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Ruger American compact.

I wrote up the original Ruger American pistol in the April/May 2016 issue of Handguns, and it earned my respect. No jams in 750 rounds, even though at one point I and my volunteers got the front half of the slide too hot to touch. Ruger has now introduced a Compact version of the American, and I suspect it will be even more popular.

When I wrote up the full-size American pistol, Ruger had plans to offer the pistol with a manual safety, but none of those models were available yet. That has changed, and all versions are now available with or without manual safeties. Ruger labels the models without manual safeties as Pro models.

I liked the full-size American pistol. No surprise to readers of this magazine because I'm a sucker for full-size 9mms, but what may surprise you is that I think I like the Compact better--especially the version with the manual safety. Before I get into the why, let's look at the Compact itself.

Ruger has shortened the barrel from the 4.2 inches of the full-size model to 3.55 inches for the Compact. The frame is three-quarters of an inch shorter as well. The weight has dropped from 31 ounces in the full size to 28.7 ounces in the Compact. From those specs it should be clear this isn't a pocket-size version of the American but rather a slightly reduced version that will conceal well in a belt holster while still providing a fistful of gun.

Like the original, the Compact has an ambidextrous magazine release and steel three-dot, no-snag sights that are authentic Novak LoMount. It is supplied with three easily interchangeable grip modules that don't just cover the rear of the frame but wrap around the sides as well. The pistol comes with two magazines: a 12-rounder with a finger-hook baseplate installed and a flush baseplate in the case and a 17-round magazine from the full-size model with a polymer grip extension you can choose to install or not.

My complaint with the original American extends to this Compact version as well. I think the sides of the frame as well as the grip modules are too slick. But even as I complain about that I realize the pistol does not move in my hand while shooting. The new manual safety might have had something to do with that.

After shooting and carrying a 1911 for over a decade, I shoot everything with a thumb-high hold. The new manual safety on the American pistol is right where it should be and works like the safety on a 1911: up for Safe (where it prevents the slide from cycling) and down for Fire, with clicks you can hear and feel in each direction.

The safety sticks out just enough from the frame that I was able to ride it like I do the safety on a 1911, and perhaps because of that the recoil of the American Compact seemed to be less than what I experienced with the full-size version. In fact, since the two are so close in weight I found I had less felt recoil/muzzle rise with my Compact with a manual safety than I did my full-size model without. The Ruger American Compact provides the shootability of a full-size gun in a concealable package.

For its debut Ruger flew out a dozen gun writers to the FTW Ranch in Texas where we brutalized these pistols for most of three days, putting at least 5,000 rounds of ammo through our Compacts. I am aware of just two malfunctions, a stovepipe and a doublefeed. I am not convinced the two jams weren't due to "bad" ammo; some volunteers accidentally mixed in some .380 ACP with the 9mm while loading magazines.

The American Compact is a nice pistol, but in my opinion Ruger has handicapped it with a poor choice in terms of frame length versus magazine capacity. A 12-round magazine capacity in a gun this size and weight is just about worst in class. This is a belt gun, not a pocket gun, but with the more concealable flush magazine baseplate in place most people won't be able to get their whole hand on the gun, so they won't ever use it.

The gun feels great in the hand with the finger-hook magazine baseplate installed. It allows you to get your whole hand on the gun but offers no added capacity. How about just adding a quarter of an inch or so to the length of the frame? Capacity will go up by two or three rounds putting it on par with the competition in magazine capacity.

Every single model of the American Pistol, whether the full-size or the compact, the 9mm or .45, the Pro model or the one with the manual safety, has a suggested retail of $579, which means you'll be seeing them for sale at your local gun store for under $500.



TYPE: striker-fired semiauto

CALIBER: 9mm Luger

CAPACITY: 12+1, 17+1


OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 6.7/4.5/1.4 in.

WEIGHT: 28.7 oz.

CONSTRUCTION: stainless steel slide with black nitride coating; glass-filled nylon frame

GRIPS: ergonomie wraparound grip module

SIGHTS: Novak LoMount steel 3-dot

SAFETY: sear block, trigger safety lever, manual (as tested)

TRIGGER: 6.0 lb. pull (measured)

PRICE: $579


Caption: Comparing the Compact with the full-size models shows the Compact to be only slightly smaller, but that little difference shows up big when it's time to carry the gun.

Caption: The Compact is available with or without a thumb safety, and Tarr was a big fan of the latter because a thumb-high hold permitted better control and in fact made it shoot easier than the full-size gun.

Caption: Tarr's chief complaint is a lack of capacity for both the 12-round flush baseplate and finger-hook 12-rounder, believing the latter could have added one round without sacrificing concealability.

                     Bullet          Muzzle
9mm Luger         Weight (gr.)   Velocity (fps)

Wolf FMJ              115            1,138
Hornady XTP JHP       124            1,089
Black Hills JHP       124            1,052
SIG Elite JHP         124            1,098
Winchester JHP        147             913

                     Standard          Avg.
9mm Luger         Deviation (fps)   Group (in.)

Wolf FMJ                23              3.5
Hornady XTP JHP          8              2.3
Black Hills JHP         17              2.5
SIG Elite JHP           14              3.1
Winchester JHP          11              2.7

Notes: Accuracy results are the averages of four five-shot groups at
25 yards from a sandbag rest. Velocities are averages of 10 shots
measured with an Oehler Model 35P12 feet from the muzzle.
Abbreviations: FMJ, full metal jacket; JHR jacketed hollow-point
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Author:Tarr, James
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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