Ruger’s newest incarnation of its 21st-century LCR revolver can be summed up in a single word: sizzler.
Right out of the box, this new, five-shot wheelgun is deceptive because of its 17.1-ounce weight. This double-action model with an exposed hammer is chambered for the potent .357 Magnum cartridge, so it is something in the nature of the little kid in school who threw a knockout punch time after time until the other kids stopped underestimating him.
Where the LCR and LCRx (exposed hammer model) chambered in .38 Special feature a monolithic frame made from 7000 series aluminum, this .357 magnum-caliber sibling sports a frame built with 400 series stainless steel. It features Ruger’s transfer bar system and a patented friction-reducing cam as part of the action that produces a smooth trigger pull, according to the company’s literature. On the outside, it looks like the .38 Special, but it is invariably what is inside that counts.
Count this, then: In an emergency situation during which one might need to open fire, by the time this revolver has launched all five of its .357 Magnum projectiles, you’ve got the undivided attention of whoever or whatever is on the receiving end.
Ruger’s new LCRx features the Hogue Tamer Monogrip, with its textured surface that was put to the test in the Pacific Northwest (where, most of the year, rain has just fallen, is falling or is about to fall). If you don’t like the short grip, Ruger’s design makes it possible to switch and add a different grip for a longer bearing surface with the hand.
This version has a traditional rear notch at the top rear of the frame and a replaceable, pinned ramp front sight with a white line. The revolver is finished in matte black.
The cylinder on this magnum model is not as radically fluted as the ones in the .38 Special specimens—presumably to handle the higher chamber pressure and leave a bit more weight to absorb the recoil. The ejector rod is protected by a full shroud under the barrel, and it proved long enough to pop empties out and clear the chambers.
According to Ruger, the barrel is 1.87 inches long, cut with six grooves on a 1:16-inch, right-hand twist. It’s an accurate little devil with the right load, as I learned at the range with a selection of factory ammunition from SIG Sauer, Winchester and Black Hills. The Ruger digested them all and liked one of those rounds in particular. (More about that in a moment.)
Having tested earlier versions of this popular Ruger revolver in its hammerless configuration—in .22 WMR, .327 Federal Magnum and .38 Special—and the exposed hammer model in .38 Special with a 3-inch barrel and adjustable rear sight, I can honestly say this one has the most punch at both ends.
Put a box of full-house magnums through the LCRx, and there is no mistaking that you’ve done something. While recoil is stout, it is manageable. It might be unpleasant for some shooters. However, those who can handle a .357 Magnum will figure they’ve got a snubby with muscle and settle for that with a smile. I’ve fired a fair number of magnum revolvers with bigger bores, and this one is hardly in the “brutal” realm.
For the sake of comparison, I ran a few rounds of +P .38 Specials through the LCRx, and the result was what I expected: Felt recoil is much more manageable and, for some people, a lot of shooting with .38 Specials while loading up with magnums in an emergency might be a good way to get acquainted with this revolver.
Recoil is the down side of any lightweight handgun; so, in that regard, the LCRx in .357 Magnum should produce no surprises. There is more than enough in the plus column to make this model a winner.
Right out of the box, this new, five-shot wheelgun is deceptive because of its 17.1-ounce weight.
For openers, the revolver is a superb platform for a defensive handgun. It is simple to operate, doesn’t jam and, in a snubby configuration such as the LCRx, it can be carried comfortably in any small holster, including an ankle rig or in a pocket or purse without a holster. After a while, you won’t even notice the weight, as I discovered while carrying it in a DeSantis pancake rig.
All you need to make a revolver work is loose ammunition. There is no magazine to lose and no magazine disconnect that renders the handgun virtually useless without the magazine.
DAO OR DA/SA?
Having fired plenty of double-action-only revolvers (such as the LCR) and DA/SA models with exposed hammers (such as the LCRx), I prefer the latter. Of course, in an emergency, one rarely has the time to take a precise shot. But never say no to having the option.
For personal protection, either in the home or out and about, the LCRx in .357 Magnum will most definitely stop a fight. There are so many variations in ammunition that it is impossible to not find something that performs.
