Lately, so much attention has been focused on pistols designed almost exclusively for concealed carry. Their primary feature being that they are small. I have always been in life situations that would allow me to carry what we now term as a “full-size” pistol. The marketing folks label these “duty” pistols, indicating that they are ideal for uniformed police to carry.
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What’s interesting about the Ruger American is the quality is there, but cops don’t carry it. One of the best explanations I saw about this is that Glock, SIG, and Smith and Wesson seriously discount their prices to make sales to police agencies. That’s OK, because Ruger is happy selling all the guns it can make to customers like you and me. Plus, it does not have to discount its prices to make sales.
There are three variations of the Ruger American: The Compact and Competition models, and the one I have, the Duty model. My gun has a thumb safety and weighs 30 ounces. It is 7.5 inches long with a 4.2-inch barrel. The remaining stats show it is 5.5 inches high and 1.05 inches wide.
The frame is one-piece, glass-filled nylon with an ergonomic wraparound grip module, all black. The slide is stainless steel with a black Nitride finish. An inspection port allows for visual confirmation of a loaded or empty chamber. The capacity is 17 rounds in the magazine plus one in the pipe. The barrel has a right-hand 1:10 twist rate. The gun shipped with two, nickel-Teflon plated steel magazines plus small, medium, and large grip modules.
TruGlo TFK Sights
The sights that came on my gun were Novak Lo-Mount Carry 3-Dot. I like Tritium and tend to collect sample sights from various manufacturers. I changed my sights to a set of TruGlo TFX Tritium and Fiber-Optic Xtreme Handgun Sights. Those TruGlo sights utilize quality Swiss tritium for maximum brightness and unmatched visibility in all shooting conditions. They glow in the dark with no batteries or light sources needed.
The front sight features a highly visible, white, Focus-Lock ring surrounding the front fiber to make it even more visible. It encourages the eye to rapidly focus on the front sight for a fast and accurate sight picture. The fiber-optic in the front and rear sights is sealed, so it cannot be seen by an opponent.
The sights have a protective coating for maximum protection and feature a snag-resistant design that fits standard holsters. If you don’t change the sights, the ones that come on the gun are big and highly visible.
The American has a wraparound grip system with three grip modules for adjustment of palm swell and trigger reach to fit a wide range of hand sizes. I found I liked the middle-sized grip the best, but it wasn’t an easy choice because the gun felt good in my hands with any of the three. The grip modules are easy to replace. Just follow the directions in the instruction manual. Once in place, the chosen grip module locks in solidly.
Ruger American Ergonomics
Slide operation surprised me. Mainly, I was surprised at how easy it is to operate. It is not an EZ-Rack system, but the striker system is pre-tensioned with a powerful striker spring. Somehow, that equates to a slide that my arthritic hands can rack with no problem.
Takedown is also quite easy. You simply lock the slide back, remove the magazine and check the chamber to make sure the gun is empty. Then, rotate the takedown lever on the left side of the gun down 90 degrees. Release the slide lock. The slide will push off the front of the gun without the need to pull the trigger and no resistance.
The recoil spring is captured on the guide rod. Push it forward slightly and lift it up and set it aside. Next, remove the barrel and you have the gun apart for cleaning. It easily reassembles after cleaning. Just do everything in reverse order.
One thing I really like about the Ruger American — in addition to the user-friendly slide operation — is the fact it is totally ambidextrous. The slide lock, manual safety lever, and mag release are identical on both sides of the gun. The trigger has a blade safety, flat surface, and a slightly curved geometry. It travels approximately 3/8-inch before meeting resistance — the wall — and consistently breaks cleanly at just over 6 pounds.
Multiple design features make the gun a pleasure to shoot. Ruger’s operating system, with its pre-tensioned striker and a barrel cam that distributes recoil over a longer period of time, reduces felt recoil. The combination of the trigger and the grip ergonomics also contribute to the reduced felt recoil.
I find myself recommending the Ruger American to friends for several reasons. One is the heft. Pick up a loaded Ruger American. It feels perfectly balanced and does nothing to interfere with a natural draw and point of aim. Yes, it weighs 30 ounces. However, to me at least, it feels much lighter.
I like that it has front strap checkering that consists of small, raised diamonds. The diamonds enhance the grip without tearing up your fingers.
I mentioned the trigger and that’s a big deal when it comes to picking a handgun. Nobody wants a trigger that feels like it’s dragging or has a lot of pressure to overcome. What we really want is a trigger we hardly notice, and the American has that in my opinion.
I like the easy takedown that encourages people to clean their gun. It’s a durable gun, and it’s built and tested to function with +P ammunition. Since I don’t typically shoot +P, I figure my American is coasting with the rounds I do shoot in it. I’ve tried it with +P, ball ammo, hollow points, and a couple of different brands of fluted ammo. I’ve tried it with some of that new lightweight ammo that goes fast without producing excessive recoil.
I feel it’s only fair in this review to mention a couple of other Rugers that to me, seem like family to the Ruger American. They are the Security 9 and the Max 9. Construction on these smaller guns is similar, and if you line them all up, they look like little brother or sister to the American. Wilburn Roberts did a review on the Security 9 on The Shooter’s Log awhile back. I did a comparison article featuring the Max 9 along with a Glock 43X.
Although I shot my Ruger American on previous occasions, I took it to the range as a refresher for this review. I brought my Max 9 and Security 9C along as well. What a fun afternoon. None of the three beat up my arthritic hands and shoulders. They all made holes, more or less where I pointed them.
They all feature great sights and triggers and were easy to hold on target. I took eight brands of ammo to shoot through the Ruger American representing a good mix of bullet types. There were no issues with any of the three guns.
I do most of my shooting these days at 7–10 yards and all of it freehand. I figure, if I can hold a handgun on a 6-inch target at those ranges — and get all my rounds to impact within that circle — then putting it on a benchrest and trying it at 15 or 25 yards would not disappoint. I’ve been doing this for a number of years. I find the bench rest test more challenging to my eyes than they are to the pistol.
You would be well-defended carrying any one of these three Ruger pistols. At the end of the range session, I loaded the Max 9 with JHP ammo and slipped it into my belt holster for the ride home. It could just as well have been the American since I was wearing a Phalanx Defense Systems Stealth Operator OWB holster which is darn near universal.
If you’re looking for just one gun to double as an EDC gun and home defense pistol, you would do well to include the Ruger American in your search. As Ruger would say, “Anything else would be un-American.” If you’re a collector, you should definitely secure one. If a small gun is what you need to carry, look at the Security 9C or the Max 9. You can’t go wrong with any of these Made in America Rugers.
What is your favorite full-size frame pistol? How does the Ruger American Duty compare? Share your answers in the comment section.