Ruger's P90DC in .45 Automatic.
Previous Post
Next Post

Sturm, Ruger & Co. is a name that’s synonymous with affordable American made firearms. Know something else that’s synonymous with America? John Moses Browning’s .45 ACP cartridge.

Original Ruger sales ad for the P90 .45 Automatic.

While the Wonder Nine era was cruising right along, there was still a demand for a DA/SA .45 ACP pistol by cops all across the country. Smith & Wesson was meeting that demand with their Model 645 and later Model 4506, as was SIG Sauer with the Model P220. That’s why Bill Ruger ad the company get into the .45 ACP DA/SA business.

Ruger finally finished their design in 1990 and originally released to the shooting public in 1991 as the Ruger P90. It was a hit.

August 1991 issue of Shooting Times with a review of the Ruger P90.
August 1991 issue of Guns & Ammo with the Ruger P90DC sporting a pair of aftermarket Uncle Mikes grips.

It was classic Ruger — an affordable DA/SA .45 automatic with some nice features that didn’t break the bank.

The P90 had a slide-mounted safety/de-cocker that would later become ambidextrous, a swappable magazine release button, a stainless steel finish, a combat style squared off trigger guard, and a good pair of fixed three-dot combat sights.

Ruger also released a de-cocker-only model, the P90DC and I happen to have one.

What was the safety lever is simply a spring-loaded de-cocker on the P90DC. Aside from than that, it’s the same design as the P90.

Mine is an early production model. It doesn’t have an ambidextrous de-cocker lever, only one on the left side.

The P90DC shipped from the factory with two seven-round magazines. Ruger updated the magazine design to eight-rounders when they released their polymer framed .45 ACP gun, the P97.

The P97 and even later P345 used the same magazine design as the P90. Original 7rd magazine on the left and the updated 8rd magazines on the right. Notice the difference in the followers.

Taking the P90DC apart for cleaning is kind of like a 1911. Well, actually no it is not. This is an interesting critter to say the least.

Make sure the pistol is empty of course, remove the magazine, lock the slide back, and flip down the ejector. Yes, you read that right. Flip down the ejector. It was Ruger that came up with this idea, long before Smith & Wesson did with their M&P series.

Anyway, after doing that, you then align the slide catch lever with the takedown notch.

See the ejector on the bottom left by the breech face of the slide? That’s what you flip down.
Here, you see the ejector flipped down, without doing this, the gun will not disassemble for cleaning.

The slide catch lever of the P90DC is captured. So that’s one less part you have to worry about losing.


The barrel is a hybrid. It has a 1911-style swing link but a SIG Sauer-style locking block.


As I said earlier, the gun was somewhat of a hit. It won some modest contracts in the law enforcement market. Famed gun writer and instructor, Massad Ayoob carried one as a reserve police officer.

Look on Ayoob’s duty belt, you can see the stainless mags and the back end of the Ruger automatic.

But the P90’s greatest claim to fame was being very popular in the civilian market since it was an affordable, reliable .45 Auto.

During the Clinton AWB years, gun owners were limited to ten rounds or less. A single stack DA/SA .45 automatic with a eight-round capacity wasn’t a bad choice. But capacity the only reason why the P90 was a popular pistol. It also got some screen time too.

Notice the Ruger P90 right on the movie poster.

It was Arnold’s issued pistol as an agent of the Omega Sector in ‘True Lies.’ The gun was stainless steel and showed off well on the big screen.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Special Agent Harry Tasker, engaging in a shootout with terrorists in a mall bathroom.

The other film in which the P90 got good exposure was the second installment in Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy, ‘Desperado.’

Antonio Banderas wielded two P90 pistols in the film along with an assortment of other guns in order to hunt down the drug dealer known as Bucho. Again, being in stainless steel, the gun looked good on the big screen.

Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi, points his P90 at the drug-dealers.

Before anyone scoffs at the idea, pop culture definitely drives gun sales. ‘Dirty Harry’ was a huge seller for the Smith & Wesson Model 29 and and according to Wildey J. Moore, designer of the Wildey Survivor, every time ‘Death Wish 3’ aired on cable, sales of the gun spiked.

‘True Lies’ and ‘Desperado’ did similar things for Ruger and the P90. Both films were hits and folks wanted to emulate and imitate the main stars. They may not have had the good looks, muscles, or fancy cars, but they could own the same handguns at an affordable price and shoot them at the range.

Speaking of the range, how does the P90DC shoot?

My P90DC at Talon Range in Midway, FL.

The first four shots were in double action. I was a bit low, but in single action I hit dead center and produced a respectable grouping. All in all, the P90DC is very capable. It would still be a very viable choice as a self defense pistol.

My Ruger P90DC sporting the factory grips.

