The Rental Gun Stress Test: Ruger LCP

Image courtesy of Michael Pagan

The rental counter at West Coast Armory is not a place for guns weak of heart or character. They will get beaten, abused and shot to death, literally. Some guns can handle it, some can’t.

I have seen two Ruger LCPs through the case. Although they broke for different reasons, they both had the same flaw and were showing the same wear because of it: cracks in the slide from where it locks up with the barrel hood. One was actually cracked so severely it was no longer serviceable and went to the gunsmith, the other had small cracks but was sent to the gunsmith for a different reason before those cracks really became a problem.

The fact that both firearms had the same exaggerated wear concerns me. The fact that I have seen them to the gunsmith for a multitude of other reasons concerns me further. I know that most consumers interested in an LCP won’t even put a couple hundred rounds through it and won’t give it time to display this kind of use, but that doesn’t mean anyone should be content to take the risk of their gun breaking when they might need it most. The biggest problem with these pocket .380s is that they don’t get shot often enough. People buy them and treat them like little talismans that will ward off evil, instead of buying them and then shooting them. If you’re going to bet your life on a gun, you should shoot it. Personally, I wouldn’t bet my life on one of these.


    1. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the whole pocket .380 genre in general. While I understand the desire to have a super compact gun that you can stow in a trouser pocket, I’d much rather have a J-frame for that purpose than a .380. Of course, I’d really rather have a belt gun.

  1. They beat hell out of a cuppa coffee. 🙂

    I’ve got a pocket .380 in my pocket that I bought back in 2004. I can document 500 rounds through it, and feel that there’s another 100 to 150 that aren’t documented. I know a guy who carries a tuned-up Commander that doesn’t have 400 rds in it. He shoots a lot of other 1911s, but his daily carry Commander doesn’t get 100 rounds a year. Why? Because he doesn’t want to wear it out. He’s in his 70s, shot IPSC back in the ’70’s and early ’80s before it went stoopid, and knows what he can do with a 1911 and a LW Commander. He knows that pistol is solid and proven. Why wear it out to prove that it’s not yet worn our?

    My P3AT is one of the good ones that shoots reliably. Should I shoot until it doesn’t? We all know that it won’t hold up like that litte JetFire of yours, but then again, it will get carried more.

    Sure I’ve got a J-frame on my belt, but when it’s time for deep concealment, there are times with a super-light, super-thin pocket .380 beats a J-Frame .38 like the one on my belt right now.

    1. A pistol that survived 500 rounds in 7 years is the complete opposite of impressive.

      A “carry” gun by definition should be reliable and durable. A weapon that can’t go 2000 rounds before something breaks is not exactly something i’d trust my life too: is it shot #501 that’s going to break your .380? LOL! Talk about making your shots count!

      Of course, I carry a .380 bodyguard because I don’t always feel like dressing around a IWB Glock 19, but I managed to break the firing pin dry firing it. S&W repaired it promptly for free (free shipping back to the factory via online repair forms), but still, I know that I’m not carrying a “ideal” CCW. To believe otherwise is folly.

    2. I’d much rather have a pocket .380 or .32 or .25 than a cup of coffee any day, believe me.

      Here’s the logic behind my thought process:

      1. It’s good to have a gun
      2. The little .380s are easy to carry
      3. Little .380s are difficult to shoot well
      4. They require more practice to master than a larger gun.
      5. That practice to master them wears them out at a faster rate than a larger gun.

      The hinge for issue is number 4, because I believe firmly that any gun you’re going to bet your life on is a gun that you should practice with frequently. So if a gun can’t hold up to the frequent practice required to master it, I’m extremely hesitant to recommend it. That’s ultimately why I sold my Jetfire; as easy as it was to carry, it wasn’t a gun that I would shoot frequently enough to really master.

  2. This reminds me of that Calvin & Hobbes strip where Calvin’s dad tells him how they find the load limit of a bridge: they build the bridge, then drive bigger and bigger trucks across it until it breaks. “Then they weigh the last truck and rebuild the bridge.”

