Ruger 9E Davidson's special edition.
The world is now full of plastic-framed, striker-fired pistols. They're inexpensive, reliable, easy to shoot for the whole family and the service-sized examples hold a whole lot of ammo.
The problem is that they all look the same. Despite the best efforts of stylists and engineers, all tend to have matte black polymer frames with matte black slides. Some makers switch it up with natural stainless slides, but the effect is still monochromatic.
Now, pistols looked a lot alike 50 years ago, too. The man in the street probably couldn't tell a Colt Official Police from an S&W Model 10, either. But in those days, you could install a nice set of stag grips or go for some engraving or inlay to set your gun apart.
Now, you obviously can use coatings like Lauer Dura-Coat to apply a finish over all or parts of the gun, but it would be even nicer if the frame came with the colors molded in. That's what Davidson's has done with its version of the economical Ruger 9E.
The frame has a black, gray and red digital camo pattern that is distinctive, without being garish. You'll immediately be able to tell your pistol from other 9Es but it doesn't shout. It's a great addition to a moderately-priced firearm.
Davidson's is a Prescott, Ariz., based distributor that is a little unusual in the trade because it handles firearms almost exclusively. No camo, no ammo, no fishing or camping. This laser focus on firearms means it has to stay ahead of the pack, especially in times when politically-driven panic buying subsides, as it has recently.
Davidson's has innovated on several fronts. It has for several years presented Davidson's Gallery of Guns on the Sportsman Channel. This is often characterized as a "Home Shopping Network of guns."
Unlike those channels that let you buy jewelry or plus-size ladies' clothing, of course, you can't just phone in and have guns sent to your house. If you see a gun you like on the show, you can get on your phone or iPad from the comfort of your lounge chair and go to the Gallery of Guns website (www.galleryofguns.com).
Once there, you enter your Zip code and peruse the prices Davidson's-affiliated retailers in your area are offering. If you see one you like, you pay with a credit card and, depending on local regulations, you can pick it up in as little as 48 hours.
Just to make it a bit more tempting, all guns bought through Davidson's are warranted for life, as explained on the Gallery of Guns website:
"If anything ever goes wrong with any gun you buy with the Davidson's GuaranteeD Lifetime Replacement Warranty, it will be replaced. If no replacement is available, it will be repaired at no charge to you. Simple, just return it to the GuaranteeD retailer where you purchased it, pay for the return shipping and upon receipt Davidson's will ship the returning retailer a BRAND NEW GUN."
That's about as strong as a warranty gets, and it's included in the price of the gun.
Dealer-wholesaler relationships are usually of no interest to the consumer whatever. But getting a lifetime replacement warranty makes it well worth buying a gun through the Gallery of Guns site.
Davidson's Prescott location is in sight of Ruger's pistol factory, so the relationship between the two companies is intimate, and Ruger-based Davidson's exclusives are common.
The Ruger 9E is the economical version of the Ruger SR-9. It costs at retail $110 less, with the differences between it and the SR-9 being a slightly different slide shape with fewer, broader grasping grooves; a fixed, in place of an elevation-adjustable, rear sight; deletion of the loaded chamber indicator in favor of a viewing port at the rear of the barrel and shipping in a cardboard box with one magazine rather than a carrying case with two and a mag loader.
It's a full-sized belt pistol that accepts a 17-round magazine, though buyers in more repressive climes can get a 10-round version. The magazines have plastic basepads that slide off for easy cleaning.
The frame has a reversible soft rubber backstrap that duplicates the flat and arched 1911 mainspring housings.
To switch, use a 3/32" punch to drive out the pin at the bottom rear of the frame. This also serves as a lanyard loop. Press straight down on the backstrap to slide it out of its dovetail.
Just reverse and reinstall, and you have the other grip shape. Don't reflexively assume that if you like a flat housing on a 1911, you'll like the flat backstrap on the 9E; it will pay to experiment with both.
There's a single-slotted accessory rail on the dust cover for installing lasers or lights. It's nicely integrated into the frame to avoid the tacked-on look a lot of rails have.
Bilateral D-shaped magazine buttons make the 9E equally usable by right- and left-handers. The magazine catch cut is in the front face of the magazine.
Likewise, the thumb safety has levers on either side, though the "fire" indicator is only on the left. The thumb safety both prevents the trigger being pulled and locks the slide forward for safe holstering. The slide stop has a lever only on the left.
In the fashion of a certain Austrian product, the 9E uses a precocked striker system. As the slide closes, the tail of the striker catches a ledge on the trigger bar, partially cocking it.
As the trigger is pulled, the striker is retracted. At the same time, a projection on the right side of the trigger bar pushes up on the striker blocker plunger. That part prevents the striker moving forward until the trigger is pulled.
When the trigger bar approaches its fully rearward position, it moves downward and out of engagement with the striker tail, allowing the striker to fly forward, strike the cartridge primer and fire the pistol. An interlock prevents the trigger bar from moving downward unless the trigger is being pulled.
The 9E includes an often-derided, but commercially necessary, feature: a magazine disconnect safety. It's a part shaped like an upside-down U that straddles the striker.
When a magazine is inserted, it is pressed up against a coil spring in the top of the slide, allowing free passage of the striker.
If no magazine is inserted, it remains in its rest position and intercepts the striker just short of the primer. When you pull the trigger, there's a click that lets you know the striker fell, but not far enough.