While the 1990s came and went. The P90DC stands as a tangible reminder what people wanted and could legally purchase in a handgun. Produced from 1991 to 2010, the gun had a good run. They’re still out and are very affordable. If you find one in good shape and at a decent price, snatch it up.

 

Luis Valdes is the Florida Director for Gun Owners of America.

Previous Post
Next Post

36 COMMENTS

  1. I remember being a 13 yr old looking at these in the gun case at the local gun shop, while my dad was shopping for muzzleloading supplies, which I thought were so lame in comparison.

    • I always loved the Ruger p-series! P-85MKII, (Not so much the P-85), P-89, and P-94. I didn’t like the polymer P-95 much, but the others were great. Loved the DA-SA in 9mm. The most accurate pistol I ever shot with, was a P-85MKII in stainless steel. A friend let me borrow it. I could shoot rapid fire in a tiny grouping. I made him a great offer to buy it, 14 years ago. He wouldn’t sell, because he said it belonged to his grandfather and he didn’t want to sell it. I made him an amazing offer a few years later and he still wouldn’t sell. I talked to him last month in April, and he still wouldn’t sell to me. It’s not that it was the most accurate gun, it just fit my hand well, and was very accurate for me. He said he shot it and didn’t get a good grouping. Other guns he could shoot a better grouping than me. It’s just that specific gun, fit me well. Later I got a P-89. And two P-94s – one in 40 and another in 9. Both stainless. I like them a lot, but they still weren’t as good as that P-85MKII that I shot all those years ago. Some people think the Ruger P-series are clunky, too heavy, and ugly. But I always liked them. And they were extremely reliable, with Ruger magazines.

      Thanks Luis, for this throwback.

  2. Wow, 7 whole rounds….meanwhile the 9MM versions of the P-series carried over twice the capacity at 15 rounds (and Mec-Gar makes flush fit 17s). I pity the poor Fudd, living in a fantasy world in their own head, just sure that the .45 ACP version was the right choice. Alas, its the same calculation every time…any gun in 45 ACP, is a better gun in 9MM.

    • Cool. Ruger never did make a 45 with more than 10 rounds did they??? Almost got a 12round Taurus but didn’t(recall gat!). Didn’t know that was Arnold’s gat in True Lies(mistake not to make #2)…

    • Crappy shot? No problem! Get a plastic gun that shoots 9mm squish with 15 rounds! Just hope the bad guy isn’t a better shot than you with that old, Fudd .357 revolver.

    • as mentioned different era, the awb years would get you 2 extra rounds unless you had a few legacy mags or were a po.

    • In the early 1990’s when this gun was introduced hollow point ammo didn’t perform as reliably as it does today. It was the 1986 Miami shootout that led the FBI to develop performance standards for duty ammunition. Then the manufacturers had to develop the ammo.

      So it’s easy to scoff at a .45 duty pistol today with the wide variety of excellent ammo we have available to us, but this wasn’t always the case.

    • I tend to agree with that. And the US military does too. They moved away from the 45acp a long time ago now. Granted, shooting a non-threatening stationary target at the range is always better with a 45acp. It’s a lot harder for the average bear after an adrenaline dump to hit a moving target and is better to have 15rds instead of 7. In that instance… the 9mm, is, well, good enough. Better to be hit by a weaker round, than not at all. Not to mention the most popular handgun round in all existence.

  3. I’d looked at these for years thinking about getting one to complement various 1911’s and a Smith 645. I guess having those old “FUDD” guns makes me a fudd huh. Interesting that many, if not most, people that spew that crap have zero experience with any of the older guns and judge everything by Blocks and other plastic fantastics. It’s kind of like expecting a young kid now to understand old rock music. Or not, or whatever. Anyway I still have a P89 and P93, 9mm versions of the P90. Bought/sold/traded MANY handguns over the decades and those just seemed to stay with me, shoot combat accurate, feed anything and are ultra reliable. Still won’t replace my 92X or 226 though. Oops, those old fudd 9’s.

    • 1) No handguns are Fudd guns, only rifles and shotguns
      2) Rifles and shotguns are only Fudd guns if owned by a Fudd and used for Fuddery
      3) Old guns are not Fudd guns unless they fall under both 1&2

      Being a Fudd is about only wanting other people to be able to own certain guns you think are OK, typically only hunting rifles and hunting shotguns, and supporting bans and restrictions on anything that doesn’t fall within your preference range. So as long as you don’t have a problem with others having Blocks and fantastics plastics if they want to then you are not a Fudd.

      I love my Blocks, and fantastic plastics. I owned a P89, and a P90 DC back in the day and wish I still had them. I miss the 1911s I use to have too.

  4. I own one of these. They are *very reliable*. I routinely mix different brands and type of ammo (FMJ/JHP/Hornady “gummy tips” in the mag in any order, and it’ll always fire all 8 of them.
    Mine has never jammed, FTF or FTE I would like a magazine that holds 10 or 15 rds though.
    Does any magazine company make an extended magazine that holds more than 8 rds for these?

