I have reviewed several compacts in depth in the past few months, including some on this website. I evaluate the Ruger SR9C compact 9mm with its 3.5 ” barrel, 17 capacity, 23.4 oz weight, and nice 5.5 pound press in my Top 21 concealed carry guns in the 2016 second printing of my book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials.” Now with the recent introduction of the new Ruger American Pistol Compact, I want to analyze, compare, and rank it among my top compacts for recommendation or not in this article. Several readers and students have asked what criteria I use to analyze my recommended handguns, so I want to give my criteria and range test results for the Ruger American Pistol Compact to help you analyze your handguns and make the best selection for yourself. You can add or subtract from my criteria to meet your needs and preferences. I was very anxious to shoot the Ruger American Pistol Compact and to compare it factor by factor to my other quality compact 9mms to see if it truly ranked in my top compact concealed carry pistols. Ruger was nice enough to loan me one for testing and evaluation purposes. Know that I am not on their payroll, have not been paid by them for this article nor influenced to say certain things about the gun. I want to be honest and straight-forward with my opinions and ideas the way I see the pistol to sincerely help folks. Specifically, I wanted to know how accurate it is out of the box, without modifications? How was its trigger press? Is the trigger smooth and crisp? What about the reset distance for follow-up shots? Is it reliable? What about the gun’s weight? Is it too heavy for CC? What are its pros and cons? Are there any issues or concerns that would prevent me from carrying this gun? Is this a gun I would recommend for CC?
First, I want to present two charts that list the Specifications and some Features for the Ruger American Pistol Compact 9mm pistol. Then I give you my 10 criteria that I use to evaluate all guns. Finally, I present my analysis and how I specifically evaluated the gun against each of my criteria to recommend or not recommend it. As always, set your own criteria and priorities, do your own research and check my data, information, etc. with yours, for your very personal selection process.
Ruger American Pistol Compact 9mm Specifications
|Model Number||Model 8635|
|Barrel Length / Finish||3.55"; Black Melonite|
|Sights / Radius||Novak LoMount Carry 3-Dot; Steel; Low Profile; Snag Proof|
|Weight||28.7 oz (empty mag)|
|Frame / Finish||Short Frame, Polymer; Black|
|Slide Material||Stainless Steel - Black Nitride|
|Trigger||Steel; Striker-Fired Double Action Only|
|Trigger Press||5.9 lb Crisp|
|Trigger Travel||Short Takeup with Positive Reset|
|Magazines / Capacity||2 mags - 12 and 17 Rounds; Steel; Nickel-Teflon Coated|
|Safeties||Internal Sear Block System; Integrated Trigger Safety; No External Manual Safety|
|Grips||One-Piece Glass-Filled Nylon; Wrap Around|
|Other||Implied Warranty; Low Bore Axis|
Ruger American Pistol Compact 9mm Specifications
- 3 Interchangeable Backstraps (S/M/L) – Wrench Included
- Recoil Reducing Barrel Cam; Low-Mass Slide; Low Center of Gravity; Low Bore Axis
- Ambidextrous Slide Stop and Mag Release
- Easy Takedown with No Tools and No Trigger Press
- Captive Dual Recoil Spring; Steel Guide Rod
- Low Bore Axis for Comfortable Grip and Easy Control
- Can Use +P Ammo
- Solid, Heavy-Duty Construction
- MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny Rail
Criteria and Considerations for this Ruger American Pistol Compact 9mm Review
Here are just 10 of my Criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the Ruger American Pistol Compact. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like smooth rounded corners, a certain style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, non-porting or porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion. I must admit that ALL gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want ALL of my criteria to be met. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine.
Recognize that there are several features, characteristics, pros and cons, and personal criteria to include and consider and you make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, defined needs, and use.
Ruger American Pistol Compact 9mm Range Test
To determine how well the gun cycled and handled different loads, I used high-quality Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown JHP ammo in 115, 124, and 147 grain weights and some in 115 grain FMJ. Also, I fired Polycase’s ARX Inceptor rounds which are high velocity, lower recoil, non-expanding with polymer tips, and perform like HPs. I only fired about 200 rounds total to evaluate this gun (usually I shoot 500 rounds over a couple of days) to decide if I want to carry the gun or not. I had the information I needed after shooting it. Below are my evaluations for each of my 10 criteria for my concealed carry purpose. I wanted to put the gun through its paces and check it thoroughly for malfunctions, stoppages, and performance with quality JHP ammo and FMJ rounds. I want to thank Sig Sauer for providing various Elite Performance ammo and Polycase ARX Inceptor ammo to test and evaluate the Ruger American Pistol Compact.
