Ruger Max 9 Review: Budget Friendly CCW!

by Bucky Lawson

March 7, 2024

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Ruger is one of the great American gunmakers, justly famous for such classics as the Blackhawk revolver and 10/22 semi-auto .22 rifle. Ruger also has a long history of quality semi-auto pistols, with the Mark IV being among the best. The company has also been active in the concealed carry world, with the LCP series and others. The Max 9 represents Ruger’s challenge to the double stack subcompact market created by the Sig Sauer P365 series. 

In the interest of full disclosure, Ruger provided this gun for review, but we do not get to keep it. Ruger’s cooperation is greatly appreciated, but it had no influence on our review process or conclusions. We specifically requested the standard Max 9 with an external thumb safety for this review.

Since my Ruger Max review in 2023, I have fired an additional hundred rounds with this gun, teaming up with my testing partner and it changed my thoughts on it. So you’ll be getting insights from both of us in this Ruger max 9 review. Let’s get into it!

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Ruger Max 9 Specs

  • Caliber 9mm
  • Action Striker Fired
  • Capacity 10+1 or 12+1
  • Rear Sight Black Notch
  • Front Sight Tritium/Fiber Optic
  • Slide Steel
  • Frame Polymer
  • Barrel Length 3.2 in
  • Weight 18.4 oz

Ruger Max 9 Background

As an American gun enthusiast and WWII military historian, and with my partner’s decade-long US military service, we’ve seen firearm trends come and go. The P365, for instance, effectively ended the single stack subcompact trend by offering equal or better concealability with more capacity. Ruger’s Max 9 follows suit. It’s roughly analogous to the P365X, offering 12 and 10-round magazines in 9mm.

The gun is also feature rich, especially for its attractive price point. Ruger’s Max 9 modular fire control chassis system hints of future possibilities, though they have yet to come to fruition as of this writing. The gun’s styling is similar to the LCP Max, but we consider the Max 9 to be superior, except as a jean pocket pistol. It seems just a little big for that role.

Ruger Max 9 Features

Ruger Max 9 Features
1 Serialized Fire Control Chassis System

Hopefully, Ruger will offer different slide and grip configurations for those who want them.

2 Capacity

Outstanding 12+1 capacity in a small framed pistol.

3 Optics Ready

Direct mount capability for co-witnessed JPoint and Shield pattern micro red dots.

4 Tritium fiber optic front sight

This is a very nice feature that comes standard on all Max 9 models.

Models and Variations of the Ruger Max 9

Ruger does offer a Max 9 equipped with a Hogue Beavertail HandALL grip sleeve with Cobblestone texturing. This is nice, since we wish the Max 9’s grip had just a little more palm swell. The downside is that this model is only available with 10-round magazines. But we called Ruger and they confirmed that the 12 rounds mags will work in this model. You just have to buy them separately.

If you are feeling frisky, they even have a leopard print option, if that’s your thing.

Ruger Max 9 –  How We See It

Ruger Max 9 Shooting
Ruger Max 9 Shooting

To be frank, we didn’t expect to favor the Max 9. Our preference leans towards European semi-autos over American ones. It’s not personal – we admire American rifles and revolvers. It’s just that European firms have a strong semi-auto history, with the 1911 as an exception. But we also have to admit that Ruger has done semi-autos pretty well too.

For over six months, two of us have used and shot the Max 9. We’re quite pleased. We started skeptical, but wouldn’t say we’re surprised. There’s much to appreciate about this compact firearm, with little to dislike.

Comfortable Concealability

Ruger Max 9 Patch

The Max 9, compact at six inches long and less than an inch wide, is easy to tote. Even without a dedicated holster, it’s carry-friendly. A holster specifically designed for the Max 9 will only enhance the experience. 

We used a generic KNJ IWB holster and a Mission First Tactical bellyband for the Max 9. It was barely noticeable whether carried at four o’clock or appendix. As a larger individual, I found the MFT bellyband made appendix carry comfortable. This was a pleasant change from many other guns, including my Sig P365XL. 

Pairing the Max 9 with the bellyband made regular carry possible for me. My testing partner, being fitter, had flexibility in carry options and found the Max 9 comfortable in both appendix positions.

