May 14, 2013
In 2007, Ruger introduced the SR9. In addition to being Ruger's first striker-fired handgun, compared to the firm's other chunky autos the SR9 looked like a Ferrari. It was sleek, it was modern, it was affordable, it was made in America, and it was reliable. I helped out on a torture test in which we shot 7,000 rounds through an SR9 in one afternoon, and it never jammed once. Our hands ended up in worse shape than the gun.
In the eyes of many gun owners, however, Ruger made one huge blunder with the SR9: The company chambered it in 9mm.
There are many who believe the search for a handgun cartridge suitable for self-defense begins and ends with the .45 ACP. I know how they feel; I used to be a member of that congregation myself. I still believe the .45 ACP is the handgun cartridge against which all others should be judged when it comes to self-defense, and for everyone who thinks the same way, you now have a new pistol to put on your wish list: the Ruger SR45.
Ruger had no desire to mess with success, and so the looks and proportions of the SR45 appear to be identical to the SR9 and SR40. From a distance, the only way to tell the difference seems to be the "SR45" etched on the slide. And in fact the gun comes with an SR9 instruction manual, with an insert for the newest model that reads, "With the exception of its caliber, the Ruger SR45 pistol has the same basic operational characteristics as all other SR-Series pistols." It has just been super-sized, so to speak.
The SR45 sports a 4.5-inch barrel and is eight inches in length and 5.75 inches tall. Maximum width, at the safety, is 1.3 inches, but the bulk of the gun is less than 1.2 inches in thickness. Empty weight is 30.2 ounces. That makes it less than half an inch longer and taller than the SR9, and only four ounces heavier. It is rated for +P loads.
The SR45's frame is constructed of the same fiberglass-filled nylon as the previous SR models, and it has functional fine checkering on all the gripping surfaces. The front of the frame has a low-profile tactical rail for mounting weapon lights or lasers, a must in today's marketplace.
The slide on the two-tone version I was sent is stainless steel; an all-black version with a black nitride-coated alloy slide is also available.
Sights are the same as on previous models. They're made out of steel, as all serious sights should be. The front sight is dovetailed into the slide and sports a big white dot.
The rear sight is also dovetailed, and it can be drifted for windage and adjustable for elevation via a screw as well. The rear features white dots on either side of the notch smaller than that of the one on the front sight, and that size difference is visible when obtaining a sight picture.
Capacity on the SR45 is 10+1. I'm sure Ruger did this for several reasons—first and foremost being that when you start trying to stuff more than 10 rounds of fat .45s into a magazine, the grip of the pistol tends to get a bit beefy. The frame of the SR45 feels almost narrow in my hand, even more so because of the slightly narrower contoured section of grip on the front of the frame around which your fingers will wrap.
At its thickest point the grip is 1.2 inches thick (the same as the SR9/40), and the narrow front of the frame is a mere one-inch thick. By contrast, the frame of a Glock 17 is about 1.18 inches thick all over. Ruger provides two matte black 10-round magazines with the pistol, equipped with easily removable polymer base pads. They have marked index holes on each side: 5, 7, and 9 on the left; 4, 6, 8, and 10 on the right.
Ruger could have stuffed one or two more rounds into the design without adding noticeable girth, considering the steel SR45 magazine is actually narrower than a Glock 17 magazine, but the gun was designed so it could be sold in every state (this was before New York passed draconian new magazine-capacity restrictions).
The SR45 features an ambidextrous thumb safety and a safety lever on the pivoting trigger.
The rear sight can be drifted in its dovetail for windage; elevation is controlled by a small screw. The loaded-chamber indicator is visible atop the slide.
The contours of the SR45 give it a retro-futuristic look, and the frame features the obligatory accessory rail.
The frame of the SR45 sports a slightly narrower contoured section where your fingers wrap around it. The mag release is ambidextrous.
The grip can be changed from flat to arched backstrap simply by driving out a small pin and reversing the removable backstrap.
Just like its predecessors, the SR45 does not have interchangeable grip inserts but rather a reversible backstrap. The backstrap is rubber and provides a little extra grip while shooting. I've got small hands, and I prefer both the look and the feel of the backstrap in its flat, rather than arched, position.
