Ruger P95 Review
... because the price was right.
So, I was at the gun show, this weekend, and was eyeing sub-$400 pistols. I recently got my Kel-Tec PF-9 as a regular carry piece, but now I want something more range-friendly. From dozens of dealers, only a handful of mid/full-frame 9x19 pistols were in the sub-$400 price range: Hi-Point C9 at $130, the S&W Sigma, and the P-95. The Sigma and the P95 both ranged from $300-$350 depending on who was selling it.
Ruger P95 and H&K USP Compact 45
Ruger P95 and H&K USP Compact 45
Now, Ruger has a reputation or two. First, Ruger holds a position that I understand to be the de-facto gun for Olympic marksmanship. Second, it's the "anti-gun," gun company - a title rightfully earned, but (imho) unfairly applied. Bill Ruger is dead, but his company is producing both hi-capacity and hi-powered arms for civilians, LE, and military. If his ideas about limited gun ownership didn't die with the company's profits during the late 90's and early 2000's, they certainly died with him. I believe that this perceived anti-gun stance is promulgated in part by competition (and, rightfully so), but I tried to turn a deaf ear when it comes to objective evaluation.
In the box you get - a manual, some other papers that I failed to look at, a factory-fired round in a sealed envelope, two 15-round magazines, a load assist tool (I don't know if I would go so far as to call it a speed loader, but it definitely shortens the process), and a padlock with two keys.
The P-95 is a solid platform. As I understand it, the receiver contains no embedded steel - quite an accomplishment in manufacturing. This is part of the reason for the lower price point of this weapon - the manufacturing process has been significantly refined over the competition. This doesn't translate into a lighter weapon, just a better manufactured one. The Sigma, in comparison, uses a polymer frame with embedded steel for the slide rail; the Sigma is noticeably lighter overall, yet it feels fragile, to me. H&K, Glock, and I think pretty much every other manufacturer uses steel within their polymer / composite receivers (please correct me if this is incorrect).
Within the myriad Browning/1911 variants, there are leaders and there are copycats. Ironically (considering Ruger's formation), Ruger has some novel "features." I'm not certain if I like them or not, but they are worth noting.
First is the seemingly ambidextrous trigger safe, which is mounted on the rear upper slide. While this looks ambidextrous in design, in the early days of a new pistol, I think you'll find it's easier to actually use one finger on each side simultaneously to operate the safety.
When in safe position, the trigger is decoupled from the hammer, and the firing pin assembly is retracted within the slide. This makes a little sense, from the operator's perspective, as the safe doubles as a de-cock in exactly the opposite way from expected. There are two positions: safe and fire. If the hammer is back in fire, the firing pin assembly will retract and the hammer will subsquently drop full-force when you move the safety switch to safe. This alone is a good reason to read the manual and spend some quality time with a gun before ever bringing a live round near it. I skipped the manual, went right into "figure it out mode." I was surprised. Surprise is not a good word when talking about firearms.
Innie (safe mode).
Outie (fire mode).
You can carry this gun condition 1 - cocked and locked.
There is a trick to override the decock, and that is to slightly push the slide backwards - maybe 1/8 inch - as you move the safety between safe and fire positions. I'm sure that this is undocumented. If I get around to reading the manual, I'll let you know for sure. Since there is a barbed hammer, you can decock this gun "old school style," though I don't recommend it.
The visible indications of the safety position are a little difficult to read, at night. While there are a white dot, a red dot, and an engraved "S", tactile indications are the way to go, here. You can feel if the safe switch is parallel to the barrel (fire mode) or diagonal (safe mode). If the hammer is cocked, you can feel if the firing pin's anvil is exposed (fire mode) or not. Also, the slide will be just a hair removed from flush with the front of the receiver if the safe is on but the hammer is cocked.
The recoil is a standard 2-spring design, though it looks as though cooling vanes have been cut into the guide rod. This must be functional design, as you would normally never see the guide rod unless you field-stripped the gun.
