Ruger came out with the greatest innovation in revolver technology in some sixty years with their Lightweight Compact Revolver line of guns. The LCRs are a lightweight, hammerless revolver designed specifically for personal defense and is chambered in 38 Special. The problem is when you couple a relatively powerful round in a light handgun, it makes the gun harder to shoot, especially for those getting a gun for defense for the first time. Even so, the LCR 38 sells quite well and the shooting community was demanding them in different calibers and Ruger answered. Their LCR 22 seemed like a natural choice for a no-frills handgun that could reliably cycle the recoiless (and not entirely reliable) 22 LR cartridge.
The 22 LR definitely is at the bottom floor of self defense calibers, but fewer people dismiss the 22 Magnum cartridge. Revolvers chambered for the fast, little round are getting increasingly popular and I was excited to see the chambering in the LCR platform, though I personally never liked the looks of the gun. But I caved and bought one anyway. Here is the rundown:
Ruger’s LCR 22 Magnum is the same size as the others in the line and, therefore, will use standard LCR holsters and accessories. It features an aluminum frame and barrel shroud. This is coupled with a polymer grip frame, hammer shroud, and trigger guard. The important bits, like the six shot cylinder and barrel, are stainless steel. The cylinder and ejector rod assembly is released via a push button on the left side. Like the other LCRs, the 22 Mag has the same Hogue Tamer grip.
The sighting system is fairly typical with a removable black ramped front sight and a rear notch milled into the top strap of the frame.
The 22 Magnum cartridge is a rimfire round developed for rifles, but later found its way into handguns. Though you won’t achieve high velocities out of the LCR’s 1.875 inch barrel, it will still outperform the 22 LR in velocity. Unlike the LR round, 22 Mag ammunition comes in more variety other than just plated lead and ammo quality tends to be better across the board.
At The Range
I loaded up on three types of 22 Magnum ammo for three different range outings. The ammo included:
Speer Gold Dot 40 grain JHPs
Winchester Power Point 40 grain JHPs
Hornady 30 grain VMax
All shooting was done at seven and fifteen yards distance.
And my conclusion?
In short, it is complicated.
Loading the LCR is easy enough by pushing in on the cylinder release and loading six rounds of 22 Magnum ammunition before closing the cylinder and engaging the target. The stock sights are easy enough to pick up and they are low profile so there won’t be any snagging involved when drawing the gun from cover. You may choose to unpin the front sight and install a more visible post like the XS standard or large dot, but I want to know how well the gun will shoot out of the box.
And it does shoot. Since there is no external hammer to cock, or snag on clothes, all there is to do is pull the trigger.
With all the ammunition available, you can place all the rounds into a 2-3 inch group at seven yards with not so slow fire with Hornady’s offering giving the best accuracy at 2 inches even at that distance.
The same is repeated at fifteen yards, but with the groups widening out to about 12 inches. Recoil was nonexistent, even firing one handed. Even so, the Tamer grip that is stock for recoil management on the LCR line is hand filling and comfortable.
Even though the gun can only be fired by a long double action pull, I have put a few new shooters behind the little snubby with surprising results with only basic instruction on how to load and unload the weapon.
But with all that light recoil, the 22 Mag could not have any power? Right?
Well, here are some three shot average velocity readings.
Speer Gold Dot–1011 fps
Winchester Power Point–978 fps
The 22 WMR round has been gaining acceptance recently and has been chambered in a number of defensive revolvers like the NAA Mini, the Charter Arms Pathfinder, and the Smith & Wesson 351. It’s a nice, lightweight option that gives you a few more rounds over a standard 38 Special revolver of the same size and some loads are on par in penetration. While speed does not necessarily show penetration, it does show greater power than a 22 LR even out of a little gun like the LCR with recoil more on par with the 22 LR.
The trigger pull on the LCR is deceptively smooth, breaking at about 8 lbs 6 oz. However, like all DA revolvers, it’s a long pull and a long reset. During testing, I have occasionally not allowed the trigger to fully reset.
The gun’s mechanical reliability was excellent and straightforward through some four hundred rounds. But in that time, some potential negatives came to my attention. My main gripes are:
1) The Ammo
The 22 WMR round is a better constructed and manufactured round than the 22 LR, but being a rimfire, misfires are still possible. It happened four times with the Winchester fodder and it took a second strike to set off those rounds. While a revolver like the LCR will fire again just by pulling the trigger, it means one less round in the cylinder at that time. The Speer and Hornady brands had no such trouble. The price for good 22 WMR ammo is a good deal more expensive than 22 LR, though not more expensive than popular centerfire options like 380 and 9mm defensive ammunition.
I am no engineer, but I feel the LCR should hold more than six rounds. One more round than the LCR in 38 Special, but having seven shots like the S&W 351 sounds a little better.
3) The Reload
Granted, I am a revolver shooter and I enjoy practicing reloads. None of this matters if the LCR is a range or trail gun, but the LCR is really marketed for self defense. Opening the cylinder and a quick stroke of the ejector rod will knock some cases free but often times I found myself pulling out stuck cases. The ejector rod will only push the long Magnum cases out half-way. That is a consequence of being proportional to the short barrel and most snubbie revolvers won’t fully eject the empties. Once you are finally empty, the gun has to be reloaded. Loading a few at a time from the pocket is fine at the range, but there are few speed reloading options out there. I had the chance to try a 5 Star Firearms speedloader with good results and it is really the only economical loader on the market available for the LCR 22 Mag. Speed strips are more available and they work fine. They just are not as fast.
So did Ruger hit a mark with the LCR 22 Mag? The revolver is accurate and simple to understand. The power is still there even with a barrel that is under two inches. Despite the lack of speed reloading options and the occasional ammo hiccup, I think Ruger has put out a good defensive revolver. The goal was less recoil than the 38 Special and that was met. The LCR has little recoil (but plenty of video muzzle flash). Yet, it is still superior to a lot of small defensive rounds out there. Unlike the triggers on other revolvers, the LCR is easy to shoot and to shoot well, all things considered. All in all, if you are looking for a defensive handgun that will do the work but not be intimidating to shoot, and to shoot well, the LCR might be up your alley. And if you shoot a lot, the LCR would make a great addition nonetheless, defeating the notion that snub nosed revolvers are unshootable.