Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol
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With an onboard capacity of 10+1 rounds flush fit and 12+1 rounds extended, Ruger’s new MAX-9 takes aim at the incredibly hot market for micro-compact pistols with double-digit capacities. Equipped with a tritium and fiber optic front sight and an optics-ready slide at an MSRP of just $499 (less on Brownells), the MAX-9 undercuts the competition on features for the dollar.

In the Rumble-hosted video above, I test drive the MAX-9 out on the range while providing some thoughts and feedback.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

At just 6.0 inches long, 4.52 inches tall, and 0.95 inches wide, the little Ruger MAX-9 fits the bill for a micro-compact concealed carry pistol and is right in line with competing options from SIG SAUER, Springfield, and Smith & Wesson.

Its 18.4-ounce weight slots the MAX-9 in between the SIG P365 (17.8 oz) and the Springfield Hellcat (18.6 oz) and basically dead-on with the S&W M&P9 Shield Plus’s average weight (17.9 oz to 20.2 oz for the 3.1-inch barrel version depending on sight and safety options).

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

Any fan of the Ruger LC9s, a rock solid and very popular CCW option, will find themselves right at home with the MAX-9. Think of it as a modernized LC9s with a higher capacity — three additional rounds on board.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

Ruger’s MAX-9 offers a square-ish grip shape that should fit just about any adult shooter’s hand. Though fairly flat on the sides and the front and back straps, the edges are rounded enough that I found the grip very comfortable.

A pebbled texture is molded into the polymer frame. It’s grippy, but it’s fine enough and the peaks are smoothed enough that it won’t scratch up your skin too much when carried IWB.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

My Standard Model MAX-9 has a manual thumb safety on the left side of the frame under the rear slide serrations. It’s unobtrusive, but easy to use with a solid, sharp detent in both positions.

For users who prefer a carry gun without a manual safety, the MAX-9 Pro Model has you covered.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol
The Ruger MAX-9 Standard model has an external manual safety lever.

The lever is up for “safe”…

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol
Ruger also offers the Pro Model without external manual safety lever

…and down for “fire.” Note the visible white dot when on “safe” and the red dot when on “fire.”

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

A steel trigger sets the MAX-9 apart from the vast majority of compact, polymer-framed pistols.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

The trigger’s safety blade depresses until it’s almost perfectly flush with the front of the trigger shoe, providing a rounded surface with smooth edges.

Ruger designed the MAX-9’s trigger to have a smooth, rolling break as opposed to one that stops hard against a wall and then, without moving further as the pull weight increases, snaps. Total trigger travel is on par with other modern, striker-fired pistols and it’s extremely smooth and consistent in weight before it breaks crisply.

Pull weight is about four to four-and-a-half pounds, and arguably feels lighter than it is due to that smooth, rolling break.

The MAX-9’s reset is soft, but clean. It’s a gentle “snick” that’s audible and tactile, but not very.

Overall, this is a very good trigger for an everyday carry gun. If I could tweak it at all myself, I’d want a more pronounced reset and I’m not a big fan of how it wobbles left and right inside the frame a bit more than most.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

I appreciate the textured steel magazine release button here. It feels better to me than a polymer button. I’m not sure why, exactly, but the difference in feel between polymer and steel and the firm feel of it just makes me happier.

The magazine release is the MAX-9’s only ambidextrous control in that it can be reversed for right-side use.

Empty mags drop free easily from the MAX-9.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

Harder to use is the MAX-9’s slide catch. Due to the molded-in “gate” surrounding the lever on three sides, it’s a bit of a trick to manually lock the MAX-9’s slide back. Basically, you have to be very deliberate with it and come up at the bottom center of the slide catch with plenty of inward pressure, then ride it up.

Of course, as some shooters have issues with their grip causing a pistol’s slide catch to engage during shooting, I’d take — every darn time — the MAX-9’s protective gate against accidental engagement over an easier ability to manually lock the slide back.

As a release, the MAX-9’s slide stop / slide catch / slide release works great.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

An all-black, steel rear sight is my preference when paired with an eye-catching front sight, and this is exactly setup Ruger chose for the MAX-9. A machined groove around the rear sight notch is a handy place for the user to color fill, should your preference include some variation of a bright outline around or under the notch.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol
The Ruger MAX-9’s tritium fiber optic day/night front sight is ideal in any lighting conditions.

Up front, the Ruger MAX-9 rocks an awesome sight that employs a tritium vial to illuminate a green fiber optic tube. Whether day or night, this is perhaps the perfect sight.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

That’s my preferred sight picture right there: black rear, bright front.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

Up top, a blanking plate with the Ruger logo fills in the area of the slide that’s cut for a micro reflex optic. If you choose not to run your MAX-9 with a red ot optic, you’d basically never know this plate was there.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol
The MAX-9 comes optics ready, cut for direct mounting of co-witnessed J-Point and Shield pattern micro red dot sights.

