By Wayne Lincourt
Sturm, Ruger & Co.
The widely acclaimed Ruger LCR (Lightweight Compact Revolver) just got even better. As you know, the LCR is one of Ruger’s best-selling guns. They hit a home run when they introduced the first polymer revolver in January of 2009, and since then they’ve added several new versions to broaden the market for this revolutionary snub nose. The latest is the .38 spcl./.38spcl+P version with an external hammer—the LCRx. Don’t worry, the addition of the hammer hasn’t changed any of the great handling and shooting qualities of the double-action-only (DAO) LCR. It still has the same polymer lower housing that holds the fire control components, the same aluminum alloy upper and the same stainless steel barrel liner and cylinder. However, with this model you have the option of pulling the hammer back and firing in single-action (SA) mode.
One of the qualities the LCR is best known for is its smooth double-action trigger. The close tolerances of the polymer frame and the patented friction-reducing cam action of the trigger group ensure that each and every gun has the same great trigger. That was a meaningful breakthrough in a mass-produced firearm. Out of the box, the new LCRx measured an average of 10 pounds 10.5 ounces of force needed to pull the trigger through in double-action mode, but it feels lighter thanks to its inherent smoothness. There was no stacking and a clean, crisp break, just like its predecessors. The single-action trigger was crisp and clean, with no creep and minimal overtravel. At a trigger weight of 6 pounds, it’s an excellent SA trigger for a self defense gun.
Judging by gun sales, the snub nose .38 revolver in general is one of the most, if not the most, popular self-defense gun type going. There are several reasons for this. The gun is small, easily concealed, reliable and fires an acceptable defense round, made even better in the .38+P cartridge, a more powerful version of the venerable .38. In addition, it is very easy to deploy in an emergent situation—just draw, aim, and pull the trigger. No safeties to mess with. The original LCR had no external hammer, maintaining the easy-to-deploy philosophy while eschewing an external hammer which could become snagged on clothing. However, some individuals prefer to have the SA option. I am one of those, and I’ve carried a Smith & Wesson J-Frame snubby for years. Fortunately, I’ve never had to defend myself with it. I have, however, used it for target shooting, plinking, and carried it as a backup when hunting. In those instances, it’s nice to be able to fire single action which is generally more accurate due to the shorter, lighter trigger pull.
So how about the snagging problem? Getting hung up on the hammer spur is a valid concern for a self defense gun. The LCRx starts out with a short hammer spur that minimizes the chances of getting snagged on clothing. I guess if you wanted you could grind it down even further. I put the naked gun into various pockets and made numerous draws without the hint of a snag. That doesn’t mean that it can’t happen, but experience tells me that it’s not likely. Another way to reduce the chances of a snag is to use a holster, even when carrying in a pocket, which I like to do when wearing heavier cold weather clothing. Using a pocket holster holds the gun in the proper orientation for presentation, helps reduce wear on your clothing, and prevents your keys and other loose objects from getting into the trigger guard. It also provides a smooth, snag free draw. If the chance of the hammer spur snagging still bothers you, there’s a simple solution—just buy one of the DAO LCRs.
The LCRx weighs 13.50 ounces empty. In your hand, even that minimal weight seems to disappear due to the excellent balance and ergonomics. It’s a nice size for concealed carry—1.282” at the cylinder, its widest point; 6.5” long; and 4.5” high to the top of the front sight blade.
The sight is typical for a snub nose revolver—a ramped front sight and a small U-shaped notch in back give you a sight picture adequate for most needs. My only criticism is that the sight picture is difficult to acquire quickly, especially against a dark background. Other snubbies share this problem. I addressed it on my J-Frame by swapping the factory sight for a light pipe. Fortunately, you can also change sights on the LCRx. The front sight is held in place with a small pin and some bedding material which can be easily removed. There are several types of sight available in the aftermarket. HiViz, for example, offers a selection of fiber optic sights in various colors. Meprolight and XS Systems seem to be the most popular Tritium dot front sights. XS systems in Fort Worth, Texas, introduced their “Express Sight” in 2006. It even has a Ruger part number (RP-0008N-4). In fact, other LCR models are available from Ruger with the XS sight and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ruger offer the LCRx with it as well. This gives you a much more visible sight during the daytime with the added benefit of a highly visible night sight.
Another excellent option is a laser sight. I have a Crimson Trace laser grip on my J-Frame and highly recommend it. As you wrap your hand around the grip, your second finger naturally rests on the on button automatically turning on the sight. No remotely mounted buttons or switches to hunt for. It greatly improves your accuracy with the gun with the added benefit of providing an aid for dry firing to improve your proficiency. As in the XS Express Sight, the Crimson Trace laser grip is available on other LCRs and I would think it will eventually be available on the LCRx as well. You save money by buying the gun already equipped with your sight of choice versus buying the sight after the fact.
The light weight of the LCRx makes for a comfortable carry gun. You might think that the trade-off would be a harsh recoil, but that’s not the case. It does recoil more than my J-Frame, but it also weighs half as much. Still the recoil was not uncomfortable and it was easy to control the muzzle flip to get back on target quickly. The recoil for the +P loads was marginally greater than the lower powered .38 special rounds, almost unnoticeably so, especially firing the Hornady Critical Defense 110 grain .38 +P. The Hogue grip is responsible for absorbing a lot of the recoil. It has a softer insert where the grip fits into the web of your hand adding to the comfort level. The finger groves provide a secure grip and fit my relatively small hands well. The polymer frame has also been given credit for reducing felt recoil. I didn’t have a comparable all metal gun, like a Smith & Wesson Airweight, for a direct comparison, so can’t say for sure.
Surprisingly, at least to me, my best group resulted from firing double action from a standing position. The five shots grouped into a center-to-center group of 1.241” at 21 feet, a testament to the smoothness of the DA action. My other targets produced similar results but generally with a flier that doubled the size of the group. I attribute that to the shooter, not the gun. It’s a very accurate gun for a 1.875” barrel.
There were some interesting numbers that came from the chronograph. Herter’s 158 grain full-metal-jacket (FMJ) rounds clocked an average of 741.48 feet per second for 193 foot-pounds of energy. The Hornady Critical Defense .38 spcl +P, 110 grain hollow points, on the other hand, chronographed at an average muzzle velocity of 965.16 fps or 227 foot-pounds of energy. Not too shabby for a pocket gun.
When selecting speedloaders, be careful because they won’t all work with the LCR/LCRx. The two most common brands of five-round speedloaders are Safariland and HKS.
The Safariland is the easier to use because you simply press the rounds into the chambers until the rear of the cylinder depresses the release. Unfortunately, you can’t do this on the LCRs because the Hogue grips prevent the speedloader from lining up straight with the chambers. The front of the bullets enter the cylinder, but the grip prevents you from pushing the speedloader in far enough to work the release mechanism. The HKS speedloader, however, works fine. You don’t have the same problem related to lining up the rounds with the cylinder because the release is a knob on the back of the speedloader. Once the rounds are started in the chambers, just twist the knob about an eighth of a turn clockwise and the rounds drop the rest of the way home.
Holsters are readily available for the LCR and many S&W J-Frame holsters will fit as well, although not all. The trigger guard is slightly bigger on the LCR, so try a holster before you buy it unless it’s marked for the LCR.
All-in-all, the LCRx is another winner from the Ruger stable of guns. When you’re holding it, it feels like part of your hand, pointing naturally. It’s also comfortable to carry, has a very nice trigger, and is a lot of fun to shoot. MSRP is $529, the same as the other Ruger .38 +P LCRs. Ruger is currently shipping guns so if they’re not yet available at your local dealer, they will be soon.