If you have to have a magazine safety, and you have to if you want to sell a new pistol design in several states, this is a very unobtrusive one. It has no ill effect on the trigger pull, since it is not in contact with the striker when a magazine is inserted.
The operating parts of the 9E are modularized, with the cam block and front slide rails pinned in front of the trigger and the fire control parts pinned at the rear. The rear slide rails are molded into the beavertail of the frame.
The trigger, as is common with striker-fired pistols, has a pivoting safety lever in the center of the trigger blade and prevents it moving rearward until the lever is depressed, a natural part of firing. This helps prevent the pistol from firing if dropped on its back.
The extractor is a long external unit on the right side of the slide that pivots on a roll pin about an inch behind the ejection port. It has a very large claw that provides close to 1/4" of grasping surface.
The slide has a semi-hexagonal top that distinguishes it from the SR-9. Three-dot sights are dovetailed front and rear and the rear sight is secured by a hex socket screw that can be turned out to allow windage adjustment by drifting.
The barrel appears to be stainless steel, though curiously, that is not addressed in the instruction manual or on Ruger's website. The flat recoil spring is captive on the guide rod.
Disassembly of the 9E is a bit tricky, so it's worth recounting here.
As always, start with an unloaded gun. Remove the magazine, retract and lock back the slide, using the slide stop.
Use your finger, or preferably a pencil, to press the ejector down into the magazine well.
Then use a cartridge or other pointed object to press right to left on the takedown pin. Since it's not captive and pulls out entirely, be sure to park it in a secure place.
The slide is now free to move forward and off the frame. Remove the barrel and recoil spring assembly up and out of the slide.
To reassemble, replace the barrel and recoil spring assembly in the slide. Be sure the ejector is still pointing forward in the magazine well. Press the trigger blade or trigger bar fully forward.
Replace the slide on the frame, locking it rearward with a thumb on the slide stop. Replace the takedown pin, being sure it doesn't scratch the slide. Insert the magazine to return the ejector to its operating position.
We shot the 9E extensively for the Gallery of Guns television show, and you can see that segment on the GoG website. Many different shooters of varying skill levels shot it, with a variety of ammo. There were no failures of any kind. Grops at 25 yards were about 3-1 inches.
Because the 9E is a big service-sized pistol, which is also available in .40 S&W and .45 ACP, you will correctly imagine it is very comfortable to shoot.
The bore line is quite low in the hand, which makes for natural pointing and reduced muzzle flip.
Fine, but surprisingly grippy, checkering is molded into the frame. I was surprised to find I preferred the arched backstrap to the flat version.
The bilateral magazine release works great with thumb or index finger, and the steel-bodied magazines, which have witness holes from five to 17 rounds, are ejected forcefully.
Pistols of this sort often don't have thumb safeties, and I would say the 9E would be perfectly satisfactory without one.
Releasing the safety is easy enough, and the levers aren't obtrusive. But returning the lever to its safe position is just about impossible while retaining a firing grip; it's a lot easier just to use the support hand.
And the thumb safety is located well back on the frame; if you have large hands, you'll find you're operating it with the middle of the thumb.
Of course, if you're primarily using the 9E on the range where safeties aren't used, you can forget all about it.
The grip area feels relatively deep, but at the same time is slim, so female shooters who tried the 9E had no problem grasping it. This is where the flat backstrap may come in handy, too.
The Davidson's 9E combines the historic Ruger tradition of value for money with a distinctive appearance that will stand out in any company. This would be a great time to go to the Gallery of Guns website and check prices in your own area.
RUGER 9E DAVIDSON'S SPECIAL EDITION Manufacturer: Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc., 200 Ruger Rd., Dept. FAN, Prescott, AZ 86301 Distributor: Davidson's www.galleryofguns.com Type: Semi-automatic pistol Caliber: 9mm Parabellum Weight: 27.2 ounces Overall Length: 7 1/2 inches Height: 5 1/2 inches Width: 1 1/4 inches Barrel Length: 4.14 inches Magazine Capacity: 17 (10 available) Trigger Pull: 51/2 pounds Price: $459
Caption: The Ruger 9E is the economical sibling of the SR-9. In return for the deletion of a few features, you save $110 retail, a trade many will gladly make.
Caption: Both the SR-9 and the 9E feature a reversible backstrap that provides a flat or arched configuration. This helps adapt it for hands of various sizes.
Caption: Like most striker-fired pistols, the 9E incorporates a pivoting safety lever inside the trigger blade. The trigger won't move back unless it is depressed.
Caption: A very subtle one-slotted accessory rail allows mounting lights or lasers to the 9E. It's not obtrusive when you aren't adding an accessory to your pistol.
Caption: The slide top is semi-hexagonal, a departure from the SR-9. The rear sight is adjustable for windage by drifting, and there's a loaded chamber viewport.
Caption: There are thumb safety levers on both sides for the convenience of left-handers. These are well back on the frame, so may be hard to reach for big hands.
Caption: The D-shaped magazine buttons are easy to access with either thumb or index finger. When either is depressed, the magazine is forcefully ejected.
Caption: The plunger in the center of this view is the striker blocker, while the projection at the top of the photo is the tail of the 9E's magazine disconnect safety.
Caption: The ramped barrel is lowered out of engagement with the slide by a fixed cam. The flat recoil spring is captive on the spring guide for easy disassembly of the 9E.
Caption: The steel magazine has witness holes from five rounds to 17. The baseplate slides off easily when its catch is depressed to allow cleaning the interior.