Ask any carrier what they are packing today, and you aren’t likely to come across many individuals who will tell you that their carry of choice is a revolver.
Understandably so. As technology advances to produce more compact, streamlined, and lightweight semi-automatic pistols, revolvers have become somewhat symbolic of a bygone (and typically cowboy-themed) past for American carriers.
Though the advantages of semi-automatic pistols cannot be denied and have all but rendered carrying American snub-nose pistols obsolete, one revolver remains a mainstay in the holsters and hearts of America’s concealed carriers: the Ruger LCR revolver.
Since their debut, Ruger’s series of modern LCR revolvers offers all the nostalgia of yesteryear with all the power of the latest in firearm innovation.
The small but powerful LCR revolvers have won their way into American hands and Ruger holsters for years, and their immense popularity has resulted in the inevitable: An all-new model—the LCRx—that gives carriers the option of adding an external hammer to the tried and true LCR series model.
But which option is your best bet when it comes to defending your home, and what model should you have by your bedside when you reach for a firearm to defend your family in the night?
At Concealment Express, we’ve put together this complete breakdown of LCR and LCRx specs, frames, firing modes, grips, and caliber options to help you find the best revolver to suit your needs.
When it comes to self-defense, trail guns, and house pistols, Ruger pistols have been a long-standing favorite among American firearms aficionados for countless reasons.
The Sturm Ruger & Company—known affectionately as simply Ruger—was founded in 1949 by Alexander Sturm and Bill Ruger. Today, it is considered to be one of the very last companies established during that period to remain truly American. Every single Ruger product and firearm is 100% American-owned, designed, and produced in American factories.
Why cling to the American way of making things? Simple, to uphold Bill Ruger’s philosophy concerning the quality of firearms: Each gun produced by his company should be designed and manufactured according to “a standard so I would want one even if it was made by our competitors.”
And the number of competitors at the time was plenty, as the company was established when some of America’s most prolific firearms industry giants, like the formidable Smith & Wesson Corp., had already been in the game for more than 50 years.
Ruger managed to keep afloat in the face of such fierce inter-industry competition by endeavoring to constantly develop the quality and efficiency of their product. In fact, since its founding, the company has continually sought to employ hunters and shooters of various levels in every department—from designers to manufacturers—in order to make the adjustments necessary to achieve universally functional handguns.
This functionality and comparative value are what continue to typify the Ruger brand even to this day. Not unlike a reliable Ford truck, Ruger pistols are no-frills, simple models that afford the consistent performance and quality that carriers are looking for at a considerably more modest price than similar models produced by the company’s competition.
Today’s snub-nose revolver design is based on the designs that were developed around the same time as the Ruger company, directly following World War II.
At the time, snub-noses and revolver models, in general, accounted for a large percentage of the handgun market due to the design’s compact, universal nature, and popularity among police forces and homeowners. As the snub-nose models became increasingly more compact, they were able to maintain their impressive power.
Small and discreet enough to easily conceal in a nightstand or office desk or carry concealed at the hip, ankle, or shoulder or in any good-mannered housewife’s handbag, the revolver enjoyed immense popularity for decades before being displaced by the cheap yet effective high-capacity 9mm in the 1980s.
These new 9mm models from popular foreign manufacturers like Glock represented a shift in handgun ownership when they made their debut in the U.S. As a less-expensive and increasingly more compact alternative, polymer-framed 9mm pistols also offered a much higher capacity—typically more than doubling the capacity of the standard five-shot compact revolver that could be bought at the time.
Compact revolvers then remained largely out of favor with American concealed carriers until the 2000s, with the development of the Ruger LCR series.
The popular Ruger LCR series made its debut as a .38 Special + P model in 2009. An acronym for “Lightweight Compact Revolvers,” the LCR was unlike any revolver to hit the market at the time and was a total revitalization of the popular designs of the 1950s, ushering in the new era of the American compact revolver.
The clean-sheet design was a combination of various strategic elements that would bring the revolver back into American favor. Its masterful blend of steel, aluminum, and polymer components took care of the question of weight, making for a handgun that originally weighed in at no more than 13.5 ounces unloaded.
The 1.87-inch barrel and 6.5-inch overall length meant that the LCR remained as concealable as the semi-automatic 9mm alternatives, and the five-shot magazine was specifically designed for compatibility with both .38 Special and .38 Special + P rounds.
Perhaps the most fundamental shift away from the traditional revolver of the 50s, however, was the fact that the LCR’s designers did away with the external hammer that was a near-iconic element of revolvers up until that point.
This fundamental change rendered the design of the revolver—which was typically less desirable for concealed carriers due to the hammer’s tendency to catch on holsters and clothing while being drawn—much more functional and able to keep up with more popular automatic options.
At the same time, the removal of the external hammer in the LCR’s design also resulted in a shift away from the standard in revolver firing modes. Typically, external hammer models can be fired as both single and double action. However, without an integrated external hammer, the LCR would be limited to double action only.
Since its debut, the LCR series has experienced unprecedented popularity for a compact revolver, leading the charge for the American snub-nose to make its way back into the spotlight for concealed carriers and homeowners across the nation.
The LCR is impressive in that it was the first step in developing the modern compact revolver. It is an excellent choice for a wide variety of uses, including as a defense, as concealed carry, and as a pleasure firearm.
The slim frame of the LCR conforms to concealed carry standards, measuring in at a width of no more than 1.28 inches and a height of 4.5 inches. Its overall length of 6.5 inches includes a barrel-length that maxes out at a minuscule 1.87 inches.
