Since the invention of the cartridge-firing handgun, pistols have gotten smaller and smaller. And while smaller is not always better, it generally translates to concealable and carry-friendly. Right now the trend is toward lightweight and extremely compact pistols chambered in the .380 ACP. Sturm, Ruger & Company set the compact pistol world on its head when they introduced the Light Compact Pistol (LCP).

Gun Details

The LCP is a double-action-only, semi-automatic pistol with a steel slide and a glass-filled nylon frame. A single column magazine holds six rounds of .380 ACP. Each pistol ships with a single magazine and two baseplates; one flush and one with a finger hook. You decide which to use.

Empty weight for the LCP is a mere 9.4 ounces. The overall length is 5.16 inches and the height is 3.6 inches (flush baseplate). As for thickness, at it’s widest the sub-compact pistol measures at 0.82 of an inch. The 2.75-inch barrel is alloy steel with 1-in-16-inch rifling.

Atop the slide you will find a set of rudimentary sights. Both the front and rear sights are essentially machined into the slide at the factory. They are the same color as the slide itself.

Aside from the trigger there are two other external controls. The magazine release button is found in the common spot on the left side of the frame and a manual slide lock mechanism is located atop the frame on the left side in the rear. While the LCP was first introduced early in 2008, there are still innovative ways to maximize the potential of this little “Pocket Protector.”

Initial Impressions

My first opportunity to work with the LCP came during a trip to Gunsite Training Academy. XS Sight Systems organized a special event where attendees would use only compact or “pocket pistols.” During this outing I was able to run the Ruger LCP on the square range in daytime and at night. We also ran through the simulators (shoot houses) day and night.

When I departed the picturesque high desert, I had two primary impressions of the little LCP. My number one thought was that the sub-compact pistol ran with total reliability and was surprisingly pleasant to shoot. My second impression was that the gun needed a better sighting system if I were to carry it as a “life preserver.”

This impression was truly driven home during the night fire and during both the day and night simulator exercises. Even at practical gunfight distances of 5 and 10 yards, I found myself wishing I had a better reference point than the stubby front sight or the slide outline.

During the indoor simulator scenarios we were forced to address “Shoot/No Shoot” and hostage targets with the pocket pistols. These were the full color, life size judgment targets. During scenario “A” our child was being held at gunpoint and for scenario “B” it was our spouse.

I had to engage the kidnapper with the LCP and distinctly remember that I could not really make out the front sight against the bad guy’s clothing. I opted to index the outline of the slide on the guy but I recall hesitating for a moment to do so.

When you are firing a handgun, particularly a marginal caliber like the .380 ACP, shot placement is critical. You can’t just “shoot them somewhere” and hope they notice. I believe it was Giles Stock, one of our Gunsite instructors, who said, “Have a back-up plan. If he figures out you shot him with a .380, he’s gonna be pissed.”

Laser Option

When I returned home I was determined to investigate other options for equipping the LCP with better sights. Up top where the front sight is machined into the slide there is little room/material to install any aftermarket sights. The LCP is an economical gun. That is, folks can afford to buy one, two or more. Redesigning the slide and installing different (better) sights would drive up the sticker price.

If large, bright irons sights were out of the question the next obvious answer would be a laser. Crimson Trace has never been a company play to “catch up.” They’ve been on the leading edge of laser sighting systems for years now. The ink on the LCP brochures was barely dry and Crimson Trace had a Laserguard for it.

My good friend and colleague Chris had recently purchased an LCP. The gun’s primary purpose was to be a personal protection gun for his lovely bride. Chris agreed to loan me the Ruger for my laser testing.

As with all Crimson Trace’s Laserguards, the Model LG-431 arrived with all of the batteries and tools to install the unit and get it running. The housing of the Laserguard is a high-strength polymer so very little extra weight is added to the gun.

A centrally located momentary pressure switch activates the visible red laser. Naturally the laser works equally well right- or left-handed. Wire-thin Allen wrenches are included to adjust the laser for windage and elevation. I set the red laser dot right on the tip of the front sight at 7 yards.

Range Time

For my range chores, I would work with both defensive and practice ammunition from Hornady, American Eagle (Federal), and PMC. The American Eagle and PMC loads were FMJ practice ammo. Two loads from Hornady were present; the Critical Defense FTX and a Custom JHP load.

Using all four loads, I ran through a number of shooting drills, firing the pistol in a strong two-hand grip, single-handed right and support-hand left. Initially I would chamber a round of ammunition, remove the magazine, top it off and reinsert it.

About 50 rounds into my testing I had encountered two stoppages where the pistol did not eject and chamber a fresh round properly. From that moment on I started each exercise by loading a full magazine, chambering a round and proceeding from there. The stoppage issue went away.

Having fired several hundred rounds through a stock LCP at Gunsite I was immediately impressed at how the visible red laser aided my shot placement. Better put, I was impressed by how quickly I was able to make center hits with confidence.

Additional shooting drills began from a kneeling/squatting position firing from behind cover. I would also fire while seated in a chair. These are all practical shooting positions from which to fire a compact defensive pistol. After all, the LCP is carried for personal defense while going about your daily life, not square range practice or competition. Should you have to employ the LCP in a crisis, you will very likely be in a hasty or awkward shooting position.

For those of you with accuracy concerns, I found that the pistol shot point of aim/point of impact with the Laserguard from 7 yards. All of the ammunition, regardless of manufacturer would provide 6-shot groups in the 2 to 3-inch range from a standing two-hand hold.

Final Notes

The .380 ACP, or most any handgun cartridge for that matter, is a marginal fight stopper. Firearms Instructor Bill Murphy stated, “Pocket pistols are used to save your virginity.” Essentially, compact handguns are carried when a larger, more powerful firearm would be impractical. Don’t expect your attacker to be lifted off of his feet and thrown thought a plate glass window. It simply doesn’t work that way.

A pocket pistol is carried as life assurance. It is a just-in-case tool, like a fire extinguisher or first aid kit. You don’t plan to use any of these but you’ll be glad they’re there if you need them.

As for our subject, the Ruger LCP, the addition of the Crimson Trace Laserguard took a convenient to carry little pistol turned it into a practical “Pocket Protector.” The visible red laser allows you to index the muzzle on target instantly and have the confidence that your shots will go where they are supposed to. For personal protection, that really is the name of the game.

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