The Ruger American Pistol Compact in 9mm has nice ergonomics. It felt good in my hands and was comfortable. It did seem a little front heavy, but the grip felt so nice I was able to handle it. My pinky finger did not hang below the 12-round magazine when I gripped it. No finger dangle. And the extended 17 rounder included gave me extra rounds and included a sleeve adapter, so it looked gun in the magwell. I like the extra rounds just in case. The grip stippling on the front and back and the rounded corners were perfect for me and very nice. I could easily reach all the controls. It has an ambidextrous slide stop and magazine release. The slide was very easy for me to rack and the felt recoil and muzzle rise were very manageable due to the extra heaviness of this compact. So there are pros and cons to its weight for CC. Below I will get into these factors and my ideas for each of my criteria after my range testing.
I had no malfunctions or stoppages at all with the various Sig Sauer and Polycase types and weights of ammo fired. After my range live fire, the Ruger American Pistol Compact compact gun impressed me as an accurate and reliable (with limited rounds fired by me) carry gun. After initially cleaning the gun and then shooting it at the range for the first time, my first 12 rounds fired rapid fire with the Sig V-Crown 124 grain JHP at 5 yards all hit in a nice 2.5″ group, considering this old codger’s declining eyesight. I had the same results with the Polycase 9mm 65 grain, 1540 fps, 342 ft lbs ARX Inceptor. Both very good self-defense rounds, but I want to shoot more of them. The about 29 ounces weight of the gun + ammo weight helped. My next 12 rounds fired at 7 yards also made a 2.5″ group, as did my next 12 at 10 yards. But, sadly for me, the 15-yard group fired rapid fire extended to about a 3.0″ group, with one strangler. I recognize that I must practice more, even when writing articles and reviews and regularly teaching classes. From a big picture perspective for me, these hits were acceptable for closeup self-defense encounters. BUT, shoot it for yourself to make your own decisions, based on your abilities, goals, and proficiency. Below are my hits for my first 12 rounds at 5 yards fired rapid fire with the Ruger American Pistol Compact.
Range Test Results for Ruger American Pistol Compact for each of my 10 Criteria:
1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 10
The accuracy of the Ruger American Pistol Compact compact was very acceptable for me at distances of 3, 5, 7, and 10 yards, with my aging eyesight. My groups at each of the up-close encounter distances were about 2.0-2.5 inches for the first time I ever fired the gun, after first cleaning it. Groups were not as good for me at 15 yards, probably due to my below average long-distance vision. I know excuses, excuses. Practice is the answer. I fired about 200 rounds. The 5.9-6.0# trigger press I experienced was crisp, soft and acceptable, being inside my personal preference press range and criterion. The heavier weight of the gun and nice grip surface certainly helped, along with the captive dual recoil spring and steel guide rod. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, & shot high-performance Sig Sauer V-Crown 115, 124, and 147 grain JHPs and FMJs & the Polycase ARX.
2. Trigger Press – Score: 9
The trigger press averaged about 5.9 pounds with 10 readings from my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. This was right within my limits for my press range for my carry guns. It will probably improve after break-in and shooting it more. I prefer that my carry guns have a max. of 6.5 pounds press or much less, so this is there. This is personal preference and a training and gun familiarity issue, but I know some of my recommended and actual 9mm compact concealed carry guns have lighter presses. I analyze and compare 21 of my top 21 concealed carry guns in my recent book. I liked that the trigger press was crisp and certainly acceptable to me.
3. Trigger – Score: 10
The striker-fired steel trigger had a very identifiable click and reset point. I liked the short takeup and positive reset crisp trigger. My shots were consistent each time and I could easily recognize the reset point. The pre-tensioned striker helped give a short takeup with reset.
