By J. Scott Rupp
You might remember Ruger’s Security-Six, which was introduced back in 1971. The concept was to build a revolver at a middle price point to compete with Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers. The same basic thinking led to introduction of the Ruger Security 9 — a double-stack, hammer-fired pistol—and now the company has brought out a compact version.
Yes, the country is awash in 9mm pistols of all sizes, and Ruger is competing with a hell of a lot more companies than just Colt and Smith & Wesson. This might lead you to question whether yet another polymer-frame pistol will win the hearts and minds of America’s handgunners.
Judging from all the feedback we get whenever we profile handguns that readers think are too expensive, I’d have to say the answer is yes—because value is the guiding principle behind the Security 9 and the new Compact.
I was at the launch event for the original full-size Ruger Security 9 in late 2017, held at Gunsite Academy, and product manager Brandon Trevino stressed what Ruger was trying to deliver.
“The idea is to provide value,” he said. “With the Security 9, you’ll be able to buy the gun, a holster, mag pouch and some ammo for under $400.“
The Ruger Security 9 Compact (manufacturer model # 3818) carries the same $379 suggested retail as the full-size version, which means you’ll find it for a street price a bit north of the $300 mark. At press time there were nearly 20 holsters to fit the Compact on ShopRuger.com, ranging in price from $40 to $90. And while there were no dedicated mag pouches for the pistol there, pouches aren’t hard to find and aren’t expensive. Throw in a box or two of practice ammo and, like the man said, you’re in business for less than $400.
You’ll note I called it a hammer-fired gun and not a striker-fired one. Ruger engineers went back to the playbook they ran on the LCP, and the internal mechanics are similar on the Security 9 Compact. Called the Secure Action, it’s essentially a pre-cocked hammer, shrouded by the rear of the slide, and the double-action-only pull has minimal travel. It does not offer restrike capability.
There’s an eighth of an inch of take-up, and the trigger breaks at just shy of a half-inch—where its overtravel is halted by a stop molded into the trigger guard. Pull weight was five pounds, 10 ounces on average, with a variance of about five ounces over 10 pulls.
One of the big advantages to the hammer-fired design is it requires less effort to rack the slide than you’ll find with many striker-fired guns.
“Given similar size and similar mass slides, a hammer-fired gun can potentially have a lower-powered recoil spring than a striker-fired gun because in order to ‘cock on close’ the striker gun needs a more powerful recoil spring to overcome the reverse force of the striker spring,” Trevino said.
For many people this is a big deal. A lack of hand strength and health conditions like arthritis—along with less-than-great technique, which can plague those new to semiautos—can make racking a slide a real problem.
I compared the slide-racking force with a Walther PPQ Subcompact and Springfield’s XD-S, which are similar in size to the Ruger. The Security 9 Compact’s slide is indeed easier to rack.
Let’s talk size. “Compact” is in the eye of the beholder, or sometimes the head of marketing. For instance, the Walther I referenced earlier is called the Subcompact but is essentially the same size as the Ruger, while my Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 Compact is bigger than the Ruger in both overall length and grip length.
With an overall length of 6.52 inches and a height of 4.35 inches, I’d say the Ruger does indeed qualify as a compact. Slide width is 1.02 inches, and the polymer frame is just a tad wider. Overall, it has a slightly chunky appearance, but at 21.9 ounces it carries nicely and is easy to conceal thanks to its short grip.
Because the Security 9 Compact is designed as an economy gun, it doesn’t offer the capability to change the grip size with inserts. I have medium- to medium-large hands, but I still find many pistols simply feel too big. Not so this pistol. Ruger reps said the grip feels smaller than its 5.5-inch circumference, and I agree.
However, you won’t be getting a full three-finger grip on the Compact unless you add the supplied finger-hook extension to one of the two 10-round steel alloy magazines. Of course, you then sacrifice a little bit of concealment, but it does make for nicer shooting.
Control is enhanced by panels of stippling on the glass-filled nylon frame. These panels are on the frontstrap and backstrap, as well as molded into the side of the grips, along with the Ruger logo.
The alloy steel slide sports slightly curved serrations fore and aft. They’re relatively shallow and not overly aggressive, but they’re fine since the slide is easy to rack in the first place. The front of the slide has a bevel on both sides for easy holstering.
Plastic sights sit atop the slide. The rear is a square notch with a white outline, and it’s easily drift adjustable via a setscrew. It matches up to a white dot front.
At the media event where I got a sneak peek at the original Security 9, the muttering began the instant Trevino said “plastic sights.” Yes, plastic sights can break, and yes, many serious defensive shooters think plastic sights have no place on a gun you’re betting your life on.
I would point out a few things here. One, tons of stuff can happen in a gunfight, and I would think the odds of your sights breaking at a crucial moment are relatively small compared to everything else. Two, if you’re paying less than $400 for a brand-new gun, you can’t expect high-end components.
Three, if this turns out to be your daily carry gun or is otherwise subjected to hard use—where sight damage is certainly a possibility—the sights are set into dovetails and easily replaceable. You need to look no further than ShopRuger.com to find the following replacement sight sets for the Security 9 family: HiViz Litewave (steel, $98), HiViz tritium (steel, $142) and three $10 polymer options—orange, yellow and black—in case you’re fine with plastic but don’t care for the stock white.
If none of those options are appealing and you want to hedge your bets, the Security 9 Compact’s frame has a three-slot accessory rail out front so you can mount a light, laser or light/laser unit.
