Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ruger LCR 9mm Review - The Pocket 9mm for Revolver Fans



See All Ruger LCR Revolvers Here

For those that follow the blog, you know that many of my gun reviews include a personal backstory.  Ruger's newest LCR, in 9mm Luger, happens to be one of those handguns.  Back in April 2010, I purchased a Ruger LCR .38 Special +P with factory installed Crimson Trace Lasergrips.  As I practiced with the revolver over the first few months of ownership, I really started to enjoy shooting and carrying the LCR.  I loved the smooth double action trigger and found it carried easily in my right front pocket.  Over the years it's become the primary .38 Special revolver used for ammunition testing and even ended up in the photo for the blog header.

What some folks may not know is that the LCR 9mm isn't the first double action 9mm revolver from Ruger.  For a brief period of time it was possible to get the Ruger SP101 revolver chambered in 9mm.  Prior to that, the Speed Six was also offered in 9mm. I was familiar with the 9mm SP101, so by October 2010 I was posting on various Ruger related message boards that I really hoped the next LCR variant would be a 9mm model.  Unfortunately for me, the next model was chambered in .357 Magnum.  The rimfire LCRs in .22 WMR and .22 LR followed next.  As we wound down 2014, I had generally given up on the idea of getting my 9mm LCR.

One thing you can always count on with Ruger is that they are a new product driven company so you should always expect the unexpected.  I subscribe to the Ruger product/promotion announcement emails.  On September 22, 2014 you can imagine my surprise when I opened the latest email from Ruger to find the LCR 9mm new product announcement.  I immediately sent through a request for a review sample of the LCR I had been waiting for.

The .38 Special LCR on the left and 9mm on the right are of
similar size.  The 9mm is noticeably heavier due to the steel
frame.
Since its arrival in 2010, the LCR has been very popular and reviewed by many.  Rather than rehash the work of others, this review will focus on the unique aspects of the LCR 9mm and also improvements that Ruger has implemented over the last 4 years of LCR production.
 
As you can see from the detailed specifications above, the LCR 9mm has the same physical dimensions as all the other LCR revolvers.  Due to the high pressures generated by the 9mm +P cartridge, Ruger used the steel frame from the LCR .357 Magnum instead of the aluminum frame used on the .38 Special LCR.  This makes the LCR 9mm the heaviest LCR revolver in the series.

The trigger system is the same as all other LCR revolvers with an ultra smooth double action trigger pull and a pull weight between 8 and 9 pounds.  I have always found the LCR trigger to feel lighter than the actual pull weight because it is so smooth and consistent throughout the entire trigger pull.  This leads to confidence boosting accuracy improvement the longer I practice with the LCR. 

9mm +P ammunition generates higher pressures than the .357
Magnum.
New features include Ionbond Diamondblack finish on the cylinder.  I think the black cylinder looks better than the previous Target Gray finish, but that's my personal preference.

The integral U notch rear sight remains unchanged, but the pinned ramp front sight has been updated with a contrasting white stripe.  I wasn't a fan of the all black front sight on my original LCR .38 Special so I replaced it with the XS Sight Systems 24/7 Big Dot front sight for more contrast between the front and rear sights.  The new ramp sight, with contrasting white stripe, on the new LCR 9mm worked very well for fast target acquisition and precision shooting.

The total loaded weight of the LCR 9mm is 19.3 ounces.  For comparison purposes, this is a faction of an ounce less than a fully loaded polymer framed Kahr PM9 or aluminum framed Kimber Solo.



The smooth pull of the LCR trigger makes it feel lighter than it is.
One other change I noticed with the LCR 9mm was the absence of the internal locking device.  A proper Ruger branded locking device is included with the revolver, but the frame mounted internal lock found on my 4 year old 38 Special LCR was absent.

Ruger also includes a branded soft padded case and three moon clip loading devices with the LCR 9mm.









  
The U notch rear sight and contrasting white bar ramped front sight
worked well for fast target acquisition and precision shooting.
Fully loaded weight is similar to a metal-framed pocket 9mm
semi-auto pistol.



