November 28, 2021

Ruger 9mm MAX-9 Pistol, by Pat Cascio

The folks at Ruger don’t introduce a lot of new firearms each year, but when they do release a new model, it is almost always a winner. And as usual with Ruger firearms, they are almost always in demand by the gun-buying public. I think a lot of people were caught off-guard with the release of the new Ruger Max-9, 9mm pistol. But we shouldn’t have been.

The trend for the few years has been sub-compact or micro-sized 9mm pistols, especially designed for concealed carry with two-column magazines–providing a lot of ammo. Anyone who knows Ruger handguns  knows that when Ruger calls something “compact” it is really a smaller, but not by much, version of a full-sized handgun. I own a Ruger American full-sized 9mm handgun, and the same in their compact version – and the compact really isn’t nearly as small or compact as you think it is – still, it’s a stellar 9mm handgun, that holds either 10 or 12 rounds of 9mm Parabellum in the magazine.

I’ve liked the Ruger LC9 sub-compact pistol since first seeing one, nice little concealed carry pistol, chambered in 9mm. The only thing was that it only held 7+1 rounds. Sure, it sounds like a lot of ammo, and of course, everyone should carry at least one spare magazine these days. Still, the way things are going when it comes to crime statistics, many attacks are being carried out by multiple attackers, and you might wish you had more ammo. I’ve near heard anyone who has been in a real-life gunfight complain that they had too much ammo. Keep that in mind.

At first glance, the new Ruger Max-9, appears to be a kissing cousin, to the LC9, and it many respects it is, just a little bit “different” than the LC9. The good news is that the Max-9 is only slightly larger – not by much, than the LC9. But the Max-9 is a double-stack 9mm pistol. It comes with two magazines, one is a flush fit 10-round version, and the other is a 12-round version. The latter really isn’t all that much longer than the 10-round mag, with the included “pinky catcher” floor plate on it. One nice thing that I am happy to report is that  the Max-9 magazines, either capacity model, are a lot easier to load than some of the other micro-sized 9mm magazines. That’s a good thing in my old age, with arthritic hands/fingers. I used to breeze through loading any type of magazines. However these days, I mostly use a magazine loader of some type to aid me in loading magazines, especially if I’m going to do a lot of shooting.

The Max-9 is a striker-fired pistol, with no exposed hammer. There is no second strike capability – if you pull the trigger and nothing happens, you need to pull the slide back and chamber another round. Not a deal breaker, as I’ve trained that way most of my life – if there is a “click” instead of a “bang” I just chamber another round. It is noteworthy that many other striker-fired pistols also don’t have a second strike capability.

Now the trigger itself is a two piece affair – like many (not all) striker-fired handguns. Much like a Glock,  the trigger has an insert in the center of the trigger, and this acts as one of many passive safeties. You have to have a good purchase with your trigger finger on the trigger, so that your finger engages not only the trigger, but the safety lever as well. The safety lever will allow you to fire the gun once you complete the trigger pull. It is the same set-up as that on the LC9. A word about the trigger itself. I found that it has some movement from side-to-side – a bit sloppy, in my opinion. However, the accuracy is there, as I’ll report shortly. The trigger guard is large enough so you can fire the gun with gloved hands, too. Trigger pull broke at 5.5-pounds, and it was a clean break.

Like many handguns today, the frame is made out of polymer, and is black in color. There is great “stippling” at the right locations on the grip of the gun – outstanding. The magazine release can be moved from one side of the frame to the other, to accommodate left-handers.

The slide is through-hardened alloy steel, and the entire pistol only weighs 18.4-ounces unloaded – about par for these little guns from other makers. Slide finish is black oxide for a non-reflective finish. The model Max-9 I have is the Pro Model, with no manual safety, however you can order a Max-9 with a thumb safety on the frame. The barrel is 3.20-inches long, and is an alloy steel that is also black oxide coated.

Outstanding Sights

The front sight has a Tritium green optic rod in it, and it is easy to see, day or night – outstanding feature. The rear sight is plain black. There are grasping grooves on the front and rear sides of the slide, for a sure grip – another great feature. And, surprisingly, it was easy enough to grasp the slide to chamber a round – many micro pistols have a heavy recoil spring, making it difficult to get a good hold on the slide in order to chamber a round.

