When it comes to choosing a handgun, bigger doesn’t always equal better, especially when you’re choosing a handgun for concealed carry.
The ability to conceal a weapon is almost as important as the weapon’s ability to eliminate a threat.
It’s all about balance.
That might sound like a cheesy New Age phrase for people wearing yoga pants and sipping soy lattes, but I swear it’s totally true when it comes to concealed carry weapons–whether you like soy lattes or not.
Ultimately, you need a handgun big enough to effectively eliminate a threat but small enough to tuck up under your shirt. While that might seem like a tall order, there are plenty of options on the market, although some work better than others.
Keep reading to find out if the Ruger LC9s fits the bill for you.
*2020 Update* The LC9s is now discontinued but several places still have it in stock or even used.
Table of Contents
Meet the Ruger LC9s
The Ruger LC9s is a recoil-operated, locked-breech, striker-fired, semi-automatic pistol.
If you like small guns, you’re going to love the Ruger LC9s. LC9s stands for “lightweight compact 9mm striker-fired.” While it certainly lacks creative pizzazz, this is a no-nonsense designation that perfectly sums up this no-nonsense firearm.
The LC9s is a pretty small handgun, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s only 6 inches long and 4.5 inches tall, with a barrel length of 3.12 inches. Even better, it’s .9 inches wide and weighs 17.1 ounces unloaded.
Truth be told, it’s a great little CCW, though the removable single-stack magazine means that it only offers a capacity of 7+1. Capacity is a trade-off most CCWs make for a smaller size, so it’s not really surprising.
The pistol comes with standard 3-dot fixed sights, which are perfectly adequate for a CCW that will likely be used at close ranges.
As for the trigger, it measures in at 5.2 pounds.
The LC9s’s Backstory
Sturm, Ruger & Co. was founded in 1949. Today, Ruger (I wonder if Sturm is pissed that his partner gets all the fame and glory) is one of the largest manufacturers of civilian firearms in the United States.
The company nudged its way into the exploding compact handgun market in 2008 with the release of the popular Ruger LCP, which stands for “Lightweight Compact Pistol.” There’s an obvious no-nonsense trend here.
Although inarguably lightweight and compact, the LCP has one major flaw: it’s chambered for .380 ACP. While any gun is better than no gun at all, .380 ACP isn’t exactly known for its stopping power.
Thankfully for us, Ruger isn’t stupid. Building on the LCP platform, Ruger developed the LC9 as a means of getting the larger, faster, more popular 9mm Luger into a lightweight compact format.
However, the LC9 had a few issues. Most notably, the super long DAO trigger pull.
How long? Think Lord of the Rings. But the extended edition with all the director’s cuts.
Ruger addressed this epically long trigger pull with the updated LC9s, which has a pull only about ¼ that of the original LC9.
They achieved this by swapping out the original LC9 hammer for the new striker design, which provides a shorter, lighter, and more consistent trigger press.
Who Is It For?
The Ruger LC9s has a soft spot in my heart. It is what my daughter chose for her EDC handgun when she was old enough to carry.
Just like I once entrusted her safety to a car seat, I now entrust it to a Ruger LC9s.
My daughter is no stranger to shooting. However, she wanted something more than just a firearm she could shoot confidently.
She also wanted a weapon she could secretly slip into a stylish waistband without her gun-snubbing friends catching on. Why she has gun-snubbing friends, I don’t know.
Besides my daughter, who else needs a Ruger LC9s?
- People who get turned on by deep spy-level concealment.
- Shooters who appreciate sophisticated style in an EDC.
- People who want something practical and easy to conceal.
- Someone looking for a reliable backup gun.
- Less confident shooters who appreciate a ton of extra safety features.
Secret Agent Style
In the aesthetics department, the LC9s scores big. With its slim profile, sculpted nose, and elongated trigger guard, it really is easy on the eyes.
Looking like something a James Bond spy would smoothly slide out of an ankle holster, the LC9s screams sophistication. And it comes in suave black, which goes with literally everything.
Okay, so it looks pretty spiffy. But how does it work in the real world?
Fit & Feel
Although relatively meager, the Ruger LC9s fits nicely in the hand. I admit to having fairly tiny girl hands, and even for me, the extended magazine base is a godsend.
The thing almost disappears in my husband’s larger-than-average man-hands, but he claims it is easy to hold onto when shooting. That being said, this is a gun you want to get your hands on before you buy.
The way a small gun like this fits in your hands should be one of the most important things to explore before you commit.
Ruger was kind enough to round the lines and smooth the edges of this compact handgun, which helps prevent the gun from cutting up your hand when you’re shooting.
Those smooth lines also make the gun more comfortable when you’re wearing it pressed against your body.
However, the grip does feature some deep checkering. Although designed to help prevent the weapon from slipping around in sweaty hands, the checkering is pretty aggressive and sometimes feels like 40-grit sandpaper on your palms.
I’ve definitely shot more comfortable handguns. However, I’ve also definitely shot worse.
