Sturm, Ruger, and Co. have been manufacturing guns in the United States since 1949. Ruger produces a full line of rifles, pistols, and revolvers. What many people don’t realize is that Ruger is the largest firearms manufacturer in the United States.
There are many popular guns in the Ruger line. Ruger dominates the market in firearms chambered for the ever popular .22 Rimfire. The best known of Ruger’s .22 rimfire rifles is the Model 10/22 and the venerable MKII semi-automatic pistol.
One pistol in the Ruger line has seen a recent surge in popularity. The Ruger LCP II, a small, lightweight semi-automatic pistol chambered for the .380 centerfire round, has become a favorite with many concealed carry license holders.
There has long been a debate among serious shooters and some not so serious shooters about the effectiveness of the .380 as a self-defense cartridge. Advances in bullet design have answered many of the questions about the capability of the .380, which has led to a resurgence of what was once known as a 9mm Short.
Ruger’s Best Kept Secret
A lot of shooters underappreciated the .380 as a self-defense cartridge. The .380 is slightly less powerful than a .38 special. However, innovations in bullet design have changed the way many people now view the .380.
New self-defense rounds loaded with high expansion hollow point bullets have greatly increased the .380’s capabilities to stop a threat. This has helped fuel the return of attention to the .380 as a viable self-defense weapon for those of us who are looking for a lighter and easier to carry alternative to our usual everyday carry gun of choice.
The LCP II in Short
Ruger introduced the LCP, or Lightweight Compact Pistol, in 2008. Ruger heard the call from its customers for a light and easily concealable firearm. These requests were coming from the general civilian population and from law enforcement looking for a dependable and easily concealable backup gun.
In the short time between its introduction and today, the LCP has enjoyed several versions and some notoriety. Ruger has listened to its customers, and the Ruger LCP has undergone several redesigns and re-introductions.
Some of the original LCP’s were recalled due to problems with the hammer system. This resulted in some negative publicity for the LCP, but sales continued to improve over time.
In 2010, Texas Governor Rick Perry boosted the public image of the LCP when he shot a coyote that allegedly attacked his daughter’s dog while they were jogging one morning in Austin, TX. After the media attention the incident garnered, Ruger released an LCP “Coyote Edition” in honor of Governor Perry’s encounter with the coyote.
Ruger reintroduced the LCP in 2013. The new edition featured better sights, better trigger pull, and some internal modifications. The Ruger LCP Custom was on the market in 2015 and included a red anodized trigger with a new trigger geometry, custom high-profile sights.
All the previous incarnations of the LCP were discontinued in 2016 when Ruger introduced the LCP II. The re-engineered LCP is slightly larger than the older models. The addition of a locking slide and a trigger safety were welcome additions to the LCP design.
It’s All About Concealability
I happen to live in a part of the country where during 4 or 5 months out of the year, daytime temperature can regularly approach 100 degrees. Coping with these kinds of extremes in temperature, especially if you are carrying concealed, can be a challenge.
Such temperatures call for lightweight clothing and, in some cases, less clothing, which adds to the problem of carrying concealed. Putting on a Glock 19 or something comparable with a pair of lightweight shorts to go to the park is just not an ideal situation. Even my Glock 43 poses problems.
These are the very situations that have made the LCP II so popular. The LCP II weighs in at a mere 10.6 oz. unloaded and measures 5.17 inches in length and less than one inch in width. Compared to the Glock 42, which weighs 12.17 oz. with a length of 5.75 inches and a width of almost an inch, the LCP II is a featherweight.
The small size and weight of the LCP II have made it a popular choice for many who want to pocket carry a reliable pistol. Ruger is aware of this trend toward pocket carry and has responded by adding a soft pocket holster to the box, again showing their dedication to the customer.
Is it a Viable Self Defense Choice?
The questions remain if the LCP II is a viable self-defense gun. I use the same set of criteria to analyze any gun I expect to concealed carry for my personal self-defense. It doesn’t matter what makes, model, or caliber. They all get the same consideration and thought, and the LCP II is no different. Let’s dig into the details.
Does it Meet My Criteria?
I quickly classify the areas that I use when considering a new gun for concealed carry into three areas – dependability, shootability, and reliability. Some of these are usually quick and easy to figure out. Others take some time and research. The best part of analyzing a new gun for its potential to meet my criteria is that it almost always involves range time. Let’s see how the Ruger LCP II stacks up against my requirements.
Making the decision to carry a concealed weapon is a tacit acknowledgment that you expect to use the gun in self-defense at some point in the future. We all hope and pray that we are never forced into that situation, but if you are going to carry, you must acknowledge the possibility.
With that understanding, any gun you conceal carry must be reliable. The last thing you want is to pull the trigger and hear “click” instead of “bang”. That event is the only thing worse than hearing “bang” when you were expecting a “click”.
