Ruger American Competition Pistol

Equipping Your Inner Warrior

The Ruger American Competition pistol is good for way more than winning matches. This reasonably
priced top-tier combat handgun is a great defensive tool that’s also a ton of fun on the range.

The Ruger American Competition pistol is a whole lot of gun for the money. Building upon the time-tested Ruger American line, the new Competition is elongated, tuned and optimized for match applications. Featuring innovative ergonomics and industry-leading design, the Ruger American Competition is the match pistol equally at home defending your family or killing a lazy Saturday afternoon at the range.

The Ruger American Competition pistol is a match-optimized variant of the classic 9mm
Ruger American combat handgun. The same sterling attributes making the Competition
such a range beast also facilitate other applications as well.

The front sight includes a fiber optic rod and the slide is skeletonized for extra cool points.


When we were kids, we called it “Playing Army.” To paraphrase the Terminator from the sequel to the movie of the same name, it is in our nature to destroy ourselves. No matter how hard we try to suppress, drown, whitewash, or castrate it, mankind’s primal urges draw us toward combat like moths to a flame.

As man-children this meant running about the neighborhood like maniacs shooting one another with make-believe firearms. War toys were both realistic and ubiquitous in my day, so mock combat had a decidedly edgy flare. Oddly, we still turned out just fine, thank you very much. Now into adulthood those same martial urges manifest yet still.

Lest the less durable take umbrage, what do you think football is anyway? Big sweaty guys pounding one another along the gridiron is little more than thinly varnished small unit combat. Give those same guys swords and you have the gladiatorial games. We’re not ourselves so much removed from the ancient Romans.

In few places are these primal urges more vigorously exercised than in shooting competitions. Such pursuits come in a variety of flavors, but everything from IPSC to 3-Gun is designed to mimic the many splendored nuances of CQB (Close Quarters Battle). At the end of the day the principal adversary is the clock, and nothing gets bruised beyond a little pride, but that martial spark pervades everything, nonetheless.

The reason for all this philosophical pontification is to make a point (and you thought I was just vacuously rambling). Shooting for sport, competition, recreation and defense is big business these days. The flower of modern engineering prowess has focused its not inconsiderable talents on optimizing the tools we use for such stuff as this. These same attributes that make for a match-winning handgun also translate nicely into the Real World. Enter the Ruger American Competition pistol.

The Streamlight TLR-8 AG is a compact, rugged, cost-effective combination
weaponlight and laser designator.

The mag catch is a bilateral push button and the slide release is perfectly
replicated on both sides of the gun.

Tactical Attributes

The American Competition is a striker-fired, polymer-framed combat handgun sporting the same monotonously reliable trigger pull from first to last. Three interchangeable grip modules optimize the gun for your particular anatomy. Swapping out grip modules involves nothing more than twisting an Allen screw a quarter turn.

The 5″ stainless steel black nitride barrel sports a 1:16 twist. This bore geometry is optimized for inexpensive blasting bullets, though it also drives the serious social sort quite nicely as well. The slide is skeletonized for extra cool points. The front sight sports a fiber optic light tube, while the rear sight is serrated and easily adjustable for windage and elevation.

The top of the slide deck is cut and tapped to directly mount a variety of micro red dots. The slide includes generous gripping grooves both front and rear. There is an access port allowing you to assess the state of the chamber at a glance.

The slide stop is replicated on both sides, and the magazine catch is a legitimate bilateral push button. Takedown is a dream without tools, and the trigger need not be squeezed to do so. This may seem a small thing, but I am personally acquainted with five sordid episodes wherein L.E. officers experienced negligent discharges because of stuff like this. Each was undeniably a training failure, but I personally like the fact the trigger is not part of the disassembly process.

The Teflon-coated stainless steel 17-round magazine is as splendid as mankind can contrive, and the gun comes with two. There is a scant taper at the base of the grip to assist with removal in the unlikely circumstance a mag gets sticky. The grip is aggressively textured for proper purchase even when sweaty, rushed, or terrified. The dust cover is railed for accessories.

The Ruger American Competition shoots plenty straight. This tidy 12-meter
group was fired offhand from a simple rest.

Light Speed

I’m a Streamlight apostle. Those guys make superb gear at reasonable prices. Their new TLR-8 AG low-profile rail-mounted light is tiny yet offers a blistering 500-lumen white light along with a dazzling green laser designator.

The unit comes with two separate tail caps, each with matching switches both left and right. Choosing a switch unit lets you customize the accessibility to best suit your anatomy. Low-profile geometry won’t snag on clothes or kit, and the device is powered by a single CR123 battery. It’s also cheaper than products of comparable quality elsewhere.

Left: Ruger Security-9 Middle: New American Competition Right: Ruger-57

How Does She Run?

The trigger is fairly typical for a striker-fired handgun. This isn’t a tuned single-action 1911, but the trigger is delightful for its intended applications. The pre-tensioned striker system offers manly authority in the event of a recalcitrant primer yet retains a pleasant personality.

There is something different about the way this gun cycles that’s tough to articulate in words. Ruger claims the barrel cam geometry is designed to distribute recoil forces over a longer period to reduce felt recoil. I can’t really get my head around that. However, this is indeed one of the most pleasant 9mm pistols I have ever run. The gun just rocks back on recoil without the sort of snap you might expect on a lesser pistol. This placid comportment makes for smoother, faster, more accurate follow-up shots. I really was impressed.

The slide locks back with authority on the last shot fired, and magazines just jet out of the grip when the mag catch is stroked. There is no grittiness or undue resistance to the slide release, so tactical reloads go as quickly as your dexterity might allow. I found the gun to shoot instinctively and run like a lizard across hot asphalt.

Three different interchangeable grip modules let you optimize for particular hand sizes.
The Teflon-coated stainless steel 17-round magazine is the best in the business.

What’s It Good For?

I don’t myself shoot in competitive pistol matches. As a nominally professional gun writer, I have a certain reputation to maintain. Were I to get smoked by some souped-up teenager juiced on Call of Duty and Red Bull, I might never emotionally recover. However, I do carry a gun whenever I am not asleep or in the shower, shoot quite a lot and have had need of one for real on a couple of occasions.

This gun is unnaturally smooth and pleasant to run. It is no heavier than any other comparable plastic pistol and could be carried concealed if you are big-boned and open-minded. Where this gun really shines, however, is trigger time.

Everything about the Ruger American Competition is designed for practicality. The gun ran flawlessly with everything I fed it and remained placid and comfortable throughout. Just because it has Competition in the name doesn’t mean that’s its sole purview.

The same attributes making this a match-winning pistol also make it a superb defensive tool or recreational plinker. Pack the thing underneath loose clothing and you are postured to punch the grommets out of a mugger’s hoodie should the need arise. With an MSRP of $597 and a street price even lower, I was smitten.

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