Shootability

Even with the Ruger’s comfort, we had doubts during our initial range visit. After all, if a gun isn’t shootable, it won’t be carried. My first impression of the trigger, right out of the box, was “meh.” There’s more take up than I like, and it seemed less than crisp. I’m happy to report that those initial impressions did not matter on the range.

Ruger Max 9 Sights
Ruger Max 9 Sights

The trigger’s take-up remains, but it becomes less noticeable over time. After a few magazines, the trigger break became smoother and has stayed that way. The reset is a bit long for my tastes, but it’s positive and didn’t hinder our shooting. Overall, the trigger was good. We just had to break it in.

Recoil-wise, it’s a small gun with a short barrel shooting 9mm rounds. It’s a little snappy, but it was no big deal since we expected that. We adjusted easily. The muzzle flip is a bit more than our P365XL, but not enough to be a problem.

The Max 9 showed good accuracy, holding a one to two-inch group at about eight yards easily. Part of this we credit to its superior sight system. We’re fans of tritium fiber optic front sights, and have added them to several handguns which are standard on the Max 9. These sights help us focus on the front blade, making target acquisition quick and easy.

We fired deliberately, and we ran drills from both the draw and from retention. The Max 9 was consistently accurate, any misses were on us. We also competed against one another on steel targets using the Ruger, and we both enjoyed that, as the gun performed well. The short barrel obviously limits the effective range, and that was our experience too. There are compromises in every carry gun. The Max 9 trades effective range for concealability.

Reliability

We are happy to report that the Max 9 was 100 percent reliable through about 400 rounds of FMJ and a couple mags of hollow points. We tested the Max 9 with 115 grain Magtech FMJ, 115 grain Blazer FMJ, 124 grain Federal American Eagle FMJ, and 124 grain Sierra JHP rounds. Ammunition brands were mixed, but not different bullet weights in the mags. 

We ran dirty ammo that we kicked through the dust, along with dirty magazines that we made no effort to spare. Magazines were dropped , kicked, and thrown around, etc. We did not try to induce failure by pouring dirt into the mags or the actions. That’s just not our thing. We ran the same two mags the whole time, and we did not clean the Max 9 other than an initial lube job.

Ruger Max 9 2 Hand Grip
Ruger Max 9 Two Hand Grip

Controls and Ergonomics

The Max 9’s trigger is good. It’s not great but improves with use. The wall is solid and the break is clean. The thumb safety is firm, accessible, and stiff enough to avoid accidental use. It has red and white indicators showing whether the gun is ready to fire or not. The safety is not ambidextrous. I get that some folks don’t want an external safety on their carry gun, and Ruger offers the Max 9 without a safety if that’s what you want. I prefer a safety on these smaller guns. This is just a personal preference that I can choose to use or not.

The slide release on the Max 9 is stiff, which we appreciate, but could use more texture. Our thumbs often slipped off, leading us to manually rack the slide on reloads. Also, the slide release isn’t ambidextrous. The magazine release button is small and reversible, but we need to adjust our grips to use it, given the Max 9’s small size. We’d place the Max 9’s mag release third, after the superior releases of the IWI Masada 9S Slim and our P365XL. It’s smaller, harder to access, not as positive, and the magazines don’t eject as forcefully.

The Max 9’s grip is comfortable but we prefer a bit more palm swell. The texture is just right, not too slick or rough. If you own a Ruger LCP II or LCP Max, the grip texture is identical. We appreciate the texture on the 12-round mags and the pinky extender for the 10-round mags.

Ruger Max 9 Magazines
Ruger Max 9 Magazines

Ruger does well in offering a 3-fingered or 2-fingered grip option. The 12-round mag and the 10-rounder with pinky extension provide a comfy 3-fingered grip, unless you have Gargantua hands. For more concealability and if you’re okay with a 2-fingered grip, choose the 10-rounder without the pinky extension.

The Max 9’s generous trigger guard makes it easy to use for large hands or if you wear gloves. They textured the front of the trigger guard, and they added front and rear slide serrations for easy purchase. There is a slight undercut on the trigger guard, helping the shooter get a higher grip.

