trigger with Positive Reset,” color me unimpressed. Trigger travel is smooth and the break is fairly crisp. There’s less creep than on the vast majority of striker-fired pistols, and effectively no overtravel. While it may look a bit odd, that overtravel stop molded into the trigger guard works very well. But oh, that reset distance. . .
I don’t really mind the Ruger American Pistol’s trigger’s take-up (a.k.a., pre-travel or slack) – although I certainly wouldn’t call it “short” as Ruger does. But I strongly dislike the fact that the trigger doesn’t reset until it moves all the way forward, nearly as far as it can go. This forces the shooter to repeat all of that take-up on every shot.
The end result: shot-to-shot travel distance is fairly long. Longer than a GLOCK’s. The GLOCK’s take-up is more like “initial take-up.” Once your muscle memory learns the reset distance you don’t have to deal with the trigger slack on subsequent shots. Shooters may tend to “slap” the Ruger American Pistol’s trigger (remove their finger from the trigger before reengaging) when firing a string with the Ruger.
The RAP is still a great shooter, though. Thanks to its low bore axis, great grip, and [maybe] recoil reduction system, it shoots pancake flat. Better yet, it’s fast, controllable and accurate. Keeping double taps and rapid fire inside of the -O zone on 75% scale IDPA targets at 10 yards was easy. With a bit of trigger work and better sights, the RAP could become a gun guru’s go-to pistol.
Slowing things down a bit and sending the target out to about 15 yards, this is what I came up with for five-round groups:
Unfortunately I left my good targets at home. I was too cheap to buy one at the range and could barely make out these light blue dots over my sight picture. So, apologies for the pretty much worthless accuracy target. The Ruger American Pistol is definitely capable of better, but POI is also definitely off to the left a bit.
Depending on how the whole thumb knuckle “issue” works out, the Ruger American Pistol is a hit. The gun’s rugged good looks (I like big butts and I cannot lie), reliability, accuracy, ergonomics, and street price – from $439 to $489 – will give the GLOCKs, Springfields, and M&Ps of the world a run for their money. The Ruger American Pistol may not be better in every way, but it’s better in some and at least as good in others. Which was good enough for me to buy one. ‘Nuff said?
Specifications – Ruger American Pistol ($399 via Brownells):
|Capacity:||17+1||Sights:||Novak® LoMount Carry 3-Dot|
|Slide Material:||Stainless Steel||Slide Finish:||Black Nitride|
|Grip Frame:||One-Piece, High-Performance, Glass-Filled Nylon||Grip:||Ergonomic Wrap-Around Grip Module|
|Barrel Length:||4.20″||Overall Length:||7.50″|
|Height:||5.60″||Width:||1.40″ (Across Controls)|
|Weight:||30 oz.||Twist:||1:10″ RH|
|Grooves:||6||Suggested Retail:||$579.00 (as low as $439 so far street price)|
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style * * * *
The RAP looks modern and angular without going overboard. What may appear solely like styling queues all have a legitimate functional purpose (including the lawyer’s warning to read the manual, which, as warnings go, is scaled way back from Ruger’s normal billboards).
Ergonomics * * * *
Top notch – other than that dang trigger safety blade. The thumb knuckle injury issue will affect some shooters, but not all. Test drive if possible.
Ergonomics Carry * *
It’s a heavy, full-sized pistol: a duty/service firearm.
Reliability * * * * *
The high parts count in the fire control group raises concerns, but our RAP was 100 percent reliable shooting nearly 500 rounds of everything from cheap reloads to Federal HST and Remington HTP. The gun made it through a particularly cold snow day where many-a-gun has not. Expect a high-round-count update in the future.
Customization: * * * * *
Sights, holsters, and other accessories are already available. Grip panels allow end user ergonomic adjustment. The Pistol’s removable, serialized chassis opens up a whole world of other grip frame possibilities. Threaded barrels are in Ruger’s plans, as the pistol’s relief mold in the plastic case has obvious clearance for an extended barrel as well as for tall sights. Aftermarket triggers, magazine extensions, and more are already in the works.
Accuracy: * * *
Overall: * * * *
The Ruger American Pistol as very best in class falls a star short due primarily to the trigger’s long reset.
Testing and evaluation sample purchased retail at Sharp Shooting Indoor Range & Gun Shop