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In the crowded EDC market, the new Ruger MAX-9 manages to stand out. It does so by ticking the boxes that new and seasoned shooters look for. That includes up to 12+1 of 9mm, and a tritium/fiber optic front sight in an optics-ready package. There’s more to it, which I’ll cover below, but it’s competitively priced, which is a big factor for first time owners. Coming from a company known for offering an excellent value, it’s hard to beat.
Features and specs
My model 3500 came with two magazines – 10 and 12 round capacity. Both are “E-Nickel Teflon®” for smooth and reliable reloads. Its through-hardened steel slide has a low-reflective black oxide finish. The grip is Ruger’s high-performance, glass-filled nylon with some nice texturing. There’s an integrated trigger safety as well as a manual safety. As expected, it’s got a cold hammer-forged barrel for accuracy and long life. A port makes checking for a chambered round easy. Southpaws may appreciate the reversible magazine release too.
Both the slide and the frame are beveled up front, which should aid in holstering. There’s also the removable plate for mounting optics. Although I’m not a fan of optics for carry, they’re quite popular right now. And Ruger has made it easy to add a small reflex sight with their factory CNC cut. It’s designed to accept JPoint or Shield-pattern micro red dots. But for my needs, the factory sights are more than sufficient. I’ve got red dots on my competition pistols, and prefer my carry piece to be as compact as possible.
The 3.20″ black-oxide finished barrel with a 1:10 twist rests inside a 0.95″ slide. Overall length is 6″, and height is 4.52″, making for a compact unit, given the capacity available. Total unloaded weight is 18.4 ounces. That increases by about 1/3 with the 12 round magazine. As mentioned, the front site is a fiber optic with a tritium surround for visibility in all lighting conditions. Its rear sight is blacked out, and drift adjustable. In keeping with current trends, the leading edge is squared off, so it can be racked on a belt or any hard-edged object with a 90 degree angle. Together, this makes for an excellent sighting system, day or night.
Trigger and grip
Ruger describes the trigger as “Striker-fired with a short, smooth trigger pull, clean break and positive reset.” I’d say that sums it up pretty well. Though I am not a fan of strikers, this one does feel pretty good. Actual pull weight was consistently just under 5-1/2 pounds. Although light match triggers can be great for accuracy, they can be a liability in a defensive arm. So I think this strikes a good balance.
Like their Security 9, it appears that Ruger really nailed the grip texture on the MAX-9. Grippy, but not too aggressive. I found it offered some traction, but not grabby on clothing. Exactly what I want for EDC. I can’t imagine anyone taking some sandpaper to tone it down, but they could stipple it for more texture if needed. The slightly undercut trigger guard and somewhat high beavertail allow it to sit in the hand fairly low. Serrations on the front of the trigger guard provide extra grip for the support hand. This can make a difference when shooting such a compact pistol.
Shooting the MAX-9 was an interesting exercise. It was comfortable, if a little snappy. This is expected from a compact 9mm. I found it didn’t like the cheap Magtech ammo, possibly due to a harder primer. The first two magazines had light strikes about every 4-5 rounds, which I’ve experienced before with this ammo. It ate two 100 round boxes of inexpensive Browning 115 grain FMJ without issue though. At 7 yards, it was easy enough enough to keep ten rounds within groups of about 2 inches. A few were under, some were over. For its intended purpose, the MAX-9’s accuracy is more than adequate. Although I used both magazines for testing, I’d stick with the twelve, due to my large hands.
After shooting it, I made an observation which some of my friends have shared as well. Keeping all rounds on target was easy enough, it just wasn’t fun. Yes, hitting the target is fun, but a few magazine loads in, the trade-off between size and comfort is obvious. Recoil was mitigated well by the dual recoil spring setup and high grip, but it’s still a bit of a handful. Granted, this isn’t supposed to be a range day toy. If this was my primary arm, I would certainly practice with it regularly. It just wouldn’t be my first choice for an afternoon of shooting with friends. And that is the crux of any carry firearm – concealability vs shootability is always a delicate balance. Small conceals well, large is easier to shoot. The MAX-9 manages to be easy to shoot well, and small enough to conceal.
Takedown and cleaning
Disassembly for cleaning was a bit unusual, as I’m used to pulling a takedown lever, but the MAX-9 is somewhat different. After removing the magazine, and verifying it’s unloaded, make sure the slide is fully forward. It does require a trigger pull, which isn’t my preference. So I’ll repeat the importance of checking for an empty chamber. After pulling the trigger, push down the takedown plate which is just forward of the slide lock/release. That will expose the takedown pin. Pull the slide back just enough to fully expose the pin, and punch it out from the right side. Then pull the slide forward and off. At this point, it’s easy to remove the dual recoil spring assembly, and then the barrel. Assembly is reverse, and quite simple.
Ruger does a lot of things well. They have great designers and engineers, who come up with products that are not only functional and appealing, but not overly expensive to manufacture. And they take advantage of their manufacturing expertise to produce firearms at a lower price point, without compromising quality. Then they back it up with excellent customer service. For first-time owners, or those on a budget, Ruger is almost always a safe bet.
When presented with the compact, high capacity, optics-ready options, some buyers will seek out a specific brand or model. Others will choose by price. And that’s where Ruger’s MAX-9 shines. With 10+1 or 12+1 capacity, and a factory optics cut, it’s hard to beat. Although the MSRP is $559, I found one online from a seller I have used before, for $419.99. Use the cash saved to get a few extra boxes of ammo.
I‘d like to thank Ruger for providing their MAX-9 for this review. When the loan period is up, I’ll have to choose between returning it, or sending them a check. Even though I have plenty of EDC options already, this one has a lot to offer for such a compact package.
Comments? Questions? Have any of our readers tried out the MAX-9? Feel free to share below.