As we near the end of the second decade of the 21st century, the sub-compact 9 mm semi-automatic pistol has taken its place at the top of the pocket-pistol and daily-carry hill. These guns have become so popular because they provide a level of performance on par with the venerable 5-shot .38-Spl. revolver with the slim profile and quicker reloading speeds of the less powerful pocket .380s. Ruger has had its thumb firmly stuck in the pocket-9 pie since the beginning of the decade with the LC9. The recent addition of the EC9s to the line-up shows that the product is continuing to evolve in order to meet market demands.
The original Light-Carry 9 (LC9) was based on the successful Light Carry Pistol (LCP) chambered for the .380 ACP cartridge. To accommodate the larger, more powerful 9 mm round, the slide length and grip height were stretched by about an inch and the gun was generally beefed up all around, nearly doubling the weight from 9.6 oz. to 17.2 oz.
The first version of the LC9, with its exposed hammer, double-action trigger, manual thumb safety and magazine disconnect, was launched during the 2011 SHOT Show. The original trigger was universally panned by the public and critics alike for its heavy, sluggish pull. The trigger issue was neatly remedied in July 2014 with the arrival of the LC9s, the lower case “s” in the name standing for Striker-Fired. The exposed hammer was replaced with an end plate and an integral safety lever was added to the trigger while the magazine disconnect and thumb safety remained intact.
The LC9s Pro model started shipping at the end of 2014. The Pro moniker indicates that the pistol does not have a magazine disconnect and will fire with the magazine removed. Some folks want a magazine disconnect and some don't, so the addition of a Pro covers both requests. Last year I needed an example of a popular pocket 9 mm to use as a photography model, so Ruger kindly loaned me the LC9s Pro. I liked it so much that I went ahead and bought it for personal use.
When I mentioned my fondness for the LC9s Pro to a Ruger representative at a trade show a few months later, I was given a tidbit of confidential information: Ruger was planning to launch a new version of the LC9s called the Everyday Carry 9 (EC9s) that would slash the suggested retail price from $449 to $299. And how would this impressive price cut be accomplished? Fixed sights. Really? That's it? Yes, the dovetailed, removable 3-dot sight system would be replaced with milled-in sights instead. That particular change to the pistol's manufacturing process would drop the price that much, making the new pistol one of the most competitively priced options in its class. I had to see it for myself.
Like previous LC9s models, the EC9s features a Browning-type, tilting-barrel lock-up with the black oxide-finished carbon steel slide. The slide is beveled and rounded off at key points to make it easy to draw and comfortable to carry. A sturdy all-steel, dual recoil spring assembly is paired with the 3.12" barrel. A witness hole at the top of the chamber allows the operator to verify the chamber status without the need for a press check.
The slide is supported by a milled aluminum chassis set into the glass-filled nylon frame. The chassis rails are 3.85" long on both sides from the rear of the chassis to just past the trigger. The slide catch, thumb safety and magazine release are all found on the left side of the frame. The slide does lock open on the last shot. The metallic safety lever is quite small but easy to operate. The round polymer magazine release button is textured for better purchase. The grip frame is carefully contoured throughout with effective, but not abrasive, molded-in checkering on all four sides.
The EC9s is a “standard” model with a magazine disconnect. In order to safely facilitate the field stripping process, which requires the trigger to be pressed, Ruger provides a bright orange filler plate to be installed in the grip in place of the magazine. The blued steel 7-round magazine ships with a flush-fit and extended finger rest baseplate. Additional magazines with 7- and 9-round capacities are available at shopruger.com.
At the shooting range, I took some time to compare the removable LC9s 3-dot sight system to the more budget-friendly fixed sights of the EC9s. The EC9s sights are both serrated to reduce glare and the rear sight notch is nice and wide so that it's easy to see. On a bright, sunny day at the range I found them to be no more difficult to work with than the 3-dots. It was also clear that the exterior finish of the EC9s slide was not as polished as that of the LC9s, which can be seen in the photographs.
So it comes down to a matter of personal preference. Remember, this is not a sporting or hunting handgun. It's intended for close-quarters defense against threats at arm’s length to across-the-room distances. The fixed sights do the job, but if you want to install night sights, you'll need to pony up the cash for an LC9s. If you are looking to install a laser sight system, the EC9s frame is identical to that of the LC9s. This means you can take advantage of top-quality options including the trigger housing mounted LaserMax (left) GripSense activated light and laser model or the Crimson Trace (right) green and red laser options.
At the shooting range the EC9s had the same familiar feel as the LC9s. With the exception of the change to the sights, everything else about it was the same, including the metronome-like reliability with all ammunition fired. The trigger exhibited a smooth trigger pull of 5 lbs. 5 oz. with a longer stroke similar to that of a double-action revolver. The trigger reset is distinctive but the trigger has to be released about 3/5th of the way along its arch of travel to reach it.
Small 9s like this can be quite snappy with defensive loads, especially some of the +P options on the market. SIG Sauer is working to tame the 9 mm pocket rocket with the new 365 ammunition line designed specifically for sub-compacts with barrels under 4" in length. From a benchrest with targets set at 7 yards, the 365 115-gr. V-Crown jacketed hollow point tapped out a best single 5-shot group of 1.62" with a five-group average of 1.70". The felt recoil was surprisingly manageable with this load, with a feel much more like the Ruger LC380 chambered in .380 ACP than the typical pocket 9 mm. According to a Lab Radar chronograph, this load averages a muzzle velocity of 1,055 f.p.s. for a muzzle energy of 284 ft.-lbs.
The affordably priced 365 115-gr. full-metal-jacket practice load is ballistically matched to the V-Crown defense load. It produced a best group of 1.65", a group average of 1.73” and it scooted along at 1,063 f.p.s. for 289 ft.-lbs. of energy. For comparison, the last ammunition tested was SIG Sauer's excellent Elite Performance 124-gr. V-Crown jacketed hollow point which yielded a best group of 1.66" with an average of 1.77". But the switch to this load resulted in the familiar, less-than-enjoyable levels of felt recoil. It’s certainly manageable, but not all that fun to work with. A look at the performance results showed an increased muzzle velocity of 1,108 f.p.s. for 338 ft.-lbs. of energy. More performance is available but less felt recoil is an option too.
If you haven't figured it out by now, I like the Ruger LC9s series of semi-automatic pistols. So much so, that I bought one for myself before conducting any formal reviews. The new fixed sight EC9s provides nearly all of the same advantages as the LC9s model but at a lower price. Real world pricing for the LC9s is hovering right around $300 these days with the EC9s selling for an average of $50 less. Whichever you choose, these pocket 9 mms are a lot of bang for the buck.
Specifications: Manufacturer: Sturm, Ruger & Co. Model: EC9s (3283) Action: Striker-Fired Browning-Type Tilting-Barrel Semi-Automatic Caliber: 9 mm Slide: Carbon Steel with Non-Reflective Black Oxide Finish Frame: Black High Performance Glass-Filled Nylon Grips: Integral Diamond Pattern Checkering Sights: Fixed Trigger: Double-Action Only Trigger Pull: 5 lbs. 5 oz. (As Tested) Barrel Length: 3.12" Overall Length: 6.00" Height: 4.50" Slide Width: 0.90" Weight: 17.8 oz. with Empty Magazine Capacity: 7+1 or 9+1 Rounds Rifling Twist Rate: 1:10” RH Grooves: 6 Accessories: One Magazine, Two Magazine Baseplates, Field Strip Magazine Insert, Lock, Owner's Manual MSRP: $299