Don't Fear The Moon Clip

The much maligned and misunderstood moon clip speeds loading and unloading of the rimless 9mm cartridges.
The cylinder is machined to accept the moon clip.
The biggest difference between the LCR 9mm, and all the other LCR models, is the moon clip.  The moon clip is simply a piece of spring steel that has been machined to accept and hold rounds of 9mm ammunition.  Since the 9mm Luger is a rim-less cartridge, the star extractor of the revolver can't lift the brass cases from the cylinder as it can with .357 Magnum and .38 Special.  The extractor can lift the 9mm rounds from the cylinder if they are attached to a moon clip.

Moon clips are nothing new.  World Champion revolver shooter Jerry Miculek has used moon clips to good effect for decades in his .45 ACP revolvers.  Here's a real mind blower.  Did you know that competitive revolver shooters will send their .38 Special and .357 Magnum revolver cylinders to custom gunsmiths so they can be machined to accept moon clips?  It's true.  Moon clips are the fastest way to reload a revolver.



Pushing up on the ejector rod lifts the moon clip and cartridges.
Having used speed loaders for .38 Special revolvers and moon clips, I've identified some additional advantages that moon clips have over traditional speed loaders.
-  Moon clips take up less pocket space.
-  They cost less.
-  Moon clips require less clearance and are less likely to become stuck against the grip while reloading.
-  Moon clips drop right into the cylinder and do not require that you twist a knob or push a button to release the cartridges from the loader.

Moon clips do have one disadvantage that should be covered.  Moon clips can be bent to the extent that they could cause the revolver cylinder to bind.  I've used moon clips since the 1990's in 45 ACP, 380 ACP, and now 9mm revolvers and have never experienced a clip so bent it wouldn't work properly so I'm not overly concerned with this disadvantage. 


Carrying a spare moon clip takes up less pocket space than a .38
speed loader.  The PMC from Del Fatti Leather keeps the moon
clip stable with less chance of accidental bumps bending the moon
clip while carried in your pocket. 



One last point on moon clips and the LCR 9mm is that you really don't need a moon clip to use the revolver.  Part of the video review below includes a demonstration of single loading rounds into the chambers of the LCR cylinder and firing all five rounds without issue.  Without a moon clip in place, you will need to manually poke each spent brass case from the cylinder much like you do with a single action revolver.        

The LCR 9mm At The Range

Range review work is best done on video, so you are welcome to view that directly below.  There will be a bit of overlap with the written review, but I hope the written review and range video will compliment each other.


Coming off the range after that first trip, I was really impressed with the new LCR.  I tried more than 10 different ammunition loads with 100% reliability.  I even shot some of the imported Czech Sellier and Bellot 9mm that is notorious for hard primers.  It didn't matter if I was shooting with a moon clip or without.  Everything went bang as it should.

Recoil wasn't bad at all with the Hogue Tamer grip installed.  Full power defensive 124 grain +P recoil felt no worse than shooting .38 Special +P 158 grain lead semi wadcutter hollow points from the .38 Special LCR.  I have to believe the additional weight of the steel frame and recoil absorbing grip made a big difference in shooting comfort.

The original front sight was too tall and 7 yard groups were 4 to
5 inches below point of aim.
As noted in the video, I had an issue with the LCR shooting low at 7 yards.  It wasn't a little low, it was a full 4 to 5 inches low with 115 and 124 grain ammunition.  I ran enough rounds down range to determine it was indeed the front sight that was causing the problem and not a problem with my shooting technique.  A call to Ruger Customer Service describing the problem was all that was required for approval to send the LCR back for problem resolution.

I had the LCR 9mm back in my hands within a week and a half.  The Service Invoice that came back with the revolver stated that the front sight was replaced and the revolver was test fired from a rest a 7 yards with 124 grain ammunition.  The included test target gave me a big confidence boost because the test shots were all near the center of the target.  I was back out on the range the next day.




