Ruger LCRx Review
I'm a fan of small frame hammerless revolvers for carry situations and I own several. One of my favorites has been Ruger's LCR in the .38 Spl +P caliber because of it's light weight, feel and performance. Hammerless revolvers are generally for those people interested in a simple, no snag, self defense handgun, but there is a reason that other manufacturers offer both hammered and hammerless in their conceal and carry line of revolvers. The fact is that many people prefer the hammered revolvers that are capable of both single and double action and I had a feeling it would only be a matter of time before Ruger offered their LCR in a hammered version. This year Ruger offered their first and second versions of the hammered LCR with the introduction of their new LCRx revolvers in the .38 Spl +P calibers and both revolvers are shown below.
The key differences between these two new LCRx revolvers is pretty clear when you look at the photos above. The 3" barrel version has a longer barrel, larger grip and adjustable rear sight. This review focuses on the 1.875" barrel length version which is comparable to the pre-LCRx revolvers. I hope to review one of the longer barrel LCRx revolvers in the future, but I'm holding out for a .357 Mag version that I hope will make its debut some time next year.
This next photo shows the new LCRx (top) along with the original LCR (bottom) and both revolvers are chambered in the .38 Spl +P calibers. The LCRx gives you the same look, feel, light weight and performance as the original LCR with the added benefit of the external hammer providing the addition of a single action trigger pull. To add the external hammer, Ruger had to make some changes. Clearly a new hammer was needed, but they also had to change the profile of the fire control housing and drop the rear upper lug on the cylinder frame which provided an area for an upper cross pin on the original LCR. Also, the change in fire control housing didn't leave enough room for the Ruger logo on each side of the revolver. Other than these visible differences, the two revolvers seem identical in their exterior features.
This Ruger LCRx review focuses on what is in the box, the key features, some differences between the two revolvers and of course some range test results. Since I completed a multi-part review of the original Ruger LCR revolver back in January 2012, you can also refer to that Ruger LCR Review for details that are similar for each handgun.
MSRP on the LCRx revolver is listed as the same as the original LCR which is $529. At this time (12/5/14) online prices seem to be all over the place and range from around $370 to nearly $500 so make sure you shop around to find the best deal.
During my reviews I like to compare my results to the manufacturer's claims where possible so the following text in colored italics was taken directly from the Ruger website on 11/29/14 and gives an Key Features and Specifications for the 1.875" length barrel LCRx Revolver. The , and are my way to keep up with details that I have covered in this review with either photos, commentary or both.
What's In The Box
The new Ruger LCRx came boxed as shown below.
The end of the box had a sticker will all the critical information such as:
Opening the box revealed the revolver tucked away inside the soft case.
Inside the box and case were the:
I always like to show the sticker on the fired case because it gives a date the handgun was fired which helps to understand when this particular handgun came off the production line. For this LCRx being reviewed, it was fired at the factory on 4/21/14.
The LCRx has an all black appearance except for the visible portions of the stainless steel barrel, trigger and hammer. The black surface finishes are a combination of Synergistic Hard Coat (aluminum frame), Ionbond Diamondblack™ (cylinder), matte black polymer (glass filled nylon on fire control housing) and black rubber (Hogue grip).
The synergistic coating (Synergistic Hard Coat) is what Ruger has been applying to the aluminum frame on all their LCR model revolvers. This coating was initially developed to solve some coating issues for NASA, but the coating properties give it many potential applications. Ruger adding this coating to the frame seems to be a perfect application. Some of the key properties of synergistic coatings are:
Essentially, you seem to be getting something similar to a hard coat anodizing combined with a durable satin (Teflon-ish) finish.
The Ionbond Diamondblack™ finish (basically a PVD coating) on the cylinder improves wear resistance due to the high hardness, low coefficient of friction and high structural integrity. This coating, with thicknesses of only a few microns (µ) and with hardness up to 4000hv (Vickers), can result in a significant increase in firearm life and functionality.
These next photos document the "as received" condition of the Ruger LCRx. In my opinion, the revolver came in a perfect new condition like you would expect from a new firearm.
The LCRx measured 1.28" at it's widest point which is across the cylinder. The sights consist of an integral U-notch rear sight and a replaceable pinned front sight. There are no provisions for sight adjustment which I feel is expected for this style of revolver.
The LCRx measured 4.60" in height and 6.60" in length, which were slight but not significant deviations from the specification values of 4.50" and 6.50". This revolver comes with a Hogue® Tamer™ grip that allows you to get two fingers firmly on the grip while your little finger rests on the butt of the grip. For my hand size (medium palm with long fingers), the grip felt good and has a large feel for such a small revolver. The monolithic frame is made from a 7000 series aluminum according to Ruger and the aluminum is most likely 7075-T6 which seems to be the standard high strength aluminum used in firearms.
