Ruger has built a reputation over the last decade for offering budget-friendly micro semi-autos, with the latest generation arriving last summer in the shape of the double-stack LCP Max. It’s basically a capacity upgrade of the previous single-stack LCP II, tacking on four more rounds for a total of 10+1 in the palm of your hand. 

Touted as lightweight, compact, and powerful (L-C-P, see what they did there?), I finally got the itch to try out these itsy-bitsy carry guns as summer rolled around. So, I snatched an LCP Max from the Certified Used Vault and took it for a spin. 

First Impressions

Ruger LCP Max .380 Pistol
Calling the LCP Max small is a fair statement, but it seemed like it could have big potential. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

Sometimes you can tell if a gun is a gimmick or marketing trick just by looking at it. That didn’t strike me as true for the little LCP Max, but I did instantly know they weren’t lying about its size when I opened the box. Mind you, there are much tinier guns and have been for generations – à la “Le Petit Protector” ring guns that go back to the 19th century. But the LCP Max truly is small in the sense of a modern, semi-auto pistol chambered for a capable self-defense round. 

Ruger LCP Max .380 Pistol
Though barely bigger than a playing card, the max has sleek lines for concealed carry and a 10+1 capacity that seemed very promising. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

I didn’t really find the gun aesthetically attractive, but it had the simple lines of a deep concealment piece. I also instantly felt like it was going to be awkward to shoot, but I was happy to see decent sights with a bright tritium front dot. It felt promising, but not overly so.

When I picked it up, it pointed well enough for me, and the big front sight seemed like a great addition for such a small sight radius. The slightly thicker grip needed for the double-stack magazine with medium-level grip texture also filled my hand better than the thinner single-stack LCP II, which I was also testing. Still, my bottom pinky clearly dangled freely, and I wondered how it would do while shooting. 

Specs & Function Overview

Ruger LCP Max .380 Pistol
Broken into it's basic parts, the Max is fairly simple and almost just looks like a miniaturized striker-fired gun at first glance, but it's not quite. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

Before we dive into the shooting, it’s probably worth noting what makes this small gun actually function. In many ways, it just looks like a shrunk-down standard striker-fired pistol, but the insides tell otherwise. For one thing, the gun is actually hammer fired.

Takedown is also unlike many modern semi-autos. It requires the removal of a small pin, which is not easily achieved without the aid of a tool to pry or push it free. I found that shell casings actually worked fine. Either way, it was never designed to be a “field” gun in need of field maintenance.

Ruger LCP Max .380 Pistol
Takedown requires a bit more than most larger modern guns, to include the removal of the takedown pin. A small tool helps. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
Ruger LCP Max .380 Pistol
The hammer is actually visible through the small port at the rear of the slide. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

When you get inside the guts, other than the fact it is hammer fired and has a removable retaining pin, the gun is pretty much your standard affair: barrel, slide, recoil spring and rod, and frame. I’ve dropped a comparison of the LCP Max’s specs alongside the older LCP II. Of note, it’s striking how similar they come out given the Max holds an extra four rounds in a double-stack mag:


  • Length: 5.19 inches
  • Height: 4.11 inches
  • Barrel: 2.8 inches
  • Width: 0.93 inches
  • Weight: 10.9 ounces


  • Length: 5.17 inches
  • Height: 4.05 inches with pinky extension, 3.72 without
  • Barrel: 2.75 inches
  • Width: 0.9 inches
  • Weight: 10.4 ounces
LCP Max and LCP II pistols beside each other
Common in appearance, besides the obvious difference in the grip and sights, the two guns are strikingly similar in dimensions considering the LCP Max provides four more rounds and a double-stack magazine for 10+1 rounds over the LCP II's 6+1. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

Sure, yes, it’s a .380 ACP pistol, and some people will scoff at that. That makes it no “Atom Ant,” but modern .380 is still nothing to scoff at in such a miniature package with a 10+1 capacity. Just as importantly, there are plenty of good-quality range and self-defense loads, so you can find the ammo that’s right for you and your gun (more on that later).