    Guns are machines. Machines have a mean time between failures. Ride ’em hard at first to shake out any clear defects. This is analogous to “burn in” on computer hardware. But you don’t keep riding them hard just to prove that you can. It does nothing but add wear. Even a gun with a 2000 round MTBF, if you can shake it out in a couple hundred rounds, and then just carry it, chances are extremely good that it will function just fine when you need it.

    If you feel a need to collapse a bridge, buy a another gun to torture test. The idea that every gun must be torture tested is simply cruel and unusual. You would not do this with any other machine.

    (I do carry a J-frame, by the way, but I don’t destructively test it either.)

    1. Oh, more appropriately, you hope that *someone* out there, both at the manufacturer and maybe some consumer-oriented magazine, has tortured the thing to death so you can know what you expect with your own babied copy.

    2. It’s not destructive testing. The Rental Gun series is documenting what happens to popular guns at a high traffic gun range in the metro Seattle area. The LCP was a tremendously popular rental gun that would go TU all the time.

      1. Rental is a form of destructive testing. I’ve got no problem with that – it’s illuminating – what I object to is the idea that you can’t trust any individual gun you haven’t put 10,000 rounds through. Even guns that are basically reliable will still fail eventually – particularly small ones that have been pared down to a bare minimum for carry. Machines wear and break. And every round fired just gets it closer to the point where it does. The road may be longer for some than others, but it still exists.

        At a certain point you have to ask: is the marginal increase in skill achieved from firing any given shot in practice greater than the marginal increase in risk of mechanical failure from any given shot? For a large, robust pistol the answer is probably “yes”. For a small, more delicate pistol, the answer may well be “no”. It also depends on how you’re practicing. Using a carry gun for casual plinking (ie. entertainment) is a really bad idea.

        This is where the “fun vs. serious/range vs. carry” gun distinction comes in. There’s nothing wrong with plinking with a gun you don’t intend to carry. In an extreme case, I’d just buy two of the same gun and use one for range duty and one for carry. And have done exactly that.

  3. I’ve got Glocks that have gone 2000 rounds between cleaning during a long class weekend. I carry them often.

    I’ve got a TCP that I was carrying almost exclusively for a few months after putting a few hundred break-in rounds through it, because it was just so darn easy to drop it and the holster in my pocket. Then I got back to the range, drew it, went to fire, and the trigger just clicked. Rack it again, next round, no primer strike at all. Dead trigger. Dead me if I had been forced to rely upon it during the time it was in my pocket broken. It’s worse than finding out your car’s seatbelt and airbag was defective and had been for months.

    I still carry the TCP, after having it fixed, but I don’t trust it. It is always a BUG, and I test it frequently.

  4. If my self defense gun breaks for any reason it’s put up for sale. I have never had any problems with cz75 or my glocks or my H&Ks one of the best self defense pistols built today is the Smith&Wesson M&P in any cal, my little cz has seen over 10,000 rds!

    1. Guess you haven’t seen the youtube videos and blog posts of those plastic framed guns breaking, sometimes catastrophically, yet?
      Plastic gets brittle with age, exposure to sun and chemicals, cold, it all adds up until it gives out someday.
      And once cracked plastic has to be replaced completely, it cannot be fixed reliably.
      I’ll stick with wood and steel for my guns, and my grandchildren will one day be able to shoot granpap’s old gun. Not so sure about the plastic ones.

  5. I think the point is… All guns break eventually. You will never know when yours is going TU. Have a backup.

    1. You are correct have that second or third backup gun. However You stick with a known performer like glock,cz,hk,m&p, and keep them serviced and oiled the correct way? And have a good backup gun like a kil tec or j-frame you should be in good shape!

  6. Caleb, I do respectfully disagree on this one, I have an LCP, and do trust it. I have a Glock Sub also. I have fired 600+ rounds through both with no problems. I carry the LCP every day, because it is so comfortable. The Glock not so much. Because of my work, I have many things on my belt, & have no room for a holster. Many of my customers are liberals, and would freak if I bent over to lift something and revealed a weapon. It is front pocket carry, or no carry, in my situation. The LCP fits the bill perfectly.