The right side of the revolver has "RUGER LCR", "38 SPL +P" and the serial number engraved into the frame. I was a little surprised that it didn't say "LCRx" because there are differences in the cylinder frame on this LCRx when compared to my original LCR. Perhaps Ruger is considering dropping the upper rear upper lug and pin on the frame for future LCR revolvers so that they can produce common parts between these two revolvers in the future, or perhaps this is just how they want to brand these revolvers. This is only speculation on my part and I will keep an eye out for this in the future.
If you didn't notice, the LCRx also does not have a side plate like most revolvers. The internal parts are installed through the top of the fire control housing or through the lower side of the frame.
The left side of the frame has "READ INSTRUCTION MANUAL, STURM, RUGER & CO., INC. NEWPORT, NH U.S.A." engraved around the barrel area.
The LCRx weighed in at 13.7 ounces empty and 15.9 ounces with 5 rounds of Hornady 38 Special +P 110gr Critical Defense ammunition. Just like with the normal LCR, at one pound fully loaded, it is hard to beat this simple light weight revolver for a carry weapon.
The hammer on the LCRx extends out just enough to be able to reach it with your thumb, but not so far that it seems like an extra appendage. The hammer is checkered to provide a no-slip surface for cocking. I found it comfortable to thumb cock and the texture felt good.
The Hogue grip has an area recessed for the rear of the hammer to prevent the hammer from touching the grip. This same indented area was also on the original LCR grip which makes me think the same style grip was always planned to go on both revolvers. Both sides of the stainless steel hammer have a "R" formed into the matte finish.
The LCRx incorporates a transfer bar safety that is connected directly to the trigger. This transfer bar ensures that a hammer blow cannot impact the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled all the way to the rear. If you shake the LCRx, you can hear a little rattle which is the transfer bar and this rattle is completely normal for the LCRx revolver.
When the hammer is down, the hammer never touches the firing pin because of it's stepped shape and the concave surface on the hammer. The transfer bar must be raised by pulling the trigger to allow the force of the hammer to be "transferred" to the firing pin.
The fire control housing includes a pear shaped integrally molded trigger guard. The trigger is stainless steel and appears to be either a cast or molded part. The trigger has a polished smooth front and is about 0.31" in width. The double action trigger pull starts out with the initial take-up of about 0.03", the cylinder is fully rotated at about 0.40" and the hammer drops at about 0.53".
The double action trigger pull on this revolver measured 10.9 pounds based on 10 pulls using a Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge. This was 1.9 pounds more than the LCR I tested back in 2012 and this LCRx did have a heavier feel when I compared the two revolvers for this review. These differences may be due to manufacturing tolerances.
Ruger states the "Patented Friction Reducing Cam is a next generation design in fire control systems with an optimized cam that results in a smooth, non-stacking trigger pull." I agree that the trigger is smooth and seems non-stacking, yet I found that staging the trigger was still possible in the double action mode and doing so gives you the feel of shooting single action for increased accuracy if needed. Staging is not practical in a defense situation, but slowing down your shots might give you slightly better results. Another way Ruger may be able to achieve the smooth trigger pull is with the coatings applied to the internal parts. The LCRx has special electroless nickel/PTFE (Teflon®) coatings on the trigger, hammer and other internal components.
The single action trigger pull on this revolver measured 6.5 pounds based on 10 pulls using a Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge and had a very crisp feel. For a self defense revolver, I feel this 6.5 pounds is a reasonable single action pull weight. Regardless of your single action versus double action preferences, I suggest practicing to shoot the LCRx in both modes when at the range.
A last point worth noting on the trigger is that the trigger must be released completely when firing this revolver. This is typical for all modern double-action revolvers.
The cylinder can be opened by pressing the ridged area on the rear of the crane latch button. With the cylinder open, you cannot pull the trigger and release the hammer. With the hammer cocked, you cannot release the cylinder. The crane and cylinder are held closed by the center lock pin at the rear and the front latch pin shown below. Pressing on the crane release button pushes the center lock pin out of the breech face and also pushes the front latch pin out of the ejector extension.
For some reason I'm still amazed at how deeply the cylinder is fluted for this revolver to be rated to handle 38 Special +P ammunition. I'm sure the cylinder being made of high strength stainless steel is the key factor allowing the deep fluting. The cylinder also has a nice black finish due to the Ionbond DiamondBlack™ coating. After looking at this photo, I realize I should have given the barrel a good cleaning first.
After doing a good cleaning, you can see the clean 1.875" stainless steel barrel which has 6 grooves and a 1:16 RH twist. The twist rate for a short 38 Special seem to range from 1:14 to 1:18.75 and it seems that Ruger decided to shoot for a mid range rate with the 1:16 on this revolver.
This next photo gives you a good look at the breech face where you can see the stainless steel firing pin bushing, tip of the firing pin and end of the pawl. Also notice that the front sight is pinned in place and could be replaced with an aftermarket sight. After doing a quick internet search, I was able to confirm that you can get a variety of high visibility sights and I also found a tritium front sight to be available.
These next two photos give you a look at the rear of the cylinder when opened and show the cylinder empty and loaded with 5 rounds of Hornady Critical Defense +P ammunition. When the cylinder is open, you can also see the stainless steel ejector.