Reversing the backstrap requires only the removal of one small pin, and when I did it I was too lazy to go get a proper punch from my tool box and instead used an unfolded paper clip. That's how simple it is to reverse the backstrap. Between the flat backstrap and the narrow on the grip, which is shaped to cup the shooter's fingers, the gun feels really good.
Measuring the trigger pull on a pivoting trigger can be tricky because the closer to the tip you get, the lighter the pull weight. The trigger pull on my specimen was between six and 6.5 pounds, which is right in line with most of the striker-fired guns on the market.
The magazine release on the SR45 is ambidextrous, as is the manual safety at the top rear of the frame. The safety cannot be engaged unless the striker is cocked, and there is an internal firing pin block safety as well. The SR45 has a magazine disconnect safety, so it can't be fired with the magazine removed.
One note on the manual safety: It's not large enough to get bumped up accidentally, but it's also not large enough to ride, like you would the thumb safety on a 1911.
Some people just aren't comfortable with a pistol that doesn't have some sort of safety they can engage. My only word of advice is to practice flipping it off if you plan to carry the gun with the safety on. Pulling the trigger and having nothing happen can ruin your whole day.
While there was a little play between the slide and frame, the barrel locked up solidly with the slide. If there was ever one way to predict if a pistol will be accurate, that's it. The end of the barrel is slightly flared for a tighter lockup, and it has an integral feed ramp. The SR45 sports a captured recoil spring assembly with a flat wire spring. The base of the guide rod is steel, but the recoil spring guide rod itself is made out of polymer.
When it comes to disassembling the SR45, like the SR9 it has a pivoting ejector that needs to be pushed down before removing the slide—and then pulled back up to get the gun back into operating condition. Full details on how to field-strip the pistol are in the instruction manual. Yes, I know instruction manuals are just another man's opinion, but considering we're talking about a firearm and not a cordless drill, we're all better off if you take a few minutes to read your owner's manual—or at least look at the pictures.
If you've never looked at or held one of the SR pistols, to me they seem to have a retro-futuristic appearance, like what someone from the 1950s would think a sci-fi pistol should look like. They are very streamlined, and the rounded front of my SR45, with its stainless slide, reminded me a bit of an Airstream trailer. That's not a negative to me, just an observation.
Like most striker-fired pistols, the SRs have bores that sit low in the hand, reducing felt recoil and muzzle rise, and the SR45 has a low bore as well. And the combination of .45 ACP, low bore and tight barrel lockup produce an extremely accurate and shootable big bore pistol—or at least that was what I was hoping for when I headed to the range.
When I first loaded the SR45's magazines, the springs were so strong I could barely get 10 rounds into them, and fully loaded they weren't exactly easy to seat into the gun. That is not a complaint, just an observation. Strong magazine springs make for reliable guns. They also keep the magazines reliable longer.
At the range the Ruger was reliable and accurate. I had no jams, but the pistol was so tight that the slide hesitated for the first few rounds. After a brief break-in period, the recoil cycle smoothed out. Felt recoil was about equivalent to a 1911. While the SR45 weighs a mite less than a 1911, between the different grip shape and material, not to mention the rubber backstrap, it soaked up a little more recoil than a steel-frame gun would have.
While I wouldn't be surprised if an SR45c (compact) is in the works at Ruger, I know I'm not alone in preferring full-size guns. They are easier and more enjoyable to shoot, and I actually find them more comfortable to carry. I know that makes no sense, but short guns angle differently on my hip and poke me in the rear when I move.
No firearms design survives first contact with the public, and the SR9 was no different. In the five years since the design made its debut, the trigger shoe-type safety on the original design was replaced with a lever inside the trigger, and the sharp corner on the front of the loaded chamber indicator was rounded off, and there were a few internal modifications. The SR45 has benefited from all of these tweaks.
In the Ruger SR45, we've got a slender, striker-fired 10+1 .45 ACP made in America, with a suggested retail of only $529. My only question is whether or not Ruger will be able to make them fast enough to keep up with demand.