After Ruger installed the correct front sight, off-hand 10 shot groups
at 7 yards hit right on point of aim with 124 grain ammunition.

Using some of the same ammunition that shot below point of aim on my first trip, I shot more targets with very satisfying results.  The new front sight raised the point of impact by 4 to 5 inches and bullets were impacting the target where I expected they should.  At 7 yards the revolver is certainly accurate enough for defensive duty.

I made a third trip to the range with the LCR 9mm so I could try some draw from pocket and fire drills with the Hogue Bantam/Boot grip installed.  For front pocket carry, the smaller and slicker grip made the draw much easier without having a significant impact on revolver control or accuracy.







9mm Pocket Pistol Shootout

A head to head shoot-off was conducted with two popular 9mm pocket pistols and a variety of 9mm defense ammunition.

The LCR 9mm cylinder is significantly longer than the cartridge.
With the knowledge that I had a reliable and accurate revolver, I wanted to see how much terminal performance I would lose by switching from pocket semi-auto with a 3 inch barrel to the LCR with a 1.875 inch barrel.  The only way to know for sure was to run some head to head tests over the chronograph and see what the data looked like.  The chart below summarizes the results and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by the data.  The top line finding was that 9mm defensive ammunition achieved as good, or better, velocity from the revolver as it did from the semi-autos.

The barrel length plus the cylinder ahead of the cartridge case measures
2.75 inches.
Intrigued by this, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to investigate a bit deeper to see what was behind this anomaly.  I discovered the LCR cylinder has quite a bit of open space between the cartridges and the barrel forcing cone.  Reloaders call this gap, between the bullet and the start of barrel rifling, freebore so I'll use that term here in the hopes that it is the correct term to use.   Adding the freebore to the 1.875 inch barrel length brought the total to 2.75 inches.  I measured the barrel length ahead of the chamber for a typical semi-auto with a 3 inch barrel and found the length is only about 2.25 inches.  The simple explanation is that the revolver has a longer confined space allowing the gas pressure to build and generate more velocity.  Mystery solved!

From my own 9mm terminal ballistics testing, and ShootingtheBull410's 9mm short barrel ballistics testing, we know there are several defensive 9mm ammunition choices available that perform well when fired from short barrels, through heavy clothing barriers, and into ballistics testing media (gel).  From my .38 Special +P ammunition tests, I have found very few loads will perform similarly when fired from a revolver with a barrel length of 2 inches or less.  For me, that's the real selling point of the 9mm revolver.  Increased terminal performance over .38 Special +P, without all the blast, noise, and flash of the .357 Magnum.




I think the Ruger LCR 9mm is a great little revolver that has proven to be as accurate, reliable, and controllable as any other snubnose revolver I've ever owned.  It might not be as light-weight as the LCR .38 Special, but I'm willing to carry a little extra weight if it means I can confidently carry a revolver loaded with ammunition that performs well regardless of light or heavy clothing barriers.  I'll gloss over the pocket revolver vs. pocket semi-auto debate because there isn't a winning answer.  A person is either a revolver person, or they're not.  If revolvers float your boat, you should really check out the LCR 9mm.  I'm keeping this one so you can expect to see it used in future ammunition tests.

The Ruger LCR 9mm is a keeper.  I prefer the Hogue Bantam/Boot Grip over the Tamer for front pocket carry and snag-free draw from a Remora size 8R-CH pocket holster.

36 comments:

  1. Looks like a winner. I'd like to see this gun with a hammer. Even better in 40S&W with a hammer

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    Replies
    1. LCRx 9mm.....if Ruger follows the same timeline it should be out after the LCRx 357, 22WMR, and 22 LR.

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  2. I have had one on order for 4 weeks, hard to get. I already have the LCR .22 for cheap practice and had planned to get a LCR .38 but luckily I had enough other guns on my want list to delay the purchase. The 9mm is a perfect match for me.

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    Replies
    1. Perfect match for me too. Good luck with yours when you get it.

