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“This is perfect,” I thought, as I handled the new Ruger American Compact in .45 ACP. I handed the gun to my brother, Gary.

“It’s too big,” he said. (I think he had his Ruger LCP in his pocket at the time.)

The point here is that a carry pistol is a personal item, and what’s perfect for one might be unacceptable to another. Still, while some of the things that make a good carry pistol are subjective, there are several features they should all have in common.

The Ruger and its accessories arrive in this hard case.

Desirable Features

I believe a concealed-carry handgun should be reliable and durable. It should be chambered for an effective cartridge. It should have good sights and a good trigger, and the recoil should be manageable. The gun needs to fit my hand, and the controls have to be easy to reach and manipulate. Accuracy is a plus, but it doesn’t need to be a bullseye gun. It should be comfortable to carry so that I won’t be tempted to leave it at home.

Just as important as any of these must-haves is the price. The best pistol does me no good if I can’t afford it.

The Ruger American Compact .45 would be a capable addition to your EDC gear, along with the CRKT Homefront knife and Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA flashlight.

Measuring Up

When Ruger first introduced the American pistol a little more than a year ago, it was well received. It was designed as a service handgun in 9mm and .45 ACP, and it found favor among IDPA competitors and others who wanted a full-sized handgun.

Last fall, the company brought out the first compact model in the American line: a 9mm.

“That’s nice,” I thought at the time. I wasn’t very enthusiastic— probably due, in part, to that personal preference factor I mentioned earlier. Then, Ruger came out with this Compact model in .45, and my little heart went pitter-pat. It was love at first sight.

This gun has a 3.75-inch barrel, is 7.25 inches long overall and weighs 28.6 ounces. For guys like me who always seem to be out in the rain, mud and snow, this Ruger is all-season weather resistant: Its stainless steel slide is finished in black nitride over a matching black, glass-filled nylon frame. The gun’s Novak LoMount three-dot sights are metal, and so is the trigger. And as with most striker-fired pistols, there’s a passive safety lever on the face of that trigger.

The Novak LoMount three-dot sights on the Ruger provided an easy-to-acquire sight picture and were well regulated for the ammo tested.

Also included: a MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail for your favorite accessories. Two interchangeable grip modules provide some ability to fit the gun to your hand in regard to the size of the backstrap and the amount of trigger reach and palm swell.

I never leave the house with a carry gun unless there’s a round in the chamber. A small notch on the top of the chamber of the Ruger allows you to visually check if there’s a round chambered. It’s just as easy to run a finger across the external extractor. If it’s edging out slightly, there’s a round chambered. And you can do that in the dark.

Both sides of the gun have a slide stop release lever, and there are ambidextrous magazine release buttons, as well. Lefties will welcome that, but as a right-handed shooter, I like it, too—especially if the need arises to shoot one handed with my left hand. There are cocking serrations on the rear of the slide only, which suits me fine.

This particular Ruger American Compact is a Pro Model, with no manual safety. In addition to the safety on the face of the trigger, however, there is an internal, automatic sear block that will prevent the gun from firing if it is dropped.

Internally, there is a stainless steel chassis that houses the trigger group and rails. The barrel cam is configured to keep the barrel and slide together a tad longer upon firing to reduce recoil.

The pistol comes with two steel magazines. One holds seven rounds and is fitted with an extended baseplate so you can get a full grip on the gun. A flat baseplate is also included in the hard case if you want to shorten the pistol slightly. The second magazine holds 10 rounds and is actually the same magazine used for the full-sized .45 model. This one comes with a plastic collar that slips over it to take up the space between the bottom of the grip and the magazine baseplate.

This seven-shot (a full magazine), 2-inch group from a rest at 25 yards with Hornady Critical Defense ammo was typical of the Ruger’s accuracy.
The Ruger’s grip is textured for a secure hold. A second grip module is included.

Shooting Impressions

Shooting this pistol was fun, mainly because there were no malfunctions of any kind; and when I did my part, the holes in the targets showed up in the right places. The sights were regulated for most loads so that the bullets impacted at the point of aim at 25 yards. The gun was comfortable to shoot, the grip was nicely textured, and the slide serrations provided a sure hold for working the slide.

The gun was comfortable to shoot, the grip was nicely textured, and the slide serrations provided a sure hold for working the slide.

The metal trigger, while not the lightest I’ve tested, had a better, less-mushy feel to it than the triggers of some other striker-fired guns. According to my gauge, the trigger released the pre-tensioned striker at 6 pounds of pull, which is close to the 6.5 pounds listed by Ruger. The trigger reset could have been better. The reset was positive—with an audible click— but the trigger had to be released almost fully before it reset.

