By Massad Ayoob
Ruger’s new crop of defensive handguns — and one sporting pistol — fills several niches for customers. How can retailers take advantage of these new offerings to boost sales? Let’s take a look.
The introduction of the Ruger LCP (Lightweight Compact Pistol) micro-size .380 in 2008 was “a happening” in the firearms industry. It was so popular it caused a sudden — and long lasting — drought of .380 ammunition. By the beginning of 2016, Ruger had sold more than 1.5 million LCPs.
The double-action-only LCP with its long, heavy trigger pull in a tiny, super-light gun wasn’t the easiest pistol to control with good accuracy in rapid fire. Thus, the LCP II has an ever-so-slightly wider frame to better distribute recoil to the web of the hand — and its single-action trigger has a much shorter, easier trigger pull. Pull weight is similar to that of a standard GLOCK. Because this is a pocket pistol, Ruger is including a fabric pocket holster in the box with every LCP II. Larger sights also improve the second generation LCP’s “shootability.” It will be somewhat more expensive than the original LCP (which is expected to remain in the Ruger line) for a couple of reasons. One is to simply keep a lower price point option. The other is some customers perceive a hammer-fired pocket pistol with a long, heavy, double-action trigger pull a safety advantage. If I were a dealer, I’d expect substantial LCP II sales this year.
Ruger American Compact
Polymer-framed, striker-fired pistols continue to dominate the self-defense market. Ruger’s own SR9 compact has proven to be a reliable, economical entry in this field. The Ruger American Pistol Compact model, with 12+1 cartridge capacity, is designed to compete with the subcompact GLOCK 26, S&W M&P Compact, etc. Closest in size to the M&P, it’s heavier — 28.75 oz. vs. 24.7 oz. It will especially appeal to your customers that are serious shooters and practice/train regularly with their concealed carry pistols. The American series was built to the standards of the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System in terms of rugged reliability, even though it was never submitted for testing in this venue.
The standard model comes with an ergonomic, ambidextrous thumb safety, which is absent on the optional Pro model. The trigger configuration and pull are both somewhat GLOCK-like. In testing this, I occasionally found the flesh of the trigger finger binding between its bladed trigger safety and the trigger finger itself (preventing a shot) but it wasn’t a widespread problem.
The manual safety is a selling point for two reasons. First, many conservative handgunners aren’t comfortable with a “point and shoot” format in a short, easy trigger pull, particularly those who carry in the appendix position. Second, some who prefer to carry without a safety may find the thumb riding the safety lever will help keep the muzzle down. In testing, they stayed on target with minimal muzzle rise during the fastest strings of rapid fire — thanks in part to their slightly greater weight.
Let me share an example of Ruger’s commitment to the end user. At a Ruger fall seminar — where these products were introduced — attendees learned beta testers had carried early versions of the American Compact. While carrying, they noted the magazine release button springs were too light and the ambi-button could be accidentally depressed by a seat belt, releasing the magazine. In response, Ruger engineers beefed up the mag release springs considerably.
However, while at the seminar, attendees found the new springs too strong as they slowed down reloads. Ruger Director of Product Management Mark Gurney assured they would be “on top of it.” Sure enough, a month later I was teaching at The Range of Richfield in Wisconsin when they hosted a Ruger Day, and all the new production American Compacts on display had been adjusted “just right.” Ruger listened and nailed it.
Ruger’s two new defense revolvers depart from the concept of their hugely popular LCR (Lightweight Compact Revolver) line now available in .22 LR, .22 Magnum, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .327 Magnum and 9mm Luger. These new entries are big, double-action chunks of stainless steel — proving the spirit of Elmer Keith hasn’t entirely departed from America’s gun culture. By the time you read this, Ruger will have announced the GP100 five-shot .44 Special and snub-nose Redhawk eight-shot .357 Magnum.
The .44 Special has an interesting story, and further demonstrates how Ruger listens to its end users. Several Ruger fans wrote to outgoing CEO Mike Fifer of their wishes to see a 3-inch barrel .44 Special iteration of the GP100. On the strength of these letters, Fifer gave the go-ahead to the engineers. With an unfluted cylinder and heavy 3-inch barrel, the new GP balances well and shoots softly for a big-bore. Dealers, you should have ammo like Speer Gold Dot or Hornady Critical Defense available; it far exceeds the early 246-grain lead bullet loads that gave the .44 Special its reputation for stopping power beginning in 1908.
The short-barreled Redhawk with rounded butt takes eight rounds of .357 Magnum. It wasn’t unpleasant with Magnum loads, and was a delight to shoot with .38 Special Critical Defense ammo. For those who favor a home-defense revolver, the short barrel (less leverage for a home intruder to grab in a disarming attempt) and the one-third increase in firepower over a standard six-shooter will be strong selling points. And as you know, there are still customers out there who simply prefer revolvers.
An Update For Target Shooters
In .22 target/sport pistols, the Ruger has always been a “best buy” famed for ruggedness and reliability, but complicated in takedown and reassembly in particular. Enter the Ruger Mark IV series, the biggest design revamp since Bill Ruger introduced the original in 1949. A simple press of a button at the back of the frame breaks the pistol open, allowing separation of “upper” from “lower” and easy-peasy taking apart and putting back together. It’s available in two 5.5-inch Target models and a 6.88-inch Hunter. Don’t be surprised if you see an influx of older model Ruger .22s traded in for this new style.
Overall, Ruger has made great strides in recent years — particularly in the home-defense gun market. I look for the LCP II to be a particularly strong seller.
What Your Customers Are Reading
Ruger’s new-for-2017 handguns have received expansive coverage in recent issues of American Handgunner and GUNS Magazine — giving your customers plenty of reasons to stop by your store and handle one personally.
In the March/April 2017 issue of Handgunner, John Taffin evaluates a Ruger trio in his Taffin Tests column: the Ruger American Compact, LCP II and Mark IV .22 Hunter. Taffin sums up these new entries succinctly: “With so many firearms manufacturers, competition serves to provide newer models regularly. It’s obvious Ruger isn’t sitting back on its laurels, but actually listening to shooters.”
GUNS Magazine’s March issue profiles the Mark IV Hunter and GP100 in .44 Special. In his bimonthly Rimfires column, Holt Bodinson relays how Ruger addressed a need by updating this popular .22-caliber pistol. Bodinson also recounts a conversation he had with his local retailer, who said he used to charge customers to put their dissembled Ruger pistols back together — but now offers the service for free because so many have failed to put older models back together properly. The Mark IV’s one-button takedown system will help alleviate that problem, Bodinson tells readers. In “Big-Bore Breakout” Massad Ayoob touts the virtues of the GP100 in .44 Special.
In the upcoming May issue of GUNS Magazine, the Ruger LCP II and American Compact take center stage as the cover guns of the issue.