Often the name Ruger is associated with budget guns that are commonly referred to as “lawyer guns” for obvious reasons. The biggest reason is due to them having a slew of passive and active safeties all throughout the gun. Now this isn’t entirely bad, because this just means that this one design is legal in all states and the only thing they need to change in the magazine capacities. The loaded chamber indicators stand so tall that you in no way can mistake if the pistol is loaded. You have a small manual safety that doesn’t seem obstructive if shooting, but can in fact be a snag risk when carrying. And the worst safety of all that Ruger loses a great number of customers on is the magazine safety. But they recently released a pistol that takes everything you thought about this Arizona-based company, and turns it on its head. Spoiler Alert, I am talking about the Ruger American pistol.
Now let us look at Ruger itself real quick to better understand the company and where this pistol came from. Ruger got its start in 1949 in Arizona under the name Sturm, Ruger & Co, Inc (Ruger for short). They started there company on a shoestring budget of $50,000 with a huge amount of doubt in their ability to succeed in making this company a success. The founder, William B. Ruger set a high standard for the build of his pistols and the products he intended to make. His intent was to make their products one of the best built and most desirable guns on the market, as I would hope any gun maker would want to do. After decades of making guns, they have earned a place among some of the most respected firearms manufacturers. They deliver on many different Law Enforcement contracts and sell millions of guns a year to all types of shooters. The Ruger American came along recently as Rugers answer to the market asking for a durable pistol capable of enduring harsh use and a long service life. Rumor has it that they intended to put this pistol in for the military trials for the next service pistol. I would be curious to see how this pistol would perform in the testing that the military would conduct.
OVERVIEW AND UNBOXING
The Ruger American is one solid pistol with a modest package that is still good enough to get started. The box is a nice all black case with the lifted Ruger emblem on it. I think it could be a little flashier and encouraging to match the enthusiasm the user will no doubt get out of this pistol. The box comes with the pistol, two nickel Teflon plated magazines (17 rounds each, or 10 rounds for the restricted states), two extra backstraps (medium is already on the pistol and an Allen key is provided), a manual with nice white and black pictures and illustrations, a standard cable lock, and a yellow strip of paper warning that stainless steel can still rust if you don’t protect it. All in all I feel like this pistol comes with a pretty standard loadout that you will find with other pistols.
When first looking at this pistol, there are familiar traits all over the pistol. You will recognize some subtle details about the pistol that you will see in other platforms. i have seen reviews where people feel that it is a “ripoff” of other pistol designs, and they claim that it is distasteful to not be “original.” My take on this subject is that taking ideas from designs that work and work well is not a crime, but very smart. I mean, come on, these same guys hammer guns for not being like “X,Y,Z pistol.” Personally I feel that Ruger did great making every part of this pistol tough and reinforcing everything for a long life and unmatched resiliency. This pistol is heavier than many other pistols in its class, but for very good reason. It uses a good amount of steel in the construction, which generally will add to the integrity with long term usage. Time will tell if this is the case, though, but I feel that this pistol will last very well for a long duty life.
The grip on the Ruger American is a prime example of the ingenuity that went into the design of this pistol. The patterns on the pistol are textured in the right places with simple raised shapes. The texture is not too aggressive, but it holds incredibly well. The simple shapes that are used provide a secure hold in the front and rear, preventing side to side sliding and up and down movement under recoil with hot defense loadings. The Tang on the pistol allow you to get a very high grip on the pistol with a small cutout under the trigger guard/mag release, which allows you to get an even more secure hold on the pistol.
The natural aim on this pistol is extremely akin to the Glock pistol from my observations. But I noticed that the point of aim and the comfort could change drastically depending on the type of backstrap that you put on. The backstraps have a simple and easy system for changing sizes. The allen key screw in the middle of the grip is recessed down far enough into the grip to make it difficult to loosen with friction, but also makes it hard to photograph for you. All it takes is a quarter turn with the key, and then you slide your backstrap down and away. Then you do the whole process in reverse with the new backstrap. I prefer the smaller one myself since I like having a better hold on my pistols.
