[FIREARM REVIEW] Ruger LCP II – Improvements to a Classic Carry Pistol

[FIREARM REVIEW] Ruger LCP II - Improvements to a Classic Carry Pistol

[FIREARM REVIEW] Ruger LCP II - Improvements to a Classic Carry Pistol

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  This catchy 1977 expression by Bert Lance, an American businessman (who served under President Carter as Director of the Office of management & Budget), may apply today to a new version of a Ruger pistol. Some say Ruger’s classic Lightweight Compact Pistol (LCP) is not broke and reasonably successful as a fine little pocket pistol, while others say it does need to be improved. The 2008 original version of the LCP and the subsequent 2015 model, the LCP Custom, in .380 ACP caliber both proved to be good designs and kept building on customer desires and improvements. So just recently Ruger introduced the LCP II compact pistol in .380 ACP; I call this a subcompact size. But the real question is: Is there really a need to replace or change the present LCP? There are rumblings that the present LCP models have a heavy trigger press, have a hard slide to rack, small sights, and slides that do not lock back after the last round is fired. Not sure if this is true, but, as always, remember some guns do not experience these type of things and others do. But what about a new model and are there worthwhile improvements to justify it? I had to answer this for myself and my friends, readers, and students who have been bugging me (not that there’s anything wrong with that) to explore this. Initially there seemed to be high expectations for a light trigger press and a very easy slide to rack. The scuttlebutt says that Ruger did drastically change to a new trigger design and much lighter press, a revised recoil system with a much lighter recoil spring, a new slide design with curved serrations, a redesigned and enlarged trigger guard, new grip contours, and a slide that locks back after the last round. Truth or fiction? So I rolled up my sleeves and got busy testing and evaluating this new and improved LCP gun to find the answers. I have reviewed several compacts and subcompacts for concealed carry in depth in the past few months, including several on this website. You may want to read more about my Top 21 concealed carry guns in the 2016 second printing of my book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials.” For this review, I want to analyze, compare, and rank the LCP II and see if I recommend it for a carry gun or for what purpose.

Readers, students, and friends have asked what criteria I use to analyze my recommended handguns, so I want to give my criteria and range test results for the LCP II 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 LCP II and to compare it factor by factor to my other compact guns 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? Is its trigger press a lot lighter and shorter? Is the trigger smooth and crisp? Does it have a short reset distance for follow-up shots? Is it reliable? What about racking the gun’s slide? Is it easy to rack it? Does it ALWAYS lock back after the last round is fired? What are its pros and cons? What are my thoughts on the .380 versus the 9mm for concealed carry? Are there any issues or concerns that would prevent me from carrying this gun? Is this a gun I would recommend for concealed carry? For what purpose?

First, I want to present two charts that list the Specifications and some Features for the LCP II .380 ACP 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.

Comparison of LC9S 9mm (top) with LCP II .380
Comparison of LC9S 9mm (top) with LCP II .380

Ruger LCP II Specs and Features


Ruger LCP II with Pocket Holster included in Box
Ruger LCP II with Pocket Holster included in Box

Criteria and Considerations 

Here are just 10 of my Criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the LCP II. 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. There are plenty of holsters and accessories for this new LCP II .380 pistol. Here is Alabama Holster’s Avenger OWB Holster that fits the LCP II perfectly. A well-made, sturdy holster with a low footprint.

AL Holster's OWB Avenger Holster and LCP II   
AL Holster’s OWB Avenger Holster and LCP II

Ruger LCP II .380 ACP Compact  Pistol 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 90 grain weight and some Elite Performance 100 grain in FMJ. 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 LCP II through its paces and check it thoroughly for malfunctions, stoppages, and performance with quality JHP and FMJ rounds. I want to thank Sig Sauer for providing various Elite Performance ammo so I could test and evaluate the LCP II.

The LCP II has nice ergonomics. It felt good in my hands and was comfortable. The new grip contours with the raised side panels and curvature of the integrated thumb rest felt nice. The redesigned trigger guard which has a longer bottom and square front allowed me to easily put my finger inside. There were also serrations on the front of the trigger guard, but I don’t use them because I tend to pull the gun to the left if I put my support index finger there. My pinky finger did touch the bottom of the extended base plate, but did not hang over. No problem there. The grip texture was not too aggressive and not too smooth… just right for me. I really like the smooth modern lines and the no-snag rounded corners. I could easily reach all the controls and even looked forward to my first time to rack the slide. Was it going to be that easy? Well, it was easy and smooth; even a student with rheumatoid arthritis could easily rack the slide. Now what about the recoil? I wanted to shoot it now, not in a minute to see. I was really surprised about how manageable the recoil was. I could feel it, but not even close to the mild recoil of my 9mm guns. Below I will get into my specific factors and ideas for each of my criteria after my range testing.

