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Ruger’s LCP MAX continues the trend of small pistols with large capacities. Except this one is even smaller, yet still packs 10+1 or 12+1 rounds of .380 into its tiny form factor. It that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the current approach (which I happen to like) for carry pistols. If it looks familiar, that’s because the LCP MAX is based on the LCP II. Ruger designers added a fraction of an inch here and there and managed to fit four extra rounds. More capacity isn’t enough though. They also improved the sights and made sure it had a great trigger.
Ruger LCP MAX vs LCP II by the numbers
Capacity is 10+1 (or 12+1 with optional magazine) vs 6+1. Both have a 6 groove, 1:16 RH twist black oxide finished steel barrel. Barrel length is almost too close to call, with 2.80″ vs 2.75″. Overall length remains the same at 5.17″. Width and height is where it grew a little. Slide width is 0.93″ vs 0.75″. And height is now 4.12″ vs 3.71″. These dimensional increases are almost not noticeable. For instance, the weight is the same for both at 10.6 ounces, and the LCP MAX is expected to fit most LCP II holsters.
Ruger LCP MAX features
More capacity is a big feature. But just upsizing it a bit to increase the capacity wouldn’t be enough. So the LCP MAX gets a new tritium front sight. The tube is outlined in white, which I found easy to use day and night. Out back is a u-notch rear sight. Its front face has a squared edge for cocking with one hand. This is one of those features that costs about nothing to add, and if it is needed, is priceless. And practicing it doesn’t waste expensive ammo. Paired with the raised cocking ears on the rear of the slide, it’s very easy for even weak hands to chamber a round. Note that Ruger continues to embrace the aftermarket. So the dovetail cuts accept all BodyGuard-pattern sights. Not that you would want to, but you can.
The grip frame texturing continues to win me over. Good traction in hand, without grabbing clothes. Should be easy to stipple if more traction is desired, but I don’t feel it’s necessary. And the magazine release is reversible, for wrong-handed shooters. I didn’t get a chance to compare it directly to the LCP II, but Ruger gave the LCP MAX a “carry melt”, with smoother corners. It looks and feels great. It’s also aesthetically a little less busy than the LCP II, which wasn’t bad to begin with.
What’s in the box?
Inside a somewhat small cardboard box was the LCP MAX with a chamber flag installed. There was a single 10-round magazine with a standard baseplate. Surprisingly, there was a little pocket holster in there as well. In addition, Ruger includes a lock and magazine loader, along with the instruction manual (with a Ruger sticker inside). My 2XL hands are too big for the included finger grip extension baseplate, but it worked well for my wife. A 12-round magazine is also available at ShopRuger.com, and they even include a 20% off coupon to get you started.
What’s going on inside the LCP MAX?
My sample LCP MAX trigger breaks nicely at a little over 5 pounds. Reset isn’t short, but it’s very positive. Although it appears to be striker-fired, a quick check of the Ruger documentation (or a peek inside) confirms it’s got an internal hammer. So it’s a bit like the Security 9 in that respect. If I were asked to describe the trigger in simple terms, that would be easy. It’s exactly what a defensive trigger should feel like, if designed and approved by attorneys that actually shoot firearms. Not too heavy, not too light. Some predictable, grit-free take-up, and a clean break. Ruger has also tweaked the magazine feed lips, feed ramp, and extractor. All in the name of reliability.
The barrel cam is another new feature. Ruger’s patented barrel cam geometry delays unlocking in the LCP MAX. This slows the slide, which reduces felt recoil. I’d read about this being included in the Ruger American pistols, and it’s something I was really looking forward to testing.
Fit, finish, and takedown
The black oxide frame is mated to the nylon grip frame quite well. There’s a bit of play, as it’s not a target pistol. These very slightly looser tolerances are expected. If that contributes to reliability when some dirt, grit, or pocket lint gets in there, I’m fine with that. I’ll take reliable over precision in a carry piece any day. Why not both? That’s a discussion that generally happens well above the LCP MAX’s MSRP ($449). For an inexpensive EDC that fits in a pocket or purse, I have no complaints.