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  3. I've never seen a need for a 9mm revolver, but this thang is all around sexy! I have a .38 LCR, but I see room in my life for this one, too...

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  4. What is that moon clip "cup" in the last pic?

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    Replies
    1. TK Custom sells them too.

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  5. Can't wait to see what an extra 2.125" of barrel does when they inevitably come out with the 4" LCRx 9mm. Not that I'd be worried about the snubby performance, it's very impressive! I suppose all that extra cylinder length does come in handy sometimes. I wonder if if could be adapted to .38 super?

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  6. Great revolver, fits my small hand perfectly

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  7. Is there anything in the manual you have about using 115 grain ammunition to avoid crimp-jumping? PurpleMountainOurdoors on You Tube had an issue with that, and mentioned in a subsequent video that Ruger recommends only using 115s in this gun. I downloaded the LCR 9mm manual from the website; however, Ruger has yet to update its online manuals to reflect the 9mm version of this gun. Any additional info, as all of your publishing is, will be very much appreciated.

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    1. I didn't have any problems with bullet pull. Also, I didn't use Federal Champion bulk pack ammo in it. If bullet pull was a problem, it should have happened to me with one of the 11 varieties of ammo I used during the review.

      Personally, I think the bullet pull concern has been blown way out of proportion. Bullet pull can happen with 38 and 357 mag revolvers too, but happens so rarely that it's not really discussed in reviews.

      My LCR manual is the same one that covers all the LCRs and it mentions bullet pull and includes instruction on how to test for excessive pull. The special instructions addendum for the LCR 9mm doesn't mention using only 115 grain ammo.

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    2. The manual does state to fire 4 rounds and then check the fifth. I've shot Aguila 124gr fmj, Speer Lawman 124gr FMJ and Hornady Critical Defense 115gr out of mine. The Aguila showed a fair amount of bullet movement but not enough for me to worry about using it. The Speer showed just a slight movement and the Hornady didn't budge. I shot some Corbon 125gr +p but forgot to check the 5th round.

      I'm carrying the Critical Defense since tests have shown it perform well from short barrels.

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    3. I'm glad you guys taught me about this bullet pull/crimp jumping stuff. I have a S&W 342 that I have had lots of problems with in that regard. I thought I hadn't been getting enough sleep. Now I know what it is called and I'm not the only one who has encountered it. As far as the LCR and this issue, I have never experienced any problem, and I now own the 9mm and the .357 versions. I think the LCR has just enough weight to keep this from happening. Again guys, thanks for the gun lesson.

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    4. CAUTION: Make sure you test fire the 9mm ammo you are going to carry. I have 4 Ruger LCRs. I went out to the farm with my 9mm 2 days ago. I shot 115 grain hollow point reloads in it and it worked fine. I had bought 2 boxes of Federal 115 full metal jackets at Walmart. I tried the Federals with my weak hand and with a limp wrist hold and bullets jumped the crimp and jammed the revolver 3 times. Bullets came completely out of the cases and powder spilled and cylinder jammed. Glad I tested it before I carried it. Then I shot the Federal 9mm in my Glock 17 and they worked fine in the Glock. I carry LCR 38s because I know they are reliable because I put a good crimp on my reloads. I have only shot 38 reloads and never factory. If you shoot factory 38s shoot 4 shots and check your 5th bullet to see if it jumped the crimp. Considering getting a Ruger LCR 357 magnum & putting 38s in it for my wife for less recoil due to heavier 17 oz weight. She currently has a S&W J frame 38, which has the nicest single action trigger pull but pulls hard double action, which we both love but I want her to have a concealed hammer to reduce the chances of a snag. lineflyer9@yahoo.com

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  8. I love this 9mm gun and the only thing that would improve it is when they add the Crimson Trace to it. I suspect that will be an offering from the Ruger in the near future. Then i will own two.

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  9. I'm wondering if also 357 and 38 can be use in this pistol, what about the extraction and moon clips too? Dos it works with multiple ammo?
    Awesome review.

