LCP Max Review: Ruger’s Mighty Micro Pistol or Weak Mouse?
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 Guns.com Certified Used Vault and took it for a spin.
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.
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
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.
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:
Ruger LCP MAX
Length: 5.19 inches
Height: 4.11 inches
Barrel: 2.8 inches
Width: 0.93 inches
Weight: 10.9 ounces
RUGER LCP II
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.