September 24, 2010
The new Crimson Trace-gripped LCR takes a great concept to new heights.
When the Ruger LCR (Lightweight Compact Revolver) debuted earlier this year, I was able to handle and fire two samples at a media event. Before firing the two versions of the LCR--one with Crimson Trace Lasergrips, the other with Hogue Tamer grips--I had a few thoughts: What took them so long to make one? Is this going to hurt to shoot? and Where have I seen a revolver that used polymer before this?
I shot both versions using the supplied Hornady 125-grain .38 Special XTP ammunition, and neither hurt to shoot, but the recoil was more noticeable with the Crimson Trace grips, which are smaller overall than the Hogue grips.
After firing a few rounds, I did take note of a disassembled LCR on the Ruger table. There were only three sections plus grip, but the large crowd present precluded any detailed examination. (In fact, the parts were snatched off the table while I was attempting to photograph them. Lots of folks were very excited about the LCR.)
As far as my vague memory of another such revolver, Frank James reminded me that we saw the prototype MP-412 revolver made by Izhmech, a Russian government arsenal, in 2000 at a European arms show in Germany. The MP-412 was a prototype that never went into production, and its use of polymer was to cover a steel frame.
Thus, when I received my test sample of the LCR, the version with Crimson Trace's Lasergrips, I was able to better appreciate just what the Ruger engineers had accomplished. I've repeatedly taken it to the range, and it's growing on me.
I like snubbies and still carry an S&W Model 42 J frame that's been with me for more than 30 years. A side-by-side comparison with that gun shows the LCR is just about the same overall size but weighs less at 13 ounces versus 16 ounces.
As noted above, the LCR has three subassemblies held together by two Torx screws: the fire control subassembly, frame subassembly and cylinder subassembly. The Crimson Trace Lasergrips are attached to the fire-control subassembly, which is made of an aramid (nylon) reinforced with long-strand glass fibers. It contains the entire fire-control mechanism including concealed hammer, trigger, mainspring, cylinder pawl, spring-loaded firing pin and the rear locking recess for the extractor rod.
A Ruger internal gun lock is located beneath the coiled mainspring, with two keys supplied. To use the lock, the grip must be removed to access the keyhole. An alternative to this for safe storage is to use the supplied Master padlock.
The frame subassembly forging is made from 7000-series aluminum and treated with a matte black hard-coat surface that Ruger claims is much better than anodizing. The topstrap is longitudinally grooved and terminates in a U-shaped rear sight.
This frame subassembly holds and encircles the 1.875-inch stainless steel barrel, which is screwed into it. The barrel features a black serrated, ramped and pinned-in front sight blade. Beneath the barrel, the subassembly provides a protective underlug for the extractor rod, and the rear of the frame encloses the double-action-only hammer.
The cylinder front latch pin holds the front of the extractor rod, with both of them within a protective underlug. This front part of the latching system, according to Ruger, uses titanium components and lockup geometry that ensures the LCR's cylinder stays locked in place during firing.
The LCR is made up of three subassemblies: (clockwise from top) frame, fire control and cylinder. The frame is forged from 7000-series aluminum, the fire-control subassembly has a polymer housing and the cylinder is made out of 400-series stainless steel.
The cylinder subassembly holds the extensively fluted (to save weight) 400-series stainless steel cylinder, which measures 1.283 inches in diameter and is coated with Ruger's new Advanced Target Grey finish. The cylinder is released with an inward push on the serrated button, which is on the left side of the frame and operates as do the other Ruger revolvers.
Cartridges are partially extracted--.5625 inch of the 1.13-inch .38 Special case--via the spring-driven extractor rod. The cylinder's rear face is not recessed for cartridge rims.
As I mentioned, the cylinder subassembly and the fire-control subassembly attach to the frame subassembly with two Torx screws. When reinstalling these two screws, the accompanying instruction manual takes particular note of the need to apply proper torque to the screws. The fire-control housing retaining screw (to rear of cylinder window) should have torque of six to nine pounds per inch, and the crane pivot screw should be torqued to 23 to 27 pounds per inch.
Another important item in the manual is how to lubricate the firing system. There is a small pivot pin on the right side of the frame (not visible with Crimson Trace grips installed), with its larger head visible on the left side. The right-side pin is to be depressed only .10 inch. This action moves the left-side head just slightly out of its partial recess. Take care to not push the pin too far in; if you do, the revolver won't function.