Removing the blanking plate exposes a mounting surface made specifically for Shield RMS or JPoint (or others that use the same pattern) micro red dot sights (MRDS).

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

As I moved houses recently my JPoint and Shield are both still packed away. I grabbed an available SIG ROMEO1 and a Nikon to see how they’d match up, but both of these optics were far too long to fit within the MAX-9’s slide cut. Not that the bolt patterns on these reflex sights were likely to line up anyway, but I was surprised at this reminder of just how compact the Shield MRDS sights actually are.

Again, there are no optional upgrades on the MAX-9. The $499 MSRP includes the slick tritium + fiber optic front sight and the optics-cut slide with blanking plate. These are solid standard features for the dollar.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

Takedown on the MAX-9 is simple enough, maybe even a bit old-school basic.

After safety dry firing the (empty and cleared) pistol to release tension on the striker, the user must move the left-side takedown pin cover downward. With that snicked out of the way of the takedown pin, the slide must be held retracted slightly rearward (about 1/8-inch) before the takedown pin can be pushed out the left side of the frame with a paperclip or a punch inserted in the right side.

As I didn’t have a small enough tool with me to push the pin out from the right side, I smacked the left side of the MAX-9 on that railroad tie seen in the photo above. After a handful of hard whacks, the takedown pin protruded enough that I was able to pinch it and pluck it out.

I’d certainly prefer a takedown process more similar to other modern, striker-fired pistols with some flavor of captive takedown lever that’s easily operated by hand.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

Out on the range, the MAX-9 ran great for Dan and me. It’s a solid little shooter with a really good trigger and fast, easy-to-pick-up sights that were right on target. It’s a little snappy, but obviously that’s to be expected with such a diminutive, lightweight pistol (less snappy than my P365, a little more than the Hellcat).

Dan liked the shape and feel of the MAX-9’s grip frame more than I, which is probably due to his tiny little carny hands lining up with the edges of the square-ish frame better than my normal human man-sized man hands do.

No complaints on the grip from me, mind you, I just prefer the slightly rounder feel of the P365 (despite its smaller circumference) and especially the larger circumference, even more rounded feel of the Shield Plus. That said, the MAX-9 is less blocky with rounder edges than the miniature brick-shaped Springfield Hellcat, which shoots really great, but the grip shape is certainly not my cup of tea.

Ruger MAX-9 Micro-Compact 9mm concealed carry pistol

While small in appearance, the MAX-9’s slide serrations are highly effective. Crisp, 90-degree edges combined with that little kink about a third of the way up and more “valley” than “ridge” make for a surprisingly grippy combination. High marks here for the MAX-9.

The double-stack-width magazine well combines with the narrow taper at the top of the magazines to make mag changes fast and easy. Controls and grip texture worked well, though I’d prefer a more aggressive texture for range use. Considering how many hours my carry gun spends nestled against my love handle, though, versus how comparatively few hours it spends being fired, I think Ruger made the correct choice with a slightly milder grip texture.

After many boxes of oh-so-precious 9mm ammo sent downrange, from 147 grain FMJ to 115 grain hollow points and a few brands of everything in-between (including steel- and aluminum-cased stuff), the MAX-9 proved itself reliable and definitely not a picky eater.

I even had some sort of strange round during testing — what felt like an over-charged round or possibly the bullet got badly set back during chambering (cheap reloads) — and, though I stopped immediately to inspect the bore and such after it happened, the little Ruger didn’t seem to care. It had correctly ejected that case and chambered the next round, and everything looked, felt, and functioned precisely as it did when the gun was new.

The MAX-9 finished out the day of testing without a hitch.

Given its compact size, 10+1 or 12+1 capacity, great performance on the range, and its premium features at the lowest price point among its primary competition, the Ruger MAX-9 is destined to find itself inside the waistbands of an awful lot of concealed carriers. Without a doubt it’s a very solid choice.

Specifications: Ruger MAX-9

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 10+1 rounds flush fit, 12+1 extended
Barrel Length: 3.2 inches
Overall Length: 6.0 inches
Width: 0.95 inches
Height: 4.52 inches
Weight: 18.4 ounces
Sights: tritium plus fiber optic front sight, black rear sight. Slide cut for Shield / JPoint MRDS.
MSRP: $499 (find it for less at Brownells HERE)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance  * * * *
I like the look of the front and rear slide serrations, and the geometric look of the trigger guard, grip, and texture areas. Fit and finish are good.

Reliability  * * * * *
No issues were experienced with a range of random ammo of every type, new and reloaded. The MAX-9 runs strong and gives no hints of potential reliability issues.

