Ruger American Pistol Competition – A Sleeper From Arizona

Author with Ruger American. Shirt by MOE Guns

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.

A trigger guaranteed to make you smile

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.

A striking striker fired gun

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.

One hole groups with ease

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.

slide lightening cuts

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.

Tri cut slide from an angle

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.

Front sight clearly pops even in less than ideal light

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.

very well designed take down lever

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.

excellent control layout
regardless of dominant hand

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?

very nice grip texture chosen

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.

well thought out grip module retention

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.

Norma MHP test ammo

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.

Visit Ruger to learn more about the Ruger American Competition

little art works in every package
Monolithic Hollow Points, an excellent defensive ammo choice
Ruger 17 round steel magazine, 2 included

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Jug October 30, 2020, 8:42 am

    Copied the Walther Q5!!!!!

  • Thomas October 27, 2020, 8:48 pm

    Will it shoot under an inch at 25 yds?

  • Lance October 27, 2020, 1:31 am

    I know it’s just aesthetics, but that is one ugly pistol. I’m sure it shoots great, but the lines on that pistol make me I’ll. It almost makes a Glock look sleek.

    • Lance October 27, 2020, 1:33 am

      Ill

  • Kane October 26, 2020, 9:10 pm

    On the back of the slide there is also a discreet bottle opener in case the shooter gets thirsty.

  • jon O October 26, 2020, 2:21 pm

    No accuracy evaluation. Makes one wonder.

    • Wade October 26, 2020, 4:20 pm

      Rear sight elevation is there. Third(3rd) pic from the top.

  • lloyd forester October 26, 2020, 1:53 pm

    I haven’t seen a 579$ price anywhere.

  • KC October 26, 2020, 1:07 pm

    Does Apex make a trigger for it?

  • Sky Buster October 26, 2020, 12:32 pm

    I had the duty version of this gun. Very reliable but the trigger pull was 6.5 pounds
    and felt it. I could not find any after market parts to reduce it so I moved it down the road.

  • ROFCIBC October 26, 2020, 10:38 am

    I just picked up my 57 a few weeks ago. Wish I had got it in 9mm but opted for the 5.7-28, and the latter is nearly impossible to find.

    Love the pistol. Couple of glitches as there are only two optic scopes that have a mounting plate for the 57. Vortex (which i got) and Burris.

    Now just waiting for ammo that is affordable, as opposed to the rip off merchants that use 200% cost as a starting point.

    • Jim October 26, 2020, 12:29 pm

      Right now 9mm is almost impossible to find and so pricey most cant afford more than a 50 rd box. You’d be in the same shape ammo wise any way you went.

  • Chris allen October 26, 2020, 10:27 am

    Whats your opinion on the quality of the Ruger 45 acp? 3.5 inch barrel?

    • Jake October 26, 2020, 2:00 pm

      I have no experience with the shorty but have the 4.5″ and love it. 4 lb. trigger out of the box and the lightest recoiling .45 acp I have ever fired. The Novak sights are excellent. I hope they bring this Comp model in .45 too.
      I have been trying to get one of these and they simply are not available. Ruger has a huge winner with the American Pistol line.

  • Don October 26, 2020, 10:18 am

    This seems like a great pistol. It comes at a time that most of us can’t find reasonably priced ammo in any quantity. I have stopped shooting 9mm, .38 Special, 5.56mm and .22 Lr. It simply isn’t on the shelves except in odd lots and at three times the price. Being limited to buying one or two boxes of off-brand ammo doesn’t satisfy the demand. With any of these we need to be able to buy the same ammo, in quantity, and not get screwed over by the distribution system.

  • Altoids October 26, 2020, 10:03 am

    Looks like they hired their engineers from Glock.
    Not to disparage Ruger, but I see a lot of similarities.

  • Chuck October 26, 2020, 9:51 am

    6.5# trigger and it’s for competition?
    The SR9c with the 5# trigger out of the box was much better.
    I agree that Ruger has the sales and little else besides the 10/22.

  • Billy M October 26, 2020, 6:42 am

    now make it in a good self defense caliber (.40, .45, or 10mm) and I am interested.

    • SuperG October 26, 2020, 10:14 am

      Spot on Billy!

    • Don October 26, 2020, 10:20 am

      By now, everybody knows that good 9mm ammunition performs adequately. The issue is finding good defense ammo on the store shelves is near impossible.

    • Dick October 26, 2020, 11:13 am

      You old fudds that haven’t discovered modern 9mm are astounding.

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