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    Replies
    1. What you are describing is the long discontinued M-47 Medusa revolver made by Phillips and Rodgers. To the best of my knowledge, it was the only revolver that would work with 357, 38, 9mm, and about two dozen other cartridges.

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  10. what is the recoil difference between the 38 and the 9? looking for something for my wife with ease of trigger pull and not a lot of recoil.

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    1. A revolver isn't going to be the best choice if recoil is a concern. Semi-autos spread recoil over a longer time and have the slide weight and recoil spring to help dampen the sharp recoil impulse. With a revolver, you get all the recoil. The LCR 9mm is heavier than the LCR 38 so there isn't a huge difference in recoil between the two if you are shooting standard pressure loads in both.

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    2. I don't have a 327 mag but you might want to get one and load it with 32 longs for light recoil. It will shoot 327 mag, 32 mag,32 longs, & 32 auto. Just a thought. Been thinking about getting one. Already have three LCR 38S, one 9mm LCR. I have had problems of Federal 9mm crimp jumping and jamming LCR 9mm so I carry the 38s for concealed carry reliably. My wife and I both love the LCRs.

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  11. On the contrary. Get the LCR in 357 and load it with 38 special (not +P) 140gr wadcutters. No recoil.
    Also, being a revolver, there are no "limp wrist" issues and it can be fired from a pocket, or in a car, or while rolling around on the ground wrestling with an assailant, or even over your head pointing behind you. I found the LCR easier to conceal than the equivalently-sized LC9.

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    Replies
    1. Recoil exists with all firearms. The exception being the "recoil-less" variety, but I'm not aware of any recoil-less handguns on market. I get your point, and agree your suggested combination would be a low recoil option.

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  12. TKS very much to all above. I just got an LCR9 and learned a lot of good tips from the article and replies.

    rrg

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  13. Bruce, how do you like the Baton Grip for shooting. Is there a significant feel in felt recoil? The recoil with the standard factory stock makes for easy shooting, the Pro Diamond great for extended accurate range work. Thinking of getting the Baton, but want your opinion first.
    Thanks and love your reviews.

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  14. Bantam grip works well for me. Once you get past the few hundred rounds mark with the LCR 9mm, a few moon clips from time to time is a more reasonable assessment of normal use. What you give up in shooting comfort is more than made up for in ease of carry, which is what this revolver was designed for in my opinion.

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  15. Thanks again. I have had the 9mm now for almost a year and a half, and it has become one of my favorite shooters. A lot of rounds down range. It impresses me more each time I take it out. By the way, I ordered some more moon clips from Amazon from Speed Bees,(SP). Have you tried them? Supposedly very sturdy and cheap. I will see.
    Also, on another note, it is interesting to read about the Boberg and new owner. I see they made a few changes. What do you think?
    One more note, I am thinking about a Kimber micro 9 or 380. What are your thoughts?
    Love your reviews. What gun are you getting next. By the way. I loved your report on ARX ammo. It is what I now carry in all my CCW firearms.

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    1. I'm not a fan of the Speed Bees design. They appear to be tight on the rim so a tool is needed to extract the spent brass. I like the Ruger design for tool-less loading and unloading. The SB might be a better option for carrying a spare reload in your pocket.

      It will be interesting to see what Bond does with Boberg. I'm glad someone picked up the design in case I need parts or service at some point in the future.

      On the Kimber Micros, I really don't have much input for you. Small single action 380 and 9mm have fallen off my radar with so many striker fired options available G42, G43, Kahr PMs, etc.

      Thanks for the feedback on the reviews. If I do any additional reviews for this blog it might be on something like the Taurus Spectrum or Kimber KS6 revolver. Most of my free time has been going to my other blog http://rimfirechannel.blogspot.com and freelance gun reviews for other blogs.