Ergonomics  * * * 
About average for me overall. I don’t find the grip shape particularly ergonomic, though I like the magazine release and the slide serrations more than average. A bit of a ding here for the heavily gated slide catch.

Customize This  * * * 
With great sights and an optics cut, it’s unlikely many owners will modify these things. Or want to. Same, too, with the very good trigger. However, aftermarket options are slimmer with the brand new Ruger than they are with SIG or S&W so owners interested in barrels, slides, triggers, sights, etc. won’t have quite as many hot rodding options. Holsters, though, should be plentiful.

Value  * * * * *
This isn’t always a separate, listed category (though it’s almost always a factor in the overall rating, regardless), but I feel like the Ruger MAX-9 is such a standout on value that it deserved to be highlighted. Not only is retail price going to be lower than the $499 MSRP (retail price on Rugers tends to be farther under MSRP than most other brands), even at full MSRP the MAX-9 presents an extremely strong value shipping with two magazines (plus an extra pinky extension for the flush-fit mag), the tritium and fiber optic front sight, and the optics-ready slide.

Overall  * * * *
The new Ruger MAX-9 represents a fantastic choice among micro-compact concealed carry pistols. It’s reliable and feature rich, and it’s a solid shooter for its size with great sights and a smooth trigger. For me it’s a four-star gun, though, as the generally square-ish grip doesn’t do it for me ergonomically.

 

Watch this space, as our heads-up comparison article with the SIG P365, Springfield Hellcat, Ruger MAX-9, and S&W M&P9 Shield Plus will go live soon.

 

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36 COMMENTS

  1. Where did you find the ammo to test fire it?

    I was watching flaming dollar bills launching out of your barrel in that vid.

    And PS: It’s 499.99 at Brownell’s.

  2. Great review…my buddy just got his wife(she was with him) a nearly unused Sig 365 with 3 twelve round mags & a nice holster thrown in. This Ruger seems like a near clone. Choice is good😏

    • Took a look at the new Ruger MAX-9, the Hellcat, and the p-365 at the local gun shop a couple weekends ago, and while all seemed like great guns, the wife and I liked the Hellcat best; it just felt better in the hand.

      The grip on the MAX-9 is *very* short. A little too short for people who have large-ish hands, as we do. I liked the sights, though. Much better than a 3-dot setup, which I’m not a fan of (but all my pistols came with and still have).

      We ended up getting a Taurus G2C in 9mm instead. Just a smidgen bigger, a fair bit cheaper, and very comfy in the hand. The guys at the gun counter spoke favorably of them (a couple actually carried it), and I also remembered that you’re a satisfied Taurus shooter, so I felt pretty confident in the purchase. Plus, with the $$ saved, I was able to snag a Stevens 12ga security shotgun, too. 🙂

      • I have two LC9s’ that have been flawless. But I have also been wanting to upgrade simply to increase capacity. If this is truly a LC9s slide on a new frame, I’m getting one. I dig the new look and I really like those sights too. Mine has the back sight blacked out with a sharpie. This is much better.

        I like the G2C/G3C Taurus’. Probably the best bang for the buck pistol in that genre. Even though it is a tad bigger.

      • I have a Taurus PT 111 M2 (old I know) but it is about 1/4 in. too high and 1/4 in too wide and 1/4 in too long…not a “new” svelt micro/ mini wonder 9. It has performed flawlessly for about five years and cost when new about half what the “new” CC 9MMs cost, oh yeah it holds 12 and takes extended mags readily. I’m happy with mine even though it’s not “new”.

  3. Kinda makes me think of a cross between a p365 and Springfield XDS. Ruger seems to snatch up other company’s ideas. Guess it works for them.

  4. YEAH AMMO TO TEST FIIRE , WISH SOME AMMO COMPANY WOULD HAVE ROTATING ORDER LIST WHER COULD BUY 3000 TO 5000 ROUNDS AMMO AT REGULAR PRICE WITH NO SHIPING CHARGE . AFTER YOUR ORDER PLACE YA BACK TOTHE END SO CAN ORDER AGAIN
    OKOK JUST A DREAM N …

  5. Why are they still making handguns you need to pull the trigger to disassemble? Haven’t we seen enough NDs to show that’s a bad idea?

    • I guess they figured natural selection weeded through all the people who don’t check a firearms before dry firing.

      Glock certainly doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.

      And Ruger has moved to systems pulling to the trigger to dismantle, opposed to the old system in P and SR- series guns.

      I imagine it has to do with cost of manufacturing.

      • I’m with specialist. Not clearing a firearm before dismantling is a bad idea. Pulling the trigger, after clearing a firearm, not so much.

        It’s a last step that should make you take the first step seriously.

  6. Even though I’m usually into larger arms, there is certainly room for something smaller like this.

    Every time I look at this one, I feel like I’m going to break the trigger. I’m sure it’s more sturdy than that. My heart has been won over by the P365.