And you can load up with .38 Specials, including +P ammunition, and shoot that all day long, as mentioned earlier. This makes the LCRx versatile.
Where this revolver might find equally quick acceptance is on the trail. There are a couple of absolute truths about the country away from the pavement. Backpackers might not care to admit it, but quite a few of them carry guns on the trail—typically out of sight but normally within reach in an emergency. They want a gun that is lightweight and in a caliber with enough horsepower to stop a predator, whether it has four legs or two.
Equally important is the firearm’s ability to stand up to the elements. During my evaluation, it rained quite a bit. That provided an ample opportunity to give the LCRx a shower or two. The stainless steel, with its rugged finish, took it in stride and, thanks to that Hogue grip, the revolver didn’t slide around in my palm.
For this evaluation, I sampled SIG Sauer Elite V-Crown 125-grain JHPs, SIG Sauer Elite Performance 125-grain FMJs, Winchester Personal Protection 110-grain JHPs, Winchester 125-grain Super-X JHPs, Federal 158-grain Hydra-Shoks, Speer 125-grain Gold Dots and Black Hills 158-grain JHPs.
… it might be no stretch to suggest that a model with a 3-inch barrel, adjustable sight and longer grip will be a winner, right out of the gate.
While all my five-shot strings held within about 2½ to 2¾ inches at 10 yards, the SIG Elite FMJs produced the tightest group, at 1 inch. However, I’ve never heard of anyone pausing in the middle of a gun battle to measure a group size. Suffice it to say that at self-defense ranges, the LCRx has the ability to put them all in the target—provided the shooter does their part. On the plus side, the more I shot, the tighter things got.
Even out of a short barrel, the .357 Magnum launches from the LCRx with impressive ballistics: The Black Hills 158-grainer averaged 879.3 fps with my Chrony Alpha chronograph set 36 inches from the muzzle. The 158-grain Federal Hydra-Shoks clocked an average of 1,130 fps, and Speer’s 125-grain Gold Dots moved out at 1,141 fps. Winchester’s 110-grainers averaged 1,173 fps, while the Winchester Super-X 125-grain load was a bit faster, averaging 1,197 fps. SIG Elite FMJ loads averaged 1,245 fps, and the Sig JHPs came in almost identically, at 1,244 fps.
Using a two-hand hold, I found that with each of these loads, my test revolver shot rather well to the center. The doubleaction stroke was smooth, thanks to the aforementioned cam, although it averaged slightly more than 11 pounds with the Lyman digital gauge. The single-action letoff was crisp, without a hint of creep. The single-action break felt as if it was around 3.5 to 4 pounds, but it measured heavier than that: 6 pounds, 1.5 ounces.
The marketplace will determine whether the LCRx in .357 Magnum has a future, but my suspicion is that this exposed-hammer model will attract a quick and devoted following. And it might be no stretch to suggest that if, in the future, Ruger were to put out a model like this, except with a 3-inch barrel, adjustable sight and longer grip, it would also be a winner from the start.
|Winchester 125-grain Super-X JHP||
|Black Hills 158-grain JHP||
|SIG Sauer 125-grain FMJ||
|Speer Gold Dot 125-grain JHP||
|Winchester Personal Protection 110-grain JHP||
|Federal Hydra-Shok 158-grain JHP||
|SIG Sauer 125-grain V-Crown JHP||
NOTE: Velocity was the average of three-shot strings measured 36 inches from the muzzle. Accuracy was the best three of five-shot groups at 12 yards off a sandbag rest with a two-hand hold measured to the nearest quarter-inch.
Caliber: .357 Magnum
Capacity: 5 rounds
Action: DA/SA exposed hammer
Sights: Rear notch, pinned ramp front
Construction: Stainless steel monolithic frame, cylinder and barrel
Grip: Hogue Tamer Monogrip
Weight: 17.1 ounces
Height: 4.5 inches
Overall Length: 6.5 inches
STURM, RUGER & CO., INC.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the June 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.