Gun World - - Contents - By Chris Chris­tian

Ruger threw down the gaunt­let with the ser­vice-sized Amer­i­can Pis­tol in late 2015. Now, it comes in a Com­pact size.

Ruger’s de­sign en­gi­neers have been quite busy in re­cent years. That’s good news for shoot­ers. It has re­sulted in a steady stream of new mod­els, as well as sig­nif­i­cant up­grades and en­hance­ments to Ruger’s es­tab­lished prod­uct line.

The com­pany’s lat­est cre­ation is the Ruger Amer­i­can Pis­tol. It’s Ruger’s next gen­er­a­tion of striker-fired, poly­mer-framed, cen­ter­fire semi­auto pis­tols. It’s also a dis­tinct de­par­ture from its ex­ist­ing prod­uct line.


The Ruger Amer­i­can was de­signed with in­put from law en­force­ment and meets re­quire­ments for the U.S. mil­i­tary’s joint com­bat pis­tol spec­i­fi­ca­tions and the Mod­u­lar Hand­gun Sys­tem Pro­gram.

It is built on a poly­mer frame and has three in­ter­change­able back­straps that al­low users to achieve a proper trig­ger reach fit. The Amer­i­can fea­tures a 2-inch Pi­catinny rail on the dust cover to ac­com­mo­date lights or lasers. The slide and bar­rel are con­structed from stainless steel; the slide is fin­ished in black ni­tride.

In­stead of sim­ply pin­ning metal frame rails and ac­tion parts into the poly­mer frame, the Ruger Amer­i­can pis­tols in­cor­po­rate a full metal chas­sis in­side the frame. Con­structed from stainless steel with a black ni­tride fin­ish, it con­tains the frame rails and all fir­ing con­trols for metal-on-metal re­li­a­bil­ity. This is the ac­tual le­gal “Firearm,” and the se­rial num­ber is stamped on the rear of the chas­sis in­stead of the frame.

The ac­tion is striker fired, with a Brown­ing-style locked breech in­cor­po­rat­ing a patent-pend­ing bar­rel cam that con­trols rear­ward move­ment of the slide to spread re­coil forces over a longer time pe­riod. The trig­ger assem­bly fea­tures a trig­ger-face-mounted safety bar that pre­vents fir­ing un­til it is de­pressed, as well as an in­ter­nal sear block­ing safety that pre­vents the striker from mov­ing un­til the trig­ger is com­pletely pressed to the rear. A molded-in trig­ger stop within the trig­ger guard con­trols over­travel.

The No­vak LoMount sights fea­ture a windage-ad­justable rear and a front sight in the pop­u­lar white 3-dot pat­tern. Both are dove­tailed into the slide, mak­ing it easy for shoot­ers who pre­fer ad­justable sights or a dif­fer­ent sight pic­ture to change them.

Op­er­at­ing con­trols are am­bidex­trous, with both right- and left-side mag­a­zine re­lease, slide re­lease and com­bat thumb safeties (on the Stan­dard model). The fully am­bidex­trous con­trols make this an ex­cel­lent choice for south­paws. The mag­a­zines are a drop-free de­sign, and the gun does not have a mag­a­zine dis­con­nect safety—a fea­ture liked by some but dis­dained by oth­ers.

Field-strip­ping for clean­ing is sim­ple: Re­move the mag­a­zine, lock the slide back, ro­tate the left-side take­down lever fully down to the right, pull the slide slightly to the rear to drop the slide re­lease, and then push the upper unit for­ward to re­move it from the frame. The bar­rel and guide rod assem­bly can then be re­moved in the con­ven­tional man­ner.


The first Ruger Amer­i­can re­leased in late 2015 was a full-sized ser­vice pis­tol with a 4.2-inch bar­rel in the Pro model that did not have man­ual safeties. That was quickly fol­lowed by the Stan­dard model that fea­tured slim­line com­bat thumb safeties.