We’re not fans of the disassembly system. Ruger uses a pin to connect the slide to the frame and chassis. You need a slim punch to push out this pin for the slide to come off. It’s not hard, just inconvenient. We dislike needing a tool. It’s fine at home, but in an emergency, disassembly could be necessary. No tool, no disassembly.

Value

Ruger has always valued affordability. Bill Ruger aimed to create a quality firearm that even his employees could buy. The Max 9 continues this tradition. It has nice features like the optic cut and tritium front sight, and a decent trigger. Plus, it offers good capacity and reliability.

The Max 9’s MSRP is $439.00, but we found it listed for $350.99 and $379.00 Bizarrely, we also saw it listed for $599.00, so make sure you shop around. But even the MSRP is more than 300 bucks cheaper than the Sig P365X’s street price. That’s an insane value, especially for what you get.

Aftermarket support is there too. We had no problems finding dedicated holsters from reputable companies, at different price points, for the Max 9.

Final Thoughts

Ruger Max 9 GU Patch

Overall, we like the Ruger Max 9 quite a bit. Yeah, the disassembly is a bit of a pain, but compared to the good stuff, it’s a minor concern. We like the Max 9 so much that we decided to buy this example from Ruger instead of sending it back. 

I hate hot weather, so I wear gym shorts during summer. This can make concealed carry tricky, but the Max 9 in the MFT bellyband has addressed that issue. Even though I love my P365XL, the idea of shelling out another $750-800 for a summer carry gun like the P365X seemed a bit much. Now, that’s no longer a dilemma, and I feel comfortable carrying the Max 9.

Ruger Max 9 Pros and Cons 

  • Price – The Max 9 can be had for under $400.00 There may not be a better value available for this class of firearm.
  • Comfort – This is the only gun I’ve been able to carry comfortably at the appendix. If you already appendix carry, this is like “double secret probation,” only it’s good.
  • Sight System – The Max 9 comes standard with a tritium fiber optic sight AND it’s optic ready. What’s not to like?
  • Capacity – At 12+1, the Max 9 is a mighty mite.
  • No Accessory Rail – I know that many people don’t put lights or lasers on their carry gun. But some do. Even a 2-slot rail would be nice.
  • Take Down – The Max 9 isn’t the only pistol in this class to have the pin, but it also requires a tool. We aren’t fans.

Report Card

Shootability

We both shot the gun well. It’s a bit snappy, but that’s a short gun for you. We allowed for that in this grade.

A-
Reliability

The Max 9 was 100 percent reliable in our tests.

A+
Ergonomics

The gun feels good in the hand and the trigger is good. We took off for the disassembly and the less than stellar mag release.

B-
Accuracy

We shot the gun well at 10 yards and in. The groups spread out as we moved back, but that’s partially us and partially a small pistol with a short barrel.

A
Value

The sights make up for the lack of a rail here. The price just can’t be beat, especially for what you get right from the box.

A+

Our Grade

A-

Reviewed by Bucky Lawson

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 22 Reviews

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Ruger Max 9 FAQS

What are the specifications of the Ruger Max 9?

The Ruger Max 9 features a cold-hammer-forged 3.2-inch barrel, a hardened alloy steel slide with a black oxide finish, a one-piece machined anodized aluminum fire-control chassis, and a glass-filled nylon frame1.

What is the capacity of the Ruger Max 9?

The Ruger Max 9 comes with a flush fit 10-round magazine and a slightly longer 12-round magazine, giving you a capacity of 12+1 rounds of 9mm Luger.

Is the Ruger Max 9 optics-ready?

Yes, it is. The slide is pre-cut to accept a wide array of popular JPoint- and Shield-pattern micro reflex sights.

Ruger Max 9 Starter Pack

These three items are must haves for all firearms owners.

  • Eye Protection: Keep your eyes protected and check out or favorite shooting glasses!
  • Hearing Protection: These are our suggestions for hearing protection.
  • Gun Cleaning Kit: If you are going to carry the Max 9 as your CCW you need to keep it well maintained. Check out our favorite gun cleaning kits.  

Here are some deals we found on the Ruger Max 9.

