Ruger American Pistol Review (9mm)
Part 3 - External & Operational Features
March 20, 2016

Ruger American Pistol Review: Rear View    Ruger American Pistol Review: Right View    Ruger American Pistol Review: Front View

In this part of my Ruger American Pistol Review, I show the external and operational features of this new pistol.  For starters, the pistol is what I would call a full size "duty" pistol and is all black except for the finish on the stainless steel barrel.  The slide is also stainless steel, but includes a black nitride finish which I think was a great decision on Ruger's part.  The stainless steel, coatings and polymer frame makes this pistol very corrosion resistant, but to reiterate Ruger's "Attention" card that came with the pistol, "While stainless steel is "rust resistant, it is not "rust proof."  As long as you properly clean and care for this pistol, it should look great for years.


The pistol measures 7.50" in length and about 1.41" across the slide stop and has a 4.16" barrel (4.20" per the specification).

Figure 1
Ruger American Pistol Review: Top View

The pistol also measures about 5.60" in height including the magazine.  Like many other pistols, the grip frame is made from black glass-filled nylon with a glass-filled nylon wrap around grip module (more later).

Figure 2
Ruger American Pistol Review: Right View

Ruger chose to put a standard shape Picatinny rail below the barrel instead of the modified profile they used on their SR series.  This allows the use of some shorter length lights and allows the lights to fit closer to the trigger guard.

Figure 3
Ruger American Pistol Review: Bottom View

Each person will have their own opinions about how a handgun looks.  In my opinion, I like the looks of the Ruger American Pistol and specifically I like this simple PRO-DUTY version with regard to the minimal safety features.  The PRO-DUTY version has no manual safety other than the trigger safety.  For some people, this may be a step too far in one direction and the addition of a manual safety may be desired.  From what I have heard and read, I believe Ruger plans to make a version in the future that does have a manual safety, provided that the Ruger American pistol is a success (my thoughts).

Figure 4                                                          Figure 5                                                          Figure 6
Ruger American Pistol Review: Front View  Ruger American Pistol Review: Left View  Ruger American Pistol Review: Rear View

The pistol weighed in at 30.8 ounces empty and 38.1 ounces with 18 rounds of Hornady American Gunner 115gr ammunition.

Figure 7                                                                  Figure 8

The Ruger American Pistol weighs in slightly heavier than some similar pistols in comparable caliber, barrel length, capacity and grip frame material.  The chart below compares this pistol against some other popular pistols.  At first thought, I was surprised to see this new pistol coming in 3.5 ounces heavier than the SR9 and at the top end in this comparison, but after I considered that the Ruger American Pistol was designed for sustained 9mm +P ammunition usage, I think the additional weight seems justified.  Also keep in mind that the additional weight will make this pistol softer to shoot.

Figure 9

The pistol comes with a set of Novak® LoMount Carry 3-Dot sights.  These low profile sights look good and are anti-snag, but the rear sight will not allow you to rack the slide against your belt or boot.

Figure 10

The sight picture is shown below and the gaps on each side of the front post and notch are about what you see when the pistol is at arms length.  Also notice that the serial number is marked on the fire control insert and not the grip frame like the SR series pistols.  The insert is the serialized component that is considered to be the registered part of this pistol.

Figure 11

The front sight is dovetailed into the slide and is not intended to be adjusted.  The rear sight actually shows "NOVAK'S" on the side and is intended to be adjustable for windage only.  To adjust for windage, loosen the rear-sight lock screw using a 5/64" Allen wrench and the sight can be drifted sideways by tapping it with a wooden or plastic headed hammer.  When making adjustments, remember to move the sight in the direction you want the bullet impact to move on the target.  Afterwards, make sure you retighten the lock screw.

Figure 12                                                                 Figure 13

At the rear, on each side, you have what looks like a set of crossed grooves that form a diamond checkered pattern on top.  This surface texture gives you a good grip when racking the slide, yet it is not too aggressive on your fingers.  Ruger also uses this diamond pattern look on the front and rear of their grip.  It is hard to tell in this photo, but Ruger also added some styling details molded into the grip frame just below this textured area on the slide.  This photo also gives you a look at the left side of their simple ambidextrous slide stop.

Figure 14

The front of the slide has "RUGER" milled into the surface and below this area is their standard "READ INSTRUCTION MANUAL BEFORE USING FIREARM" which is molded into the grip frame.  Ruger also added some styling details to the front lower portion of the slide to make a better looking transition from the Picatinny rail area on the grip frame to the slide.  This also helps reduce some weight.  They also put a tapered edge on the front of the slide to aid in holstering the pistol which also gives the pistol a nice look.