Ruger LCP II Target Hits at 5 Yards with Sig Sauer Elite Performance Ammo 
Ruger LCP II Target Hits at 5 Yards with Sig Sauer Elite Performance Ammo

I had no malfunctions or stoppages at all with the Sig Sauer Elite Performance ammo fired. After my range live fire, the LCP II compact impressed me as an accurate and reliable (with limited rounds fired by me) .380 carry gun, probably as a Backup Gun, and certainly as a pocket carry gun. This gun is very lightweight with rounded edges and can be easily concealed carry in a pocket. After initially cleaning the gun and then shooting it at the range for the first time, my first 12 rounds fired rapid fire with mag change using the Sig Elite 100 grain FMJ at 5 yards all hit in a nice 2.0″ or so group, given my declining eyesight. Similar results with the Elite V-Crown JHP 90 grain rounds.The Elite JHP is a very good self-defense round for very up close and personal encounters. My next 7 rounds fired rapid fire at 7 yards also made a 2.5″ or so group. These hits were acceptable for closeup self-defense encounters with this small 2.75″ barrel .380. BUT, shoot it for yourself to make your own decisions, based on your abilities, goals, and proficiency. Above are my hits for my rounds fired at 5 yards with the LCP II.

Range Test Results for LCP II for each of my 10 Criteria:

1. The Accuracy of the LCP II .380 compact  was very acceptable for me at close distances of 3, 5, & 7 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 firing the gun, after first cleaning it. I only fired about 200 rounds, but for this limited test I believe the gun will be reliable. The 5 lb. 11 oz. trigger press I experienced was crisp, soft and smooth, meeting my personal preference press range and criterion. The redesign was successful for me.  I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, & shot high-performance Sig Sauer V-Crown 90 grain JHP & 100 grain FMJ.

Score: 10

2. The Trigger Press averaged 5 pounds 11 ounces 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, the reset short, and certainly acceptable to me.

Score: 9

3. The newly redesigned single action only Trigger had a very identifiable click and reset point. I liked the short takeup and positive reset and crisp trigger. My shots were consistent each time and I could easily recognize the reset point. Really liked the short and smooth trigger and the audible and tactile reset.

Score: 10

4. I was amazed at the 2.75-inch steel Barrel and the low recoil from such a lightweight gun. It fit well within my parameters. The barrel was of high quality and the short barrel length was certainly very concealable.

Score: 10

5. The low profile, fixed sights were larger on the LCP II than on the LCP. This made them very distinguishable and certainly acceptable for me, even though this is an up close self defense gun and sights may not be involved. But given my impaired vision and color blind eyes, I do prefer the bright green fiber optic front sight for a better lock on to the front sight. But the larger sight dots were helpful.

Score: 8 

6. The very light weight 18.2 ounce (unloaded) of the LCP II made it easy and comfortable to carry in my cargo shorts, even fully loaded. The low weight, the redesigned recoil system, and the lightweight recoil spring significantly helped control perceived recoil and muzzle flip. No problem whatsoever with recoil control.

Score: 9 

7. Shooting the LCP II was comfortable in my hand. While I prefer the 9mm caliber for my main concealed carry gun, this gun in .380 will make a very nice backup gun and one small enough and lightweight to carry in my pocket. The felt recoil was easily manageable and it digested the premium ammo easily without a single malfunction or stoppage.

Score: 10

8. There was only one 6-round mag included in the box. While it was well made, I prefer at least 2 mags be included and one as an extended mag with added round(s).

Score: 8

9. The Ergonomics of the LCP II were very nice. The rounded lines, smooth edges, and modern styling were superb. This thin, low profile .380 was very concealable and felt very good in the hand as well. I was able to easily reach all the controls without changing my grip at all. The mag dropped freely.

Score: 9

Ruger LCP II .380 ACP Pistol in Box with Pocket Holster, Lock, Manual, 1 Magazine, & Bore Flag 
Ruger LCP II .380 ACP Pistol in Box with Pocket Holster, Lock, Manual, 1 Magazine, & Bore Flag

10. Miscellaneous. I disassembled, lubed and cleaned, and re-assembled the LCP II before I shot it, as always with any gun. It was very easy and quick to disassemble and I did NOT have to press the trigger to disassemble it. The slide locked back every time I finished the mag. I liked the new and modern-looking angled slide serrations in front and back. The new textured front and rear checkerings on the backstraps enhanced my grip. There is an implied limited Warranty. The LCP II includes a decent pocket holster in the box, so you are ready to pocket carry this gun. It does not include accessories like a mag pouch, second or third mag, extra backstraps, etc. There are several nice features for this gun. It does NOT shoot +P ammo, per the manual.

Score: 9

Total Points = 92 out of 100 Possible.

I certainly RECOMMEND this handgun for consideration as your concealed carry subcompact single action only .380 pocket gun. It ranks near the very top of my concealed carry guns in .380 and in pocket carry pistols. It is very easy to just drop it in your pocket and go on with your daily activities… and it comes with a pocket holster included. It will also make a very nice backup gun. I especially like its accuracy, manageable recoil, short takeup, steel construction, and comfortable and textured front and rear backstraps. It does lock back after the mag is empty. Its felt recoil was very manageable for a lightweight subcompact and its smooth, rounded lines prevented snags. I want to shoot it more to see its long-term reliability before I decide to put it in my concealed carry rotation. 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 to decide if this .380 should be one of your carry guns. I hope this review of the LCP II .380 ACP pistol 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.

Continued success!


[email protected]
Prescott, AZ 86301

Sig Sauer for Elite V-Crown 9mm JHP-FMJ ammo
Newington, NH 03801

Alabama Holsters
Daphne, AL 36526

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].