Monday, November 28, 2011

Ruger SR9 - underappreciated excellence

Shortly after its release in the fall of 2007, I picked up a Ruger SR9 9mm handgun. Ruger's first striker-fired handgun, it claimed to be one of the slimmest full-sized 9mm's on the market, and seeing as how it was made at the factory just around the corner from Independence Training, I had to try it out. At the time I was still carrying a 1911 chambered in .45ACP as my daily carry gun - a good solid handgun, to be sure, but certainly limiting in two areas: weight and magazine capacity. With a polymer frame and 17 round capacity magazine, as well as control locations based on the 1911 design, this new SR9 really intrigued me. Then I shot it.

Wow! Tame recoil, even for a 9mm, and the ergonomic design of the handgun made for an easily controllable shooting experience that made keeping rapid shots on target no problem at all for me. And what was better is that is really was slim - slimmer than my 1911, in fact - and it packed more rounds into that size. With plenty of training and field testing completed, including a nasty torture test that included sand, mud, and water, it was ready for daily carry . . . . and it's been my daily carry ever since.

As my daily carry handgun, it's also my instructor handgun, and that means it gets abused. Heavily abused. As in days of high volume shooting with little to no maintenance. Running courses in the rain, the sand, the snow, the cold. It's been drug through the dirt while doing ground maneuvers and packed in mud while shooting from alternate positions. I mean to tell you that this handgun has seen it's share of hard days. And yet it just keeps on running. It doesn't choke on any ammunition, even the cheap dirty foreign brands. It's fired over 8000 rounds, and it just keeps on doing what it was built to do - fire rounds accurately and effectively without a hiccup.

So why is the SR9 not as popular as Glocks, or XDs, or some similar pistol? I believe part of that is due to Ruger's politics in the past, when Bill Ruger was still alive. Some of the things he said and did left a bad taste in the mouths of gun owners. I believe that Ruger showing up pretty late to the 'polymer pistol party' is another factor. And yet another factor is the fact that this handgun has yet to be tested on a larger level by a big law-enforcement agency issuing them to its officers. But none of that means that this handgun should not be considered as a viable and affordable alternative to other handguns of similar design. I recently saw a brand new SR9 in a gun store for $429.00+tax - now that is one heck of a good deal on a brand new pistol. Bring up the point that the magazine release and safety are both ambidextrous, and you have an even sweeter deal.

None of this is to say that I don't have my complaints, however. I am not a big fan of lever-type safeties on striker-fired pistols, and even though the safety on the SR9 is in the same location as a 1911, it's not something I use. In fact I've modified mine so that it doesn't even move into the up or 'safe' position. Ruger is a big fan of safeties, however, as they also put a magazine safety on the SR9, meaning that without a magazine inserted, the trigger is much harder (but not impossible) to pull. This is also a part that be modified; in fact it can be fully removed, and I have done so.

Magazines are also not inexpensive, a problem which plagues many "unpopular" or non-widely circulated handguns. The cheapest I can find so far on factory 17 round magazines is $25.00, and that's when they are on sale. Normal price is generally over $30.00. To my knowledge there are no aftermarket magazines available for the SR9. Along the same lines, holsters can be difficult to find for particular styles, and some manufacturers don't have SR9 holsters available at all. Sometimes this can be solved through the modification of existing holsters, such as my Galco Triton made for a Glock 17.

But those complaints are minor when compared to complaints I've had concerning other handguns I've owned and/or carried. Overall I find the Ruger SR9 to be an exceptional piece of equipment, and I obviously would bet my life on that! Recently I decided to give my SR9 a bit of a 'makeover' and took it to my local gun store, STG Firearms, for a Cerakote refinish through their X-Works refinishing shop. I chose Flat Dark Earth for the slide and Coyote Tan for the frame, and I am very happy with the results. Turnaround time was about a week, and so far the new finish has held up very well.

If you're in the market for a new handgun, give the SR9 a good look. It's also available in a compact version, the SR9c, and in .40 S&W with the SR40. You won't break the bank, and it's quality that you can bet your life on.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, Train Hard.
-Glen Stilson