Disassembly is simple. Verify it’s unloaded, and drop the magazine. Pull the slide back, and verify again that there is no round chambered. Let the slide ride fully forward. Use a small screwdriver or similar tool (the magazine lip, in a pinch) to remove the takedown pin. At that point, the slide can be removed by pulling it straight off the front of the grip frame. The recoil spring should pull right out, and then the tiny barrel can be removed for cleaning. Super easy. Assembly is the reverse.
So how does it shoot?
Ruger delivered this on very short notice. Thanks to my FFL hooking me up from his own stash, I was able to secure enough ammo for a quick review. But I only had time to take it out twice and run a few hundred rounds of mixed ball ammo through it. That included Blazer, Magtech, S&B, and even a box of Wolf steel. Not a single hiccup, which is always nice in a carry gun. At seven yards, my first five-shot group wasn’t anything to talk about. Second group was low and left. Things started to tighten up by the third group, moving closer to center mass. Switching ammo didn’t change the group size much, I think any improvement was due to increasing comfort with this tiny pocket pistol. Overall, best groups of around 2-3″ were achieved with some practice.
A lot of what I read about the LCP II was that it could be a bit snappy. The LCP MAX actually imparts less felt recoil than the LCP II, thanks to that redesigned barrel cam. I don’t need to understand exactly how the design works, only that it does. Which is why my groups remained decent sized. Being off a bit had more to do with the rear sight. That big notch makes acquisition easy, but it wasn’t helping my group size at first. After a couple boxes, I really like this sight setup. I’ve been spoiled by some precision handguns, yet the LCP MAX is certainly capable of critical shot placement with practice.
It should also be noted that my wife, after multiple hand and wrist surgeries, sometimes struggles with her grip. Yet she was able to easily rack the slide. That’s a hugely important feature in a small firearm. I’ve had her try other compact pistols, and they were just too stiff for her to work reliably. So that’s a win.
Capacity matters, but so does size. The day after I picked up the LCP MAX from my FFL, I dropped it into my front pocket in the included holster, before leaving the house. We visited family and then went to dinner. Around 8pm that night, I was sitting at the dining room table, reading. And it was at that point I remembered I had this little .380 in my pocket. Both the light weight and limited bulk make it unobtrusive. This is a true “Summer carry” purse or pocket pistol. If you need it, you won’t forget you have it. The rest of the time, it’s in deep concealment.
I like the trigger, and I like the sights, once I got used to both. The only downside I found should be very obvious – ammo. Anyone who already owns a .380 probably has some on hand. If not, check around and make sure it’s available. Because the two stores that I rely on were both out. As mentioned, my FFL sold me some from his own stash. Otherwise, this is a winner. Super compact and concealable, with a nice bump in capacity over comparable pistols. It’s as though Ruger took the formula for their MAX-9, and shrunk it down. I’d certainly consider it for my own summer carry when traveling light is high on my priority list.
Based on my own experience with previous Rugers, I can expect it to be reliable. While I won’t be winning any pistol matches with it, the accuracy is sufficient for its intended purpose. I won’t get into the .380 vs 9mm debate either. There’s the saying “Any gun in hand is better than one left at home”. The LCP MAX is what that saying refers to. It’s easy to carry any time, as long as you’re wearing something more substantial than a Speedo.
If you’ve got questions or comments, please reach out via email, or leave them below. This wasn’t my usual review, as the LCP MAX arrived less than a week before it was due to be announced, so there was a bit of a rush to try it out and write about it. But I’m happy to address anything not already covered.
And a special thanks to Ruger for providing their new LCP MAX for this review.
Comments? Questions? Have any of our readers gotten their hands on one yet? Feel free to share below.