In recent years, Ruger has begun to introduce a line of what I call combat-capable arms specifically intended for personal security or law enforcement applications. Guns such as the super-popular LCP, the LCR, the service-grade SR9 pistol and its little brother the SR9 compact are certainly police-capable. But if we take a look at what American law enforcement and many legally armed citizens currently want in a carry pistol, you’ll find a reasonably sized .40 caliber semiauto is one of (if not the) most popular choices currently available. Guns such as the Glock 22 and Smith & Wesson M&P in .40 SW are hot with both cops and concerned citizens.
It therefore isn’t surprising Ruger has introduced a service-grade, trim, light, easy-to-shoot striker-fired autoloader in .40 SW—the SR40.
The original SR9 got off to a rocky start with Ruger recalling the guns almost as soon as they were introduced. It was discovered that the gun could fire if dropped, and while there were few such instances, Ruger did the right thing and fixed them all and included a free magazine for the customer’s trouble.
Such problems have not been the case with the new SR40 because Ruger spent a long time working on this gun to make sure all of the bugs were worked out of the design before it brought it to market. I got the opportunity to shoot one of the prototype pistols in the spring of 2010, and I was instantly impressed with both the trigger, hand-to-gun fit and accuracy.
Other than a slide with more bulk to help control the increased slide velocity the .40 SW produces, the gun felt just like the SR9. All of the same features are included, such as a thin grip frame with the reversible backstrap to better fit a wide variety of hand sizes. The grip is intended to follow the lines of the 1911 as closely as possible, keeping in mind that the grip is a bit thicker. The flat backstrap simulates a 1911 with a flat mainspring housing, while the arched version simulates the more curved housing. The grip-to-trigger circumference is short so the gun will fit the hand of even the most diminutive shooter.
Speaking of the 1911, ambidextrous safety levers are located at the rear of the SR40 frame just below the slide much like the classic Browning design. Some like these and some don’t, and I admit to ignoring them and using the SR much like a Glock by merely drawing, pointing and pressing the trigger. I’ve come to believe armed conflict is not the time to complicate one’s manual of arms, and while it’s true training can overcome many problems, simplicity is easier to learn, practice and maintain. So, by not engaging the safety levers, I make it a bit easier on myself.
That said, if you’ve anchored thumb safety lever manipulation into your motor skill, then by all means use them! The gun is not a single action, cocked pistol like the 1911, so it’s perfectly safe to carry the gun with a round in the chamber and the thumb safety off.
The trigger on my test gun broke at 6 lbs. and was pretty smooth with a reset distance right at .33″, making it very shootable. Arthur Viani from Ghost Inc., the man who introduced the improved trigger connector for Glock pistols, has introduced a similar device for the SR that makes the trigger even smoother while eliminating any over-travel. Don’t misunderstand: Every time Ruger has introduced a new version of the SR, the trigger has improved—it’s just that the Ghost SR trigger makes it that much better.
A safety lever is located in the center of the trigger face to ensure that the gun doesn’t discharge unless direct pressure is applied straight to the rear of the trigger face. The trigger and lever offer a smooth surface that doesn’t irritate the trigger finger.
The magazine release button is ambidextrous and is in the new D-shape configuration introduced on the SR9c. This new button offers a flat engagement surface to the rear that helps engage the skin on the thumb, creating a positive inward push.
Each SR40 comes with two magazines. The magazines hold 15 rounds each (10 in states that require it) and have flat ledges on each side so you can strip the magazine from the gun in the event of an in-line failure to extract (i.e, a double feed). Being able to strip the magazine during this cataclysmic stoppage simplifies the clearance procedure. You don’t have to lock the slide open to release pressure on the magazine, hastening the clearance process. If this ever happens to you when bullets are flying, you will quickly appreciate just how important this little feature is!
The sights on the SR40 are adjustable for both windage and elevation and were one of my original complaints about the SR9. However, while shooting the SR9 during a Gunsite 250 course, Michael Bane, the host of the Shooting Gallery TV show, set me straight on adjustable sights. “Dave, there are a lot of folks out there who are going to take this gun to their gun club and are going to sight it in for various loads. Part of the enjoyment will be their ability to chart how much they need to adjust the sights to do this. Sighting in is an enjoyable activity.”
Sometimes my law enforcement background gets in the way of my view of any tool, and I lose sight of the big picture. Of course Michael is right, and the sights on the Ruger are durable and hold up very well. However, if you want fixed sights on your SR pistol, which will be the case for many who intend to use the gun for combative applications, they are available from both Ameriglo and XS Sights. XS offers its classic shallow V rear, large-dot tritium front, while Ameriglo offers several configurations of the more traditional post front/notch rear sight including tritium, Luminova, flat black and serrated versions.