  7. Another point I wanted to make…. If a rental car has problems, does that mean the car design is bad? Or has it been used in ways the designer never intended?

  8. I have laid a j-frame on top of a friend’s LCP and the difference is mostly in width. In a front pocket holster, the difference is there, but not noteworthy enough to justify dropping way down in power to carry a flavor-of-the-month .380. The bullets just aren’t heavy enough (for their caliber) to penetrate deep enough.

    How much do people tailor their wardrobe to suit their carry choices? I mean, if you can’t conceal a j-frame, exactly how little clothing are you wearing?

    The question now is: how durable will the LC9 be? And similarly-sized guns like the Kahr PM9?

    1. You should see the outfits my wife wears…. honestly, I don’t see how any attractive woman manages to concealed carry in the summertime. Her phone doesn’t fit in her pockets, let alone a pistol.

      1. You know, I’ve never really thought of this before… I, at least, associate open carry advocates very strongly with rural men and ex-cops, but is a stronger reason for open-carry becoming accepted that women can wear their normal clothes and still be protected? Not to mention that the external “signaling” benefits of “I’m armed, don’t touch” is probably more beneficial for a skinny girl walking back to her car than it is for a tough guy.

        I still don’t think open carry is really plausible in today’s political climate, but I hadn’t thought of that argument for it specifically before.

        1. Interesting thought.
          I have often gone from hunting to the grocery store or even restaurant still wearing my 44 Mag and ammo belt, once even to my kid’s school! Open carry is legal in PA, and I have a protection carry permit as well, so it was “legal’ whether they liked it or not.

          Personally I’d welcome seeing more people carrying, if for nothing else that to watch the liberals go into vapor-lock!

      2. Ladies that carry impress the hell out of of me. I’d love to see open carry become common place for the same reasons Mike mentions. Just think of the BBQ guns we could watch go by!

        My wife’s pockets aren’t, she has curves holsters have a very hard time understanding and her torso is shorter making draw damn difficult. That she hasn’t decided to carry is something I can’t hold against her with that kind of deck stacking.

  9. I like my LCP for what it is. Of course it wouldn’t hold up to a pistol-training torture test. Did anybody expect it would? It’s a piece of plastic weighing 9 ounces, smaller than your wallet and regularly digests violent explosions without turning your hand into a bloody pulp! I’m willing to take a step back and recognize how amazing that is.

    Everything is a compromise. Sure I could roll a 6, get in a situation where I need a gun, and then roll yet another 6, have my gun fail. At least I’ll have that second six sided die to roll instead of the 20 sided die sitting in my guns safe at home. The LCP fills its niche well and that niche is something I have a use for. In 10 years when the 5 oz version comes out that takes 50k rounds I’ll upgrade.

    1. I’ll even carry a *GASP* 25ACP as an only gun or BU gun when the need arises. It’s stoked with glasser safety slugs to max it out if it’s needed. So I am a firm believer in the ‘Any gun is better than no gun’ thinking.

      Do I shoot it much? Hell no. It might have had 200 rounds thru it since new, it’s mostly aluminum (I think, hell could be cast zinc for all I know) and a few steel pieces, like the barrel liner, hammer firing pin and springs.

      Point is it works, I would like it still to work if I ever Need it to work, hence it gets a couple rounds fired thru it occasionally, then cleaned, lubed and stored. About it other than when it gets taken for a walk on rare occasions.

  10. My job requires that I wear Khakis or black jeans and a tucked in polo shirt. It also requires a lot of stretching, kneeling, squatting, bending and often two or more of those at once. Therefore my only choice at work is a pocket gun. a small pocket gun.

    It gets fired about once every 2 weeks when I fire off the loaded magazine. Then I load the backup magazine to carry for the next two weeks. Sure, I should probably carry a spare magazine, but there really isn’t a good way to do that at work.

    I guess my point is that this gun (.32 NAA) is the best I can do at work. I don’t know of any really solid guns that can handle thousands of rounds which I can also carry in my pocket without detection. Even being seen once could cost me my job.

    Of course once I get to my car I am much happier to pull my PX4 out of the car safe and carry that!

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