Figure 15

The bottom of the grip frame includes a 4-slot length of Picatinny rail molded into the frame.  This approach is different from that of their SR series where they had a hybrid single slot interface.

Figure 16

The front left side of the slide is similar to the right, but also includes a cutout so the takedown lever can rotate.  The grip frame includes the model name "RUGER AMERICAN PISTOL" along with the manufacturer "RUGER" and location "PRESCOTT, AZ - USA".

Figure 17

The barrel is marked with the caliber "9MM LUGER" along with the Ruger proof mark indicating that the pistol was proof tested.  Ruger advertises that this pistol is capable of "sustained +P ammunition use" and the Instruction Manual states it is "compatible with all factory ammunition of the correct caliber loaded to U.S. Industry Standards, including high-velocity and hollow-point loads, loaded in brass, aluminum, or cartridge cases.  No ammunition manufactured in accordance with NATO, U.S., SAAMI, or CIP standards is known to be beyond the design limits or known not to function in these pistols."  The key point here is you can shoot +P or NATO rounds without issue as long as they are loaded to the industry standards (legit manufactured ammunition).

The slide includes also "GUN WILL FIRE WITH MAGAZINE REMOVED" stenciled into the slide.  This is also a deviation from their SR series pistols.  You can also see the right side of the slide stop in this photo along with the end of the takedown lever pin.

Figure 18

The top of the barrel includes a simple inspection slot to see if a round is chambered.  This is a significant shift in philosophy from the SR series of pistols where you had a large lever that stood up giving you both a tactile and visible indication of the loaded chamber.  In the American Pistol, you get a simple visible indication only with no tactile indication in this area.

Figure 19                                                                Figure 20

...although there is a slight tactile indication that you can get from feeling the extractor position.  This next photo shows the extractor position when the chamber is not loaded.

Figure 21 - Unloaded Chamber

When a round is chambered, the extractor is pushed outwards and extends slightly past the side of the slide.  I doubt you could feel this when using gloves, but I could easily feel the difference without gloves.

Figure 22 - Loaded Chamber

This next photo shows the slide locked open in the rear position and you can see the barrel is slightly tilted.  Ruger describes the pistol as having a "recoil-reducing barrel cam, low-mass slide, low center of gravity and low bore axis."  In an attempt to try and wrap my head around these features, I compared the Ruger American Pistol against the Ruger SR9 pistol.  Clearly the camming slot on the bottom of the barrel is different between the two pistols.  Next I checked the weight of the slide assembly and found the Ruger American Pistol slide assembly to be 12.4 ounces which was 0.2 ounces heavier than the SR9, so I'm not sure what Ruger is comparing against with regard to the statement of "low-mass slide."  As I compared the two pistols for "low center of gravity and low bore axis," I found there to be very little difference between the two which speaks good for the SR9.

Figure 23

When the slide is fully forward, the barrel on this pistol was tight with no perceivable freeplay.  The barrel on this pistol seemed to be low in the cutout at the front of the slide.  The barrel is stainless steel and has a very thick profile with an outside diameter of 0.586".  The barrel has six grooves and comes with a 1:10" right hand twist.  The guide rod is all steel with a hex shape on the end.

  Figure 24                                                           Figure 25                

In the photo below I'm trying to show that although the slide stop is ambidextrous, it only truly catches the slide on the left side.  You can see that the stop doesn't contact the slide on the right side.  With a magazine having at least one round in the magazine, you can press down on either side of the slide stop and doing so will release the slide.  If you have an empty magazine inserted, I found that additional spring force holding up on the slide stop made it where I couldn't press down on right side to release the slide.  This isn't a show stopper, but something I did notice.

Figure 26

In these next photos you can see inside the ejection port.  The pistol has a fixed ejector and wide extractor.  The barrel has a nicely polished ramp to ensure the pistol feeds without issue.

Figure 27                                                             Figure 28       

This next photo shows a round in the magazine with the slide locked open.  The round sits high and is aligned well with the chamber and requires very little of the ramp to ensure it chambers properly.

Figure 29

When unloading the pistol and removing a live round from the chamber, I found 115gr hollow points would hit the rear of the barrel as the ejector tried to flip the round out of the chamber.  This was also the case using 115 FMJ round nose ammunition and other types of ammunition.  The bullet hitting the barrel made the slide stop and gave a false sense of having the slide pulled fully to the rear.  Releasing the slide from this position re-chambered the round, so you need to make sure you pull the slide back hard and visually verify a round is not in the chamber when unloading.