To take the Max-9 apart for cleaning is a bit different than many similar pistols, and I won’t go into details on it, other than to say that it is easier than you think it is, only takes a paper clip or similar tool to push the takedown lever down, and to push the takedown pin out. The slide stop lever is protected by a “fence” around it, so no worries about accidentally locking the slide open, when rounds are still available.

I don’t have overly-large hands, but large enough – and I can get my trigger finger on the trigger, and my other three fingers around the grip – so long as I have either the 10-round magazine in place with the pinky catcher floor plate installed, or the 12-round magazine. This is a real plus as far as I’m concerned, because many micro pistols don’t give me enough room for all my fingers to really hold the gun tightly. I fired the Max-9 with the 10-round mag, with the flat magazine base installed, and I didn’t like it! The pinky catcher floor plate allows for more accurate shooting and control if you ask me.

The fit of the slide to the frame is a little bit sloppy, However, it did not affect outstanding accuracy testing. You can shake the Max-9 in your hand, and the slide rattles on the frame just a little bit. And when you pull the trigger, very slowly, you can feel the slide moving on the frame, just before the gun fires. Once again, this is not a deal breaker – the gun is plenty accurate.

My Shooting Tests

I only fired 100-rds of various Black Hills ammunition in my testing, because of the ammo drought we are in – and I expect we’ll be in this drought for several years to come. I had zero malfunctions of any sort, and the large extractor really pulls out the empty brass, as well as loaded rounds. Then again, it’s a Ruger!

From Black Hills, I had their outstanding 115-gr JHP load, as well as their 100-gr HoneyBadger, all-copper fluted bullet, 124-gr JHP and 124-gr JHP +P, as well as their 115-gr FMJ load. BTW, I recently read an article, that listed the top ten 9mm self-defense loads, and the 115-gr JHP and 100-gr HoneyBadger loads from Black Hills, were the top two for self-defense use.

For my accuracy testing, I only fired 5 rounds of each of the above loads, and I used a sleeping bag, over the hood of my Dodge Ram pickup, with the target 15-yards down range. That is a more than fair distance for a little gun like this, for self-defense work. I usually fire several groups with each load I have on-hand, and report the best groups. However, with the ammo shortages, I’m forced to limit my accuracy testing. The 115-gr JHP load gave me the best accuracy, and I got a group just under 2-inches – but I believe the MAX-9 is capable of doing better. The other loads were all under 2.5-inches – and once again, I KNOW the gun can do better, once I get more rounds through it. The recoil wasn’t there – the LC9 has more felt recoil, and I attribute this to the Max-9 being a bit wider in the grip area, where the LC9 is much thinner and it just pounds the hand a little bit harder. That is my take on it. My wife much preferred the Max-9 over the LC9.

The front sight is very easy to pick up during daylight – it glows bright green, even under cloudy conditions. One last thing, that I saved for last is that the Max-9 comes drilled and tapped, so you can install a small red dot sight on it – and it comes with a plate that you can use to install several different types of red dot sights on it. Ruger sells several different red dot sights, at great prices. I elected to not install a red dot on this gun – don’t know why, but I did. Red dot sights on micro-sized 9mm pistols are rapidly catching on.

I wanted to order some spare 12-round magazine for this pistol. However, Ruger was sold out. I don’t expect any to be available for about a month and a half – I’ve left my order on the Ruger sales website so I can get the spare mags when they are back in stock.

As with any new handgun design, there is always a problem getting a holster that fits the new gun. Not so with Ruger: They have a good number of different holster designs at the Ruger Shop, so be sure to check them out.

I can’t find anything to really fault with the new Max-9. I just wish Ruger had come out with it sooner, but they wait until they have everything just “right” before releasing a new design. Yeah, over the years, there have been a few problems with new gun designs. However, Ruger is very fast to correct those problems – unlike some other gun makers, who attempt to hide the problems or just ignore them.

Check out the Max-9 if you can find one. As with ammo, its hard to find any handguns these days. I think you’ll really like this one – and full-retail is $499.99, if you can find one of these pistols.

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