Ruger has dubbed its latest revolver the LCR, for Lightweight Carry Revolver—a name that is certainly appropriate, as it possesses all the features one would want in a snub-nose wheelgun. It has a short, 17⁄8-inch barrel, and a slim, five-shot cylinder rated for .38 Spl. + P. Its hammer is shrouded by the frame, so it cannot be deliberately or accidentally thumb-cocked. In sum, the LCR has what it is supposed to have and does what it is supposed to do; and on that basis alone, it is certainly worthy of note.
Although the LCR is similar in size and weight to a Smith & Wesson Airweight J-frame and compatible with many of the same holsters, it is not a clone. The LCR’s construction, like its two-piece frame without sideplates, is a mixture of proven features associated with Ruger revolvers and fresh innovation. Foremost among the latter is its polymer grip frame, or as Ruger calls it, the fire-control housing, which contains the trigger, hammer, sear and mainspring. It may not be the first revolver with a major component built from polymer, but it is the first available for commercial sale in the United States. Having closely examined the LCR in detail and shot it extensively, I am comfortable saying that it is not just a curiosity. The LCR is a mechanically sound, good-shooting wheelgun well-suited for discreet carry.
Described in detail, the Ruger LCR consists of three major component groups: an aluminum cylinder frame/barrel assembly; the polymer fire-control housing; and the stainless steel cylinder/crane assembly. Forged from 7000-series aircraft-grade aluminum, Ruger describes the cylinder frame/barrel assembly as monolithic, in that the barrel sleeve is an integral part of the frame, rather than a separate piece. Hardened steel bushings reinforce the area around the center pin and firing pin. The aluminum frame supports the cylinder and crane and provides the housing for the front cylinder latch, firing pin and cylinder release. The 17⁄8"-long, 1714 stainless steel barrel is threaded into the barrel sleeve. The cylinder gap is determined by the barrel’s thread-in-depth seating, so only one pass with a file is needed as a final check for fit. The stepped contour of the recoil shield is a stylistic carryover from other Ruger revolvers. Given its purpose as a carry arm, Ruger paid particular attention to the finish of the LCR. Accordingly, hard anodizing is fused with a baked-on polymer surface filler to produce the black finish on the cylinder frame. Ruger claims this process creates a rugged finish with a C60 Rockwell hardness comparable to the durability of a metal file. Ruger tested the finish against saltwater exposure and the unique corrosive effects of body sweat.
The aluminum frame supports a 400-series stainless steel cylinder deeply fluted to minimize weight and reduce its tendency to print. The cylinder measures just 1.280" in diameter, making it the smallest .38-cal. revolver cylinder on the market. Ruger’s chief engineer for revolvers, Joseph Zajk, told me, “Ruger prides itself on its metallurgy. Impurities in the steel have been thoroughly removed, so we can be sure that this minimum-dimension cylinder will withstand the stress of +P loads.” The LCR’s cylinder is retained by a spring-loaded front cylinder latch pin in the barrel shroud that mates with the front of the ejector rod. Depressing the tail of the cylinder release button, located on the left-hand side of the frame, allows the cylinder and crane to swing out to the left for loading and unloading. Despite Ruger’s expertise in investment casting, the cylinder crane is the only major component of the LCR made through that process....