Is this a gun I want to spend all day shooting? Nope.
Is this a gun I can go through a box or two of practice ammunition to maintain proficiency? Yes, that’s totally doable.
Thankfully, most people don’t have to do a lot of high-volume shooting with their self-defense weapon. The aggressive checkering should be a non-issue in a defensive situation.
From my experience on the range, the LC9s is as reliable as they come.
I’ve fed it a variety of rounds, including Hornady, Winchester white box, Sellier & Bellot, and even economy Blazer aluminum-cased ammo. It feasts on them all with zero problems.
I’ve never had a single failure to feed or failure to extract with our LC9s, and we’ve sent at least 1000 rounds through it. The LC9s definitely isn’t a finicky eater.
The tiny size of the Ruger LC9s lends itself to some potential complications, especially when held in inexperienced hands.
The lightweight frame provides minimal mass for recoil absorption. As a result, this little pocket pistol produces some pretty snappy recoil.
The recoil is definitely enough to get your attention. It can also cause some serious muzzle rise, especially for shooters with feeble wrists or weak grip strength.
Getting the LC9s to keep her nose down for accurate, rapid-fire follow-up shots takes some work. You’re going to need a good stance, a steady hand, and a firm grip to keep her in line.
Despite the snappy recoil, the LC9s is an accurate little gun. Get it on target, and it’s going to hit right where you want, especially at standard defensive shooting distances.
This is a good thing since you only get 7 plus 1 chances to stop a dangerous threat. Every shot needs to be center mass.
Where the LC9s really shines is in its concealability. This gun BEGS to be carried. Since a gun on your person makes a better personal protection weapon than one left at home, this should be a major selling point for CCW permit holders.
For those with deep pockets, this little gem is the perfect size for pocket carry. Less than an inch thick and short enough to keep from peeking out, this thing virtually disappears in your pocket. Just be sure to use a proper holster.
Until ladies fashion catches up with our desire for deep pockets, the LC9s also tucks easily into an IWB holster. The slender profile of the LC9s helps prevent imprinting, even when your wardrobe includes gauzy fabrics and fitted tailoring.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
(For some inspiration, check out our recommendations for the Best Concealed Carry Holsters.)
Is It Too Safe?
Ruger has incorporated just about every safety device known to man into this little pocket pistol. In fact, it’s surprising you don’t need a note from home before the LC9s lets you pull the trigger.
LC9s Safety features include:
- A traditional thumb safety.
- A magazine safety.
- An internal lock that disables the weapon for storage.
- A loaded chamber indicator.
Ruger implemented this long list of safety features in response to customer demand.
If you aren’t super confident with firearms, but still want to carry one for personal protection, you might find comfort in this long list of safety features.
However, if you have some shooting experience under your belt, all those features probably seem like overkill.
The manual safety really just complicates things. It only works for right-handed shooters and can be difficult to disengage (and even harder to re-engage), especially when your fingers turn to jello during a massive adrenaline dump.
My guess is Ruger expects most LC9s owners will permanently switch the safety off and leave it there. This could explain why they made the safety so persnickety, to prevent an accidental “safety on” situation during a violent encounter.
By The Numbers
I’ve had zero problems with the LC9s’s reliability. I did some digging on some internet forums, and plenty of shooters confirm my personal experience.
Once you get the LC9s on target, it doesn’t disappoint. However, that snappy recoil and ample muzzle rise can make accurate follow-up shots problematic.
I have mentioned several times this is a small pistol. As such, it fits better in smaller hands. Someone with large hands will probably want something more substantial to hold on to.
Unfortunately, people with small hands also tend to lack wrist and grip strength (Sorry, ladies. Blame Mother Nature, not me). Add that to the snappy recoil, and the LC9s can be difficult to control.
However, it isn’t fair to expect this sub-compact to perform like a larger firearm. When you compare it to other similarly sized handguns, it actually performs quite well.
Yes, it’s small enough to conceal, but you’re going to want to show it off.
Plenty of options here, including lasers, sights, grips, and custom triggers. And yes, you will definitely want to upgrade those factory sights.
Bang for the Buck 4/5
The LC9s is not an economy-priced weapon. It definitely isn’t the cheapest subcompact single-stack 9mm on the market. However, if you want a reliable and attractive concealed carry pocket pistol, this one is well worth the slightly larger investment.
Overall Rating 4.3/5
The Ruger LC9s is designed to be a pocket pistol and when it comes to concealment, the LC9s is a superstar, slipping easily into a pocket or waistband without much concern for imprinting. Reliability and accuracy are good but ergonomics could be a little bit better.
It’s currently discontinued but you can still find it used!
When compared to other subcompact pistols, the Ruger LC9s definitely holds its own. It is actually a fine example of just how shootable a pocket pistol can be.
What do you think of the Ruger LC9s? How about pocket pistols in general? Let us know in the comments below. Want more options? Check out our Best CCW Pistols By Caliber article and our picks for the 6 Best Sub-Compact Single-Stack 9mm for CCW!