February 03, 2022
Ruger’s LCP and LCP II .380 Auto pistols have been frontrunners in the race to offer effective stopping power from a pocket pistol, but to maintain minimal size and weight, these guns have had to give up a few things, including magazine capacity. The original LCP and LCP II are extraordinarily light and small, but they hold just six .380 rounds in the magazine. If you’ve always been keen on carrying a small .380 Auto but weren’t willing to sacrifice round count, I have some wonderful news for you: The LCP Max has arrived.
The Ruger LCP Max utilizes a bottleneck double-stack magazine. The “stack-and-a-half” design was first popularized by SIG’s P365, though Springfield’s Hellcat, Taurus’ GX4 and Ruger’s own Max-9 all utilize similar magazine designs. And while the bottleneck magazine design isn’t brand-new—9x18 Makarov pistols with bottleneck magazines have been in use for decades—the fascination with light, compact, high(er) capacity carry pistols that utilize bottleneck mags certainly is.
Ruger clearly saw the advantage of an LCP with a higher-capacity magazine, but a great deal of the LCP’s appeal revolves around the pistol’s compact size. Add too much girth to the grip and the LCP’s hide-it-under-anything design would be compromised. The LCP Max with bottleneck magazine and four extra rounds is virtually the same size as the LCP II. In fact, the overall length (5.17 inches) and barrel length (2.75 inches) of the two guns are the same.
The LCP Max’s 0.93-inch-wide slide is slightly broader than that of the LCP II’s 0.75 inch, but some of that added width comes in the form of “ears” on the rear of the slide that ease operation. Even with its widened magazine, the grip width of the LCP Max is just 0.90 inch, while overall height is 4.17 inches. That does make the LCP Max a bit taller than the LCP II, which stands 3.71 inches tall. Both guns are listed at 10.6 ounces in weight.
So the LCP Max is larger than the LCP II, but not appreciably so. I don’t think most shooters will notice the less-than-half-inch difference in height or the slight added width when carrying, but the extra grip space does provide a little more surface area for holding the gun while firing.
Like the LCP II, the LCP Max comes with micro-texturing on the side grip panels, frontstrap and backstrap. Unlike the LCP II, which features texturing over almost all of the grip surface, the LCP Max’s grip texturing stops two-thirds of the way up the grip, similar to the Max-9. The glass-reinforced nylon grip narrows near the top, providing a shallow channel for the thumb and trigger finger.
The magazine and minor cosmetic upgrades aren’t the only improvements found on the new LCP Max. Besides its broad-shouldered profile, the metal magazine also features improved feed lip geometry. Couple that with a redesigned feed ramp and the LCP Max is built to be more reliable than any LCP that has come before it. In addition to the feed lips and ramp, the extractor is newly redesigned for improved reliability.
Perhaps the most notable of these internal mechanical upgrades is the redesigned barrel cam that delays unlocking and slows the slide slightly to help reduce felt recoil. Like other LCP pistols, the Max’s barrel features a cutout around the barrel near the muzzle that corresponds to lugs in the slide that help maintain stability and improve accuracy.
One thing that Ruger consistently does right is provide high-quality, reliable magazines with its firearms, and the LCP Max magazine is no exception. The Teflon-coated mags slide smoothly into position and drop free from the gun with a press of the magazine release button. The included 10-round magazine comes with a flush-mounted flat floorplate, but it’s easy to install the included grip extension which prevents the pinky finger of the shooting hand from dangling in space.
Shopruger.com offers 12-round magazines for the LCP Max that provide a full grip surface even for large hands, and since the 12-round grip adds only about a half-inch of height to the gun and very little weight, it will work for concealed carry.
Like other LCP pistols, the Max version is a recoil-operated, hammer-fired pistol. When the pistol is ready to fire the hammer is visible through a window in the rear of the slide, and there’s a viewing port on the right side of the chamber. While the LCP Max doesn’t come with a manual safety, these guns are equipped with Ruger’s Secure Action fire-control system. The LCP Max’s trigger has a blade, and only when the blade is depressed can the trigger bar operate. As the trigger is pulled, the sear is engaged, and sear movement fully cocks the hammer. When the trigger is compressed further, the hammer is released, firing the gun.
Inside the LCP Max’s nylon frame there’s an insert made from CNC-machined aluminum with integral frame rails. The slide and barrel are made from alloy steel and come with a black oxide finish. The frame and slide have been sculpted to eliminate the sharp edges and hard lines that cause guns to print under clothing. Instead, the rear of the slide and frame are rounded and the slide edges beveled, making the LCP Max a very easy gun to conceal even under light garb.
Earlier LCP pistols came with rudimentary sights, but the new sights on the LCP Max are a significant step up in terms of quality and practicality. The steel U-notch rear sight is dovetailed into the slide and comes with anti-glare horizontal serrations. The back of the slide is angled to a similar degree as the rear of the slide to improve concealability. The front sight is also dovetailed, and it comes with a tritium lamp that provides a clear sight picture even in low-light conditions.
The dovetails will accept sights that fit a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard, but I must say I was extremely impressed with Ruger’s new irons. They aren’t target sights by any stretch, but they’re far more practical than the sights found on previous versions of Ruger’s LCP pistol. In fact, Ruger’s new LCP Max likely has the best iron sights found on any micro .380 available today.
The LCP Max’s controls are few, and their function is simple. The slide stop is located on the left side of the gun, and it’s quite small. The slide stop works at the range, but in times of stress I’d use your non-shooting hand to retract the slide and chamber a round rather than search for the minimal slide stop. The round magazine release is reversible, and its spring is strong enough that it requires direct, purposeful pressure to operate, so I doubt you’ll accidentally drop any mags.