It was only a mat­ter of time be­fore Ruger re­leased a com­pact ver­sion for con­cealed carry; and, in mid-2016, the com­pact model with a 3.55-inch bar­rel was in­tro­duced. The Ruger Amer­i­can Com­pact is avail­able in the Pro model and the Stan­dard model with thumb safeties. I elected to test the Stan­dard model (#8639).

I was im­me­di­ately im­pressed with the er­gonomics of the gun. Edges are prop­erly rounded, and the muz­zle end is beveled for easy hol­ster­ing. The di­a­mond pat­tern check­er­ing on the front and the back­strap pro­vides a se­cure, non­slip sur­face. The base of the back­strap has a short lip ex­tend­ing be­low the mag­a­zine well that pre­vents any palm pinch on a vig­or­ous reload.

The gun comes with a 12-round mag­a­zine with a com­fort­able “pinky rest” base plate, as well as a 17-round mag­a­zine. That one fea­tures

a slip-on poly­mer col­lar that melds smoothly with the back­strap to in­crease the grip area (although it is not re­quired for proper mag­a­zine func­tion). The draw­back to slip-on mag­a­zine col­lars (on any com­pact pis­tol) is that they put the palm of the shoot­ing hand in con­tact with the mag­a­zine and in­ter­fere with drop-free ejec­tion. Many shoot­ers (this au­thor in­cluded) find the grip just as good with­out the col­lar, and the mag­a­zine eas­ily drops free.

The trig­ger bar safety was nicely rounded and didn’t abrade my trig­ger fin­ger as some other mod­els do. The trig­ger pull was crisp, with just a hint of creep, and the built-in trig­ger stop elim­i­nated any over­travel. When the trig­ger broke, it stopped! And the trig­ger re­set was quick: It took un­der ½ inch of rear­ward slide move­ment to re-cock the trig­ger. My Ly­man dig­i­tal trig­ger pull gauge told me the trig­ger was break­ing at slightly more than 5 pounds.

Af­ter try­ing the dif­fer­ent in­ter­change­able back­straps, I found the Medium model a per­fect fit. Some dry-fire prac­tice fol­lowed to get ac­quainted with the gun. I then stripped the gun and made sure it was prop­erly lubed.


I had a num­ber of 9mm loads on hand that fit the per­son­alde­fense role of the Ruger com­pact. They in­cluded Hor­nady’s 147-grain TAP CQ, Winch­ester’s 124-grain PDX1 +P and two of my fa­vorite per­sonal-pro­tec­tion loads: Fed­eral’s 124-grain HST+P and the Speer Gold Dot 124-grain Short Bar­rel +P. The ven­er­a­ble Fed­eral Amer­i­can Ea­gle 124-grain FMJ stan­dard ve­loc­ity load is also in­cluded, given its role as a prac­tice/train­ing round.

I also had some of Fed­eral’s re­cently in­tro­duced 150-grain Mi­cro HST. This load was de­vel­oped for the newer breed of com­pact 9mm pocket pis­tols us­ing Fed­eral’s ex­cel­lent HST bul­let de­sign—but in a heav­ier weight and at a re­duced ve­loc­ity to aid in re­coil con­trol. (I haven’t ac­cu­racy-tested this load be­fore but had run some tests in my Fack­ler Box that showed ex­pan­sion of around .62 to .63 inch with mod­est re­coil.)

Once I found the proper back­strap for my hand size dur­ing the “get-ac­quainted pe­riod,” the gun pointed ex­tremely well in my dry-fire ses­sions. I didn’t have to ad­just the front sight dur­ing tar­get pre­sen­ta­tion: When I brought the gun up to the tar­get, the sights were per­fectly aligned.

Nev­er­the­less, the real test was send­ing bul­lets down range.

For starters, I put up a 4-inch Cald­well Or­ange Peel tar­get cen­ter at 10 yards. With my PACT timer on, I as­sumed a lowready po­si­tion, with the safeties dis­en­gaged, and fired one round at the beep.