Figure 30

On the left side of the pistol is the takedown lever which I will cover more in Part 4 of this review where I talk about disassembly of the pistol.  The takeaway for this part of the review is that takedown is very simple and only requires removing the magazine, locking the slide open, rotating the takedown lever 90 degrees clockwise, then releasing the slide and moving it off the frame.  No special levers need to be repositioned inside the pistol and pulling the trigger is not required.

Figure 31

The one main safety that the user interfaces with directly on this pistol is the trigger safety integral to trigger and shown below.  Internally, the pistol also has a striker block to prevent accidental discharge in the event the pistol is dropped.  The trigger and trigger safety lever are both made from some type of steel material which I feel is a plus.  The trigger pull on this pistol came in at 6.2 pounds based on an average of 5 pulls.  Also note that the overtravel stop is molded into the trigger guard.

Figure 32

Ruger has a great graphic at their website which shows the trigger pull.  They claim it is a 6 pound pull and my 6.2 pounds measured confirmed this peak.  They show the total trigger pull to be about 0.26".  Once I took up the slack in the trigger, I measured about 0.16" of travel which support this chart.  Overall, the trigger had a short travel, crisp break, no overtravel and a relatively short reset.  I think the reset could have been better, but it wasn't too bad.  For this style pistol, I feel the trigger easily meets the need.

Figure 33

One of the significant features about the pistol is the grip.  The front of the grip has the diamond pattern to give it an aggressive texture and it does do a good job in making it slip free.  Also notice in these photos the ambidextrous magazine release.

Figure 33

The front profile of the grip is straight.  Behind the magazine release is a trapezoid shaped hump on both sides of the pistol.  This hump sticks out behind the release to help prevent accidental mag releases.  It also provides for some more styling on Ruger's part.  The rear and sides of the grip are formed via your selection of one of three different size grip modules.  All the modules look basically the same, but vary in width, length of pull to trigger, and an increased hump on the back of the grip as you shift from the small, medium and to the large grip module.

Figure 34

Overall, I feel the grip looks attractive.  There is a slot at the rear which allows access to the locking pin which holds the grip module in place.

Figure 35

At the rear lower portion of the grip is a molded point to allow you to attach a lanyard if desired.

Figure 36

This next photos shows the profile of the different size grip modules.

Figure 37 - Grip Modules
Large                                        Medium                                        Small

These next three photos show the grip modules installed on the pistol.

Figure 38 - Small Grip Module Installed

Figure 39 - Medium Grip Module Installed

Figure 40 - Large Grip Module Installed

These next photos show the grip with the grip module removed.  There is a slot that accepts the grip module and then you push the module up firmly in place.  Rotating the lock pin 1/4 turn causes the pin to rotate out or in depending on whether you want to lock or unlock the module.  Ruger coated this area generously with some type of clear lubricant.

           Figure 41                                  Figure 43                                  Figure 43

The main body of the grip is marked with a line to show you how and where to insert the grip with an arrow (triangle) pointing towards the line.  Once against the line, you push it up as shown with the other arrow.  Overall, swapping out the grips was easy once you understood how to press, although getting the large size grip off took more force than I would have imagined.

Figure 44

The magazine well opening at bottom of the grip only had a very slight tapper at the front, yet the shape of the magazine allowed it to slide inside the grip with ease.  One thing I want to point out in the photo above is that gap between the bottom of the magazine base plate and grip seemed slightly wider than most.  Also the magazine seemed to have more freeplay (rattle) inside the grip than some of my other pistols.

Figure 45

The Ruger American Pistol comes with two 17-round nickel-Teflon plated steel magazines.  They have an extremely slick feel and insert easily into the grip.  Unfortunately, Ruger changed the magazine design and these are not compatible with their SR series magazines.  The front of the magazine is marked with the "RUGER" name and logo along with the caliber "9mm LUGER".

Figure 46

Each side of the magazine has a series of holes drilled which is used to indicate the number of rounds in the magazine.

Figure 47

Figure 48

Figure 49

The follower is made from a polymer material and I believe the "9" indicates the caliber of the follower.

Figure 50

This next photo shows the magazine loaded with 17 rounds of Hornady 115gr American Gunner ammunition.

Figure 51



The new Ruger American Pistol has a good feel and look (my opinion) and seems to be a quality pistol like you would expect from Ruger.  Trigger pull felt good at 6.2 pounds and the three different grip modules allow you to make the pistol fit your hand size.  The pistol is slightly heavier than others in the same class, but it is also rated for a full helping of +P ammunition and the added weight also helps soften recoil.

You can see the details of this review in a video format below.

For more detailed photos and commentary, make sure you check out the other parts of this review and feel free to leave comments below.  The following links are provided to help you see other parts of this review. 

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