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    2. Bruce, I invested in the moon clip tools. I was quite surprised at how much I liked them. I really loved the way the removal tool worked. I had not realized how it stacked them in the tool and how how fast it worked. You might want to reconsider.Well worth the money if you shoot a lot.
      I also tried out the Batam Boot Grip, and it was a winner. However, the only thing I did not personally like was the slick feel. I had a sheet of Talon Grip Pad, and BINGO! A huge improvement. I will post a pic later. Thanks Dave
      Also very interested in the Pico. Have owned a number of LCP's but they just don't hold up to much shooting. I see the Pico is Plus P rated and a steel frame and recoil a little softer.
      Later.

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    3. Thanks for the feedback on the moon clips. The slickness of the Bantam is what I like most about it for pocket carry. Glad you like it and didn't feel like you wasted your money on it. I'm very pleased with my LCP Custom that I reviewed last year for another blog. I would love to try an LCPII at some point, but I have no burning urge to upgrade. I was hot for the Pico when it was advertised as available with .32 and .380 barrels, but that never materialized so my interest waned. I'd like to review the Taurus Spectrum this year at some point.

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  16. Went to range today and the Bantam grip produced the best shooting I have done so far. This grip was a natural for me. The Speed Beeze moon clips worked perfectly and the Talon grip material held up great.
    I loaded up about 30 of the moonclips, and have to say, the more I use the removal tool the more I like it.It makes fast work out of both the Speed Beez and the Ruger stock.I can REMOVE shell casing MUCH FASTER and discard all five casing at one time. Came home and ordered more of the Speed Beez clips. Work great and you cannot beat the price.

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  17. Just a note. On the Pico. Went for my first range day. 25rs of Fiochii XTP, 25 rounds of Hornady XTP and 50 rounds of Freedom Munitions. All 100 rounds Flawless-right out of the box. Also one of the most mild recoil Pocket pistols I have ever shot. So the Ruger LCR9mm and the Beretta backup will not be my standard carry. They go together Perfectly. The Pico is about as streamlined a gun as you can get.

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  18. Found my LCR 9 with the Bantam grip a little slick so I decided to do a little stipple job on the smooth portions. It came out great and with the rubber back and front strap I have the confidence in the grip without any issues when drawing from the pocket.

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  19. The LCR9mm continues to be my favorite gun to shoot. Thanks to Bruce the Bantam Grip is ideal, yes I used some grip tape which aided my style of shooting. I have ordered a few boxes of ARX Plus P which should arrive this week.I like shooting the LCR, it is enjoyable for me to see my shooting skills improving with the gun with diligent training.
    Bruce Once again, If you ever get the chance to shoot the Pico, do so. For a backup 380 you can't beat it. So darn mild to shoot. And conceals so well. I like it so much, I just ordered a second one.
    Thanks for all your reviews, I read them over many times. Keep up the great work.

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    1. Thanks John. I wish I could own them all, but how many 380s do I really "need". I will give the Pico a try if I ever have the chance to do so. Glad you found a good match with the LCR 9mm.

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  20. Update,thanks for the review on the ARX 9mm+P. I loved the way it shot in recoil performance,accuracy and the fact that they make the gun even lighter to carry. They also shot very well in my LC9S and now are my main carry defense ammo.
    I am loving the 9mm LCR. So glad I purchased this firearm. I rarely miss a weekend of not shooting it.I CCW the revolver all the time now and also with my Pico which I cannot say enough about. Super concealment and once again, such a MILD shooter. Shoots Hot ammo better than my LCp's ever shot standard range ammo. Since the gun is designed for Plus P or hot ammo, I only wish ARX would come out with a Plus P ammo in 380.
    Note" more and more shooting, I have had to throw away a number of the factory moon clips, but the less expensive clips I mentioned before just keep on trucking. I actually prefer them over the stock. I have had a problem with the stock in that they widen with use to the point that they will not hold the shell. The removal tool pictured at the link is worth every nickle I paid, and you can remove a full clip and just empty all in a container. I also have the loader, but just a waste of money as it is easier to load by hand.
    Thanks again. Just thought I would keep you updated with my LCR, (loving that Bantam grip, a HUGE improvement in shooting and carry.

    http://www.tkcustom.com/content/machine.asp

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