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Ruger Max-9 Review: Best Budget Micro Compact 9mm? [Hands-On]

In an overcrowded micro compact pistol market, can the Ruger Max 9 hold its own? We take it to the range to find out.

In 2021, Ruger created an impressive entry in the micro compact market with the Max-9. This optics-ready, 12-round capacity, 9mm pistol had a slim profile and was designed for concealment.

It’s getting harder to stand out in the crowded world of micro compacts. But we took the Max-9 out to the range to see how it would fare.

Ruger Max 9 glamour
Ruger Max-9

We’ll share our findings with you and discuss what we liked, didn’t like, and our overall impressions of the Ruger Max-9 as well as specs and features.

So read on!

Table of Contents

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Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Concealable profile
  • Optics ready
  • Good capacity

Cons

  • Snappy recoil
  • Pinky deficit (depending on magazine)

The Bottom Line

The Max-9 is a good blend between function and concealability. Its capacity is competitive for the size and the price is hard to beat.

Ruger Max 9 prone
I’ve fallen, and I’m ringing steel!

 Specs & Features

Specs

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Width: .95″
  • Length: 6″
  • Barrel Length: 3.2″
  • Height: 4.52″
  • Weight: 18.4 ounces
  • Capacity: 12+1

Features

  • Tritium fiber-optic sight
  • Forward slide serrations
  • Medium grip texture

Source: Ruger

479
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Background

The Max-9 is Ruger’s best foot forward into the ever-growing market of micro compact pistols. This gun is not the smallest Ruger makes, but it is reflective of a directed effort to offer valuable features to concealed carriers.

Ruger Max 9 Remington
The Max-9 ran great on Remington UMC

Who Is It For?

As mentioned, this gun is intended to be carried concealed. The size explores those fine edges where concealability reigns and function begins to drop off.

Fit & Feel

In my hand, the grip felt very angular, brick-like, though the edges were rounded. It was clear the designers gave up a little ergonomics in favor of a thin profile here.

Grip texture was pretty light considering the size and caliber of the gun, but this too was very intentional. The aggressive texture is great until it’s up against your skin or you wear a hole in your clothing.

Ruger Max 9 pinky off
Pinky off is a little more challenging

Its size was okay but is almost always a compromise for me and my big hands. With the 12-round magazine, I was able to get my pinky on the grip.

With the 10-round magazine, I had to fold the pinky under the mag and ball it up. This helped overall support but did little for recoil.

Ruger Max 9 shot
Pinky on is better

The green fiberoptic/tritium combo was bright and contrasted well with the blacked-out rear sight. I also ran the Holosun 507K X2 and was very impressed with the utility of this tiny red dot.

289
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

With the option to run a dot, 32 MOA ring, or both together, I found myself acquiring my target and engaging with ease. That said, the trigger took some getting used to.

My initial impressions were that the pull was long and this threw off my accuracy a bit, shaking around as I pressed back. After I got used to it, I found the wall more quickly and snapped through the rest.

Ruger Max 9 accuracy
2 inches at 7 yards

As I got more used to the trigger, my accuracy improved and I found it to be a repeatable experience. Testing with the Lyman digital gauge found the trigger to break at an average of 3 pounds and 15 ounces.

During reloads, the magazines would drop freely, but hang up on the bottom of my hand (again, hand size) and I had to adjust my grip to get them to drop.

Mags inserted cleanly and locked up firmly though.

How Does It Shoot?

The experience of shooting this gun was definitely different for me depending on whether I had the 10-round magazine or the 12-round magazine inserted in the magwell.

Ruger Max 9 two handed
Snappy recoil

The difference in grip surface allowed me to better mitigate recoil though I still found the gun a bit snappy. The much lighter grip texture was great for concealment but didn’t hook up too well in my hands.

I often found myself adjusting my grip after a shot, trying to get a good hold on the gun. I suspect smaller-handed folks may have an easier time with this though.

What Sets it Apart?

It’s getting tougher to stand out in such a crowded field but ultimately, we all benefit from this competition.

The Ruger Max 9 distinguishes itself by offering great features in a compact package, but at an affordable price.

Ruger Max 9 right
Love the forward slide serrations

By The Numbers

Reliability: 5/5

For the limited test of roughly 200 rounds, the Max-9 had no malfunctions.

Ergonomics: 3/5

I was able to reach all the controls and appreciated the forward serrations on the slide. Its thinner, flatter grip was obviously designed with a favor toward concealment. The beavertail adequately covered the webbing of my hand and protected it from the slide. Ergos were definitely better with the 12-round magazine.

Accuracy: 3/5

Shooting 3-round groups from 7 yards I was able to put groups together that ranged from 2 to 3 inches.

Customization: 3/5

There are a limited number of accessories you can add to the Max-9, though it is optics ready. Additionally, there are a couple of companies that make lasers for the trigger guard. I was not able to find a weapon light at the time of this review, but I suspect some options are being developed.

Value: 4/5

While the MSRP for the Max-9 is $579, I found street prices to be lower.