4. Barrel Length: Score: 10
The 3.55-inch barrel helped control muzzle flip and recoil, along with the recoil-reducing barrel cam and low bore axis. It fit well within my parameters. The steel barrel was of high quality and the barrel length was certainly very concealable.
5. Sights – Score: 8
The steel Novak LoMount Carry 3-dot sights were distinguishable and certainly acceptable. But for my impaired vision and color-blind eyes, I prefer the bright green fiber optic front sight for a better lock on to the front sight and wanted larger sight dots. It does come with Trijicon Night Sights but as an option.
6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 8
The 28.7 ounces unloaded weight of the Ruger American Pistol Compact was very solid, especially the front end, for a polymer striker-fired concealed carry gun, but it was very heavy. The added weight does help accuracy, but for me, it was just a little too heavy for CC, given my love of my Ruger SR9C and its less width, weight, and trigger press, etc. Of course, there are pros and cons for gun weight for various uses. A very personal decision. While an acceptable weight, I prefer a lighter gun for carry, even in a compact.
7. Caliber – Score: 10
Shooting the Ruger American Pistol Compact was comfortable in my hand and the 9mm caliber was nice to shoot. The 3 interchangeable backstraps with included wrench help customize the grip. I prefer the 9mm caliber for my main concealed carry gun. The felt recoil was easily manageable, somewhat due to the recoil-reducing barrel cam and low bore axis. It digested the various weights of 9mm ammo easily without a single malfunction or stoppage.
8. Capacity – Score: 9
There were two mags included, a 12-rounder and a 17-rounder. They were nickel-Teflon coated and made of steel. I prefer at least 2 mags to be included and one as an extended mag with added round(s).
9. Ergonomics – Score: 9
The ergonomics of the Ruger American Pistol Compact was very nice. The wrap-around grips were great. You could tell this compact was a spinoff of the heavy-duty RAP made for law enforcement & the military standards. The grip’s body was ample to allow me to acquire a firm and comfortable grip. I liked the low bore axis. I was able to easily reach all the controls without changing my grip or with only a minor rotation. The steel slide, barrel, sights, trigger, and mags were nice, helped accuracy and handling, but did add weight for concealed carry. The mags dropped freely.
10. Miscellaneous – Score: 9
I disassembled, lubed and cleaned, and re-assembled the Ruger American Pistol Compact before I shot it, as always with any gun. I did NOT have to press the trigger to disassemble it and it was very easy and quick to takedown with no tools. The ambidextrous slide stop and mag release were nice, as were the MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny Rail, internal sear block, and integrated trigger safety. The Ruger American Pistol Compact does not include accessories like some other compacts, e.g. a holster, mag pouch, or third mag, but it does have other extras, e.g. backstraps. There are several nice features for this gun. It does shoot +P ammo, per the manual. There is a one-year warranty for the original purchaser, rather than a lifetime warranty for all.
Total Points = 92 out of 100 Possible.
I certainly RECOMMEND this handgun for consideration as your concealed carry compact striker-fired gun. I especially like its accuracy, manageable recoil, short takeup, steel construction, and customizable grips, but did not like particularly the heavyweight, in addition to the extra width, and paying extra for night sights. Its felt recoil was very manageable for a compact 9mm and its smooth, rounded lines prevented snags. I wish it came standard with night sights, but several do not. But its many other features make up for most of my personal preferences. I want to shoot it more to see its long-term reliability before I decide to put it in my concealed carry rotation. I was very impressed with its accuracy out of the box, its low muzzle flip and very controllable recoil for a compact 9mm, and that I had no malfunctions or stoppages whatsoever with the 200 rounds I fired. These are just my opinions and ideas, so handle and shoot it for yourself. I hope this review of the Ruger American Pistol Compact 9mm has helped you gain some information you did not previously have. Consider that these are just my opinions with limited live-range fire and shooting myself only about 200 rounds of ammo. Like always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what features are important to you and you are willing to pay for ahead of your range time. Then critically evaluate the gun YOURSELF per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several mentioned in my book), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds. Remember, Safety First Always.
Sig Sauer for Elite V-Crown 9mm JHP-FMJ ammo:
Newington, NH 03801
Polycase for ARX Inceptor 9mm Copper-Polymer High-Velocity Projectiles:
Savannah, GA 31408
Photos by Author.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2016 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].