Upgrades and Accessories for the Ruger Max 9

For handguns we always recommend a good holster a lot of spare magazines.

Upgrades and Accessories for the Ruger Max 9

DeSantis Gunhide Mini Scabbard Holster
  • 100% top-grain leather construction
  • Smooth interior lining
  • Neutral, non-adjustable cant design
  • Integrated belt loop
  • Adjustable retention system
  • Compatible with most belts up to 1.75”W
Check Price
DeSantis Gunhide Slim-Tuk Holster
  • Lightweight Kydex construction
  • Precision molded design
  • Adjustable tension device
  • Ambidextrous holster
  • IWB holster
  • Tuck-able C-Clip
  • Compatible with most EDC belts up to 1.75”W
Check Price
Belly Band Holster

MFT Belly Band Holster

MFT Belly Band Holster
  • Ambidextrous, compatible with a wide variety of firearms.
  • Fits waist sizes from 26” to 52”
  • No belt needed!
  • Great for walking, jogging, hiking, and biking
Check Price
10-Round Factory Magazine 2-Pack
  • Pair of Max-9 10-Round Factory Magazines
  • E-Nickel Teflon-coated, hardened steel construction
  • Flush-fit polymer floor plates
  • High-tensile steel springs
  • Impact-resistant polymer followers
  • Numbered witness holes
  • Comes with Pinky Extensions
Check Price
12-Round Factory Magazine 2-Pack
  • Pair of Max-9 12-Round Factory Magazines
  • E-Nickel Teflon-coated, hardened steel construction
  • Extended polymer floor plates with finger rests
  • High-tensile steel springs
  • Impact-resistant polymer followers
  • Numbered witness holes
Check Price
Red Dot Sight

Vortex Defender CCW

Vortex Defender CCW
  • Motion activation with 14 hour auto-shutoff
  • Shield RMS Footprint
  • Fully Multi-Coated Lenses
  • 8 Daylight Bright Brightness Settings
Check Amazon Price

Best Ammo for Your Ruger Max 9

We suggest both range ammo for practice and some quality self defense ammo to use when carrying your Max 9.

Range Rounds

Magtech 9mm Ammo

Magtech 9mm 115GR FMJ

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Gun.deals $0.21
Natchez $0.25

Defensive Ammo

Federal HST 9mm Ammo

Federal Personal Defense 9mm 124 Grain HST

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Gun.deals $1.03
Primary Arms $1.25
Optics Planet $1.62

Other Pistols of its Class to Check Out

The Max 9 has some stiff competition. Here are some of our favorites that we have reviewed.

Glock 43x

A single-stack “slimlined” Glock pistol specifically designed for CCW.

Check Latest Price

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

Our Grade

A+

Reader’s Grade

A

Based on 141 Reviews

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Sig P365 Featured Image

Sig P365

The Sig P365 set a new definition for what a great concealed carry handgun can be – it quickly became the go-to 9mm for many shooters.

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

Our Grade

A+

Reader’s Grade

A

Based on 184 Reviews

Your Grade

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Ruger LCP

Ruger LCP

Rugged construction with through-hardened steel slide and one-piece, high-performance, glass-filled nylon grip frame.

Check Latest Price

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

Our Grade

B+

Reader’s Grade

C

Based on 8 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

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

We also have an entire article reviewing our favorite CCW handguns.

How to Care for Your Ruger Max 9

As we mentioned in the review, we did not like the take down of the Max 9. The process is not difficult, but it requires a tool and we do not like that.

Check out this video from Ruger on how to take down your Max 9 handgun and see where the tool (or paint brush used in this video) comes into play.

Check out the links below for the manufacturer’s website and operator’s manual.

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About Bucky Lawson

W. "Bucky" Lawson is a typical Appalachian American gun enthusiast, with a particular interest in military surplus firearms. He holds a master's degree in military history and is slowly working toward a Ph.D. in the same subject. He writes for several online gun blogs and the occasional historical journal and hunts deer when time allows. Bucky shares space with two bulldogs, Bilbo and Blueberry. He enjoys an evening stogie, preferably paired with an Old Fashioned with an extra orange slice.

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