Little and Light, Yet Plenty of Protection.
In recent years, the interest in guns for personal protection has risen dramatically in the US. Handgun sales have flourished as first-time and experienced gun owners alike have shown a renewed interest in arming themselves for defensive purposes. These new purchases aren’t just sitting at home, either – my gun club, for example, has seen its traffic swell on days that it’s open to the public. Clearly, people buying guns today are doing so with a purpose in mind, and they’re taking it seriously.
For once, lawmakers seem (largely) in step with popular sentiment. Many states have recently passed “castle doctrine” laws, and others are considering it. No fewer than 39 states now observe “shall issue” policy with respect to CCW (Carrying a Concealed Weapon), and other states (including gun-unfriendly California) permit open carry. The right to carry has once again been extended to our national parks, and the NRA is fighting for similar rights at the workplace.
Several manufacturers have capitalized on this expanding market segment with new models of small, lightweight handguns. One of the most interesting new offerings is the Ruger LCR, an innovative .38 Special +P revolver that is nearly ideal for its intended purpose of personal protection.
LCR stands for “Light Compact Revolver,” and it is just that. Weighing in at a mere 13 ounces (13.5 with the larger Hogue grips), the LCR is about as light as they come. Ruger clearly put some work into saving weight on the LCR, as its two piece, aluminum and polymer frame, heavily-relieved cylinder, and scalloped recoil shield all attest.
With its 1 7/8″ barrel, concealed hammer, two-finger grip and streamlined sights, the LCR also doesn’t take up much space. This gun can be carried in several holster options or in a purse or handbag with minimal fuss. (I suppose if you’re willing to risk repeating the recent misfortunes of a certain NFL star, you can just stuff it in your pocket, too.)
The LCR is handsomely finished in matte black and low-glare gray. Buyers have the option of a Hogue grip, or for a bit more money, a Crimson Trace laser grip. Apart from the grips, there are no configuration options on this gun.
When I first got my LCR, I dry fired it extensively to get a feel for the trigger. As double-action triggers go, this one is well above average. The pull is smooth and fairly light, though it does become a bit heavier in the last 1/4″ of travel or so. Overall trigger travel is a little under an inch, and the shooter must release the trigger fully in order to properly cycle the cylinder.
Whenever I test a new gun, people invariably ask me “how does it shoot?” My stock answer is “better than I do.” In the case of the LCR, however, this is an especially appropriate response, as this gun takes some getting used to. To begin with, shooting 38 Special out of a 13-ounce gun is a rather interesting experience: the recoil is sharp, even with the lightest handloads, and using +P ammunition borders on punishing. (For those unfamiliar with the principles of perceived recoil, the gun’s weight is a major factor in determining what you feel; the lighter the gun, the more of the recoil is transferred to the shooter.)
Apart from the recoil, this gun presents another challenge to the shooter. The combination of a double-action trigger (even a very good one like the LCR’s) and an ultra-lightweight gun can be rough on accuracy. What I discovered in my tests was that the very light weight of the LCR gives it little resistance to small, unintentional movements. Factor in the long trigger pull, which gives plenty of opportunity for a glitch in the shooter’s squeeze, and you have a gun that is very, very easy to move off-target. The aforementioned heaviness at the end of the trigger pull exacerbates this; I had to concentrate not to push the gun at the end of the trigger pull.
A couple of other notes: due to the extensive fluting, the cylinder heats up pretty fast. After firing one or two cylinders, it’s probably a good idea to let the gun cool down for a few minutes. Also, the ejector rod is a little short, and must be pushed sharply and to its full length of travel to ensure ejection of all spent cases.
A Gun With a Purpose
It would be easy to read my comments above and conclude that I have a less than favorable impression of the LCR. Nothing could be further from the truth. The points made above must be kept within context of the intended purpose of this gun, which is personal protection. This is NOT a gun for plinking or a leisurely day at the range. This is NOT a gun for long-range shooting or pinpoint accuracy; indeed, when you use this gun, you’re not going to have time to aim carefully anyway. This is most assuredly a gun for a very specific purpose (personal defense at close range), and the criticisms above are necessary evils for a gun as specialized as the LCR.
The LCR achieves its goals admirably and is sure to be a major winner with the CCW crowd. It offers the shooter a light, compact package with plenty of power for its purpose. It’s also attractive and practical, and competitively priced. If you want a personal protection revolver, and are OK with buying a gun that you hope you never have to use, a good hard look at the LCR is strongly recommended.