All of this weighs in at a grand total of between 13.5 unloaded and 17.2 ounces loaded, making it about the same weight as a can of soda.
How did Ruger accomplish a revolver design that would barely hit one pound while loaded? Through incorporating simple yet effective production techniques that would eliminate unnecessary mass without taking away from the gun’s overall power.
First, the barrel and cylinder housing elements of the gun are constructed of an aerospace-grade, 7,000-series aluminum. The cylinder itself is composed of 400-series stainless steel for maximum strength.
Meanwhile, the fire control housing—essentially, the grip and trigger guard components of the gun—is composed of a lightweight polymer.
This was a strategic choice, as the fire control housing components are typically the areas of the gun that require less strength and reinforcement. By developing a model that strategically blended high-grade aluminum and stainless steel in areas that required strength with polymer in areas that did not, the overall weight of the gun could be drastically reduced.
The company also invested a substantial amount of time on fluting the frame of the LCR, meaning that any unnecessary material typically incorporated into the design of the chamber was eliminated to reduce weight.
This makes for an overall frame that is incredibly lightweight, yet extremely durable.
One of the biggest flaws or greatest achievements of the LCR’s design, depending on your vantage point, is its firing capability.
Unlike most compact snubbies, the LCR design does not feature the iconic external hammer. This means that, again, unlike most snub-noses, it is only able to be fired in double action mode and does not offer a single action option to the carrier.
The main downside to many lightweight handgun models is that opting for a lightweight option often requires a tradeoff when it comes to felt recoil.
However, in the case of the LCR, this felt recoil is drastically reduced by the implementation of a Hogue Tamer Monogrip wraparound rubber grip.
Unlike popular models from competitors—such as the Smith & Wesson 442—that lack a grip that allows for insulation, the LCR features strategic padding at the top of the backstrap, which is the very point where the webbing of the shooter’s hand makes the most contact with the metal of the handle.
This design element makes for a much more pleasurable firing experience, in which the recoil is drastically diminished compared to comparable models produced by competitors, while the user’s overall grip and control of the gun are increased.
Ruger also sought to improve the typically unpleasant, long, double-action trigger pull that is associated with traditional revolvers with their implementation of a friction-reducing cam inside the trigger group.
The cam eliminates stacking and makes for a trigger weight pull that weighs in at around a manageable 7 pounds and 8 ounces. At the same time, the double-action trigger is both reliable and smooth but does require that the trigger be fully returned to its original position to reset—a potential downside for carriers who are accustomed to the short reset point of a semi-automatic.
In the decade that has passed since the LCR series hit the market, Ruger has put out several variations and calibers of its popular snubbie. Some of the most notable are the:
The latest and most talked-about subtype to be spawned from the LCR series, however, is the formidable LCRx.
Introduced in 2014, the Ruger LCRx take on the LCR design is the next step in projecting the LCR series into the future of concealable snub-nosed revolvers and answers the call for a bigger, better snub-nose with dual-firing capacity.
Despite its similarity to other LCR models (which can be expected from an LCR subtype) the LCR offers an impressive list of its features that allow the handgun to stand apart from other models in the series.
Still weighing-in under the one-pound mark at 15.7 ounces unloaded, the LCRx maintains concealability with its 7.5-inch overall length, 1.28-inch width, and 5.8-inch height.
In addition to utilizing the polymer, steel, and aluminum-blend frame design of the original LCR, the LCRx features a longer, 3-inch barrel that generates more firing power than the original while remaining easily concealable.
While the 3-inch barrel remains as easy to draw and control as the 1.87-inch version, it offers a longer sight radius that renders the gun easier to aim than the shorter-barreled versions.
The 3-inch barrel of the LCRx also generates nearly as much stopping power as any 4-inch model of the same caliber, making the LCRx a perfect choice for self-defense carry whether you are camping or at work.
Perhaps most notably, the LCRx brings back the iconic look of the external hammer that so many of us associate with a wheel gun. However, this nod to the past does not mean that the LCRx is anything like your grandmother’s snubbie. In fact, unlike the cumbersome external hammers of yesteryear, the LCRx’s hammer is designed for a more streamlined look that allows for an unhindered draw for your Ruger holster.
The “x” in the LCRs’s moniker refers to the revolver’s firing power, which includes both a double and single action trigger.
Similar in functionality to popular semi-automatic options, like the Taurus Millennium G2, the LCRx series boasts single and double action firing capabilities for the best of both worlds.
One of its biggest drawbacks to this point, the LCRx is available in a limited range of calibers and variations, including:
However, if the trajectory of the popularity of the LCR model is any indication, Ruger will likely continue to develop and release further calibrations as the LCRx is fine-tuned and perfected over time.
When it comes down to choosing whether an LCR or an LCRx is right for your needs, you need to consider what those needs are.
For those looking for a reliable concealed carry revolver, the LCR is the more obvious choice. An incredibly lightweight and streamlined revolver design, it is available in a range of up to eighteen caliber and frame variations, making it perfectly customizable to near-universal concealed carry needs.
Available in fewer configuration, the larger LCRx model pulls double-duty as the perfect all-around defense gun, offering impressive stopping power with uncompromised concealability, as well as dual action firing and a longer sight radius.
Whichever model you choose, you can rest assured that this small, yet powerful wheel gun is up to the task as one of the most reliable and viable options for concealable revolvers currently on the market.
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