Ruger listened to customers, and the American Compact was born
Ruger caught up with the times last year when the company released a full-size, polymer frame, striker-fired, easy-maintenance 9mm called the American Pistol. This year, the compact version of the American was unveiled, and it does everything its big brother can do—while doubling as a more concealable handgun.
Last month, I got to handle and fire the American compact at a writers’ conference, as well as hear from factory reps about this and other Ruger developments. What’s really exciting, besides this new pistol, is the company’s deliberate focus on customer feedback and how they’re applying it. The American pistol and rifle lines are an example of this new direction. Ruger is taking existing platforms and cranking out multiple variants of them in response to feedback from consumers.
The American compact is just 3/4 of an inch shorter and lower than its predecessor. The barrel is 3.55 inches and the overall length is 6.65 inches. It comes with 10- and 12-round magazines, and will also hold the regular American’s 17-round mag. It weighs 28.7 ounces empty.
The controls, including the magazine release, slide lock, and optional safety, are all ambi, all the time. I believe this to be a great feature for a slide lock, but have a conditional opinion on the mag release. That’s a convenient feature for handing the gun around at the range when shooting with a group, some of whom are left-handed.
An ambi mag release can spell trouble in real-world situations in which things like a car seatbelt, rolling on the ground, or physical pressure from an assailant can unseat the magazine while the gun’s still holstered. When that occurs, it’s likely to be without the wearer’s knowledge. A better design would’ve been a changeable release. That’s my only real complaint, and a minor one at that.
Notice I said optional safety. From the start, the American compact is being offered in a “Pro” model with no external safety, and a standard model with one. Ruger is really trying to make sure everybody gets what they want. The safety lever is large and easy to use. As with the magazine release, this convenience is subject to the same concern I expressed about the ambi magazine release. If I were to purchase an American compact, I’d choose the no-safety option anyway.
There’s a lot to love about this gun. It has modular grips in small, medium, and large. The grips change the backstrap—or distance from rear of grip to trigger—as well as the width of the grip in one three-sided, wrap-around module. The fit can be customized for just about anyone.
Ruger took another hint from consumers in making takedown for maintenance as simple and comparable as the other modern, striker-fired pistols out there. Hooray.
This isn’t a beginners’ gun per se, but it makes a great beginner’s gun for a couple reasons. The slide is made to rack with a relatively light pull—another response to customer requests. The stainless steel barrel is machined to interact with the frame and slide in a recoil-minimizing fashion.
An oversized ejection port makes unloading and malfunction clearances easier, and the magazine release is oversized and easy to press when the shooter wants to—but also backed up by a mound-shaped feature on the grip, making it nearly impossible to release the magazine unintentionally while shooting. That may sound weird, but I’ve seen two people out of hundreds I’ve worked with who do just that.
Not only did Ruger make the American compact easy to handle, it’s ready for rough duty. The interior mechanisms are all nickel Teflon coated, making it dust and mud resistant. Though this gun isn’t in the running for military use, Ruger took the initiative to build every part to military specifications (milspec), making it very tough indeed.
Among its tough-as-nails features, and setting it ahead of many peers, is a factory-tested +P ammunition rating. The gun’s been through a successful 20,000-round test with +P ammunition, known for causing problems with cycling and heat buildup in some models. Not this one. If you’re a +P ammo fan, the American compact is one of the few proven striker-fired choices for concealed carry.
Ruger showed its customers respect with the sights too. They selected reputable, visible, snag-resistant, and tough Novak LoMount carry sights, with an easy three-dot configuration. No need to rush out and buy a set of decent sights for your new gun—those come standard.
The trigger is, in my estimation, great for concealed carry and/or beginner use and practice. Using it reminded me of Smith & Wesson’s SDVE line. It has slightly longer travel and reset distance than a Glock, XDs, or Shield, but not by much. Reset is clear and palpable without being clunky. There is more travel from the reset point back to the “wall,” or point where the shot breaks, than I prefer.
However, it’s a fine trigger to learn on, and offers a methodical process that a new shooter can easily follow without getting overwhelmed. It’s also good enough to not be an insult to a good shooter. The perfect, happy medium.
The price is in the sweet spot, too. MSRP is $579; but you can grab it from Brownells for $449.99. Great job, Ruger. Thanks for listening to us. Tell us what you think in the comments below. Is this something you're planning on buying?