The Ruger American Pistol

100 Percent American-Made. 100 Percent Reliable

By Mark Kakkuri
Photos By Chuck Pittman

Ruger says about the new American Pistol: “Anything else would be un-American.” I think it’s more than a clever tagline. With this gun, Ruger clearly has issued an old fashioned American challenge to the police/duty market — and even to we non-sworn types: buy American or stay home.

These days, if you’re a gun manufacturer, you don’t enter a key market, establish a reputation and gain market share overnight. You don’t even do it with one gun. You do it by making incremental advances on several gun platforms over a long period of time. Then, when the time is right, you launch a product demonstrating clear purpose and value. And you hope the market catches the vision, buys into the product, and signs on for a long-term contract

That seems to be Ruger’s intention with the American, the company’s latest duty-sized, polymer-framed pistol. Time will tell if the gun will begin to displace other entrenched brands. For now, the Ruger American sports a litany of great features and performed with perfection during out tests.

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Best Features

Price. Right off the bat, note the Ruger American’s retail price of $579 (9mm or .45 ACP models). As you learn more, you’ll likely get a sense of the value of this gun — exactly the way we did after living with it for a while. But don’t get trapped into thinking a simple price war will sway police purchasing professionals or the consumers who might consider this gun. Yes, a duty gun needs to be a good value. But it should be more than that too.

Light weight. Pick up an unloaded Ruger American. Your inner sense will suggest Ruger engineers did what they could to eliminate unnecessary weight. Put it on a digital scale and you’ll get a reading of 30.76 ounces. But the gun feels perfectly balanced and does nothing to interfere with a natural draw and point of aim. It “hefts” as they say — right. Interestingly, apparently ruggedness doesn’t need to be compromised by lightweight construction. Ruger assures robust durability in the American. In fact, they say this gun will handle the sustained use of +P ammo.

Front strap checkering. Over the years, we’ve seen frontstrap checkering looking like waffles, checkers, scales, pyramids and other shapes. Some help purchase; some not so much. The Ruger American’s frontstrap sports rows of very small, raised diamonds. They’re excellent, helping my hand lock around the stocks. On the back strap, rows of larger, raised diamonds do their part to increase purchase, too. They are firm, secure, almost like just resting your hand on a piece of 220 grit sandpaper, without the “cutting” feel. I think you could manage a 1,000-round, week-long handgun class with it and not have to resort to duct-taped fingers to prevent bloodshed.

Trigger. With a familiar-looking built-in safety centered in an otherwise semi-flat-faced trigger, the Ruger American offers what it calls a “short take-up” with “positive reset.” The take-up is indeed short at just over .25″, requiring a 5- to 6-lb. pull before breaking cleanly. Words which don’t describe the trigger pull: mushy, vague or gritty. Words which do describe the trigger pull: short, smooth, crisp. In short, I liked it a lot, but only when I stopped to think about it. In fact, my buddy and I found the trigger to be forgettable in all the right ways. We aimed, fired and half-smirked as the Ruger delivered fun, fast, accurate shooting.

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If you’ve fired a decently tuned 1911 and enjoyed the trigger pull, you get pretty close with the stock trigger on this gun. It’s just a tad longer in take-up, and maybe a big longer in reset, but once the sear is engaged and let-off occurs, there’s not that disturbing “tiny jump” of the front sight you have with many (most?) polymer pistols. You can take this trigger exactly the way it is and go to work.

Controls. Ruger gave the American a relatively large, ambidextrous slide stop — perfectly placed and easy to manipulate. Loved it. Used it. Use it to release the slide, or just to lock it, either way it worked great and felt fine.

The takedown lever for field stripping is easy to manipulate but not intrusive. This is the fastest and best way to field strip an auto-loading pistol. And don’t forget the ambidextrous magazine release. Other pistols have larger buttons but the Ruger American has its mag release button shaped and located for easy manipulation by either thumb or finger, from either side. No need to change anything; just push the mag release on whatever side you want. If you tend toward slightly longer fingers or thumbs, you can likely mash the mag release while maintaing a firing grip. No fooling.

Individually, these features are welcome additions on any gun, and maybe are simply what we’ve come to expect in a good duty pistol. What’s great is when they all show up at once — on one gun.

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Other Features

But there’s more in the features department. The Ruger American comes with the expected rail, of course. The slide serrations are double-cut, offering fantastic purchase when tugging a locked-back slide to chamber a round from a fresh magazine. The nickel-Teflon plated magazines (two included) hold 17 rounds of 9mm — easily loaded with just my two hands and easily manipulated, with a baseplate offering a grip lip. And the Novak 3-dot sights were more than adequate for the daytime, outdoor range work we did.

