Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Elsie Pea.......

My own search for the 'perfect' carry pistol has taught me that such does not exist. Something 'better' will always come along.

I began concealed carry with a Ruger Speed Six in .357 magnum. Heavy and bulky, but powerful and dependable and reasonably accurate and...... What more could be asked for?

That didn't stop me from asking.... and I moved to a Colt Combat Commander.
Eight rounds of .45acp power in a flat package that was 99.999% dependable, and besides that... it was a Colt .45. What more could be asked for?

Well.... maybe if it was a little lighter, and easier to conceal under Summer clothes. After all, Hiding the pistol on me was most of the battle. My carry piece needed to be small enough, light enough, that I
would carry it all the time... right? I moved to an older Taurus model 85 stainless snubby in .38 special. It was little, fairly light, and very dependable. Surprisingly accurate too for a snubby. That little heater was a breeze to carry, whether in a belly band or a belt holster... or even a coat pocket. The cartridge, .38 Special, had a long history and was reasonably effective with the right ammo. What more could I ask for?

Well.... perhaps if it carried more than five rounds... that would be nice. Flatter would be helpful as well. This brings us to my S+W M+P 9mm compact.
Twelve rounds of 9x19mm! A round arguably as powerful as the .38 Special with modern loadings. The M+P was not really any larger in dimensions than the Taurus snubby, and actually a little flatter. Add in a design which promotes instinctive shooting for me, great accuracy, and pretty good reliability. The M+P compact is a pistol one can carry all day long without noticing, will work every time, and shoots straight. What more could someone want?

Well.... perhaps if it came in a real caliber... one that started in '4' and ended in '5'. That would be nice. Loe and behold... S+W did just that! So.... my chubby butt was moved to the toy shop in search of the new breed, where my fancy was instead stolen by the Glock G-30 short frame model. Here was everything I looked for in the new M+P .45c, but came in a tried and true bullet resistant (if not bullet proof) Glock package. The G-30 is powerful, accurate, very shootable, and carries like a dream. All day long it rides my belt, and I seldom feel the slightest discomfort. The little Glock has racked more miles riding on my bod
y than most hybrid cars will any given year. What more could someone ask for?

Well...... I have learned to stop asking that question. There will always be something newer, better, more powerful, easier to carry, more accurate.... it's all just a matter of time. I can easily envision a future where I carry a Mk VII Mega Blaster
series two, with a 5 kilowatt laser effective at two miles, and all in a package smaller than my cell phone..... and I'll still be looking for something better.

The reality is not hard to see, once the glitz of 'newer' and 'better' w
ears off. We'll carry what we carry for what seems the best of reasons at the time. Choose your features from the full menu, but realize that every choice is a trade off. Big, small, powerful, easy to shoot, accurate, fast, safe, light, heavy..... you choose to suit your needs and desires.

Which brings us to a particular set of needs shared by many people, and the answer Ruger provides in the LCP weapon.

"Small enough to vanish into a pocket, especially with a 'pocket holster'. Light enough to pocket carry while wearing Summer weight shorts..... and no belt. Powerful enough to provide some reasonable level of distraction and deterrence, taking full advantage of modern pistol ammunition ballistics. More dependable than the average small auto, and with no added controls to complicate matters."

This list of 'requirements' reads like the specifications for the little Ruger LCP. Certainly not a primary weapon by any means, it does fill the role of backup pistol as if designed for it... as it likely was. In addition, it serves admirably in another role..... as a pistol to always be found with it's owner. By virtue of size, weight, and simplicity it fairly begs to be pocketed. Not just when leaving the house for errands,
but quite literally all the time. It's a ready addition to a bathrobe pocket, and simply vanishes into a pair of comfortable jeans. Go ahead and sit on it while eating breakfast... you might not even notice. Completely forgettable till it's presence is required or sought, the LCP has a lot of nothing going for it... and that may be it's best feature.

Crossing the (postal) scale at less than ten ounces, the Ruger LCP is also well under an inch thick. With a total size much smaller than a snubnosed revolver, the LCP can be 'palmed' by anyone with fair sized hands. Lay the pistol on a table, and most folks will have little difficulty completely covering the LCP with one hand.... comfortably.... with room to spare.

Small pistols are nothing new. Colt made pocket pistols for generations, as did Beretta and a host of other companies. Some were quite high quality, built of fine steel and sporting grips made from excellent wood. The Ruger LCP has none of that, being formed of modern polymers and using steel only where it must. This best explains why the LCP in .380 weighs less than the dinky Beretta Bobcat in .22 rimfire.

Regarding controls.... the LCP has very, very few. The trigger; Pull it through it's long and smooth double action pull, and the pistol goes off. That's about it, aside from the magazine release button.. No external safeties, no release for a slide locking back on an empty magazine. No..... nothing. It does have a slide lock, but it must be manually engaged to function, and is suited for range use or times when the pistol must visually be empty and safe. In normal firing it does not come into play.

The Ruger LCP is chambered in .380 acp, a round often thought the lowest end of usefulness in self defense. It's a weak sister to the 9x19 Luger round, and is generally the most powerful round suited to blow back operated pistols... if the words '.380' and 'powerful' can be used in the same paragraph. The 9mm Makarov is marginally stronger, but just barely.

The LCP has a smooth design, with nothing sticking out to catch pocket linings or clothing. It's not a hammerless design, but the hammer is so shrouded as to be ignored. The works are double action only, with a very long trigger pull. Smooth, with a clean break, it most resembles a double action revolver in use. The same smooth and rapid long squeeze gives the best results, even though the LCP will never, ever be regarded as a target pistol.

The sights are machined into the slide itself. In front, a low nub, with the rear having a wide undercut notch. Nothing protrudes above the slide to catch. In fact, at first glance it would be easy to say it really has no sights, at least until the pistol is raised into the line of sight and they become evident. This is in keeping with the pistols intended design and use.... last ditch backup defensive shooting at short range (across a room would be a far shot).

This is not to say the pistol is inaccurate. My experience may vary from others, but the first six rounds fired from this little boomer left a group that could be covered with one hand, at a distance of about twenty feet. The next six rounds made a ragged whole in the middle of the first group. After thirty or forty rounds learning the trigger, control was acceptable, predictable, and reasonable.

As for care and feeding, I have tried only two variations on the .380 theme so far. One, a 90 grain FMJ load, fed every bit as good as one might hope. Function was perfect, and the little pills made a happily tight group even at pocket-pistol range. The other offering was a 90 grain JHP hand load specifically designed for the Colt .380 government model. As such, it's a warmish load, as the itty bitty Colt fully locks up. Even so, the Ruger spit out the harsh hand load without hiccup, and fed the truncated cone JHP as if designed for them.... as it probably was. This was somewhat of a surprise, as many small pocket pistols do not feed well on a diet of jacketed hollow points.

My impressions so far? Entirely favorable. The Ruger LCP is designed to fill a niche, and it does that job nicely. It's a quintessential pocket pistol, small, light, reasonably powerful, reliable, and not wildly expensive. Selling most places for under $300, the little 'powerhouse' is priced well for the market. It's directly compared to the Kel-Tec P3AT, and in fact the Ruger appears to have much the same design. The price difference generally runs about $50 or so, with the Kel-Tec being cheaper. A little research into the two pistols is not a bad idea, and that's what I did before making my purchase. I chose the Ruger over the Kel-Tec, as the price difference did not outweigh the perceived quality difference.

The Pistol went from it's initial range session straight to my vest pocket. At home, it slides into a plants pocket as it was designed to do. When I am out someplace, it can be found on me... someplace.

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