Ruger LCP MAX .380 ACP, by Pat Cascio

About 12 years ago, everyone jumped on the micro .380 ACP super-concealable pistol. Ruger was a bit late to the game when they came out with teh LCP, one of the smallest little .380s on the market. It followed by the LCP II – you can do your research on them to see the difference between them, but the LCP was striker-fired. In contrast, the LCP II is hammer-fired and had a more comfortable grip, making it a huge improvement. All in all, the LCP II was easier to fire, more comfortable to fire, and more accurate.

Ruger has just come out with the LCP MAX. I believe that this new design will set the standard, for other makers of ultracompact pistols to follow. For the past few years, everyone drifted towards the mico compact 9mm handguns, and it has benefited all of us. We now have micro 9mm handguns that hold as many as 13-rounds in the mag, while still staying in the “micro” sized range – I own more than a few of them.

I’m not sure how Ruger pulled off this LCP MAX, but it will set the trend, once again, for micro-sized .380 ACP handguns. Over the past decade, I’ve carried a Ruger LCP, and then the LCP II as a back-up to whatever my main handgun was that I was carrying. It was carried in a Blackhawk ankle holster – just about undetectable by anyone. Well, the LCP II has now been retired, and I’m now packing the LCP MAX. I’ve only had this sample for a week and a half, but it was love at first sight. SurvivalBlog was one of the very the first publications to receive a pre-production sample of the LCP MAX with strict instructions to not let anyone see it before July, 2021. Well, my local FFL actually saw it before I did, and they immediately asked me to sell it to them, because they hadn’t heard of it. Needless to say, my pre-production gun wasn’t and isn’t for sale.

This model is so new that as I’m writing this, the LCP MAX has not yet been added to the website.  But they tell me that it should be listed there, with some technical details, on or about July 1st, 2021.

The press release I received prior to getting this gun sample states:

“The LCP MAX is an ultra-compact .380 Auto pocket pistol, with a standard 10+1 capacity. Based on the trusted, reliable design of the Ruger LCP II. The LCP MAX offers significantly improved features.”

A Great Design

First, I should mention the very useful steel sights, with a Tritium front and flat ledge U-notch rear sight. The sight dovetail cuts in the slide fit the off-the-shelf Bodyguard pattern dovetailed sights – outstanding! The sights on the older LCP and LCP II were milled into the slide, and quite frankly, next to impossible for my aged eyes to see – even though I painted the front sight with some bright orange nail polish. The sights on the LCP and LCP II made them a point-and-shoot situation for me.


I was pleased to see you can purchase Ruger factory accessory 12-round magazines. I received several of these with the gun for my testing. In the past, I stated that I wouldn’t carry a handgun chambered in .380 ACP as my one and only handgun, because it lacked “firepower” for a serious confrontation. With the LCP MAX – you can have 10+1 or 12+1 rounds on-tap, and that has changed my thinking. I wouldn’t feel under-gunned with that many rounds in a gun – even if it is “only” chambered in .380 ACP. So, you can teach an old dog new tricks – I would carry this gun as my primary carry pistol, if I had to.

The magazine catch is reversible. I like that feature, a lot. The slide also has cocking ears on the rear (sides) of the slide – hardly noticeable but when you grasp the slide to chamber a round, you can feel these little “wings” and it makes chambering a round a lot easier. This is not always the case on competion’s itty-bitty handguns. This is a fantastic feature.

The grip is made out of black polymer, and it is only slightly wider than the grip on the LCP II. This grip actually feels a lot better in the hand.  The accompanying photos show the differences between the LCP II and LCP MAX grips. It hard to explain, but when you pick up the LCP MAX, your hand doesn’t want to release it – it feels “that” good. It also helps distribute recoil a bit and makes shooting more comfortable. This little pistol even comes from the factory with a nice pocket holster, if you choose to carry it in your pants pocket or a jacket pocket.

Now, for some more specs on this dandy little pistol. The gun only weighs 10.6 ounces unloaded, you hardly know you are packing it. The slide width is a mere 0.93 inches, and the slide/barrel is only 2.80 inches. The rear sight is adjustable for windage, and the front sight, has that great big white outlined Tritium bulb in it, and this is one of the best features about the gun. The barrel has a black oxide finish that is durable. The 10-round magazine comes with a flat base pad on it, I elected to install the included pinky catcher base plate, and I can get 2.5 fingers around it. The accessory 12-round mags are a little bit longer, but I’m carrying the MAX with the 10-round mag.

The grip frame has perfectly placed texturing on it – nothing I would change – it feels great in the hand. The new magazine has improved feed lips, and the gun even comes with a magazine loader – I didn’t need it, the magazines were easy enough to stuff in 10 or 12 rounds. The trigger pull is outstanding and as mentioned it is hammer-fired, not striker-fired. The slide as (forward) angle serrations on the sides – front and back. The trigger has that little safety lever right in the center – so you have to have your finger properly placed on the trigger, in order to be able to fire the gun.

The extractor is long and massive – no worries about empty cases getting stuck in the chamber – its not going to happen. Many tiny guns have tiny extractors and can and do fail to extractor a fired case.

My Shooting Tests

When the time came to fire the LCP MAX, I only had three types of ammo on hand, all three from Black Hills Ammunition. I had their 100-gr FMJ load, their 90-gr JHP and last up was their 60-gr HoneyBadger, and this box was actually marked “Xtreme Defense” but Black Hills has changed the name to HoneyBadger.

The factory tritium front sight showed up very well. I didn’t shoot for “groups” per se, as this is an up-close and personal weapon. I placed a target out to 20-feet, and I could easily place all my shots into an area the size of a human head – now, that’s good shooting no matter how you look at it or measure it. The firing was done off-hand, I didn’t rest it for my shooting session. The trigger pull was excellent – and I didn’t flinch at all during my shooting – something many of us do when firing a gun with a heavy trigger pull. Ruger did an outstanding job on this trigger.

Even though I was instructed to not let anyone see this gun or fire it, until Ruger released it on their website, my eldest daughter and wife fired it – and they both loved it. My wife is already “hinting” that she wants one, to replace her LCP II. Both the wife and daughter commented on the light felt recoil, with all the ammo tested. I had to fire the gun several more times, before I realized that the felt recoil wasn’t bad at all. I attribute this to the wider grip design.

In all my testing, 160-rounds of Black Hills Ammunition was fired – a lot more than I cared to shoot, since we are still in a major ammo drought, and .380 ACP is one of the hardest calibers to find. But this gun was just a whole lot of fun to shoot – especially in the low recoil department. I just kept loading the gun up and shooting it…and looked down at all the empty ammo boxes, and decided it was time to stop shooting. Now, 160-rounds is no torture test to be sure, but Ruger has already done all of the requisite torture testing.

I wear cargo pants all the time, so I have a lot of pockets – big pockets to carry stuff in. My two front pockets already have a lot of Everday Carry stuff in them. So, I put the holstered LCP MAX in one of the accessory front pockets, off to the side of the pants more than towards the front. Doing so, I used the pocket holster that comes with the gun, and I completely forgot that I was carrying the gun – seriously!

I predict that Ruger will sell a million of these little pistols. They are a great carry piece for both men and women. And, you might just “catch” me carrying this as my one and only gun on occasion – I like it that much.

As they say in sports, SCORE!!! Ruger has scored a big one in the gun industry. To be sure, everyone else will be coming out with their own double-stack micro .380 ACP in short order. Full-retail is $450 but I think the price will come down a bit. But even if you pay full retail, these little guns are well worth the money. Get your local FFL to order one in for you. I’m confident that you’ll really love it.