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Pocket pistols might be trendy, but they’re definitely not new. In fact, what we could consider modern, semi-automatic pocket pistols have been around for more than 100 years. The first decade of the 20th century produced several popular models in .25 auto, including the FN model 1905, and the Colt model 1908. The application and practical value of the pocket pistol is every bit as relevant today, and probably the most notable model of the past several decades is the Ruger LCP, chambered in .380 ACP.

Everyone who’s ever heard of a pocket pistol would recognize one. The LCP’s ultra-thin, compact build and its highly regarded reliability, plus advancements in ammunition that bring the .380 into the realm of realistic self-defense cartridges all worked to make the pistol a fantastic success. Ruger wasn’t satisfied to stop there though. They have kept improving the platform, introducing the LCP II, and this year, the LCP MAX.

Ruger LCP MAX Specs

  • Capacity: 10+1
  • Slide Material: Alloy Steel
  • Slide Finish: Black Oxide
  • Grip Frame: Black, High-Performance, Glass-Filled Nylon
  • Barrel Material: Alloy Steel
  • Barrel Finish: Black Oxide
  • Barrel Length: 2.80″
  • Overall Length: 5.17″
  • Front Sight: Tritium with White Outline
  • Rear Sight: Drift Adjustable
  • Weight: 10.6 oz.
  • Height: 4.12″
  • Grooves: 6
  • Twist: 1:16″ RH
  • Suggested Retail: $449.00

Ruger LCP MAX Features

The LCP MAX builds upon an already solid pocket-pistol platform, and it follows a contemporary trend of maximizing ammunition capacity. The original LCP’s magazine held 6 rounds, with the option of using a 7-round extended magazine. The LCP MAX ships with a 10-round magazine, and you can buy slightly extended, 12-round magazine, giving a total capacity of 11-13 rounds. That’s nearly as much as many full-size 9mm pistols. The LCP MAX’s magazine is a tapered double-to-single stack magazine, meaning that the lower portion of the magazine is double stack, then tapers down to the profile of a straight single-stack magazine for roughly the last inch below the feed lips. This allows the slide to maintain an ultra-thin, low profile, at only .81” thick.

To be fair, that dimension is only at the rearmost cocking “ears.” Most of the slide is .755” wide according to my calipers, which is virtually the same as the LCP II. As expected, the fattest portion of the whole pistol is the grip, due to the larger capacity. Even that though, measures at about .935” at its thickest point, which is less than many micro-compact single-stack 9mm’s. It usually doesn’t make sense to get too hung up on the numbers (it’s not worth obsessing over thousandths-of-an-inch in thickness), but the engineering required to pack 11 rounds into a platform this tiny is impressive. I’m not sure that another .380 on the market with the same capacity can beat it for compactness.

The increased capacity is the most notable change from the LCP II, and like the LCP II, it is an internal hammer-fired pistol (not striker), and includes a white-outlined tritium front sight, and U-shaped rear sight that is drift-adjustable for windage. The rear sight dovetail is also designed to accept all bodyguard-style rear sights. It has aggressive cocking serrations on both the front and rear of the slide, and the ejector is actually incorporated into the slide stop. In addition to the 10-round magazine, the pistol ships with a soft pocket holster. It’s a compact package that’s comfortable to carry in a variety of manners and locations.

ruger LCP max
The Ruger LCP Max still makes for a compact package. Tyler Freel

Range Testing the Ruger LCP MAX

Bells, whistles, numbers, and compactness don’t do any good if a gun isn’t reliable, especially a self-defense gun. Ruger is known for the dependability of their firearms, and I would have been disappointed if this pistol had given me problems. It didn’t. I fired 300 rounds through the gun without cleaning it, and I didn’t have a single malfunction. I used 3 different types of ammunition, hand-loaded 90 grain FMJ, loaded with mixed brand range-collected brass, as well as hand-loaded 90 grain hollowpoint ammunition. I also ran through a couple boxes of Barnes Tac-XPD 80-grain hollowpoints without issue. The manual for this pistol does note that you’re not supposed to use high pressure or +p loads, likely because many of the components are minimalistic, including a paper-thin barrel and chamber. However, with normal ammunition, you have nothing to be concerned about.

A pocket pistol isn’t a precision shooting instrument, and I didn’t accuracy-test for that. I did all my shooting on USPSA target faces and had no problem maintaining A-zone hits at ranges out to 45 feet. I did notice that similar to some other ultra-compact pistols, the sights seem to be designed to give an impact directly on the front dot, not on top of it. This might seem like it shoots low to someone who is used to using a lollipop 6 o’clock hold.

Despite the short grip, it was quite comfortable to shoot, and although the recoil had a bit of a snappy feel, the gun was extremely stable, and it felt as if the sights never left the line of sight, still being in place on the target when the gun returned into battery with the next round. Even considering its small size, the pistol is very manageable to shoot quickly and accurately. The trigger isn’t what I would call double-action, as it’s not cocking the hammer as you pull, but it has the feel of a two-stage rifle trigger, with a central safety lever, a soft, long take-up, and a shorter break. I would like to see a little more crispness in it, but for the gun’s intended purpose, it’s not a bad trigger.

A Relevant Self-Defense Option

There will always be a balance when it comes to size and capacity for pocket pistols, but I think that Ruger has done really well to squeeze as much as they can possibly get out of the LCP platform, while keeping its edge as an ultra-comfortable and user-friendly pocket peashooter. Some might poo-poo the .380 as just that, a peashooter, but it fills a very relevant niche in the self-defense world today. With good ammunition, the increased capacity of this platform makes for a very practical defense handgun for many applications. It’s comfortable to shoot and can be carried in a wide variety of circumstances. The gun you have on you is better than the one you don’t, and that’s the real utility of the Ruger LCP Max.  

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