Ruger American Pistol 9mm Review : Let’s see how it compares.

by Daniel Young

March 1, 2023

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Ruger has struggled to compete in the full size pistol market for many years. Is the American the pistol that can change their losing streak? Lets find out in our Ruger American Pistol review.

A duty sized polymer handgun in 9mm.

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Ruger American Pistol Specs

  • Name Ruger American Pistol
  • Caliber 9mm Luger
  • Magazine Capacity 17+1
  • Action Striker Fired
  • Frame Glass Filled Nylon
  • Sights Novak 3-Dot
  • Slide Stainless Steel
  • Barrel Length 4.2 inches
  • Weight 30 ounces

Ruger American Pistol Background

Ruger’s revolvers are respected as one of the best options in the domestic market. They successfully blend overbuilt designs with reasonable price points. As the market shifted away from wheelgun dominance, Ruger introduced the P85 series. These pistols maintained the tradition of hefty designs but brought that aesthetic to the semiautomatic world. 

However, the P85 family was (generally) equipped with double action/single action triggers. As more and more gun buyers looked for striker-fired models, Ruger found itself without an adequate model. Enter the SR-9. Its primary design goal was competing with Glocks and M&Ps while sticking to a lower price point. They succeeded in keeping the prices down, but the SR-9 was a flop commercially. It was no match for similar models.

Ruger discontinued the SR-9 and rolled out the American in an attempt to compete in the market. Where the SR-9 was an unquestionably cheap pistol, both in price point and feel, the American was meant to be a more direct competitor to models in the $500-ish price range. It added more features, like interchangeable backstraps, to more closely align with the features of other popular striker-fired models.

Annoyingly, Ruger produces several other firearms under their “American” branding. Both the American rifle and American rimfire rifle are excellent values. The American Predator rifle, in particular, had democratized long range shooting by putting an exceptionally accurate, inexpensive rifle on the shelf of most sporting goods stores. Unfortunately, this leads to confusion when people talk about their experience with the “Ruger American.”

Ruger American Pistol Features

1 Backstraps

Interchangeable backstraps for different hand sizes

2 Sights

Novak LoMount Carry three dot sights

3 Caliber

Available in 9mm or .45 ACP

4 Ambidextrous

Ambidextrous slide catch and magazine release

Models and Variations of the Ruger American Pistol

Ruger produces several variants of the American pistol. The standard model is called the Duty. It is available with or without a thumb safety, and in 9mm, .45 ACP. Full capacity models hold 17 rounds, the .45 and state compliant models hold ten. Both calibers are available in compact models with 3.5″ barrels. A Competition long slide 5″ model is available in 9mm.

Ruger American Pistol –  Our Take

Ergonomics

One of the most-hyped features on the American Duty was its interchangeable set of backstraps. Three options are included, small, medium, and large. Each backstrap changes the reach to the trigger as well as the palm swell. That sounds like a great idea on paper, but in practice most people will leave the medium option on the gun. Most shooters have hands that are in the middle of the size distribution bell curve.

Another flaw with the grip design is the awkward flat surface where the frame meets the backstrap over the web of the hand. It feels like the top of the backstrap was an afterthought in the design process. The top of the web of the hand is not a flat surface for most people, and this surface is rounded on essentially all other handguns.

Controls

Ruger American Pistol Open

However, Ruger got it right with the ambidextrous controls. The magazine release works from either side without needing to swap the mechanism around. Some guns with similar magazine releases can get in the way or lead to a weird grip, but I did not find that to be the case with the American. The slide catch (and manual safety on guns which include one) are easy to use with either hand.

The trigger is, unfortunately, not as good of a design as the magazine release. It is very mushy and squishy. Striker fired guns are not known for having the best triggers, but this one is rough even when judged on that standard. And because there is not really an aftermarket for this gun, there are no options to change or improve the trigger.

The American has a very heavy slide. All of that weight reciprocates as the gun fires, which leads to a lot of “flipping” motion. Many high-end guns feature additional machining work to remove weight from the slide to minimize that flip. Ruger seems to have done the opposite.

Now, while there is a lot of flip, the felt recoil is soft. All of that weight prevents the recoil from feeling sharp. However, 9mm pistols are not known for heavy recoil, and a gun this size would only rarely be painful to shoot.

Another disadvantage to the muzzle flip is slow split times between shots. A very aggressive grip is needed to get the American back on target quickly. It can still be fired well, but it takes more work than other similar guns.

Accuracy

Ruger American Pistol Left

For all of that complaining about the handling and ergonomics, the American Duty is a decently accurate gun. In a slow fire situation it can produce respectable groups on paper. I was able to shoot groups at 25 yards that were not embarrassing, but they were slightly high. 

Even though the accuracy is acceptable, it is a situation where the gun is accurate in spite of its downsides rather than a synergistic whole where the parts blend together to make something magical. 

Reliability

It is also a reliable gun. Ruger advertises the American as able to handle a steady diet of +P ammo. Based on the meaty slide and Ruger’s reputation with their revolvers, I would believe it.

Both the front and rear sights sit in dovetails. They can be adjusted with a sight press or punch. And while those adjustments can be a little coarse, they generally stay solid for a long time. Thankfully, the sights are made of metal. They also have a 3-dot pattern with little white dots that add a useful contrast.