The mag follower supports the slide lock function. The follower is read via a notch in the left side of the magazine, which seems like it won't ever wear out - in other words, you should not ever see your slide fail to lock back on an empty magazine. The mag release button, on the other hand, is a little disappointing. It's a simple spring-loaded push-forward design made of plastic; prone to wearing out, though this will probably be the first and only piece of this gun you ever replace. You must push forward on both sides simultaneously - again, ambidextrous in appearance, not design.
Also pretty when empty...
Aesthetically, I think this is a very pretty gun. Words I would use are "balanced, comfortable, refined." Even the Batman-looking rear sight is surprisingly functional and unobtrusive from the business end.
The accessory rail is a newer addition to the P-95; if you're buying a used one, you may or may not have the rail.
I get the impression that there's not a lot of profit margin for dealers in this gun. I had one guy flat up refuse to lower his price even though, visibly, the guy right behind him was selling the same gun for $50 less. I bought the one for $50 less, duh.
OK, so, operation. My first rack of the slide, I was in love. The spring resists up until a point, then the whole assembly rocks back with a very pleasing "clack." Let go, and the "chink," moving forward is just as fulfilling. This gun is DA/SA, and the first pull is a bitch if you decocked after chambering a round. I didn't measure, but google-fu says it's on the order of 22 pounds. It's a full pull, and the break point is somewhere back in 1988. Forget surprise break, I was surprised that it ever broke! Considering that law enforcement is a key constituency for this weapon, that's understandable.
Successive rounds, you have only about 1/4 inch of travel and you could probably use your tongue to do it - even if you've been single for a while :P. The trigger face is smooth, and there is no reset to contend with. I could shoot this gun all day long. The kick is very manageable - best comparison I can offer is that I shoot a buddy's Glock 26 now and then; it's noticeably less than that. It was easy to pair rounds into a tight group at 5 yards.
Field stripping brings a new twist, for me. Count this among the novel features, above - I had to go to the manual for this. Once you safe the gun, you have to lock the slide back and depress a mechanism inside in order to release the slide. Then, you can ease the slide forward to remove the slide lock lever, and then you can complete the strip. Once apart, you have standard chunks to work with. The slide lock lever is very tight on a new weapon, and finding its sweet spot requires patience - both for assembly and disassembly.
Press here for detachment syndrome...
Guts are guts...
Overall, this is a great full-sized 9mm for 3 benjamins. I was a little trepid about buying this gun because of the reputation #2, above; now, I'm eager to try other models. Don't buy into the hate; this is a quality weapon at a very affordable price.
I've got a P97 that I like. It is rugged, reliable, and the controls are big and easy to operate. I say this in spite of practically everyone pooh poohing it.
The P95, for the same price, sounds even awesomer.
I once owned a Ruger P90 circa 1995ish.
It was a loose gun, the thing rattled when you shook it.
The trigger on it was ****, it was gritty and had a **** ton of travel as well as being awfully heavy in DA mode.
It was reliable and cheap but not well put together when compared with a say a Beretta.
Would you say they have made progress in terms of the fit/finish and the trigger as compared to what I wrote above?
I'm looking to reaquire a hand gun and am curious as to wether Rugers have gotten better.
This is my first Ruger, so I can't speak to older models. I can tell you that these look and feel well made. It's even more refined looking in the stainless version, but I just prefer a blued gun.
The FNH FNP-9 is another similar gun, coming in at around $450; my estimation was this Ruger was better put together than the FNH, as well.
Maybe they got better but my experience with ruger autos haven't been that great. Funny thing is, 2 out of 3 handguns I own are Ruger. What can I say. Only guns that "fit the bill" even though I don't like it that much.
Own a handful of Rugers and zero complaints on any of them. Had the P95 back a few years ago and found it to be a very nice, sturdy 9mm. Enjoyed shooting it, but when the agency went to Glock, it was traded in. Have not heard much bad about those guns. Good luck with it!