    • Yeah, Pro-Mag makes a 16 round magazine but it makes a better paperweight than a bullet feeder… NOT recommended…

    • Agreed. There’s nothing wrong with .45ACP. If I only have a choice of FMJ ammunition I’d rather the .45ACP any day of the week.

      • There’s nothing wrong with .45ACP.

        Absolutely, the 1911 45 ACP served as the sidearm for the U.S. military for 74 years. Killed a bunch of Germans, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, a few Russians and assorted others..

  5. Great gun.

    A little thick at the slide but the straight grip is a decent fit for most hands.

    Good gun for introducing new people to shooting.

    I am still looking for a P93 DC or DAO just cause I always liked the way it looked. And magazines are still cheap.

    Maybe Ruger could do a revive of the P series……. or revamp it.

    • Good luck on that P93DC! I have a P89DC and a P93DC. Both near 100% condition. Never had the urge to get rid of them.

  6. I never knew it was an either or till the articles and comments here.
    Lighten up and just enjoy the guns and shooting

    • This was the only Ruger that I nearly destroyed. Back in about 96, after waiting for Ruger to come out with a 10mm pistol, I “converted” a p90 I had owned awhile into my first 45super, utilizing a Federal Arms extended/ ported barrel from their discontinued stock sale and a cut down Delta elite recoil spring…. within 200 rounds it had elongated both the toggle link and the pin hole in the frame, plus rounded off the slide opening that the barrel locked into. Sent it back to the mothership with the original parts reinstalled, whom actually replaced it under warranty along with a letter suggesting that I not shoot whatever loads did that to the gun , and they wouldn’t try to duplicate the damage in a “proofing cage”. I still have the replacement gun , stock except for Hogue grips.

      • My P89 has Hogue rubber grips but they are a Ruger factory option/part at some point back then and have the Ruger label instead of the Hogue label. You can probably still find them with a search. I think I got mine off of Gunbroker but many years ago.

  7. Hmm… I guess I always assumed El Mariachi was shooting a brace of P85s or P89s. I guess I’ll have to add a pair of P90s to my must have list. Which is especially disappointing since I don’t currently have any .45acps.

    I wish Ruger would bring back the P series.

    • Unfortunately if they did they would screw it up by trying to make it all new and modern, The P series is one of the great guns of the past that would never fit in today’s world of light weight CC lead slingers. To heavy for most people even before loading it. Although I do carry it as much as possible in cooler/cold weather months its not a practical CC gun for most people. So it wouldn’t sell well except maybe to old Bastards like me who can still appreciate a solid built all metal firearm.

      • The P95 (polymer frame, 3.9″ barrel) wasn’t bad for carry, although the slide was a bit heavy. And just 8 years ago they were selling 50k/yr. You could buy one new for $300, so maybe their margins weren’t very good. And they are probably too out of fashion right now.

  8. Got my P90DC in 2001 for $300.00 (would not sell it for 10 times that) have the original 2 x 7 round magazines and picked up a dozen eight rounders over the years, added a pistol grip laser and tritium night sights… It’s a pleasure to shoot (mine pulls a bit low in DA as well) and the weight is a confidence builder, never failed to fire and always on target… Excellent, very impressive looking, reliable firearm… Mine lives next the bed with occasional EDC duty… Thanks for the revue, great gun…

  9. I still have the P89DC I bought in ’94. Countless thousands of rounds downrange. Eats whatever ammo you put in it. Built like a tank and as heavy as one. Wouldn’t trade it for any of the plastic fantastic offering out there in a SHTF situation.

  10. WELL THIS IS ONE FUDD , THAT WOULD LIKE TO OWN ONE , WISH DIDN’T HAVE TO SAVE $$$ FOR AMMO , WOULD BUY ONE .

    • The news this morning was saying there’s going a hard time procuring fireworks in the U S A. Must be somthing up with explosive propellents?

      • Most fireworks are produced by the Wuhan Fireworks Factory, which has been converted to produce variants of a different product line for distribution throughout the world

  11. I had a “police” edition.
    Black slide and Hogue grips.
    Very affordable, reliable, and great to shoot.
    Wish I still had it.

  12. Never owned a P90. My P85 soured my love of Ruger pistols for many years. It had a really soft metal slide that required smithing every 500 rounds in order to be reliable. Ruger eventually replaced the slide, but I was done with them for a good solid decade. Love their revolvers and rifles.

  13. I still have my P89. I love it. It’s reliable and accurate. Plus it’s completely ambidextrous as I’m left-handed. I really wish there were more SA/DA compact 9 pistols out there. I prefer them to all the striker fired pistols today.

  14. used to have one
    loved it
    its my oldest kids gun now
    he loves it too
    if i saw a nice used one in a gun shop for 200 or so
    id buy it again

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here