Two or three drops of oil should be dropped in the resulting opening every 1,000 cycles of the LCR, after which the pin is pushed back in place. (I did the oil part but not the "stop the gun from functioning" part.)
My two associates, Joe Venezia and A.J. Stuart, and I put a good deal of +P ammo through the gun. Rapidly firing some of the more aggressively loaded +P ammo more than five rounds in quick succession was, we all agreed, not fun--and shooting gloves definitely help. I started wearing Uncle Mike's padded gloves for all my shooting after the first five +P rounds.
The LCR, with its double-action-only trigger pull and concealed hammer, is obviously designed for close-in personal defense work, but there may well be that rare occasion where you want or need to make a more precise shot. Thanks to the Ruger-designed and patent-pending trigger it calls a friction-reducing cam trigger, this can be done.
The LCR trigger pull weight is not constant; it gradually increases as pressure is applied and peaks just before the sear releases. Thanks to the design, the trigger pull is also smooth and was almost but not quite snag-free on this sample.
I say "almost" because on one charge hole t
he cylinder hand is apparently binding on an extractor notch, resulting in more pressure than needed for the other four shots to be fired. Now, in fairness to the excellent design, we noticed this hiccup only when pressing the trigger very slowly. It should go away after more use or dry firing.
The ramped front sight is pinned and can be replaced. The aluminum frame is treated with a hard-coat finish Ruger says is tougher than anodizing.
Ruger's LCR and the author's longtime carry gun, an S&W Model 42 J frame, are of equal size, but the LCR is three ounces lighter.
The beauty of this trigger action is it allows you to manipulate the rounded and smooth-faced trigger with a two-stage pull as many of us learned to do back in the days when we wanted a more accurate shot while shooting the 25- and 50-yard targets in PPC competition.
We would press the trigger back until the cylinder rotates and locks, and then stop. While holding the trigger in place, we'd make any needed sight corrections and then press through to fire. This technique does require dry- and live-fire practice because while learning to do this it's easy to "miss" the stopping point and fire the gun before you are ready.
We fired more than 200 rounds of factory .38 Special--standard and +P velocity--during our range session. None of the rounds exhibited any sign of inertial bullet pull, which can happen when firing high-velocity rounds in a very lightweight handgun. (The instruction manual warns to fire four rounds and examine the fifth for this bullet creep.)
The LCR got high marks for extraction as most empties kicked out easily. Those that didn't fell out with a slight shake.
Our shooting also confirmed the LCR is tolerable to shoot with light bullet weights with standard-velocity .38 Special ammunition such as 130-grain jacketed flatpoint Cor-Bon Performance Match, the 124-grain Hornady XTP jacketed hollowpoint and the 110-grain Federal Personal Defense Hydra Shok.
Collectively, we found it difficult to shoot small groups with the LCR. This is, I think, not due to any defect of the LCR. It's simply that a lightweight revolver that has brisk recoil makes it difficult to retain a consistent grip for all five shots. We found we often had two, three or four shots hold together but one or more would be out of the group.
To the good, the sights and the Crimson Trace Lasergrips shot to point-of-aim at 15 yards. The Lasergrips are ambidextrous as the laser is activated by a centrally located pressure pad on the forward curved portion of the grip and is easily operated with either hand. The laser beam is emitted from the top right of the grip. While the beam can be adjusted, it was not necessary here as the grips are factory-zeroed for 15 yards.
Also worth noting, the HKS No. 36 speed loader--the one that works with five-shot S&W J frames and Taurus revolvers--worked with the LCR, as did the tried-and-true Bianchi as well as the new Tuff-brand (tuffproducts.com) neoprene speed strips.
The shape of the LCR trigger guard is such that it does not fit the holsters I have on hand, including Matt Del Fatti's IWB and outside-the-pants holsters from Alessi and DeSantis. Ruger indicates that the LCR will fit into a DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster; it's not perfect, but I was able to stretch mine to fit. A well-worn Uncle Mike's pocket holster worked as well.
However, Ruger's website lists 13 holster models from Blackhawk, DeSantis, Fobus, Safariland and Uncle Mike's that will accommodate the new revolver.
Finally, as I've learned from shooting other such minimal-weight handguns, they are well-suited to be carried much but shot little, except with standard or reduced loads. The LCR is excellent for personal defense--eminently suited to concealed carry--lending itself to the widest range of folks for home or personal protection.