The Ruger’s trigger pull registered 6 pounds. The author found that the trigger was good but that the reset was long and could be improved. (Photo: Ruger)

The gun is rated for +P loads, but I prefer standard-velocity loads in my .45s—counting on the size and weight of those big bullets for effectiveness. The Ruger proved accurate with all loads I shot through it, with 25-yard groups of 1.75 to 2 inches being the norm.

I fired rapid doubles with a two-handed hold and singles one handed. While I might need more practice, the handgun exhibited no shortcomings.

From 15 yards, the author did some rapid-fire drills—both two handed and one handed—at this mini silhouette target.

Not An Inconvenience

The Ruger became my EDC gun while I was conducting the test. I carried it in a Fobus paddle holster and used the shorter, seven-round magazine. I barely noticed the weight of the gun, and my jacket did a good job of keeping the gun concealed. Clearly, a compact gun is not an anchor, as many would have you believe.

The author found that the Ruger American Compact was easy to carry in this Fobus paddle holster. (Photo: Ruger)

An economical alternative for carrying this Ruger is Uncle Mike’s Sidekick Number 5 fabric IWB holster. It’s super thin, but a major drawback is that it doesn’t stay open for re-holstering.

Terrific Takedown

Takedown of the Ruger American pistols is as easy as any centerfire: Remove the magazine, and lock the slide back. Visually check to ensure the gun is empty, and turn down the takedown lever on the left side of the frame. Then, using your hand to control it, ease the slide forward and off the frame. The captured, dual recoil spring assembly and barrel can then be removed.

To disassemble the Ruger American, remove the magazine, lock back the slide, and turn down the takedown lever.

The Ruger American just needs to be stripped down to these few major components for routine cleaning.

Checking The List

As I worked with the pistol, I mentally checked off the items on my concealed-carry must-have list. This gun was reliable through hundreds of rounds of different types of ammo. It never malfunctioned. It fires big, heavy .45-caliber bullets, so I believe it will qualify as being effective. It had good sights and a better trigger than on some other striker-fired pistols I’ve fired.

Ammo improvements haven’t been limited to the small calibers: This .45 ACP ammo is representative of today’s top-quality defensive loads.


In testing the Ruger American Compact, I fired a variety of .45 ACP ammo from Federal, Hornady and Winchester.

The Federal Premium Personal Defense HST and Hornady American Gunner XTP ammo are loaded with the proven, but more traditional, hollowpoint bullets. The Federal Guard Dog ammo I tried features a bullet with a completely enclosed nose that’s filled with polymer.

It’s designed to prevent overpenetration through interior walls. The Hornady Critical Defense ammo features the company’s polymer Flex Tip (FTX) bullet that is designed for consistent expansion and penetration, especially through thick clothing and other barriers.

I also shot some of Winchester’s Train and Defend ammo, which is designed so that the full metal jacket practice ammo shoots the same as the corresponding hollowpoint defense ammo.

It fit my hand well, and the controls were well placed. It is small enough to conceal but big enough to control. The pistol was accurate, which gave me confidence that I could make any reasonable shot if needed. At the suggested price of $579, this gun is a good value.

This gun was reliable through hundreds of rounds of different types of ammo. It never malfunctioned. It fires big, heavy .45-caliber bullets, so I believe it will qualify as being effective.

This is still a relatively new gun, so its durability has to come under the heading of “let’s wait and see.” If it’s anything like the Ruger revolvers I’ve owned for years, I’m sure this pistol will enjoy a long, happy life.

Accuracy Results


Average Velocity (fps)

Smallest Group (inches)

Average Group (inches)

Federal 230-grain HST JHP




Federal Guard Dog 165 grain




Hornady American Gunner 185-grain XTP




Hornady Critical Defense 185-grain FTX




Winchester Train & Defend 230-grain JHP




NoteGroups (in inches) consisted of five shots at 25 yards from a rest. Velocity readings (in feet per second) were recorded on a Magneto Speed Chronograph using a rail adaptor.


Ruger American Compact Pro .45 ACP


Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel: 3.75 inches
Slide: Stainless steel finished in black nitride
Slide Width: 1.05 inches
Frame: Black glass-filled nylon with two interchangeable backstraps
Overall length: 7.25 inches
Height: 4.65 inches
Weight: 28.6 ounces
Sights: Fixed, Novak LoMount 3 dot
MSRP: $579

Contact Information

(336) 949-5200


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the June 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.