The pistol sports a manual thumb safety. It’s one of those minimalist jobs, and I’m not sure I’d want to have to deactivate it under stress. However, the fire-control mechanism features a secondary sear notch or hammer catch, which prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled, and the trigger itself has the omnipresent safety lever as well. So I think I’d just ignore the manual safety, leaving it off when carrying it or having it staged for home defense.
But if you do decide to use the safety, the amount of tension makes it easy to move down to the Fire position, and with practice you shouldn’t have a problem deactivating it. I did find it more difficult to move it up to Safe from a firing grip, but I have that issue with a lot of pistols with small thumb safeties.
While I typically slingshot the slide to charge a pistol or do a slide-lock reload, I experimented with the slide-lock lever as a release lever. I found it nearly impossible to disengage the lever from a firing grip for loading, and during slide-lock reload drills I wasn’t able to operate it with my support-hand thumb with any degree of regularity.
The lever may become easier to operate as the gun breaks in, and you may not care about this depending on how you run a pistol, but I did feel it was worth mentioning.
Disassembly is a little different with the Security 9 Compact. Once you’ve removed the magazine and verified the pistol is unloaded, allow the slide to go fully forward. Retract the slide ever so slightly so the takedown pin is centered in the matching cutout in the slide (or, as the manual suggests, so the front of the slide aligns with the front of the frame), then use a screwdriver or other flat object to pry out the pin.
I’m not crazy about this because I prefer tool-less takedown. And as the manual sagely suggests: “Be careful not to scratch the slide.” I’m pretty ham-fisted, but I did manage this task numerous times without marring the slide. However, you just know it’s going to happen to somebody, and that somebody is going to be pretty unhappy when he or she scratches the gun with a screwdriver.
On the plus side, the process doesn’t require pulling the trigger to remove the slide, and that will please some folks. And to be honest, it really is quite simple and quick.
With the slide off, you’ll find the hard-coated aluminum chassis with full-length rails on which the slide rides, as opposed to frame rails molded into the polymer frame. The chassis is the serialized part, and the serial number is visible in window on the left side, just below the external extractor.
This isn’t one of those replaceable chassis that enables you to change grip frames and other features. Ruger doesn’t like people messing with its guns’ internals, and the way the Security 9 Compact is designed to remove the chassis you’d also have to remove the mainspring.
The guide rod and its captured flat-wire spring are easily removed, allowing the barrel to be withdrawn for cleaning. Here, you’ll see the barrel features a bell shape, and Trevino said this design—which is common to the LCP, EC9 and the Security 9 families—provides a locking surface and relief for tilting during the unlocking cycle. It also has a 45-degree muzzle crown to protect the rifling.
Once you’re done cleaning and lubing, reassemble in reverse order, reinstalling the takedown pin with its notch facing up.
When it came to the shooting part, the Security 9 Compact showed a decided preference on bullet weight, as you can see in the accompanying chart. In addition to the ammo listed, I also tried two additional 115-grain loads: Federal Syntech’s total synthetic jacket and Black Hills’ jacketed hollowpoint. When the first couple of groups with each of those exceeded the five-inch mark, I decided they were not worth pursuing.
However, with the wealth of 9mm loads available to shooters today, and the gun’s demonstrated ability to shoot heavier bullets well, I don’t think anyone should take issue with the pistol’s accuracy potential.
I did have one failure to feed with the Remington Black Belt ammo, the very first rounds I put through the gun. The failure occurred on the seventh shot, and after that there were no failures of any kind—and I fired more than 200 rounds of all types of ammo through the pistol.
The Compact handled well in drills. It comes out of the holster nicely, and even with the flush-plate magazines and my finger hanging off, I had no problems getting hits—both the first shot out of the holster as well as double-taps and shooting plate racks.
One of the reasons for this is the frame, which is relieved just behind the trigger guard to permit a higher hold on the gun. The texturing in the grips is Goldilocks-right and does a good job of preventing the pistol from shifting in your hand.
Reloads came smoothly, and the only hang-ups I had were due to my pinkie trapping the empty mag and preventing it from dropping free, a common occurrence with most any compact pistol where you can’t get all three fingers on the grip. But when I did my part, mags ejected easily.
Getting the next magazine inserted was smooth and sure. I find backstrap extensions like you see on the Security 9 Compact help to guide the magazine on reloads.
I hadn’t commented on the magazine release to this point because it looks so plain—not oversize, not serrated, nothing fancy. But it’s easy to hit and easy ( but not too easy) to depress.
When I first shot the full-size Security 9, I really liked the white-outline rear sight. I didn’t care for it as much on the Compact. It seemed the white outline was competing with the front dot for my focus, and I chalk this up to the shorter sight radius on the Compact.
I wear bifocals, and for me things really change when going from, say, a gun with a four-inch barrel like the full-size Security 9 to one with a 3.4-inch barrel like that on the Compact. Luckily, if you buy one of these guns and have the same problem, you can simply black out the rear sight entirely or pony up $10 for the black sight set and replace just the rear.
Is the Security 9 Compact the greatest thing since sliced bread? Of course not. But it lives up to what the company wanted to build: a solid, dependable, easy-racking carry/home defense pistol at a better-than-reasonable price.
Ruger Security 9 Compact SpecsType:
hammer-fired semiauto centerfireCaliber/Cartridge:
6.5/4.4/1.2 in. (width at frame)Construction:
alloy steel slide, glass-filled nylon frameTrigger:
double-action-only Secure Action; 5 lb., 10 oz. pull (measured)Sights:
plastic; drift-adjustable white outline rear, white dot frontSafeties:
single-side thumb, secondary sear notchPrice: