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Just obtained a new Ruger LC9. I know there are lots of reviews on the internet but I thought I would offer up some first impressions.
First some background….Been carrying a gun for 37 years, 34 of that in law enforcement. Been retired for 3 years now. I have carried just about everything over the years both on and off duty, undercover, as a backup etc. That goes from small .25 and .22 autos to j frame revolvers, original AMT Backup .380, Charter Arms .44 bulldogs, Star PD .45 auto, Keltec P32s and P11s, full size 1911s, Glocks, XDs, etc, etc.
Never was big fan of 9mm but I own several and carried a Keltec P11 which I thought was good pocket gun being a compromise between caliber and firepower. Recently I’ve been carrying a small Charter Arms Off Duty .38 with a hip grip just stuck in my waistband/appendix carry. Works well but I would prefer something with a higher capacity. I sold my P11 about 5 years ago to a friend of my wife who had a threatening ex husband. The deal was I get to buy it back when she no longer needs it or has replaced it with something else. Been looking at replacing the P11 with another one if I could find one at a good price. Other alternatives were the Ruger LCP in . 380, the Keltec 3AT from which the Ruger design was stolen/borrowed, the Keltec PF9, a single stack 9mm or the Ruger LC9 which is Ruger’s version of the PF9, another borrowed design. I preferred 9mm over .380 so the PF9 and LCP were choices one being cheap and the other being free. The Ruger contest I won allowed me to pick a couple free guns so the choice became obvious.
The Ruger LC9, note inner tube on grip
Ruger has come a long way with their service pistols since the “P” series. The “Ps” (P89, P90, P95, P97) were good guns but somewhat heavy and clunky. Not very esthetic either. Ruger’s LC (LCP 380 and LC9) as well as their new SR series (9, 40 & 45) are much nicer looking and working pistols. The LC9 is a good looking and well made pocket gun.
It is a nice size for a pocket pistol. It is shorter than my classic Colt Model 1903 .32 which is the granddaddy standard of pocket pistols. The LC9 is not too small or two big though I can only get two fingers on the grip. The grip is also pretty thin and is IMO uncomfortable to hold. Overall though the pistol is well rounded and ergonomic.
Left to right… SA XD9, Colt 1903, Ruger LC9, Charter Arms Off Duty .38
Good and Bad and Indifferent
Nice size for a pocket gun
Trigger while very long was pretty smooth on this pistol.
7 round mag is better than a 5 shot revolver. I also got an 9 round extended mag
Accurate and reliable-I put a hundred rounds of 5 different kinds of ammo. All shoot to point of aim and no malfunctions.
Long, long trigger pull. You really have to learn the trigger and resets on this pistol or you will definitely short stroke it.
Small sights with small white dots.
Need a tool to field strip it (the safety key can be used but who is going to carry that around with them?)
With the small grip the recoil is stout and follow up shots need considerable concentration on the target.
It comes with a bunch of safety features including a manual thumb safety, a loaded chamber indicator, magazine disconnect safety and a key lock out. In our litigious society these are added to keep idiots from shooting themselves or others and suing the company.
I listed these as indifferent since you don’t really need to use any of them except the mag disconnect. I am used to a thumb safety on my 1911 and other pistols but with the long double action trigger pull (The Keltec P11, P32 don’t have safeties) you really don’t need an additional safety. Don’t like it? Don’t use it. However, whatever you decide to do at least be consistent. Either use it all the time or don’t use it at all. In a stressful situation you will get confused and forget whether it is on or off.
Same goes with the key lock out thing. I would never use it since I no longer have kids in the house but it is a way to store it safely if others could have access to it. On the other hand this is a carry pistol not a home defense gun so it is likely to be in someone’s procession most of the time, not stored.
You can lock the gun with a key
I didn’t even notice the loaded chamber indicator when I loaded the pistol. Some people don’t like it because of the why it looks, I don’t really care one way or another.
Loaded chamber indicator. It not only shows you, it tells you
Mag disconnect. I’ve read reviews by people who say that the mag safety is tactically unsound in that you can’t shoot the gun during a reload. Consequently, they maintain, that the gun is not suitable as a carry gun except as a back up since it leaves you vulnerable. I get the ultimate tactics thing but it can sometimes be taken too far. A revolver can’t be fired during a reload, neither can an empty semi auto. So don’t carry them either??? Some people also advocate disabling the mag disconnect. I’ve done that on some guns (Browning Hi-Power) but I don’t advocate it from a liability issue. If someone (grandchild, spouse whoever) were to pick up your modified gun and inadvertently shoot themselves or someone else YOU ARE NEGLIGENT for disabling that safety device.
Recoil is snappy. Small light pistol with full power 9mm=snappy recoil. You have to learn it.
Mods and fixes:
First thing I did was dab some White Out, typewriter correction fluid (remember typewriters?) on the front and rear sights so I could see them better. That stuff lasts but is easy to remove. My eyes are older and I don’t pick up the front sight so well anymore.
Second thing is the old bicycle inner tube custom grip trick. Yeah, you could buy a slip on rubber grip thing. All my guns get the inner tube thing because it works and it cheap. Makes the grip more comfortable.
Third is ordering a belt clip for it. I had a belt clip on my P11 which allowed it to be carried inside the waistband without a holster. I also have one on my P32. They are a really handy way to carry these types of guns. Some people feel uncomfortable carrying a gun without a holster. I get that but save your preaching. This thing has a long, long double action trigger pull and a manual safety. Do what’s comfortable for you, I’ll do what works for me.
The LC9 shown with belt clip
I know these are considered pocket guns but I’ve never really liked carrying a gun in a pocket even with a holster. I prefer it on or inside the belt.
I haven’t carried it out and about as my primary weapon yet but have been carrying it around the stuck in my waistband. It is very comfortable to carry to the point I forget I have it.
Size: 6″L X 4″H X .90″W
Weighs 17.1 oz,
Comes with one 7 round single stack mag. 2 round extenders are available
MSRP for the LC9 is $449 Street price runs $360-400
UPDATE: Since this article was written I have been carrying the LC9 pretty regularly. I do admit however that all those safeties bother me. Kind of a like an itch I can’t scratch. I don’t know why but it just bothers me. It’s like unnecessary clutter or something. In the mean time Ruger has come out with other versions of the LC9. The LC9s is a single action version that uses a short single action trigger that is a vast improvement over the long double action on the original. It retains all the safety features of the original. The LC9s Pro is single action version that eliminates the manual safety, chamber indicator and key lock. All those things I felt were unnecessary and that bother me. Apparently many others felt the same way and Ruger listened to them. I’ve had a chance to shoot the single action version and it is a huge improvement over the double action one. My original is now for sale and I will pick up an S Pro version when I get a chance.
It should be noted that prices have come down since the original article was written (at least online prices). I’ve seen the original LC9 online for as little as $289 and the single action versions for around $320. Check cdnnsports.com and budsgunshop.com and/or kygunco.com for good prices on these and other guns.
It should also be noted that Glock finally came out with a single stack compact 9mm called the 41.
If you lived in a place where poisonous snakes were a problem you could,
A-walk around them
B-hit them with a stick
C-treat them with a dose of lead from a firearm of your choice.
A popular concept in the southern swamps and south west deserts was to carry a small shotgun for traveling in the bush. Small shotguns were also carried on fishing boats for water snakes and out on the oceans for finishing off unruly catches. Often these shotguns were inexpensive single shots cut down to minimum legal barrel and overall length. Just as often they were in the minimum caliber one could find, that being .410, (.410 is a caliber, not a gauge.) And yes, one could use various shot cartridges in pistols but single shot shotguns, particularly in .410 bore, were both light weight, cheap and ubiquitous in rural areas. Such shotguns became known as “snake charmers”.
Original Snake Charmer advertisement
Sometime in the late 1970s or early 80’s a Texan named Homer Koon marketed a small .410 shotgun under the name “Snake Charmer”. What was unique about it was that it was all stainless steel, light weight (about 3 lbs) and had a short stock with storage for four shells and was scaled down that made it more suitable for one handed operation than shooting from the shoulder.
At some point the design was sold or the company was reorganized. The design was modified with the addition of a manual safety switch which blocked the hammer when engaged. The improved shotgun was re-named the “Snake Charmer II” and manufactured by Sporting Arms Manufacturing Inc, in Littlefield, Texas.. Later the design was sold and/or obtained by V.B. E. Inc with manufacturing moved to Clay Center, Kansas. V.B.E Inc is a subsidiary of the french arms company Verny-Carron. Current versions are reportedly made in Turkey for Verny-Carron and imported into the U.S. by Kebco LLC in Hanover, PA. NOTE: The last time I checked Buds Gun Shop has the SCII listed as being manufactured by YBE Inc and notes that it is called the Verny-Carron Snake Charmer II. Neither Kebco LLC which imports Verny-Carron firearms or VC themselves list the Snake Charmer II in their catalogs. I can find no company called YBE Inc listed that has anything to do with guns.
Mine is marked Littlefield Texas (highlighted with red grease pencil)
Koon’s original Snake Charmer is marked, H.Koon, Inc, Dallas Texas. The Snake Charmer IIs may be marked Sporting Arms Mfg, Littlefield, Texas or perhaps V.B.E Inc Clay Center KS. Imported ones would have the importer (Kebco LLC) marked on them. My Snake Charmer II has the Littlefield TX marks with a serial number in the low 14,000 range.
My slightly modified Charmer. Mods include a Sten gun sling and cartridge holder.
I don’t live in the south and in fact my state has only one small, rarely seen poisonous snake so my need for a “snake charmer” is about zero. On the other hand a small .410 shotgun has some use for other critters, and so I bought one back in the 1980s. It was cheap and kind of unique looking so what the heck? I carried it in my truck and occasionally on my ATV when out in the boonies. Never had an occasion to actually shoot snakes with it or anything other than paper for that matter. It has been stashed away at my hunting property for the last 10 years or so and I recently uncovered it. Mine is modified by adding a belt slide cartridge holder slipped over the fore stock. It is held in place by the fore arm stock screw. This allows 6 additional shells to be carried in addition to 4 shells stored in the buttstock, it gives me a total of 10 shots at my finger tips.
Mine was stored with a combination of 2.5″ shells containing #6 birdshot and Russian Silver Bear 3″ shells with slugs. Those slugs are 97 grains with a muzzle velocity of 1600 feet per second. That’s enough power to take white tail deer with. Not that you should with a small hand shotgun with no sights..
Shell holder in stock
Winchester slug next to the 3″ Silver Bear slugs and some bird shot loads
On the other hand it is kind of fun to shoot. Even the 3″ slugs don’t recoil much and one handed trap shooting is fun and challenging. A single shot is not ideal for self defense but it certainly is powerful enough with slugs and/or some of the newer self defense loads to be used as such. Any gun is better than no gun and the mere presence of a firearm usually ends any contentious behavior. Just be aware that at ranges where you don’t need sights, (normal sized room in a house) you only have one shot before an assailant would be on you.
One handed use is easy. Note the safety switch just above trigger.
At only 3 lbs, the Snake Charmer II is pretty light weight compared to some other similar shotguns. Rossi, Harrington and Richardson/NEF made a survival type single shots. Some of them were/are even named “Snake Charmer” or “Snake Tamer” with similar looking stocks. They were however simply shortened version of their regular shotguns. The Snake Charmer II is scaled down in all dimensions.
Cut 6″ off each end of an H&R single shot and it is still much bigger and heavier than a much smaller scaled Snake Charmer II
Good and Bad
The good thing about the Snake Charmer II is that it is compact, light weight, and weather resistant. I carried mine in the front cargo box of my ATV for a number of years (cased and unloaded). It carries extra shells in the stock. It is fun to shoot, is unique looking and functional for what it was intended. The bad is that it is limited in use, doesn’t have swappable barrels or a conventional stock. It doesn’t have sights and the manual safety is quirky. Unlike the H&R which has a shell ejector, the Snake Charmer II has a shell extractor that does not throw the shells clear when opened. It is also somewhat expensive if you can find one. A H&R single is often found in pawn shops at or below $100. While never being as small the H&R/NEF singles are easily cut down and survival stocks and accessories are available for them. On the other hand, the Snake Charmer II is a somewhat unique conversation piece.
Current Specifications and features:
Verney-Carron Snake Charmer II break-top action shotgun
.410 Bore, 3″ chamber
2 red dot safety mechanism
Molded ABS plastic stock
Stainless steel receiver & barrel
Short pistol grip
29″ overall length
MSRP Price: Around $170 (if you can find one, they are no longer listed as available on any website I’ve found). Used ones are often found on gunbroker and other auction sites.
FYI: The ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) has ruled that smooth bore firearms that were not made from a shotgun i.e, a firearm intended to be fired from the shoulder, i.e, one that came from the factory with a butt stock, were actually simply a “firearm”. Consequently they are not subject to the barrel restriction of 18″. The are however subject to the overall length (OAL) restriction of 26″. Under 26″ it is considered a SBS or Short Barrel Shotgun. Over 26″ regardless of barrel length is is considered simply a “firearm”. This ruling was in regard to the pistol grip shotguns that came from the factory that way. Mossberg and some other companies offered “home defense” or “cruiser” style pistol grip shotguns from the factory. They can in fact have barrels shorter than 18″ with no taxes or NFA (National Firearms Act) registration or restriction. So the question, would the Snake Charmer fall within the same category. It obviously was not intended or manufactured to be fired from the shoulder. With an OAL of 29″, conceivably the barrel could be cut by three inches to make the overall length 26″ inches.