Lastly, the trigger on the LCP Max is nothing to write home about. It broke for me at around 6.72 pounds (compared to 7 pounds for the LCP II). It offers a light travel followed by about half an inch of actual pull to a somewhat springy eventual break. It was rather hard to find the actual wall in the break, personally. The reset is audible but fairly long with a somewhat positive force pushing it forward. Overall, I never short stroked the trigger, so for a close-in defensive gun, it basically met expectations. I even want to say the trigger was ever so slightly better than the LCP II.

Range Time


Ruger LCP Max .380 Pistol
The slightly wider grip did help me shoot the Max better than the LCP II personally, plus extra rounds in the magazine certainly don't hurt when you're shooting. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

I normally don’t jump straight into accuracy, but I will here because I really see this as a clear short-distance, last-minute, self-defense gun. The sight radius is short, a requirement of the size, but it’s even shorter to accommodate the tritium front sight and the forward-sloping rear sight. At 10 yards, however, hitting a man-sized target consistently inside a 10-inch circle was relatively easy and predictably repeatable. 

The improved sights on the LCP Max over the very simple minimalist sights on the LCP II – basically just grooves and notch carved into the slide – also helped. Past 30 feet, the accuracy starts to spread out fairly quickly for me. 

Target shot with a Ruger LCP Max .380 Pistol
Tragically, I have misplaced my test targets, so all I have is a sample of my first range visit for the LCP Max. I believe this was the fourth or fifth magazine, but it's generally accurate to how I was doing at 30 feet when I first started shooting the gun. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

What was less predictable was reliability. I’ve put 500 rounds of various ammo types through the Max now. That was everything from cheap reloaded .380 brass and super-budget Sergeant Major Munition to Winchester White Box, Federal American Eagle, Fort Scott Munitions Tumble Upon Impact, and Federal Hydro Shok Deep. I can chalk up at least 20 malfunctions that were not user error to ammo type. 

Ruger LCP Max .380 Pistol sight
The tritium dot was an unexpected surprise and a great addition for a self-defense gun that would likely be used at close ranges and likely at night. I find it hard to knock the sights on the Max much at all, especially given that the LCP II is almost point and shoot with some grooves along that slide. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

The gun just seemed to love some ammo, like Federal's and Winchester's, but I could not reliably cycle more than two mags with the other ammunition even after cleaning. Take that with a grain of salt. The gun is not a range toy, it’s a self-defense tool. So, my best advice is to find the ammo your gun loves and stick to that...and clean it, naturally.

While not aggressively snappy, this little .380 will want to rock a bit in your hands. I’m fine with that, but it led to a second issue that is more of a training and human error problem. On a handful of occasions, I discovered that I was prematurely ejecting the magazine while firing and resetting. I normally have a fairly aggressive grip, and that just put the meat of my support hand in the right place to hit the magazine release. I will note that the design of the LCP Max as far less prone to this than the LCP II, but it was not immune. 

Ruger LCP Max .380 Pistol
The grip texture and trigger are really not much to write home about, but they get the job done, and there are aftermarket options. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
Ruger LCP Max .380 Pistol
Honestly, neither of the magazine releases on the LCP II or the Max were my friends while shooting, but the Max had the lesser of two evils. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

To me, this highlights the need to train even with a small gun. Sure, they could have used a heel release, but I can almost hear the revolt such a feature would cause with American shooters. Personally, I don’t mind heel releases that are done right on a small gun like this. Either way, after a few hundred rounds, I stopped having the issue. So, take that previous call to train with your carry gun however you choose.  

Final Thoughts: Where It Fits In

From my previous complaints, it might sound like I hated this gun. But that’s not the case. I took it out for some spring runs. I did errands with it as my pocket carry. Heck, I even popped it on my belt with a holster and basically forgot it was there. With a little tuning, all those carry options where comfortable, and it was almost hard to try and print with such a small gun.

My personal favorite was using it as a running gun because I could finally hit trails and barely notice the weight or any movement of my gun. After a few runs with the same magazine and a decent amount of sweat exposure, I took the gun out to the range, and it would cycle fine with the ammo I learned that it like.

So, if you are willing to do a little practice and take the journey to figure out the best ammo, I see little reason why this couldn’t be a decent concealed carry gun, exercise gun, or even a backup pistol. But like most small guns I’ve encountered, there’s a learning curve.  

revolver barrel loading graphic