The recoil spring guide rod assembly is all-steel and the recoil spring is flat wire, captured on that guide rod. It seems ruggedly designed and built. Interestingly, the barrel design mating to that spring assembly has a patent-pending barrel cam design allowing a longer “dwell” time during recoil. This longer time “in-recoil” imparts an impulse feeling softer than a standard design. This also allows a lighter weight slide.

Unlike other designs, Ruger took a page from SIG Sauer concept and uses a “chassis”-type action assembly allowing all-metal rails for the slide to run on, rather than small metal inserts. All of the moving metal bits of the slide are moving on metal-to-metal contact points with no polymer in the mix. This “chassis” is also the serial-numbered portion of the pistol, not the frame, also like certain SIG designs.

Ruger’s action group has what they call a “pretensioned striker-ignition” system. When the slide is cycled, the striker remains fully cocked and the trigger pull only needs to release the sear, not complete the cocking cycle as on some guns. The trigger has that built-in safety lever which blocks the sear, prohibiting movement until the trigger is fully to the rear.

According to our information, our test gun is the “Pro” model, and the “Standard” model (which will be introduced later) will come with an external safety, magazine disconnect safety and the features contained on our test gun.

Also included in the Ruger American case are two other grips. The gun comes with the medium sized grip installed which was perfect for my medium-sized hands. The smaller grip felt pretty good but not as good as the medium. But the large grip was just too much. The large equates to a 2.85″ trigger reach, while the small offers a 2.55″ to give you an idea. That small amount translates into a huge difference for different hand sizes. Installing them and removing them was a breeze as they slide into place and lock down using an included #10 Torx wrench.

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At The Range

Spoiler alert: The Ruger American gave us 100 percent reliable shooting, with accuracy to match.

A word about conditions on the range. It was springtime in Michigan which means we were enjoying, nay, enduring, a 30-degree day with a steady wind. Brisk isn’t the right word here. The wind bit into our faces and numbed our hands. Pushing cartridges into magazines, carefully manipulating the controls and trigger — were several levels more difficult than usual. So we had plenty of excuses for the American not to do well. But, despite the cold and despite never being cleaned, the Ruger American showed up and delivered. And we just continued shooting.

Ammunition tested included Federal Hydra-Shok 147-gr. JHP, Black Hills 124-gr. JHP and American Eagle Syntech 115-gr. TSJ (Total Synthetic Jacket). The 6-land and groove stainless steel barrel is rated to be used with jacketed or lead ammo right from the factory.

In any case, the Ruger American put its rounds on target — reliably. When we weren’t shooting for groups (tough in this weather!) we moved from side to side and aimed at the handful of steel plates and steel silhouettes available to us. These maneuvers only proved our experience with the other targets — the Ruger American is shooter-friendly and a quick-study.

Groups ran between 11/2″ and 31/2″ at 25 but we think the blustery wind and freezing temps may have affected things just a bit! We’re looking forward to warmer weather tests with a broader range of ammo, and will let you know what we find out. Keep an eye on my on-line column (www.americanhandgunner.com) for more details.

As we fired, ejected brass traveled three feet to the right and about one or two feet back. Not one got near head or face. Every round fed, went into battery, fired, and ejected properly. And just for fun, I loaded up one of the Ruger American’s 17-round magazines with 17 rounds of 9mm out of my “random” 9mm ammo box. You know that box — the one where all the stray rounds end up, waiting to be sorted one day. Well, I stuffed a magazine with JHP’s, target loads, brass-cased, steel-cased, and with bullet weights and lengths all over the scale. The Ruger devoured all of them — like it was its duty to do so.

Ruger says they reached deeply into their bag containing specs for a past military pistol bid process while they designed the American Pistol. One of those specs said “Every component must survive 20,000 rounds of firing without the need for replacement or repair.”

So, after the design was finalized Ruger subjected the American to an endurance test. It flew past the 20,000 round mark without a hitch, and Ruger continued to abuse it by firing over 25,000 rounds of NATO-spec 9mm, which operates at near +P pressures. All without fail.

As Ruger says about the American Pistol: “Anything less would be un-American.”

Capacity: 9mm 17+1, .45 ACP 10+1
Weight: 9mm 30 oz, .45 ACP 31.5 oz
Height: 9mm 5.6”, .45 ACP 5.7” Width: 9mm 1.4″, .45 ACP 1.4″
Height: 9mm 5.6″, .45 ACP 5.7″
Length: 9mm 7.5”, .45 ACP 8” Barrel: 9mm 4.2″, .45 ACP 4.5″
MSRP: $579.00

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11 thoughts on “The Ruger American Pistol

  1. Rick

    Very well written article. However, in your research of this particular firearm did you go check out any of the review videos of it on youtube? As much as I like Ruger, I carry a Ruger SR9C daily and I’ve always been a big fan of Ruger and Ruger products, I will mot likely not be purchasing a Ruger American in the near future. It would’ve been one thing if it were just one of the very well respected youtube reviewers but, it was several. Hickok45, Military Arms Channel, and several others all had pretty much the same thing to say about it.

