A wise old man once told me that real pistols only came in one configuration: blued steel and walnut grips. The very same man bandied about phrases like “nickel plated sissy pistol” and believed that the .45 ACP was the alpha and omega. When “combat tupperware” started to become en vogue he thought it was a sign of the apocalypse. When Ruger released their polymer framed LCR revolver, he let loose a string of epithets that would have even made Howard Stern blush. Revolvers were made from metal, end of story. While I always took what he said with a grain of salt, I tended to agree with him on this point. Sorry. I should have said “agreed” . . .
The Ruger LCR .357 is a beefed-up version of the original .38 Special LCR. It features a monolithic frame made of 4000 series blackened stainless steel that completely encloses the 1.875” barrel. Attached to the monolithic frame is the piece that has the purists up in arms and holds all the parts that make the LCR go bang: the polymer fire control housing. Ruger reckons the polymer housing cuts down on weight and soaks up recoil. The second key innovation is the trigger. Ruger redesigned the DAO trigger with a friction reducing cam mechanism; which, according to Ruger’s literature, results in a “smooth, non-stacking trigger pull.”
Unlike its .38 special precursor or a Scandium S&W J frame (in the same caliber), Ruger’s 17.1 ounce LCR is no featherweight . But it’s no porker, either. AS you hold the LCR in your hand, the weight seems to disappear into a near perfect blend of balance and point-ability. The recoil-reducing Hogue Tamer grips add to the comfort and, thus, confidence. The thought of lighting off some full house magnum loads in the LCR isn’t quite as intimidating as it is forother small frame .357s.
The LCR’s sights are typical for this class of small-frame revolver. The rear sight consists of a notch and shallow trough through which you line up your front sight. Our T&E model sported a red fiber optic front sight. You can also get it with a typical ramped front or an XS Big Dot, an ideal choice for a stubbornly novice self-defense shooter.
Ruger’s revolutionary trigger has a relatively short pull with an easy smooth pull back. Dry firing revealed no stacking, no grit, no nothing; the cylinder rotated into place with Swiss precision. Milliseconds later I encountered the cleanest break I ever felt on a revolver. An affront to Smith & Wesson fans? Hyperbole? There was only way to find out: take her out for a proper date at the Timberline Creek Rod & Gun Club (aka my mother in law’s back 40).
I brought a variety of ammo, ranging from 158 gr JSP .357 to 125 gr Hornady Critical Defense to Wally World’s Winchester white box (WWB). Loading up my first cylinder of .357, I apprehensively brought the pistol up to bear on the steel target 15 yards away and eased the trigger back. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t flinch a little. While there’s no doubt the LCR dishes out some stout recoil, it’s not the curse word-inducing sensation created by other manufacturers’ lightweight magnum snubbies. I made it through the whole cylinder without wanting to switch to .38 special loads and turn in my Man Card.
One-hundred-fifty rounds later I’d run out of .357 ammo. I switched over to the .38 special, where I found highly manageable recoil. Thirty short minutes later, I’d run out of ammo – and realized I had yet to take any pictures or shoot any video. I was having so much fun shooting this little concealed carry revolver – and hitting what I was aiming at – that I’d completely neglected my journalistic duties.
I came back the next day with a box of both .357 and .38 special and the explicit intent to do some serious shooting with lots of pictures and videos. That intent was short lived; my cameraman/sister in law and I started running some defensive drills from 15 yards all the way in and with each satisfying ping of steel or hole through the noggin of a Birchwood Casey Darkotic Zombie Target the fun factor grew exponentially.
Suffice to say we didn’t end up taking any video until the very end when we finally settled down and captured some media. First off was rapid fire of 158 gr JSP .357 at 7 yards, going for center of mass on the Birchwood Casey Darkotic Splattering Zombie Target.
As you can see, the results are pretty good. All five shots found paper and three of them managed to land within an inch of each other.
Then I loaded up a cylinder of WWB .38 Special, fully expecting the results to be better due to the reduced recoil.
I was a little shocked when I walked up to the target. While four out of five shots were on paper and on target, I had thrown one completely off the paper. The grouping was much larger than with the .357. I don’t have a logical or even scientific explanation for this phenomenon and frankly don’t know if I need one. The bottom line is, if you do your part, this revolver is going to put rounds on target accurately and quickly.
I’ve never called a small-framed snubbie fun before; I’ve sold every one I’ve ever owned. They were all so punishing in .357 or inaccurate in .38 special that I gave up after a few weeks. The Ruger LCR .357 is fun. It’s a relatively lightweight yet accurate revolver with a trigger that beats the snot out of any other double action revolver I’ve ever sampled. It’s easily concealed in all manner of OWB or IWB holsters and rests comfortably therein. And it’s earned a place in the “handguns I’ll never sell” section of my gun safe.
Caliber: .357 Magnum/.38 Special
Barrel Length: 1.875”
Overall Length: 6.50”
Weight: 17.10 oz.
Finish: Blackened Stainless
Price: $ 575 MSRP
RATINGS (out of five)
Style * * * *
The Glock of revolvers. Made to do a job, not look pretty.
Ergonomics * * * * *
Feels great in the hands and sports a very comfortable recoil reducing grip.
Reliability * * * * *
Went through over 300 rounds without a hiccup or a cleaning.
Customizable * *
Three grip options, three front sight options and . . . that’s all folks!
Carry * * * * *
Its diminutive size makes it easily concealable. Disappears under t-shirts with impunity.
Overall Rating * * * * *
I learned my lesson about doubting new designs and found a pint-sized powerhouse that’s spending a lot of time on my hip.
[TTAG’s targets are supplied by Birchwood Casey]