  7. Hello gunm companies:
    Ain’t much use in buying a $400 paperweight .
    That’ll be $400 for the gunm and $500 for the ammo.
    No thanx to either, your welcome.

    • At this rate Ruger could start a few lines; not like a ton of other gun companies haven’t and Ruger has the manufacturing economics skills to do well in the industry, perhaps even be innovators I suspect.

      • The gov probably wouldn’t give them the okay to do that. Seems their trying to shut down what’s already going.??? I’m into conspiracies though. Just seems weird that 30/06 is also hard to find and overpriced. I can see the popular calibers being scarce but hunting ammo , seems kinda fishy to me.

        • Just try finding .30-30 cartridges anywhere. Unobtainium.

          I guess it’s possible that they’re focusing on rounds with higher demand, but it’s not like .30-30 is unusual. Then I see shelves stocked with stuff nobody shoots like .264 Ackley Improved or some such, and I wonder…

        • I thought 06 was fairly popular. I have a dude on one of the forums I’m on looking to scrape up 243 win stuff also not a rarity typically. The stuff on the shelves right now is super obscure for the most part though like the last time I was there I saw WSSM rounds (which is really ironic thinking about it.)

          I think that a big piece of it is the lines are being used to crank out 5.56, 9mm and similar with most everything else taking second through twelfth fiddle. Cutting over a line probably takes a decent amount of time, and it’s time they’d rather be producing super common calibers.

          Wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of that ammo’s runs would typically be nearer deer season and all that got cleaned out months before hand as well. Not too sure on that one though it’s just speculation.

        • I bought a .22WMR rifle last August. A snagged a couple boxes of 40gr ammo, but I’ve not seen a single box for sale in over 7 months. Thanks Vista.

  8. The best part of this review was the picture that said “Pistol will fire with magazine removed”. How I hate magazine disconnects.

  9. I’m far from an uncritical 1911 fanboi, or believer in mindlessly copying everything from a 110y/o design, BUT:

    Every pistol with a pivoting slide stop needs an axis pin of some sort.

    A slide stop lever provides an intuitive, idiot-proof way to pull a pin without tools.

    JMB’s disassembly method made the transition to linkless pistols with no issues.

    Why must the Good Idea Fairy keep infesting the world with new and “innovative” ways to add extra parts and make the disassembly process more difficult than it was a century ago?

  10. I guess I’m alone in wanting a picture of him whacking the gun on a railroad tie to push out the disassembly pin. I thought that was a hilarious statement to tuck into the article. Glad to see this review and looking forward to the next one comparing the different models.

    • That was a pretty entertaining comment. The disassembly pin is my least favorite part of my lc9. It is an incredibly simple design, but GLOCK brand GLOCKS are certainly better in this regard…

      • It worked fine, but you have to whack the sucker pretty firmly, and a few times at that. I think most gun owners would be hesitant to do it.

  11. I’ve been straddling the P365/Hellcat fence for awhile, waiting for a bit of wind to blow me off one way or the other. This Ruger looks interesting, and suggests a trend. Think I’ll grab hold of a fence post and watch the developments a bit longer.

    • It’s possible. But every pistol has multiple theoretical ways to jam up the works, including getting a carrot or a dismembered finger or a chicken tendie or something stuck behind the trigger so it can’t be pulled or getting a pebble or something stuck up in the gap in the frame through which the trigger passes — there’s almost always a small open space in the frame behind the trigger so it can move, and something stuck in that hole would block the trigger. 🤷‍♂️

  12. GF has an LC9s, amazing trigger, accurate as heck. Snappy. Worked the front sight loose at the range and sent the slide back they pinned it for free.
    Has a mag disconnect tho, yuck. Got the LCPII 22lr and its very nice as well, texture on the grip, home run. If I didnt just snag 2 Steyr A9’s I’d have fundes for this gem, but the Steyr’s are like lazers they are one hole wonders, with adjustable grips, perfect.

  13. Got one, put a Romeo Zero on it. Love it. It’s accurate as hell but as for reliability it is way too soon to tell. Not worried though because of Ruger’s excellent service. Also, it is American made.

  14. I’m to old school. I still like DA/SA hammer fired guns better than striker fired. Looking for a Taurus TH9c but they’re hard to find.

    • The Remington R51, which they screwed up the quality control so badly, has an internal hammer. A prototype in .45ACP, back 110 years ago, had the hammer external (model 53).

      So, had Remington been thinking this thru they’d of brought out the “R53” with external hammer, SA/DA and a decocker and I’d be carrying one today.

      Instead, I carry Ruger 9mm striker fired and PARA USA 1911.45ACP.

      Been thinking on buying another S&W model 59, really liked that old gun.

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