Ac­cord­ing to the PACT timer, the first cou­ple of rounds were grat­i­fy­ingly un­der one sec­ond—but the rounds were im­pact­ing about 2 inches to the left. A Allen wrench (in­cluded in most wrench kits) took care of that by loos­en­ing the rear sight set screw and al­low­ing me to slide the sight slightly to the right be­fore re-tight­en­ing the set screw. Get­ting the windage ze­roed was sim­ple, and the el­e­va­tion was al­ready dead-on. With a bit of prac­tice, hits on the 4-inch tar­get at 10 yards were get­ting down into the .65- to .75-sec­ond range. Run­ning the same drills with the safeties en­gaged added about .40 sec­ond to the time, be­cause I had to re-as­sume the proper grip af­ter flick­ing off the safety.

That got bor­ing, so I moved to 15 yards with the same tar­get. Times across the board in­creased by about .50 sec­ond, but the 4-inch tar­get still got ham­mered.


I’m a firm be­liever that shoot­ers should prac­tice with their EDC guns un­der more-stren­u­ous con­di­tions than just stand­ing on a square range and leisurely send­ing rounds into a 7-yard tar­get. Ac­tion pis­tol matches (such as IDPA, in which I am clas­si­fied as a “mas­ter” in two gun di­vi­sions and an “ex­pert”

in the rest) are ex­cel­lent and in­ex­pen­sive ways to ad­vance self-de­fense skills. These matches take shoot­ers out of their com­fort zones and force them to truly run the gun.

I had dis­cov­ered that the Ruger Amer­i­can fit my EDC hol­ster and mag car­ri­ers, so there was no rea­son not to play some run-and-gun. I set up three IDPA tar­gets and en­gaged them from the hol­ster, in­clud­ing some reload­ing drills. The gun han­dled and pointed as well as my match guns, and the PACT timer told me I was mak­ing very re­spectable times through the var­i­ous prac­tice drills. At that point, the gun had run more than 300 rounds of mixed loads—and there was not a sin­gle mal­func­tion. Ac­cu­ra­cytest­ing from my 25-yard bench rest was next, and I ex­pected it would pro­duce the nor­mal com­pact pis­tol groups of 3 to 4 inches. That didn’t hap­pen: The Ruger Amer­i­can Com­pact ex­ceeded my ac­cu­racy ex­pec­ta­tions by a sig­nif­i­cant mar­gin.

A cou­ple of the loads did pro­duce mid-3-inch groups, but the ac­cu­racy chart will show that most of them were run­ning 2½ inches or less. True, the crisp trig­ger and well-de­fined sights are cer­tainly as­sets, but this gun shot a lot bet­ter than I ex­pected.

Ruger’s new Amer­i­can Com­pact Pis­tol is a wor­thy ad­di­tion to any­one’s per­sonal-de­fense bat­tery. And it can play some fun games on the week­end. That makes it a win­ner in my book. GW

Fully am­bidex­trous right-side con­trols make this an ex­cel­lent choice for south­paws.


In­ter­change­able back­straps al­low shoot­ers to achieve the proper trig­ger reach to de­press the trig­ger face safety bar.

The 3-white-dot sight pat­tern is quick and pos­i­tive to ac­quire.


The slim­line thumb safeties are an added safety op­tion for those who wish to use them.

Sim­pli­fied field­strip­ping al­lows all

com­po­nents to be quickly ac­cessed for


The com­pact Ruger can slip eas­ily into an IWB hol­ster to fit any wardrobe, and with 17 rounds in re­serve, it makes a po­tent con­cealed-carry op­tion.



Bench rest groups at 25 yards showed the Ruger to be more

ac­cu­rate than a com­pact gun has a

right to be.

A carry load-out of 12+17+1 (30 rounds, to­tal) of 9mm power

should han­dle just about any ur­ban self­de­fense in­ci­dent.

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