The frame on the SR40 is identical to the SR9, which includes an equipment rail molded into the dust cover. I like the way Ruger has executed this feature, keeping it low profile unlike other pistols where the mounting rail jumps out at you as soon as you look at the pistol. (I don’t like my personal guns to look as if they have a set of railroad tracks on the frame.) The frame will be available in both black and OD green, and the stainless slide will be made available in both black and brushed stainless finish
The slide is the big difference between the SR40 and the original SR pistol. Like other designs, the slide is wider, has a breech face cut for the .40 SW cartridge and of course, a wider internal diameter of the barrel. It’s not a 9mm pistol “drilled out” to fit the .40 SW.
Because the SR40 is a striker-fired pistol, the bore axis is low over the hand, helping to reduce muzzle flip and offering good point-ability. This helps you get the gun on target fast, a feature that can’t be underrated in conflict.
As most readers know, the .40 SW can be a real gun killer because the bullet’s weight plus its increased velocity can place a great deal of strain on the frame, especially one made of polymer. Ruger took this into account and created a heavy recoil spring and guide rod that helps tame the impact of the slide on the frame when you fire the gun. Of course, this spring also works well with the low bore axis to make the Ruger SR40 very comfortable to shoot.
To test the SR40’s accuracy, I bench rested it at 25 yards using Giles Bags from The Wilderness, and Dirty Bird targets from Birchwood Casey. Using a number of proven loads, I shot five-round groups and measured them at their widest point. I measured velocity by placing a Shooting Chrony chronograph 15 feet in front of the gun’s muzzle and reporting the average of the five rounds.
I also opted to replace the factory adjustable sights with a new set from Ameriglo. I see the SR40 as a combat handgun and feel that fixed sights are a better choice for this application.
- Corbon 135 grain DPX: 2.5″ group, 1,189 fps
- Remington 155 grain JHP: 2.5″ group, 1,147 fps
- Winchester 165 grain SXT: 2″ group, 1,078 fps
- Federal 165 grain HST: 2.75″ group, 1,089 fps
- Hornady 180 grain EXP: 1.5″ group, 942 fps
The six-groove, one-in-10 rate of twist, combined with the orange front/serrated rear fixed sights from Ameriglo, proved to be the right combination for the SR40—all of the rounds tested were more than what I would call combat accurate.
Remember: It’s quite likely this gun will be used closer than 25 yards, but the confrontation will be fluid, so being able to hold the rounds inside an 8” circle while both you and the target are moving would be a much better test for combative applications. Of course, such a test wouldn’t help the reader come to an informed decision because it would combine the shooter’s mettle, the environment and other related factors. Needless to say, the SR40 is capable of this type of accuracy provided the shooter is!
I never like to waste an opportunity to get in a bit of practice, so I spent the remainder of the range session performing some combat-related drills. I used a Blade-Tech Eclipse pancake-style concealment holster molded for the SR9, and even though it was a bit snug, it still proved to be a good performer as I worked through some holster skills, El Presidente drills, reloads, malfunction clearances (using dummy rounds) and some seated and prone shooting. Running the SR40 hard and fast is not difficult due to the short trigger action, the recoil spring system and the low bore axis.
I did suffer a few malfunctions early on, all of which were failure to feeds, but I find this to be common with many new guns, so I just tap-racked my way through them and it cleared itself up within the first 25–30 rounds.
Important: Always test your gun with the load you intend to carry before you hit the street! New guns often choke a bit and need a break-in period, so do yourself a favor and break them in!
Admittedly, I like the SR9 a lot, so I took to the SR40 quickly. Sure, I shot the .40 SW a bit slower than I do the 9mm, but this is normal and can be overcome with a bit of practice. What I would like to see is Ruger develop a compact model between the SR and the SRc series, something the size of a say, a Glock 19. I would also prefer a bit less length to the slide (over the grip tang) because I’ve found that when I draw from the holster, the web of my hand can sometimes snag at this spot (I realize this is a small thing).
In the end, I think that the SR40 will be a hugely popular addition to the Ruger line. Will it be the next Handgun of the Year? Only time will tell. For those who like the SR9 but just want a gun with a 4 in the caliber designation, this would appear to be the gun for you.
Dave Spaulding is a 28-year law-enforcement veteran, retiring at the rank of lieutenant. He’s worked in all facets of law enforcement—corrections, communications, patrol, evidence collection, investigations, undercover operations, training and SWAT. He currently operates Handgun Combatives, a handgun-combat training program, and he’s authored more than 800 articles for various firearm and law enforcement periodicals. In 2010 Spaulding received the Law Officer Trainer of the Year award, and he’s also the author of the best-selling books Defensive Living and Handgun Combatives.
|.40 SW||15+1, 10+1||4.14″||7.55″||5.52″||1.4″||27.25 oz.|
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