The trigger has a long take-up and a relatively smooth break at around seven pounds, according to a Wheeler gauge. There’s a trigger stop molded into the base of the trigger.
Disassembly requires unloading the gun, removing the magazine, locking the slide back and bringing the slide slightly rearward to relieve pressure on the transverse takedown pin. The pin is accessible on the left side of the pistol and even though the manual suggests using a flathead screwdriver I’d stick with nonmarring tools just in case. I understand that carry guns experience abuse daily and that a minor nick in the black oxide finish isn’t earth-shattering, but I’d start with a gentler approach. When the pin is removed the slide, barrel and recoil spring can be removed for routine cleaning.
Suggested retail price for the new LCP Max is listed at $449 and includes a gun lock, magazine loader and pocket holster. That’s a slightly higher suggested retail than the LCP II ($409) and Smith & Wesson’s Bodyguard ($385). Of course, the LCP Max has something those other guns don’t: a double-digit mag capacity.
A few years ago, I wrote an article in Handguns about carrying a firearm while running. The article came as a response to a spate of attacks on runners across the country, most of them women, and I did a prolonged test on which holsters were the best for runners. I tried several different guns throughout the testing process, but what I learned is that an LCP-size pistol was the largest firearm I could carry practically under light clothing while running.
That’s also when I decided that, regardless of whether the .380 served as my daily carry gun, I’d need one for my fitness sidearm. Now when I’m canoeing, biking, running or hiking, it’s the gun I wear.
Thankfully, I’ve never had to fire my pistol when running, although I did have to draw it just a few months ago when I felt a slap on my back while running a deserted stretch of Rust Belt backroad and turned to find a very large, angry German shepherd standing 10 feet away. Heaven only knows where that dog came from because there wasn’t a house for a half-mile in either direction or why it hit me without biting, but I was thrilled when it eventually moved off and was very grateful I had a gun should I have needed it.
If you exercise in public you’re especially vulnerable, and criminals have unfortunately caught on to this. I’d like to have a larger gun with more energy and more capacity when I run, but they aren’t practical. Big guns are hot and heavy, but the LCP rides just fine in a belly band under light clothing.
So does the LCP Max. This gun is light enough and slim enough that it rides close to the body under light clothing without printing. Nor does it dig into the flesh. Anyone who has ever carried concealed firearms has, at one time or another, worn a gun or holster that digs into the skin. Maybe it was a rear sight, maybe a belt clip, but whatever started as a mild irritation soon turned annoying and maybe even reached the stage of being unbearable. The LCP Max doesn’t do that. There are so few hard edges, so few sharp lines. It blends into the body.
The included pocket holster is also a nice bonus when buying this gun, and it works quite well. I carried the LCP Max in the pocket of a pair of cargo shorts inside the provided holster, and the gun didn’t move. I had to find another place for my keys, phone and wallet, but with a bit of practice, the gun came out of the holster in one smooth stroke. The exterior surface of the Ruger holster grips the pocket, which helps separate the gun and holster during the draw.
I tested the LCP Max with five different loads from 15 yards. Generally speaking, the gun fired five-shot groups between two and three inches at that distance. One group using Federal ammunition measured just 1.8 inches across, and there were a couple groups right at two inches from Federal and Black Hills, but on average, the LCP Max is going to produce groups the size of tennis balls from a fixed rest at 45 feet.
Reliability was good, and all the ammunition fed, fired, extracted and ejected without fail. In fact, the LCP Max hurls spent cases so high in the air that several pinged off the interior of the metal overhang at my range and landed on the table next to me.
The only mechanical issue I encountered was the polymer piece that fits into the grip behind the magazine fell out; you’ll see it’s missing in some photos. I found it on the table, presumably pulled free during bench testing. Since I snapped it back into place it hasn’t wanted to move.
Off the bench and at more typical self-defense ranges from zero to seven yards, the LCP MAX shoots just fine. As I mentioned, trigger uptake is fairly long, which you’d expect from a pocket .380 without a manual safety. Seven pounds is a touch on the heavy side, but it’s not out of line for a pistol like this and didn’t seem to have an ill effect on short-range accuracy.
From five and seven yards the LCP MAX consistently puts shots in center mass. As with all ultra-light .380 Autos, recoil is a bit snappy, and learning to manage muzzle rise is critical to effectively shoot very light, short-barreled deep concealment guns like the Ruger.
Concealment is what this gun is all about. Engineering a very light, compact pistol is all about compromises. Lighter guns mean more muzzle rise. Shorter barrels are easy to conceal but forfeit velocity and reduce sight radius. Ruger has always leaned toward concealability with its LCP pistols, and one of the things we traded in exchange for small size was extra rounds in the magazine. With the arrival of the LCP MAX, Ruger has made concealment less of a compromise.
Ruger LCP Max Specifications
- Type: hammer-fired semiauto centerfire
- Caliber: .380 Auto
- Capacity: 10+1, 12+1
- Barrel: 2.75 in.
- OAL/Height/Width: 5.2/4.2/0.9 in.
- Weight: 10.6 oz.
- Grips: glass-reinforced nylon
- Finish: black oxide
- Trigger: Secure Action, 7 lb. pull (measured)
- Sights: drift-adjustable U-notch rear, dovetailed tritium front
- Price: $449
- Manufacturer: Ruger, ruger.com