A Ruger Ready for Duty

Ruger's American Pistol is combat-capable and fit for any hand.

A Ruger Ready for Duty

This is the age of the polymer double-stack, semi-automatic handgun, and new models are regularly hitting the shelves. As a result, consumers have many options, so many that choosing can be difficult. And Ruger didn’t make it any easier when it introduced the American Pistol line in late 2015.

The gun is built to be robust, and the design and features were the result of Ruger asking law enforcement and military trainers what they wanted or expected in a duty pistol. Although the gun did not win the competition for a new U.S. military pistol, it has all the features needed for a combat-capable, life-saving sidearm. And it has been adopted by various U.S. law enforcement agencies and foreign military units around the world. In fact, 100 percent of production of the version tested here is currently being shipped to overseas military units. Except for this one. It was hard to get, but it finally arrived.

The model number is 8606, and domestically, it is for law enforcement duty only, but the differences between it and the models available to the public are minor. The major difference is Trijicon tritium night sights, but those same sights are available for purchase separately. Currently, Ruger shows the price for those sights at about $180. The company also offers a variety of other sights including a rear sight with a horizontal line, another with a box, sights with no dots and the excellent Tritium Fiber Optic (TFO) sights from Truglo. Other accessories are available including both green and red lasers and tactical lights that attach to the gun’s MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail.

American Pistols come in 9mm Luger and .45 ACP, both in Pro Models with no manual safety and in models with a manual thumb safety. Compact as well as duty-size versions are available. Standard sights on the consumer models are the excellent Genuine Novak LoMount Carry 3 Dot sights, but they can be removed and replaced with other sights, including the Trijicon tritium sights mentioned above. As a retailer, you may be able to increase your profit by offering other sights along with installation.

At the Controls

As mentioned, the American Pistols come with or without a thumb safety because some people just aren’t comfortable without one. But even without one, there are passive safeties built into these guns. They include an internal automatic sear block and a lever style trigger safety.

American Pistols have a loaded-chamber indicator that consists of a small rectangular window cut into the top rear of the chamber so that when a round is loaded, the cartridge case can be seen. That assumes of course there is enough light to see it. One should not rely on the loaded-chamber viewing window and instead should learn how to carefully move the slide slightly to the rear to visually, and with a finger, check for the presence of a round. If you don’t know how to do this — and do it without looking — then you really need expert training from a reputable gun fighting school or instructor.

All controls are ambidextrous, so the gun is set up as it comes from the factory for left- and right-handed shooters. The magazine release is a triangular-shaped button located at the junction of the trigger guard and grip, and when tested, all magazines dropped freely from the magazine well. The test gun came with two 17-round, double-stack magazines that are coated with a nickel-Teflon material to give them a natural lubricity.

The slide catch is located just beneath the slide and above and slightly to the rear of the magazine release. It is protected by a beveled fence to help prevent accidental activation when firing. And the disassembly lever is located above the trigger on the left side of the gun.

Managing Recoil

To help reduce the effects of recoil, the trigger guard is raised a bit where it joins the front strap allowing the shooter to obtain the highest possible grip. Because the recoil pulse is then lower in the hand and more in line with the wrist and forearm, muzzle flip is lessened. But Ruger has performed some engineering magic that also helps to reduce felt recoil.

The cam surface on the barrel lug has a slightly different angle than is normally found on similar guns. A careful comparison with other pistols having the same basic action reveals that the cam surface is curved and slightly longer. This spreads the recoil impulse over a longer period of time — it amounts to just a fraction of a second — which seems to make the recoil feel softer.

In any case, the recoil was fairly mild and the gun was comfortable to shoot. I asked a fairly inexperienced woman to shoot the gun and she had no difficulty controlling it under recoil. She said she liked the gun and is considering buying one, although she is still shopping.

Grip and Chassis

The feel of a gun in the hand is different for each person and is a large factor in whether or not a person likes a particular gun. A big variable is the hand size of the shooter, and Ruger has addressed this with three different grip modules — small, medium and large — that come with the gun. They change the palm swell and trigger reach, are easy to swap, and they lock solidly in place. To exchange one for another, rotate the Torx screw at the back of the grip a quarter turn with the supplied wrench, slide off the grip module, replace it with the desired size, and rotate the screw one-quarter turn clockwise. That’s it.

The sides of the grip modules, or palm swell areas, are lightly textured and the backstraps have a series of diamond shaped protrusions. The front strap has smaller diamonds and triangles spaced more closely than the diamonds on the backstrap, and together, create a comfortable slip-resistant surface that won’t abrade skin and anchors the gun firmly in hand.

The part of the gun that bears the serial number is the stainless steel fire control chassis within the grip frame. Incidentally, the serial number can be seen just below the slide at the rear of the gun. The chassis includes rails on which the slide reciprocates, and is finished with black nitride to make it hard and extremely resistant to corrosion.

The striker is pre-tensioned when the slide and barrel are in battery, which helps to assure primer ignition. Also, there are fewer moving parts with a striker-fired pistol compared to a hammer-fired pistol, and there are fewer paths through which dirt and grime can find their way into the internals of the gun. This is especially important in a gun designed for self defense, law enforcement or military work. The slide and barrel are built for rough duty, being made of stainless steel and also having a black nitride finish.

To disassemble the gun for cleaning, first remove the magazine and check to make sure the gun is unloaded. Check it again. Lock the slide to the rear and rotate the disassembly lever clockwise one quarter turn. The slide/barrel assembly can then be moved forward to separate it from the fire control chassis and grip frame. Then the recoil spring and barrel can be removed from the slide. Assembly is in reverse order. For added safety, the trigger does not have to be pulled to remove the slide/barrel assembly. 

On the Range

While test firing the sample gun, I experienced no malfunctions of any kind regardless of the type of ammunition used, whether hollow point or full metal jacket ball. And the Ruger American Pistol is rated for +P ammunition.

The trigger on the test gun was set up for duty, which is completely understandable in a gun built for serious use. Starting with a fairly long take-up, once resistance was encountered, the pull weight increased to, on average, about 6.5 pounds with some creep followed by a distinct break and no over travel. For those shooters who are concerned with it, the reset was fairly long, but distinct.

This is a robust and functional firearm that should sell well at an MSRP of $579 for the consumer version without night sights. Ruger continues to develop the gun, and I have been told several new models are expected.

Ruger American Pistol
Caliber: 9mm (reviewed), .45ACP
Barrel length: 4.20 inches, 1:10 RH twist
Overall length: 7.50 inches
Weight: 30 ounces
Grips: glass-filled nylon
Sights: Trijicon 3 dot tritium night sights
Action: semiautomatic, striker fired
Finish: black nitride
Capacity: 17 + 1
Price: $713


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