The dependability issue has a couple of extenuating factors to consider as well.
- Manufacturer’s reputation – Fortunately, Ruger has an excellent reputation among shooters as a manufacturer of tough and reliable pistols. Just the Ruger name on the frame is enough to put the LCP II into the good to go category.
- Ease of Maintenance – Concealed carry guns get dirty. They are out and exposed to your body, clothing, dust, and whatever else is floating or blowing in the wind. Anyone serious about concealed carry is serious about cleaning and care of their gun. That means their concealed carry gun should be easy to disassemble and clean. The LCP II is not the easiest gun to disassemble I have found, but it doesn’t take an engineer to take it apart and put it back together again, either.
Overall, the LCP II meets the criteria for dependability. You can expect that LCP II to reliably perform when you need it with the caveat that you are performing the proper care and maintenance on the gun.
I always look forward to this part of the process of vetting a new concealed carry pistol. It means I get to go to the range and expend rounds. What a job! But before I get into my reactions to the LCP II on the range, let’s look at the technical side.
The LCP II is chambered for the .380 ACP centerfire round. This is basically a shortened 9mm round that is loaded with a standard 9mm bullet. The most popular bullet weight seems to be 90 grains and can be found in everything from wadcutters to high-end police-style self-defense rounds. Most of the factory loads will clock at around 1,000 feet per second leaving the muzzle.
Anything shooting the .380 cartridge and with a barrel less than 3 inches long is not going to be effective at any great distance. The velocity falls off fast, and the accuracy is always going to be a question. This is a close-quarters pistol.
Now, on to the range. My testing is probably not scientific, but it tells me what I want to know about a pistol. I am looking at three things when I range test a gun.
Typically, I load up my range bag with an assortment of bullets for the gun in question. This always includes some factory loads of different styles, some of my reloads, and an assortment of whatever leftover ammo I have on hand. This gives me a range of ammo to test the gun.
My reliability test is easy to understand. Put a bunch of ammo, of various loads, bullet-style and manufacture, through the pistol to see how well it handles diversity (it’s 2020 – we’ve got to be politically correct, right?)
For the most part, the reliability of a pistol to feed various types of ammo is a function of its design. The feed ramp angle, slide operation, pickup operation, and ejector design all contribute to the reliability of a gun to function with different ammo and loads.
To test the LCP II, I borrowed a pistol from a friend. The test pistol is well maintained and has been shot enough to make me confident that it is broken in properly. During my testing, I shot almost 200 rounds. The testing broke down as:
- 50 rounds of Remington ball ammo
- 50 rounds of my reloaded ball ammo
- 25 rounds of JHP
- 50 rounds of assorted leftover and mixed ammo
- 10 rounds of Hornady XTP
I am happy to report that I didn’t experience a single failure to feed, ejection problems, or misfire during the entire test. The Ruger LCP II didn’t seem to mind the self-defense high expansion bullets or the mixed back of different loads in the leftover ammunition.
The LCP II is what it is, a small short-barreled self-defense pistol. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I began to shoot but I was soon pleasantly surprised. At 7 yards, I was able to keep all the shots in the nine ring on a standard silhouette target.
I moved back to 15 yards and things got a little worse, but I still managed to keep all but two of three rounds in the eight ring. I could recognize the limitations of my skills and the LCP II’s capabilities.
All in all, the LCP at short distances will put rounds consistently on target. You aren’t going to be winning any matches with it, but when and if the time comes, you can be confident that you can hit a target and the gun will function.
This is my made-up word of the day. The bottom line in my mind for defense-ability is whether I am confident that the gun I’m carrying can perform the one job it has – potentially defending my life or the lives of my family. The firearm must end the threat quickly and effectively.
The .380 cartridge gets a lot of attention and debate about this very fact, and the arguments from both sides are intense. To be honest, the .380 round is, in my opinion, adequate but not ideal.
In a perfect situation, the gun I deploy in self-defense will end the threat with one shot. The world is far from perfect. That is why we carry pistols that can follow up that first shot with more if the need is there.
When considering if you want to use the LCP II and the .380 cartridge, you need to consider the following three things:
- Are you prepared to act?
- Are you properly trained?
- Is your gun loaded with the proper ammunition?
If all these factors are met, then the LCP II and the .380 cartridge meets my criteria for defense-ability.
Is There a Pocket Pistol in Your Future?
If you are considering adding a pocket pistol to your gun safe for those times when your concealed carry situation requires a smaller and lighter alternative to your everyday carry pistol, then the LCP II is a great choice. If you are looking for more options, consider our highly popular Glock 19 Gen5 review, or read our comprehensive guide to the 10 best concealed carry guns. I am a fan of Ruger firearms and have been for years. I don’t think you will go wrong with the Ruger LCP II in your pocket or on your waist. It’s a pocket pistol with a punch, and my testing has me feeling quite confident in its’ abilities.