Ruger Max-9 Review
Is This Ruger’s Best Pistol Yet?
Is this the best pistol Ruger has ever built? The answer to that question depends on your plans for this pistol.
The Ruger Max-9 is not a target pistol. It’s not a duty pistol. Nor is it a trophy piece that you wipe down after your cousin drags his oily fingers on the finish.
Nope. This pistol, ladies and gentlemen, is built for concealed carry. Nothing more, nothing less.
So if you rephrase the question to “Is this the best concealed carry pistol Ruger has ever built”, the answer is most definitely yes.
This is THE best concealed carry gun Ruger has ever built. Seriously.
By the end of this Ruger Max-9 review, you’ll almost certainly agree.
Let’s get into it.
Ruger finally gave us what we want.
Before Ruger gave us what we really wanted, we had to choose between the LC9 and the Security 9 compact.
The LC9 doesn’t hold enough rounds and the Security 9 Compact is fatter than it needs to be for its ammo capacity.
The Ruger Max-9 is the best of both worlds.
A modern concealed carry pistol should have:
- At LEAST 10+1 rounds of 9mm.
- A width of about an inch.
- A red dot mount in the slide.
- A great trigger.
- Good accuracy.
We need at least 10+1 rounds of good ole 9mm stopping power. 12 rounds are even better.
We also need the gun maker to cram all that goodness into a gun that’s no wider than about an inch. Most double-stack pistols are 50% wider at around an inch and a half.
I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but when it’s inside your waistband, it’s a big dang deal.
Let’s look at the build quality.
Ruger Max-9 Build Quality
The 3.2” barrel is cold hammer-forged with a 1:10 twist rate and a black oxide finish.
The Max-9 also has a Crowned muzzle.
Also, the slide is hardened alloy steel with a black oxide finish.
A polymer frame is standard fare nowadays and the Max-9 is no exception.
This pistol’s fire-control chassis is a one-piece anodized aluminum unit.
The good news is that Ruger used a striker-fired trigger rather than a hammer-fired trigger like they used when they first introduced the LC9.
One disappointing aspect…
of the design is the lack of a takedown lever.
The takedown on this gun sucks. You have to remove a pin.
Remove the magazine. Squeeze the trigger. Retract the slide. Align the cutout with the slide. Push the pin through the slide.
I guess they had to do it this way to make the design work.
If that’s the case then I’ll put up with it because the rest of the gun rocks.
Manufacturers like Springfield and Sig Sauer have spoiled me though. I really, really like take-down levers for field stripping my pistols.
Speaking of build quality, check out this comfortable Ruger Max-9 holster. The level of comfort will blow your mind.
Ruger Max-9 Ergonomics
No Ruger Max-9 review would be complete without talking about its ergonomics.
The Max-9 has incredible ergonomics.
I can’t stress this enough. This pistol just feels perfect in my hand.
I’ve compared the ergonomics of this little heater to the P365, Shield, Hellcat, and GX4.
It just outshines them all.
It molds to my hand extremely well.
I’m not even 100% sure why it feels so good in my hand.
The only thing I can come up with is how high I can grip it thanks to the undercut trigger guard and high-cut backstrap.
The backstrap and trigger guard allows for a very high grip.
Plus the beavertail comes back over my hand than most pistols. In addition, the beavertail is very well-rounded and smooth.
Ruger struck the perfect balance on the stippling.
Sometimes guns feel as if they have sandpaper for texture. That works fine at the gun range but it doesn’t work well when it’s been against your bare hip skin for 12 hours.
If the stippling is too smooth, it is comfortable inside the waistband but is more likely to slip around in your hand at the gun range.
I’m glad Ruger found the right balance with their stippling. It’s perfect in my opinion.
Ruger included both forward and rear slide serrations.
That will allow easy press-checks and slide-racking.
An ergonomic feature that Ruger included for left-handers is a reversible mag release.
This is where the Ruger Max-9 shines.
This handgun was built as a concealed carry pistol.
The width of a pistol is the biggest factor in how well it conceals.
At about an inch thick, Ruger’s new Max-9 is as easy to conceal as anything you’ve tried.
A 3.2-inch barrel is a perfect length for its intended purpose. A total length of six inches and a height of 4.5 inches is incredibly easy to manage as well.
Another important factor is the Max-9’s weight.
At 18.4 ounces, you’ll forget the Max-9 is on your waist!
The stippling isn’t so harsh that it’ll rub a hole in your side either.
A pistol that conceals this well deserves…
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Typical for striker-fired pistols, the trigger has a safety lever in the middle that must be depressed or the trigger can’t go back.
The trigger pull on my pistol measures 4 lb 8 ounces with a bit of take-up.
While the pull is a little long, it is buttery smooth nonetheless.
Also, the trigger doesn’t have a well-defined wall. It’s more of a very smooth bump.
The trigger reset is pretty short too.
Everybody’s making guns with red dot cutouts on the slide now. If Ruger missed this, the Ruger Max-9 wouldn’t check all the boxes.
If you haven’t tried a red dot sight on your pistol yet, you are missing out.
Red dots are great because you can focus on the target while aiming.
If you focus on the front sight, the target becomes blurry. You can see the advantage right? Hmmm, blurry target vs clearly focused target.
With that being said, iron sights still have their place.
After all, a red dot battery can die. Iron sights should always be available for a backup.
If a gun manufactured makes the gun right, the iron sights can still be seen even through the red dot sight.