Overall: 4/5

479
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Upgrades for Ruger Max-9

While there aren’t any weapon lights available yet, Crimson Trace currently has a laser for the Max 9 that is available in red or green. Viridian currently has green laser option as well.

Field Strip

Field stripping the Max-9 is not quite as easy as its other micro 9mm brethren and requires a small punch. We have a full video to get you through it:

Final Verdict

Ruger has created a pistol that is sure to be popular among concealed carriers. Although it’s a bit small for me, the gun ran well and was accurate once I got used to the trigger.

Ruger Max 9 mags
Solid performer

The reliability was good during our limited test and the price is very competitive for a 12-round, optics-ready, micro compact.

Would you carry a Ruger Max-9? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Also, check out 7 Best Micro Compact 9mm Handguns for other options!

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17 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    MIke Reese

    I love my max 9. It def took some time to get used to shooting it accurately and I even put on a hogue grip to make it a bit thicker. It has been nothing but reliable. No malfunctions whatsoever and I have close to a thousand rounds thru it. Put a riton red dot on it and love it.

    May 6, 2022 8:10 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      Glad it's working for you Mike!

      May 9, 2022 10:08 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Capybara

    Sean, I'm surprised you didn't try the 10 rounders that come with the pinky extension? I'm in the same boat as you, but I live in an anti 2a state so no 12 rounders but the 10 rounders with the pinky extension carry fine and shoot better than without.

    May 5, 2022 8:53 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      I try to take a balanced approach with reviews and use all the equipment that comes with the gun. In this case, that meant shooting it with the smaller mag to get my impressions. It was tougher to hang on with my sized hands, but I feel like that's important for folks to know up front.

      May 9, 2022 10:10 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Rand Mart

    The LCP Max strikes me as a poor imitation of the Sig P365.
    There's no excuse for needing a tool to field strip it.
    I see no reason to consider it.

    May 5, 2022 6:53 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Keith

    I bought the Max-9 ($395) and P365 ($499) both. I alternate them monthly as my carry gun. I can shoot either one equally well. Put the 10 round pinkie extension on both and no issues with concealment so I carry at 10+1 with the 12 round, I have one for each, as my spare. I see no need for optics on a carry gun. Both have tritium front sights which I easily pickup

    May 5, 2022 6:37 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Dave Lynch

    Picked up my MAX9 6 months or so ago, 2 extra 12 round mags and a holosun 507 for it. It is a great compact weapon and with the 12 round my groupings of 3 and 6 shots are within 5 inches at 10 yards. The trick is gripping it as it's small and I tend to grip high with my left so it will throw my grip off as the slide rubs. After adjusting for it and some more practice it is a great carry package.

    May 5, 2022 5:36 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      Great observations Dave,

      I think most guns, particularly the micros, can be adjusted to if you spend enough time time with them.

      May 9, 2022 10:11 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Don Dungy

    Don’t feel the need for optics is there for a micro bought for concealment.

    May 5, 2022 4:46 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    K. Jack

    Price is too high. Get a Taurus G2 (PT111) or a G3 ( I have both). Same size, same quality (don't start!), absolutely reliable. And you get 2 magazines with the gun. Over 1.500 rounds fired and one FTF because of Remington ammo had the bullet compressing the case, which no gun would feed.

    May 5, 2022 4:44 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Joe Nunzio

      Agree 100%. Have a G3C that runs everything I load into it NP. You can buy 1 now for alomost 1/2 of this Max 9. Comes with 12 round flush mags that you can still pinky grip comfortably and have the ability to get 17 round extended Taurus mags as well. Even on my worst days at the range mine puts rounds on target more accurately that this handgun.

      May 5, 2022 11:43 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Mikial

      Agree completely. I've tried a lot of micros, and my G2c is an excellent gun. Reliable and with a little practice, plenty accurate. I also have a G2s for situation where my only carry option is a pocket holster. Same reliability and accuracy.

      May 9, 2022 6:33 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Don Dungy

    I carry a Kahr pm9 or a Kahr p380 depending what I am wearing. Neither is a 150 round gun range joy, but 50 out of both no problem. The size and caliber is why I own them.

    May 5, 2022 4:39 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    James Levine

    I appreciate your fine reviews. they have helped me in firearm purchases and optics. I would not buy the micro Ruger. I bought a Sig Sauer 365 with red dot and the great straight trigger.

    May 5, 2022 4:36 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      Thanks James,

      I'd agree with your preference, but the Max 9 is a slightly cheaper alternate that is working well for some shooters. I really like that Sig trigger.

      May 9, 2022 10:13 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    motomike

    So the one you tested was the striker fire w/o safety? I'm having thumb issues releasing a safety having a ruptured extention tendon so I'm pondering entering the scary "no safety gun market"

    May 5, 2022 4:25 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      Mike,

      The ability to pull your gat and go to work without deactivating anything is freeing in one sense, but it also takes a lot more mental focus on finger/trigger discipline. I wholly recommend it.

      May 9, 2022 10:16 am
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