I am sure that you will recognize that Ruger did something very cool with their controls that only a few brands have done so far. They went full ambidextrous on the few controls they have on the Ruger American. This is very intelligent and they did an excellent job keeping the controls functional but without making them too big as to be a burden. There is even a space near the thumb where it is possible to have a manual safety installed. From what I am seeing, they took good designs, put their own improvements on them, and made them stronger. That is just my opinion though, so take it for what it is worth. I also found the slide serrations to be perfectly aggressive and my wife agreed when she shot and manipulated it as well.
Triggers are always a controversial subject for shooters. Many people define triggers as being good if they go off with little to no effort in the pull. Those of us who try to safely get speed out of our draw tend to enjoy a slightly heavier or longer trigger pull, hence the favoring of DA/SA platforms. That said, i find this pistols trigger to be a very surprising and pleasing construction. It feels light on the pull, but comes in at a very acceptable 6 LB. The takeup is maybe 3/8 of an inch of zero noise or grit before you discover the light wall. From here, the trigger breaks with a crisp snap all the way to the trigger stop block that is very familiar to those of us that have ran M&P pistols before. The over-travel is so little that you don’t need to concern yourself with its effects. The rest is all the way back out for the full 1/2 inch travel. this doesn’t really seem that long when you are actually shooting the pistol, and especially when shooting fast. That said, it is easy for beginners to get into this pistol and shoot it well.
The takedown for the Ruger American pistol is a far separation from the traditional Ruger takedown method. They are now using the same style of takedown as the Sigs, M&Ps, FNs, and the H&K VP9. The takedown lever includes a safety to ensure that you cannot disassemble the pistol while it is loaded. You must have the slide locked to the rear with the slide stop lever and the magazine must be removed in order to get the lever to snap into the takedown position.
The icing on the cake for a good amount of people is the fact that you do not have to pull the trigger in order to take the slide off. It comes off pretty smooth in comparison to some other pistols like the VP9 which can give you some issues at first when it is new.
The internal components on the Ruger American are an example of why I like this pistol. At first glance, it seems a little full of useless components in many areas. I found the trigger group to be the only confusing part of the pistol that is confusing. But every part of it makes the trigger perform in the smooth fashion that it does, so I give it a pass for that. The weird part about this pistol is the fact that the firing pin does not have a block in the traditional sense. It merely uses a spring to bounce it back, which may be off-putting for some people. Overall though, the main attraction to this subject is to discuss the chassis system. I have not disassembled it all the way, but the idea of the chassis system seems to be the next evolution in firearms. I notice that they are getting more popular these days, and for good reason. I just wanted to add that little detail, which I feel makes this pistol a fully loaded 21st century worthy pistol.
In my evaluation of this pistols performance, I found that it can be a bit snappy at first, until you get more rounds through the gun. After over 600 rounds, I find the recoil to have settled down a bit. Rapid fire is quite simple with this pistol. The muzzle doesn’t rise much at all when shooting, and tracking the sights for followup shots is almost as easy as an M&P. I found it odd that with all the combat features on the Ruger American, it lacked sights that would help you do one-handed manipulations. Kind of odd to choose novak sights, but it makes sense because the market is clinging to them for whatever reason. I know of a few reviews that noted having issues with the rear grip giving their knuckle issues, but no one I know of, to include my wife have had problems with it. My guess is that these people are not gripping the pistol properly or are using too big of a backstrap. All in all I found the Ruger American pistol to be a very strong, tank-like design and I respect the heck out of it. I gotta give it to Ruger for designing such a versatile and strong pistol for the market for less than $500 on the market.
David served in the USMC for a few years, deployed twice and got wounded. Retired and moved to Alaska. Has a passion for reviewing and testing guns and gear of all kinds. Enjoys working to dispel myths and show that you can train and practice in a realistic, safe, and practical way.