    I realize that you, as a reviewer in your own right, shouldn’t be swayed by what other reviewers have said. However, to make the research 100% wouldn’t it be prudent to see what others had to say and then take the opportunity to prove or disprove their synopsis?

    Just my $.02 worth. Thanks for a well written article.

    Sincerely,
    Rick

    1. John

      I own the SRPC and SR1911 and the .45 acp American pistol all ruger products. I also watched all those videos with the knuckle issues in the 9mm American pistol. All I can say is have noticed it in .45acp and everyone I let shoot it talks about how great it is so that’s at least 5 others. I have shot at least 200 rounds (I dont count as well as I should). I love it and feel its just as reliable as the P89 (built like a tank) I own also.

      Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I imagine peoples hands are different alos. Maybe they were using the wrong backstrap in the videos. Who knows.. It stays in my nightstand or I CC it with no concerns at all.

  2. Gene

    Picked up a 9mm Ruger American last February…as I’ve had the SR40 for years and absolutely loved it I figured I couldn’t go wrong in picking up the newest kid on the Ruger block…..
    I am not disappointed!
    The A9 is one heckuva gun…well balanced, smooth shooting, a great trigger, and excellent sights!
    The ole SR40…with 9000+ rds through it to date has now become the bedside ‘go-to’ and the A9 is now my primary….and I also have an S&W Shield and a Sig P320 as well.
    The A9’s trigger is within distance of the P320 and trying out all grip options between the two I like the A9 medium grip setup the best.
    My one issue with the Sig is my thumb repeatedly defeating the slidelock upon firing the last round…I do not have that problem with the Ruger design.
    Ruger knocked it out of the park with this one.

    1. mark

      Thanks, Gene, for your report on the guns you carry and use to defend your home. Please let us know your experience with the American over time — what changes you make, if any, and so on.

  3. John Jameson

    I don’t wish to make Bill Ruger roll over in his grave, but there is one flaw, in my opinion, that has not been mentioned. The three grip panels all have a gap that is most uncomfortable when rapid firing. I used a Hogue Handall grip sleeve to make it tolerable. Using gloves is not an option to me. Maybe Pearce will develop a grip plug to correct this condition.

    1. Peter

      John, you have every right to your opinion. Sometimes I think we are all becoming a bit spoiled. Firearms today are close to perfect! This Ruger is one of them. Everyone has different tastes, if there’s a flaw that makes a difference Ruger will fix it. If it doesn’t make a difference to most, the aftermarket will make a buck.
      My suggestion to you John, is don’t settle for anything but that which is excellent for you. Find something else. The sales figures speak loud and clear………..people love this firearm!!!!

  4. Mike

    I bought the RA9 because I am a left handed shooter. I really like that is truly an ambidextrous pistol. If you are a lefty like me you will love this pistol like I do. My wife is a righty and she has shot it as well. She is use to shooting a 357 mag revolver so the RA9 recoil is easy on her hand. I have tried all three grips and for me the large grip is the most comfortable. I have shot over 500 rounds threw it with out one miss feed or stove pipe. I have shot 115 FMJ, 115 Hollow points, 124 FMJ, 124 Hollow point, and 147 Hollow points threw it. I found the 124 grain bullets to the most accurate round threw it so far.

  5. Joseph Vanchieri

    Just purchased the Ruger American .45 and I was amazed at all the work that went into this gun to improve it. Rhe trigger is perfect and cycling a round manually is smooth as can be. I have shot many .45s and this one is as close to perfect as one can get. Thank you. I was conflicted about which pistol I wanted. I definitely made the right choice.

    1. mark

      Thanks, Joseph. We’d love to hear more about your experience with the Ruger American — holsters, ammo, etc. — and what your most favorite feature about it is…

  6. John

    I own this in the .45 ACP mode (owned for 4 months+)l and I have fired this 200+ rounds its great and feels accurate for me. I love it. Its one of my weapons and if SHF its what i want as a pistol. I watched all the videos out there and I see the ones with busted knuckles (the are firing 9mm…) and I dont see it or experience anything close. I am a large man 6’2″ 250+ so I have large hands so all i can say is maybe they are using the wrong grips for their hand size. I could fire 200+ rounds down range comfortably. The .45 ACP recoil compared to the SR9C isn’t that bad either. My girl friend shoots it (she is 5’4″ ) with small hands and she loves it compared to my 1911.

    I love its great…. and I love american made guns :-).

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