The Ruger LCP Max – Compact, Reliable, & Chambered In .380 … But That’s Ok

I’ll put it right out there – I am a pistol cartridge snob. My favorite is 10mm Auto and my second is 9mm Luger. I held .380 in about the same regard as .22 LR for self-defense but then I ran into a weight problem. Yeah, I am overweight but I also wasn’t liking the weight and size of my Every Day Carry (EDC) pistol in all situtations – the SIG P365, which I think is an amazing pistol – but I wanted something smaller and lighter.

I looked at derringers and .22 pistols and just none of them really struck me as something I wanted to carry – I normally had Hornady Critical Duty 9mm +P in my P365 but it just weighed too much. Some derringers weigh a ton, some weigh less but you still have just two rounds. I read a stat once that most gun fights conclue in 5 rounds or less … just having two rounds didn’t sound appealing not to mention my big hands trying to hold a way too small pistol. Everything kept pushing me back to the P365 despite its weight. It was reliable and packed a heck of a punch.

Then my friend and FFL dealer, Scott Igert, of Michigan Gun Exchange, recommended I take a look at a Ruger LCP Max. It was light, compact, got great reviews … and was chambered in .380. Uh…. what?

The words “.380” and “amazing stopping power” will never be next to each other in the same sentence – at least not in a serious discussion. Let’s think about this for a minute. Depending on the load, a .22 long rifle cartridge will generate 120-160 foot pounds of energy. A .380 is maybe 190-294 foot pounds. The Critical Duty +P 9mm generates 369 foot pounds and 10mm Underwood 180gr is 676 foot pounds — all at the muzzle.

So, .380 has more energy than a .22 but pales in comparison to modern 9mm and 10mm loads. As I was feeling snobbish, I actually recalled a story the Kyle Lamb told about meeting a guy in a pistol shop and talking about the best pistol. Kyle told the fellow he had a Bersa .380 in his pocket and the other fellow started putting it down. Kyle then asked him where his pistol was and the guy stopped dead in his tracks – it was in his truck. The whole point is that carrying a pistol beats not carrying a pistol.

With that memory it dawned on me that having a .380 with me that was light and small beat not having anything with me due to complaints about weight, size, etc. So, I shut up and had Scott order me one while I started digging into ammo choices.

After doing some reading, I ordered in SIG, Federal, and Buffalo Bore ammo to give it a try. Then whent he pistol arrived, I field stripped, cleaned and lubricated it before heading to the range.

Time for me to do the safety briefing thing. First off, always clean and lubricate a new firearm. They are not good to go right out of the box. Second, not all pistols like all magazines or forms of ammunition. Be sure to thest your pistol with your different magazines and ammo before you rely on them. For most pistols you will find one or more combination that you need to steer clear of. Reliability doesn’t magically happen – you need to help it happen.
The Ruger LCP Max is a little pistol. Note on the lower right side of the photo the relatively big 10mm round on the left next to the small .380 round on the right,
This is my Glock 29 Gen 4 10mm on top and the LCP Max .380 under it for size comparison.

At the range, I put a few hundred rounds of 10mm through the Glock 29 and my RIA 56862 Tac Ultra HC. After shooting them, just picking up the little LCP Max made me realize it was a mouse gun. Then I loaded the little bullets into the little magazines and made little pew pews.

Okay, joking aside, I did not have one failure to feed, fire or eject. The litttle pistol did its job. After shooting the 10mms, the .380 recoil was very light to non-existent. I was shooting plates and bowling pins at about 30 feet. It knocked over the plates but the bowling pins would often just jiggle a bit and not fall over.

Tip: Want to have a fun first range session? Read your instruction manual, clean and lubricate your pistol and then cycle the slide back and forth a few hundred times to help things break in. It may sound goofy but it will make a world of difference for most firearms.
The LCP Max shot every type of ammo I brought with no problems at all.

A Compensating Ammo Load Out

`As I jokingly stated earlier, the .380 round is not a power house and there is not a SAAMI specification for .380 +P. Now maybe you have seen vendors say they load .380 +P but bear in mind it is their own recipe that will generate pressures only they know. How did I find this you? The Ruger LCP Max manual states in big bold letters not to run +P and I couldn’t figure out why so I started digging.

There are only four cartridges where SAAMI created a specifications for the higher pressure +P loads: .38, .38 Super, 9mm Luger and .45 ACP. That’s it. The shooting industry loves marketing and appealing to the guys that want the hot rod ammo so there are groups out there – both who sell ammunition and make firearms – who will stamp +P on everything but the end of the day, outside of the four rounds previously listed, there are no standard +P loads so watch out.

Personally, I will stick with name brand ammo and not push the envelope. Ti m Sundle, who owns Buffalo Bore ammunition, posted the observation that your typical .380 hollow points aren’t going to penetrate very far so consider using hard cast bullets for greater penetration. I always find his write ups about his ammo very interesting and click here for this standard pressure .380 ammo listing and his thoughts. Note, his real word testing with a Colt Mustang with a 2.75″ barrel ought to be close to the LCP Max because the LCP Max has a 2.8″ barrel – close enough to get an idea of the muzzle velocity of 910 FPS and about 193 foot pounds of energy.

Okay, rather than enter the world of ballistics calculators, let me put it this way – the relatively short 2.8″ barrel of the LCP Max will mean most ammo will not generate the velocities and energies they post. For example, Hornady lists a 1,000 feet per second and 200 foot pounds of energy but that is with a 4″ barrel and depending on other factors such as how long the slide will remain closed before beginning its rearword travel and releasing pressure will all affect the velocity and energy you actually realize.

If a person enters into a self-defense situtation with a .380, I doubt one round will end the fight – maybe it will but probably not. This is where the doctrine of shooting until the threat is ended enters in. I also run an alternating loadout in my mag. The first round is a good hollow point (such as Hornady’s Critical Defense or Sig’s VCrown) followed by a Buffalo Bore hard cast load, which is then followed by another hollow point, another hard cast and so forth.

Consider loading your mags alternating with hollow points and hard cast bullets. That is a Critical Duty load that will go in first and the a Buffalo Bore hard cast solid underneath it for penetration.

Carrying The Pistol

In terms of the ability to carry the LCP Max in a concealed manner, this is where the LCP Max shines. It is less than an inch thick (0.81″ actually), has a an overall length of just 5.17″ and weighs 10.6 ounces empty.

You can carry it in your pocket – mine came with a pocket holster – or wear and inside or outside the waist band holser. Because it is small you have a ton of options not to mention it doesn’t feel like you are carrying a boat anchor.

Hickok45’s Video Review

In this day and age, I realize a lot of folks like watching videos. I’m a writer and not really not into making videos but I do watch them when I am researching firearms. Here’s a good one from Hickok45 (his videos are always worth watching on YouTube – I subscribe to his channel):

Summary

There is no magical pistol or round that is perfect for every situation is what you should always bear in mind. You need to think and the pros and cons and select accordingly. The LCP Max is a reliable pistol and can serve defensively in urban situations where weight and/or size concerns limit what a person can carry. My preference is still the Sig P365 for normal self-defense duties and I do carry a Glock 29 10mm when traily hiking these days but the LCP Max has filled a niche for me when I need something small and light.

I hope this post helps you out!


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