You can't argue that the .380 has been experiencing a bit of a revival in recent years. Pocket pistols are big business now and the .380 is king. Not all is well in the kingdom, though. Many people don't like the .380 round. It's tiny and the power kind of fizzles out after a few yards. The great Massad Ayoob famously said "Some experts will say it's barely adequate, and others will say it's barely inadequate." So, this need for a pocket pistol with a little more stank on it has lead to the rise in popularity of the "Pocket 9". As the name implies, this is a 9mm semi-automatic pistol that is only a smidge larger than the .380 pocket pistols. Again at the forefront is Ruger with their LC9 pistol. It runs about the same size as the Ruger LCR and only about 4 ounces heavier. I carried the Ruger LCR for a long time but I have since replaced it with the LC9. The 9mm round is much easier to deal with compared to the .38 Special and the gun holds more ammo.
The LC9 is a double action pistol that holds 7 + 1 rounds (7 rounds in the magazine and 1 in the chamber) of 9mm ammo and can easily handle the +P defense loads. There's no doubt that this is a good gun. After all, Ruger makes it and they aren't known for churning out junk. Is it a good first gun though?
Ease to breakdown
Manipulate this little lever down then move the slide back just a bit. Then you push a pin out (using a paper clip or the lock key that comes with it) and slide everything forward. Pop out the spring and then the barrel. Reverse the process to put it back together and try to watch your language as you struggle to line everything up perfectly in order to get the pin back in.
Not the most complicated breakdown I've ever dealt with, but I definitely had to drop a couple of quarters into the swear jar. That earns it 3 out of 5 hats.
This is a tiny gun. There's not much to it so you would think it would be easy to clean. For the most part it is, but there are some crevices that can be tough to dig into. The small parts are hard to hold on to when your hands are coated in cleaning solution. Because of its size, you are going to really want to keep this thing sparkling clean, though, because it has some pretty tight tolerances.
For maintenance, this gun gets a 4 out of 5.
This is a tiny pistol that is designed for one simple purpose: carrying it with you and protecting yourself with it. With that in mind, it's a safe assumption that, at some point or another, a person's life may depend on this gun. Logically, there will need to be a certain "baseline" amount of reliability. If you were designing/building a gun that you knew people were going to defend lives with and only that, wouldn't you put a bit of extra effort into it? There was a bit of a break in period needed, during which there were some stovepipes. However, those were more as a result of cheap range ammo than the gun itself. After the break in, I haven't experienced any more problems. After about 50 rounds everything smoothed out. A few hundred more rounds later, I'm 99.9% confident that I can depend on mine. That's why I always tell people, "Don't carry it until you've put at least 500 rounds through it."
For reliability, with the caveat that you've broken it in, this gun gets a 5 out of 5.
There seems to be a universal complaint about Ruger guns and it's that they go a bit overboard with safety features. They do this to satisfy California requirements as well as protect themselves from liability issues (long story). This gun is no different. First off, there is a long and heavy double action only pull. Throw on a mechanical frame mounted safety and at this point most companies would say "we're done" and go get some lunch. Not Ruger, though. They added a magazine disconnect as well. This means that you cannot fire this gun under any circumstances unless the magazine is inserted and locked.
But wait! There's more! On the top is a very, very conspicuous loaded chamber indicator. Most guns have a notch that let's you look in or an external extractor that sticks out a microscopic amount (I'm looking at you, Glocks). Ruger said "You fools! I'll show you a loaded chamber indicator!" and put a gigantic red tab on the top that sticks out so much that you could tell this thing was cocked and loaded from across a room.
Then, the ultimate in safety, is the obligatory "Ruger Warning™" along the right side of the frame that says "Read the instruction manual before using the gun." I feel safer already.
For safety, the Ruger LC9 gets a 5 out of 5.
This is a tiny gun. Have I mentioned that? The problem is this gun's biggest asset is also its biggest weakness. This is a small, light gun that fires a beefy round. There's no weight to absorb the recoil, the handle is small so getting a perfect grip is difficult (even with the optional extender magazine). That means that you really need decent technique to shoot this gun. If you don't know what you're doing, this gun is going to jump all over the place and you're not going to hit much. That being said, unlike most pocket pistols, this one is not only shootable but fun to shoot. That means you can get in enough practice to get good with it. For the beginning shooter, however, not so much.
For user friendliness...or for the complete lack thereof, the LC9 gets a 2.5 out of 5.
The LC9 comes in a cardboard box with a nice, nylon zipper case. There are 2 magazines that each hold the same number of bullets, but one has a pinky extender and the other is flush mount. There's also a gun lock. Bare bones is the word. These kinds of things keep the cost down though. The same as with the LCR, I just wish it came with a pocket holster or something.
For a relatively empty box, the LC9 gets a 2 out of 5.
There are a lot of special holsters for the LC9. Chances are you'll be able to find a great one for whatever outfit you need. The sights are replaceable on the LC9, so if you don't like the basic 3 dot that comes with it, you can swap them out for something different. Some night sights, for example. Laserlyte and Crimson Trace both make amazing laser sights for this gun. This isn't going to be a gun you're going to trick out with all kinds of bling, but you'll certainly be able to customize it a bit.
For a decent but not great set of options, the LC9 gets a 3.5 out of 5.
I have always said that your carry gun should not be your first gun. This is another perfect example of that. This is a great gun. I love this gun. I carry this gun with me everywhere I'm legally allowed to do so. That's not what these reviews are for. These are for beginner's guns. I would never recommend it for your first gun. It's just not made for anything other than carrying.
Tallying up the scores gets us a 3.5 out of 5.