Ruger LCP Max 380 Tested: The Perfect Pocket Carry?

Ruger LCP Max 380 Tested: The Perfect Pocket Carry?

In many ways, the .380 ACP is one of the more underappreciated close-range defensive pistol rounds. Ruger took a major step toward correcting what many have seen as the deficiencies of the .380 caliber by making a major upgrade to their Lightweight Compact Pistol (LCP). The Ruger LCP Max in .380 has a tritium front sight and holds a maximum of 13 rounds.

The Ruger LCP Max in .380

Yes, the 9mm is a more powerful cartridge, and some 9mm pistols on the market are true pocket pistols. However, no 9mm pocket pistol that I know of can pack 13 rounds like the Max. And 9mm pocket pistols have a high rate of wear due to their excessive recoil.

Not to mention, some of today’s modern .380 ammunition performs better than the older stuff. And it doesn’t require the person who carries a .380 to choose between over-penetrating hardball and under-penetrating hollow-point bullets that expand too quickly. Given this, the new LCP Max is a pistol whose time has come.

The LCP Max has a great deal to offer when compared to the competition. For example, a five-shot .38 snub-nose, aluminum-framed revolver is slightly bulky for an average-sized person to carry in their pocket. Specifically, because—compared to a pocket pistol—it’s wide and long.

As it turns out, the .38 is also at least an ounce heavier than the LCP Max. So, when both are loaded with the maximum number of rounds, they weigh about the same.

The .38-caliber revolvers also kick quite a bit due to the fact that revolvers have a high-bore-axis design that makes them roll in the hand. This can be very unpleasant when the revolver is equipped with boot grips—and it also significantly slows follow-up shots.

The LCP Max is the Logical Pocket Pistol

So-called “pocket pistols” in 9mm also don’t match up. Small 9s just don’t fit well in anything but a large jacket or overcoat pocket. And they are often so heavy that they make the carry-side pocket hang very low. That’s a dead giveaway—unless the other front pocket is loaded with spare magazines.

Even then, the jacket doesn’t hang naturally. So, if you want to carry a true pocket pistol that holds more than nine rounds and has more stopping power than a .22 LR, .25 ACP or .32 ACP, the LCP Max is the logical choice.

The LCP Max 380 in the Ruger pocket holster.

Quality Construction

One of the first things I do with any new gun is take it to my workbench and check it for the uniqueness of design and quality of manufacture. With respect to design, the Ruger Max’s major innovation is its magazine, which comes in both 10- and 12-round configurations.

Some other guns chambered in 9mm have these “stack-and-one-half” magazines, but they are really subcompact in size. The Max is a major upgrade in the tactical utility of .380-caliber firearms. This is because the two-plus seconds that it takes most people to reload risks losing the tactical advantage in a critical incident.

The second innovation is also common in 9mm semi-autos but relatively unknown in .380-caliber pistols. This involves the use of highly visible tactical sights with tritium lamps in the front sights. The tritium capsule has the standard white ring around it to enhance drawing a bead on the target both in daylight and at night.

The front sight has a white-outlined tritium lamp that gives the Max a fast sight picture, day or night.

The rear sight is black with a serrated rear surface to prevent glare. Additionally, it has a cocking ledge in front for performing single-handed reloads. In the event that your weak hand becomes disabled, a cocking ledge can be a lifesaver. Placing the tritium vial in just the front sight helps to maintain light discipline. This is especially true when the pistol is carried in an open holster.

Some shooters argue that placing tritium vials in the rear sight helps with sight alignment at long ranges. But since this pistol is designed primarily for shooting at close range, that argument becomes rather moot.

Other innovative features include improvements in the magazine feed lips, extractor, feed ramp, and barrel cam geometries. The barrel cam geometries are of special interest because they slow slide velocity and reduce felt recoil.

The LCP Max Features Quality Construction Throughout

With respect to the quality of manufacture and construction, the Max is very good, both inside and out. I found no manufacturing defects whatsoever, no tool marks, and no sharp edges to cut or abrade skin or clothing. The finish is a non-reflective, evenly applied matte black oxide.

Because this is a recoil-operated pistol with a double-action-only hammer trigger mechanism, the trigger pull is long before the sear disengages from the hammer. Trigger travel is equally long before the trigger resets for the next shot.

One reason why I do not favor trigger techniques designed to “catch the link” on trigger reset is that different guns have different lengths of trigger travel before they reset for the next shot. Since I shoot many different kinds of guns, I always let the trigger come fully forward. This is so that I don’t tie up the action by “short-stroking” the trigger.

One feature the Max does not have is a firing-pin block safety. In response to reports from the field, Ruger upgraded the entire LCP line and recalled existing LCPs to install an upgraded trigger system.

Like most double-action-only (DAO) semi-autos, the LCP Max’s trigger pull is somewhat stiff, and consistently dropped the hammer at 7 pounds. This is quite heavy for a pistol that weighs about 10 ounces.

Shots Downrange with the LCP Max

I tested the LCP Max at the Flagler Gun Club for tactical accuracy in a timed, scenario-based drill. I also recorded velocity, energy, and reliability. Ammunition for the test included Winchester 95-grain U.S.A. White Box FMJ, Black Hills 60-grain HoneyBadger, and Federal 99-grain HST Micro.

The author tests velocity, energy, and reliability.

Because the Max is a pocket pistol intended for close-range shooting, it didn’t make much sense to shoot it from a rest. Instead, I ran a drill that involved drawing from a DeSantis Sof-Tuck holster, which is available on the Ruger website.

The Ruger LCP Max 380 in the DeSantis Sof-Tuck.

This scenario involves coming home at night and being confronted by an armed intruder. As you turn left from the hallway into the living room, he suddenly appears about 3 yards in front of you with a drawn gun pointed at your chest. Given the high threat level, you step back behind the left edge of the doorway, draw your gun and engage him with a double-tap using a flash sight picture.

The author runs a close-range drawing drill.

My average time for the drill was 4 seconds, and all ten shots hit in the upper chest. In addition to the drill, the velocity, energy, and reliability tests indicated that the Black Hills HoneyBadger averaged 1,090 feet per second (fps) and 158 foot-pounds of energy (FPE). The Federal HST Micro averaged 895 fps and 175 FPE. The LCP Max ran all three loads flawlessly.

Mouse gun? No way!

The Ruger LCP Max delivers about all one could ask for in a pocket pistol, whether you carry it in the included Ruger pocket holster or the DeSantis Sof-Tuck. Either way, it conceals easily, holds up to 13 rounds, is reliable, and delivers excellent performance from a short barrel. For urban carry as a close-range primary gun or backup pistol, the Ruger LCP Max .380 is in a class all by itself.

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Ruger LCP Max .380 Specs

Caliber: .380 ACP
Barrel: 2.8 inches
Overall Length: 5.17 inches
Weight: 10.6 ounces (empty)
Grips: Polymer         
Sights: Front tritium with white outline, rear drift adjustable
Action: Secure Action Trigger
Finish: Black Oxide
Capacity: 10+1, 12+1
MSRP: $449

This article was originally published in the Personal Defense World October/November 2021 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email

Performance of the Ruger LCP Max 380.

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