Ruger has long been a leader in handguns, at least in terms of numbers. But while they have been the King of Rimfire, and arguably single-action revolvers, in my opinion, their polymer guns left something to be desired. That really started changing about 4 years ago, with the advent of the Security 9. You could tell from first glance that Ruger had some new blood in the engineering department, and all for the positive. We have continued to see some excellent evolution across the handguns board, including the Ruger-57 we reviewed earlier this year. So it was with some anticipation that I was finally able to lay hands on a product from the American Pistol line.
There are options available in this line, but we went right for the flagship. New for this year, Ruger has released the aptly named Competition model. Which, as the name implies, is geared toward competitive shooters right out of the box. Not only is this a growing segment, but the bleed over to tactical shooters is great here. Anything that remains reliable but works well for sport shooting is going to be a fantastic choice for your tactical needs.
This is my first test of the Ruger American Pistol line, but looking at the spec sheet does show some minor differences between the Duty and Competition models. The first and hard to miss upgrade for the Competition is down at the grip. Like the other American models, the Competition features replaceable back straps. Unique to our test gun is a new texture pattern that feels like polymer formed sandpaper. That is a fantastic choice, as one of the first upgrades many of us choose to do to a race gun is exactly that, gluing sandpaper onto the grip. Ruger’s grit choice isn’t going to make you bleed if you have princess hands, but it is aggressive. In use, it is an excellent balance of grippy enough, but not like getting a palm exfoliation after every shooting session. The pattern coves both sides of the grip, as well as the back and front strap.
The backstrap replacement is a fairly common feature of modern polymer guns, but Ruger puts a good twist on it. Instead of needing to knock out pins, the American pistols retain the backstrap with a 90-degree rotating Allen key. This is a really nice system, not least of which because of simplicity. No bent or lost pins, and no knocking them out 10 times while you decide which grip module you like. In the box are small, medium, and large grips. I also like that Ruger ships the spare grips with a storage block that fits inside them, to help the grip keep its shape over long storage. Also built into the grip is a very unobtrusive lanyard hole, should you desire one. A lanyard is often mocked by the internet commandoes, but something you absolutely want if you work on a boat. Having been on a ship seizing unit in the USMC, I like to at least have the option.
The magazine release is ambidextrous, a well-shaped triangular button. The grip is nicely tapered near the mag release, creating a really well-formed grip……zone. Also built in is a long beavertail to the rear of the grip, ensuring you don’t get slide bite. This also lowers the bore axis relative to your hand and works like gangbusters. Upfront is a true Picatinny rail, a must in modern handguns. The slide release is also fully Ambi, a huge bonus to you lefties. The takedown lever is of the best I have seen. It not only functions smoothly but is really well-formed to act as a thumb shelf when shooting. Ruger really thought this part through, a small but not insignificant detail.
The slide looks straight sexy, a phrase that I didn’t think I would be uttering in a Ruger review 5 years ago. It has a tri-cut style lightening upfront, as well as full up lightning holes cut all the way through both sides. This is often called the cheese grater style, though I am happy to report the Competition is very smoothly machined. Even if you prefer a front slide grip to rack the slide, you won’t notice the holes. You will, however, notice the included front serrations. Combined, the look is magnificent, and something you can only find with competitors via the custom shop or aftermarket work.
The front sight is a very large green fiber optic dot, which is incredibly bright in daylight. It is dovetailed in for security, which is very much an upgrade. No tiny little screws that break or get lost for the American. No sir. The rear sight is black and adjustable for both elevation and windage. A must-have if you are switching between duty loads and light competition loads. Not something the normal 9mm consumer sees, but when you start bleeding velocity, race gun loads do change point of impact, sometimes considerably. This is yet another nice feature.
Now one thing that you will notice picking up the Competition, compared to other guns in class, is that the slide is just a bit wider. Now, part of this is the bulbous little area where the slide is cut for a red dot. Rather than leaving a mounting plate hanging off the sides, Ruger just cut for a flush fit. Behind the red dot mount, the slide is once again tri cut. But, overall, it is still just a smidge wider. The manual says it is 1.05” wide, compared to 1.00” for an easily comparable Glock 34. This extra width isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is something you notice. And when getting ready for a shooting test, something you have to take into account. The size does make the gun feel a little top-heavy, but most polymer handguns are top-heavy when unloaded. The real question is does the potential added reciprocating mass make recoil worse. Because we have seen a slightly wider slide done well before, such as in with the CZ P10. And we have seen it done poorly, such as with the Remington RP-9.
The Competition is a long slide model, which should be expected for the intended user. The longer sight radius is preferred for race guns, and you will find most high-level competitors using some variant thereof. Not to mention SWAT guys and military Counter Terror forces. The best direct comparison is to the Glock 34/35, the original in this category for polymer handguns.
The Ruger has an overall length of 8.31 inches, compared to 8.82 inches for the G34. Very close, but tells us that the American Competition will fit in the USPSA production box. The Ruger has a barrel length of 5 inches exactly, compared to the 5.31 inches of the G34. Which tells you where that extra .5 inches went up top. 5 inches is plenty to maximize velocity, and a nice choice by Ruger to cut it back just a smidge. All in all, a very apples to apples comparison, with the Ruger very much capable of holding its own. And it takes down without pulling the trigger, so how about them apples?
Finally, the trigger. I was shocked by how good the trigger is on the American Competition. Very smooth, very little creep, and what I would have told you is very light. But my trigger gauge disagrees with me and says the trigger is 6.5 pounds. Which left me a bit confused. The magic is in Ruger’s pre-tensioned striker system, and excellent engineering. This is a marvel we have seen now on a few new guns, albeit in different ways. It basically seems that the lawyers have decided we all must have a 5.5+ pound trigger, and then the engineers figure out how to make it feel lighter. The Sig P320X5, for instance, is lauded across the gun community for having a great trigger. But if you put it on a gauge, it is still 5.5 pounds. Ruger has achieved the same magic. It might actually be 6.5 pounds, but it feels much, much lighter. I have no problem at all calling this one of the best 3 polymer gun triggers out of the box, excluding custom shop or aftermarket cheats.
And performance! Whoa, nelly! Remember when I said I was worried about the slide mass under recoil? Absolutely not an issue. Ruger says that “the barrel cam distributes recoil forces over a longer period of time to reduce felt recoil.” Which sounds like some sales brochure nonsense. But, for once, the hype lives up to the test. Whatever Ruger did, it worked. The felt recoil is noticeably absent, even with full power loads.
Overall, I am coming out of this test very impressed. The Ruger American Competition is not only easy to be accurate with, but it will also absolutely sling lead when it’s time to go fast. This gun will bang with any polymer gun I have picked up, and I would have no problem recommending it for any race or tactical need. The best part? It comes with a Ruger price tag. All this, at an MSRP of $579, is going to make this gun a contender.