Ruger LCR .22 LR

New little rimfire makes a great “understudy” to the popular polymer snubby!

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    Little details like a hollow back trigger configuration helps to keep the LCR’s weight down.
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    Despite its light weight, the LCR .22 LR was virtually recoilless in rapid fire.
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    Note all the space between the front of cylinder and the cylinder window on the LCR. Cylinder is no larger than it needs to be.

The introduction of the ingenious Lightweight Compact Revolver (LCR) a few years ago scored another hit in Ruger’s long line of super-popular handguns. Originally offered as a five-shot .38 Special and then augmented with a slightly longer-cylindered .357 Mag version, the LCR is now available as an eight-shot .22 LR rimfire.

First Look

As the new .22 comes out of the box, the discerning eye quickly sees that it’s not quite the same gun as the larger caliber versions. The cylinder is thinner forward of the locking notches, and of course, there are more flutes in the distinctively fluted cylinder to allow for eight chambers. A large gap between the front half of the cylinder and the rest of the frame window is distinctly apparent. The screw at the top of the frame, deemed necessary for the centerfire LCR during early factory testing, is absent thanks to this variation’s mild caliber, which imparts so much less recoil force to the revolver.

In the hand, it feels almost exactly the same as its big brothers. On a calibrated scale, my “old” LCR .38 Special weighed a hair under 14 ounces, unloaded. The .22 tipped the same scale exactly one ounce more. The difference wasn’t noticeable.

Operation is exactly the same, except for the obvious fact that a fully loaded LCR .22 will give you eight “bangs” before you get a “click,” compared to five in .38 or .357. Ruger ads for the LCR confidently promise “the best double-action trigger pull in the world.” This, of course, is subjective. The same ad continues, “We believe the LCR has the best factory double-action trigger pull of any small-frame revolver on this planet. We challenge you to try it for yourself. The non-stacking trigger pull on every award-winning LCR is light, smooth, and manageable, making the LCR a lightweight, compact revolver you can rely upon when it matters most.” A careful reading shows that they’re not calling it the lightest such trigger. And with the LCR .22, it isn’t. Which brings us to…

Trigger Pull

The test LCR, serial number 548-10623, was too much for the digital trigger pull gauge, which tops out at 12 pounds. Every stroke resulted in a reading that said, “Over.” By contrast, my LCR .38 Special, a relatively early sample with serial number 540-01873, averaged 10.3 pounds. Pulls were measured from the center of the trigger, where the shooter’s index finger was likely to be.

The .22 version of the LCR comes with a much heavier mainspring than the centerfire models. The rationale is that .22 rimfires, unlike centerfire cartridges, bring headspace issues due to varying rim thicknesses and priming sensitivity in the billions of such cartridges that are out there. A heavy hit with the revolver’s hammer, an internal hammer in the case of this double-action-only design, is thus deemed necessary.

All who tried the test gun—dry fire with the yellow plastic cushioning ring that comes with it, and live fire with assorted ammunition—commented that while the trigger pull of the .22 LCR was certainly smooth, it felt heavy.

Back in the late 1990s when S&W brought out its feathery little Model 317 .22 LR, it also had a very heavy main-spring. Writing about it right here in Complete Book of Handguns back then, I turned my own sample over to masterful armorer Rick Devoid at Tarnhelm Supply. He put in a standard mainspring from a Smith & Wesson Chief Special .38, and wonder of wonders, that little S&W .22 just perked along with 100% reliability no matter what kind of crappy .22 ammunition we fed it. Rick has since done that conversion for many other customers with S&W .22 revolvers, and I’ve never heard a complaint.

Was there a chance that the same would work with the Ruger LCR? There was only one way to find out.

I turned my LCRs in .38 and .22 over to Bill Pfeil, the gunsmith at ProArms, Inc. With the .38’s mainspring in it, the .22 LCR now delivered a pull weight on the digital gauge of an average 10.3 pounds. That was dramatically lighter than what I had estimated as more like a 14-pound pull on the .22 LCR as it came out of the box. I was eager to take it to the range.

Alas, it was too good to be true. We got one or two misfires out of every eight-shot cylinder. What’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander, and what works on a Smith & Wesson will not necessarily work on a Ruger. It turned out that there was a darn good reason why Ruger put that heavy mainspring in the LCR .22 LR.

The good news is that when assessing double-action trigger pulls, smooth is a whole lot more important than light, and the LCR in every chambering comes through as smooth as Ruger’s advertising promises. That became evident when we took the gun to the bench for 25 yard accuracy testing.

Range Time

Setting a Matrix rest on a concrete bench at 25 yards, I tried three different .22 LR loads for accuracy. Winchester T-22, a standard velocity lead bullet round, is intended as an economy product for competitive target shooting. Presumably geared for long barrel target .22s, it did not do its best from the 1.88-inch barrel of the pocket-size LCR. The five-shot group measured 3.9 inches. However, I also measure the best three hits of every five-shot group, on the theory—tested and proven to this writer’s satisfaction long ago—that this takes enough unnoticed human error out of the equation to give a good idea of what the same gun and ammunition would have done with all five shots from a machine rest. In this case, the “best three” cluster measured 0.6 inches—an indication that there was more accuracy built into this gun than the shooter (me) was capable of wringing out of it with every shot. One of the two farthest hits had produced a slightly elliptical bullet hole, evidence of a bullet that was starting to “keyhole” from the short 1.88-inch barrel.

Next up was CCI’s copper plated Mini-Mag, with a solid bullet. That did a little better overall, with the five shots 3.05 inches apart. (All measurements were taken center to center between the farthest-apart bullet holes being measured, and to the nearest 0.05 inches.) The best three in the Mini-Mag group were 1.25 inches.

Finally, I tried Federal’s inexpensive Game Shok load, with a 40-grain solid bullet. This ammunition rewarded me with another 3.05-inch cluster (how’s that for consistency?) for all five shots. Four of those, including a very tight “double,” were in 1.15 inches, and thanks to that snug double, the best three were in 0.55 inches. I find that truly amazing from a snub-nose .22 pocket revolver.

Shooting Impressions

At 7 yards, rolling the trigger at a pace consistent with the old PPC service revolver qualification, the LCR .22 put every round into a 1.25-inch group in the head. Six of the eight shots were a tad low left. This was consistent with where the gun threw its shots from the 25 yard line: All three test loads averaged two to three inches low at that distance, and slightly left. The elevation, at least, should be readily correctible with a bit of judicious file work on the front sight.

Let’s put that in perspective. The rule of thumb that seems to have been established over the years is that “4 inches at 25 yards is acceptable service pistol accuracy.” Yeah, I know, that seems generous; I’d like my service size handguns to shoot tighter than that, and I’m sure you would too. But you and I don’t get to make the standards. They’ve evolved as they have, and they are as they are.

By that standard, with its 1.88-inch barrel, heavy trigger pull and all, this little pocket revolver shot easily within “service pistol” accuracy standards. I for one think that speaks pretty well of the LCR .22 LR. (Yes, the heavy mainspring was in the gun for the accuracy testing.)