Value

One of the greatest negatives of the American is the price point. This pistol retails right around $550, which is totally unjustified by any feature of the gun. It has almost no aftermarket support. It feels like a clumsy imitation of the big names in this class. Now, if it were several hundred dollars cheaper (like the SR9 price bracket), it would make more sense. But it is $550 and there is no good reason why. 

Closing Thoughts

The American has not been a success commercially. There is almost no aftermarket support. Very few holsters are available. Spare magazines and fiber optic sights are about the only Upgrades for sale

While the American Duty is a decent pistol, there is no compelling reason to buy one. It is outclassed by other pistols in the same price bracket. Features like ambidextrous controls and a 17 round magazine just keep up with the competition. 

Ruger American Pistol Patch

Ruger American Pistol Pros and Cons 

  • Ambidextrous – Ambidextrous slide stop and magazine release
  • Grip – Poor grip design
  • Trigger – Unimpressive trigger
  • Value – Performs worse than its competitors and little aftermarket support to improve it

Report Card

Shootability

Not horrible, but the muzzle flip is excessive.

C+
Reliability

Good reliability, and with an excellent warranty.

B+
Accuracy

poor trigger limits accuracy potential

C+
Ergonomics

Interchangeable grips don’t make up for the poor grip design

C
Value

The American Pistol is not competitive with other guns at this price point.

D

Our Grade

C+

Reviewed by Daniel Young

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 2 Reviews

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Ruger American Pistol Starter Pack

If you are getting started with your new handgun here are a few items you will want to make sure you have to get the most out of it.

  • Eye Protection: This should go without saying, but you need to invest in some quality shooting glasses. One errant piece of brass, and you’re in for a bad day. Check out our recommendations for the best shooting glasses!
  • Gun Cleaning Kit: Regardless of what gun you carry for duty you need to keep it clean and maintained. We’ve got a whole article dedicated to gun cleaning kits you’ll need to keep your pistol in tip top shape.  
  • Hearing Protection: Protect your ears and get some good hearing protection. Even if you have some already that doesn’t mean you can’t upgrade your set up. We’ve gathered all of our favorites to help you decide the best hearing protection for you.

Upgrades and Accessories for the Ruger American Pistol

For every handgun you own you will want a few specific accessories. Those are a good holster and extra magazines. Plus you will want to use a set of sights that help you get on target fast in all conditions. We found some great options for you below.

Best Accessories For The Ruger American Pistol

Ruger American Pistol 9mm 17-Round Magazine
  • Nickel-plated steel construction
  • Corrosion-resistant finish
  • Numbered witness holes
  • Impact-resistant polymer baseplate
  • Stainless steel wire spring
  • Durable polymer follower
Check Price
Truglo Tritium Pro Front/Rear Night Sight Set
  • Front sight focus lock ring for even faster focus
  • Quick and accurate U-notch design
  • Assembled in USA with quality Swiss Tritium for maximum brightness
Check Price
Safariland 7378/7TS ALS Right Hand Holster Ruger American
  • A security holster designed for quick access
  • ALS secures your weapon and allows a fast draw
  • Comes with paddle and belt loop
Check Price
1791 Gunleather Optic Ready Holster
  • Outside the waistband holster
  • Fits multiple gun models
  • Steerhide leather
Check Price

Best Ammo for Your Ruger American Pistol

You will want two different types of ammo for your handgun–one for training and one for self defense. We found good deals on some ball ammo to train with and some defensive ammunition to really make the most out of your Ruger American Pistol. 

Practice Range Rounds

CCI Blazer 9mm Ammo

CCI Blazer 9mm 115 GR FMJ

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Target Sports USA $0.26
Palmetto State Armory $0.27
Optics Planet $0.36

Self Defense Ammunition

Speer Gold Dot 9mm Ammo

Speer Gold Dot 9mm 124 GR HP

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Bauer Precision $1.39
MidwayUSA $1.50
Primary Arms $1.40

Other Duty Handguns of its Class to Check Out

The Ruger American Pistol is not our favorite duty handgun. Below are three that we think will serve you much better and at a similar price point. 

#1 SIG P320

SIG P320

The Sig Sauer P320 Nitron Full Size Pistol offers the same innovation and versatility as the U.S. Army’s new M17 in a civilian version.

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A-
  • Ergonomics B
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 6 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

#2 Glock 34 MOS

Glock 34 MOS

The Glock 34 is a great all-around gun for just about any situation–minus concealed carry.

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability A+
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics B
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

C

Based on 4 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

#3 S&W M&P9 M2.0

sw-mp-9-m2-featured

Check Latest Price

  • Reliability A+
  • Accuracy B
  • Shootability A-
  • Ergonomics A+
  • Value A

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

A

Based on 45 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

How to Care for Your Ruger American Pistol

We found two videos from Ruger walking you through the disassembly and reassembly as well as the cleaning and lubricating process for the Ruger American Pistol. These two videos are concise and will make sure you are doing everything per the manufacturers recommendations.

Looking for some more information on the Ruger American? Check out the links below for the manufacturer’s website and operator’s manual.

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About Daniel Young

Daniel is an attorney and lifelong gun nerd. His Instagram account, @fromtheguncounter, grew out of his work at a gun store and shooting range. He can usually be found in the hills with a rifle when he's not working.

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