In these next two photos I give you a look down the sights with the hammer cocked and a look at the "business end" of the LCRx loaded with 5 rounds of Hornady Critical Defense ammunition. At arms length, the gap between the front sight and sides of the U-notch are about half the size shown in the photo.
The grip is removed by first removing the screw in the bottom of the grip. Not that it matters, but the head of this grip screw has a different profile than the head of the original LCR grip screw which took a flat head screwdriver only.
With the screw removed, the grip easily slides off the grip peg of the polymer fire control housing revealing the hammer strut and main spring. The grip peg has a relatively slim profile which allows the opportunity for various size aftermarket grips. On the left side of the fire control housing you can see the head of the hammer pivot pin (circled below). Ruger recommends you lubricate the hammer and pivot pin at approximately every 1000 rounds. You will need to remove the grip to allow the pivot pin head to be pushed out slightly. Make sure you refer to the Instruction Manual when doing this because Ruger states "CAUTION: DO NOT COMPLETELY REMOVE PIN OR YOUR REVOLVER WILL CEASE TO FUNCTION".
One thing I found interesting was that this LCRx did not include the internal lock option that is located under the grip as shown on my original LCR on the right. Perhaps this is why it is not California approved.
The Hogue® Tamer™ grip has a rubbery texture and stippling on each side of the grip. The rear of the grip has a ridged area with the Ruger logo and the words "Hogue Tamer". This area is much softer than the other parts of the grip due to the thinner layer of black grip material that is then cushioned by the softer blue material on the inside of the grip.
For range testing the Ruger LCRx Revolver, I decided to first shoot from a bench to gather some potential accuracy data. I say "potential" because bench shooting minimizes most of the motion of the handgun as you pull the trigger so that your groups are typically significantly tighter (or at least mine are). This bench accuracy is an indication of what you can strive for as you practice shooting more realistic self defense situations. I chose a distance 7 yards because this is probably on the high end of the shooting distance someone may shoot in a real self defense situation and this was also the distance I selected for my original LCR review which gave me some comparative data. The photo below shows my bench and range setup. After the bench tests, I shifted my attention to shooting some of the other steel targets in the background.
For the range tests, I selected some premium Hornady ammunition which could be carried for self defense purposes, along with some value oriented Winchester Target/Range FMJ ammunition to get a feel for the LCRx revolver prior to shooting the premium ammunition.
The table below summarizes the bench portion of my range tests. The 10-shot groups were shot at 7 yards and clearly demonstrate an accuracy level capable of self defense. Since my 10-shot groups looked like I may have had a couple flyers, I discounted the groups to an 8-shot group to try and remove some of my inconsistencies. The average of the four 8-shot groups was 1.84" which was very similar to the 1.93" I achieved with the original LCR. I was a little surprised the single action pull didn't achieve better results compared to the double action only LCR (which may be a testament to the LCR double action trigger pull and the ability to stage the trigger), but I feel this small average group size may be reaching the best I can do considering barrel length, sight radius and my eyesight (bifocals are challenging for me at the bench).
These next photos show the 10-shot groups for each type of ammunition used. In all cases, I was aiming at the center large black dot. At this 7 yard distance, it looks like the rounds were averaging about 1" to the left (not bad at all). For my sighting preference (front and rear sights flat across the top and placed on the center of the target), they may also be approximately 1" to 2" low (again, not too bad) depending on your ammunition.
After bench testing, I shifted my attention to shooting some steel targets at the range using both the single action and double action trigger pulls. As you would expect, the Hornady Lite ammunition was a very comfortable round to shoot and out of the three self defense rounds, my wife said that is what she wants to carry. In the single action mode, she was very effective at hitting the torso in the critical areas. In the double action mode she was also very effective and with a little practice will be even more confident when shooting double action in the future. The Hornady Critical Defense +P ammunition was very "snappy" in this light weight revolver, but I found it to be manageable provided you have a firm grip on the revolver. I found the Hornady American Gunner to be a very accurate and pleasant round to shoot. Other people who shot the revolver at the range came to the same opinion on the American Gunner ammunition in this revolver. The American Gunner developed only 14% more energy than the Lite ammunition. For comparison, the +P ammunition had 35% more energy when compared to the Lite ammunition.
Throughout the range tests I shot a couple of boxes each of the premium ammunition and about a box of the FMJ. Overall there between 150 and 200 rounds put through the Ruger LCRx and no issues were experienced which you would expect from a simple revolver in a proven platform (LCR).
Just like the Ruger LCR I tested back in 2012, the Ruger LCRx is a great little handgun. Ruger offering this model in both hammered or hammerless provides the consumer with an option to fit his or her preference. The LCRx is accurate and the single action trigger pull provides you another option to maximize your accuracy if you struggle with trigger control when shooting the double action mode. Since this handgun is capable of both single and double action, the choice is yours. After helping me with the range testing, my wife was pleased with her new carry revolver and I'm confident she and the Ruger LCRx will perform if needed.