This is called co-witnessing.
Great guns always include good co-witnessing sights.
The Max-9 has incredibly good co-witnessing iron sights.
The rear sight is a square-notch and is drift-adjustable. It’s blacked out too. That’s perfect.
Now, the front sight is a fiber-optic/tritium combo. It has a bright green center and a white outer ring.
Here’s the genius in this design:
The tritium’s light is channeled and amplified by the fiber optic portion of the sight.
It’s a really smart design and I love to see this setup on self-defense pistols.
Both sights are dovetailed into the slide.
Another bonus is the tactical ledge on the rear slide that’s useful to rack the slide with one hand.
The slide is milled for a Shield RMSc sight.
That means the Ruger Max-9 will accept JPoint, Shield, RomeoZero, and even Hex Wasp red dots.
Overall, this pistol has a very decent trigger.
Ruger ships with a flush mounting 10-round mag and a 12-round extended mag.
Frame and Controls
The Ruger Max-9 has an internal striker block safety, a loaded-chamber viewport, and no magazine disconnect.
Ruger Max-9 Reliability
I’ve personally shot well over 1,000 rounds during this Ruger Max-9 review. I counted exactly zero malfunctions of any kind!
Everybody has their different processes for how the strip, clean, and lube a new pistol before they shoot it the first time.
Do you field strip it first?
My process is as follows:
After I remove the pistol from the box, I load it and shoot it.
I don’t field strip and clean it until I’m done with my first day of shooting.
My reason for this is simple: when I’m doing a gun review, I want to use the pistol the same way an average consumer might use it.
I know a few people that don’t field strip and clean a new pistol before they shoot it. They figure it’s already clean and ready to shoot.
There’s usually quite a bit more gun oil than you’d usually use in a new pistol. This helps with corrosion while it’s sitting on a shelf for months at a time.
Extra oil can affect the accuracy and even reliability.
If a pistol can perform well in this over-oiled/new condition, I trust its reliability even more.
I’ve had some pistols that had a few hiccups for the first few hundred rounds that went on to perform flawlessly after they were “broken in”.
I trust a pistol more if it doesn’t go through the “break-in” hiccups.
That’s a lot of words to say I trust the Ruger Max-9. Its reliability was perfect in my 1000 rounds through it, straight from the box.
When you shoot a pistol like this, you know it will be more challenging to handle than a full-size pistol.
However, you also know that it will shoot much better than little .380 pocket pistols such as Ruger’s LCP.
There were no surprises during this Ruger Max-9 Review.
It shoots as you’d expect. Recoil is a bit snappy but completely manageable.
I can get shots on target fast and fairly accurately. Of course, I can shoot a Beretta 92 faster and more accurately.
However, I can shoot this little Max-9 pretty darn good. It’s more than good enough for self-defense.
Plus, it’s a heck of a lot easier to tote around all day compared to a two-pound Beretta.
I like it. A lot.
I put over 1000 rounds through it for this review. I saw exactly zero malfunctions.
This gun ran perfectly. That’s very impressive for a brand-new gun in a new category for a gun manufacturer.
While I like the Sig P365 too, I am well aware of Sig’s teething pain with their now famous pistol when they first created this “high capacity micro-compact” category.
Ruger makes a standard version with a thumb safety for right-handed shooters.
Plus, they offer a “pro” version with no thumb safety.
Ruger included a blade in the middle of the trigger, also known as a trigger safety or a “Glock-style Trigger”.
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 12 rds.
- Barrel length: 3.2 inches
- Overall Length: 6.0 inches
- Height: 4.5 inches
- Slide Width: 0.95 inches
- Frame Width: 1.05 inches
- Weight: 18.4 oz.
- Trigger: 4.4 – 4.9 lbs.
- MSRP: $499
Ruger Max-9 Competition
I know this is a Ruger Max-9 review but let’s look at some of the other “high capacity, micro-compact” guns on the market.
Sig P365 & P365XL: This is the top dog. They started this category and continue to dominate it. They worked out all the kinks with this pistol years ago and continue to pump out different versions. They are all good. However, they are also expensive.
Springfield Hellcat and Hellcat Pro: This is the second dog in this tight race as far as competition goes. Springfield was the second company to enter this category and their Hellcat pistol sells very well. It’s a great pistol. It is also quite expensive.
S&W Shield Plus: S&W used to have the most popular concealed carry pistol years ago. The Shield was amazing when it was released. The Shield Plus gave the pistol a much-needed update. Now the capacity and trigger can compete. The good news is that it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Taurus GX4: While the GX4 hasn’t been out long, I believe it will sell in very large numbers. It’s as small as the P365 and shoots very well. Plus, it’s affordable. This is the closest competitor to the Ruger Max-9 and I suspect they will be battling it out for years.
Glock 43X & 48: Glock’s entries into this category sell very well because Glock knows how to make very practical pistols with very well-respected reliability. The G43X is guaranteed to outlast most other gun makers in this category because Glock will get this pistol into law enforcement’s hands in droves. It’s what they’re good at.
If you’re considering buying this gun, hopefully, this Ruger Max-9 review pushed you over the edge.
It has a lot going for it:
It’s small & light.
It can carry up to 12 + 1 rounds of 9mm.
It’s red-dot ready
It’s accurate and has a good trigger.
Plus, it is cheap.
It’s a winner!
Go buy it today if you’re even considering it.
Also, check out the most comfortable Ruger Max-9 holster you’ll ever try.