Despite the flood of .380 ACP pocket pistols on the market, the short-barrel revolver remains a very popular choice for deep concealment. And although the modern snubby is more than 60 years old, the technology has not changed much since the introduction of the Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special in 1950. Even lightweight alloy revolvers have been around nearly as long. The use of exotic metals for snubby revolver cylinders since the 1990s shaved off a few more ounces of weight, but wasn’t really revolutionary (and was very expensive).
At the SHOT Show in 2009, Sturm, Ruger and Company introduced the first polymer frame snub-nosed revolver: the “Lightweight Compact Revolver” (LCR). If not a revolutionary change, it was certainly an important evolutionary change. Using high-tech plastic for the revolver’s frame made the gun strong, lightweight and corrosion resistant, while actually reducing production costs. And if those benefits weren’t enough, Ruger’s fresh approach to snubby design resulted in higher grip with better recoil management. Top this off with a well-designed set of Hogue Tamer grips and the LCR became a very soft-shooting gun.
I hate to be the kind of guy who always wants more, but … my first thought after shooting the LCR was, “I wonder if they can bulk this up into a .357 Magnum?” Ruger must have been thinking along the same lines because that is exactly what I found when I walked into their booth for the 2010 SHOT Show, the Ruger LCR-357.
Ruger LCR .357 Gun Details
The LCR-357 is essentially an “upgraded” LCR. Both guns are five-shot snubbies with fixed sights and internal hammers (meaning they are double-action-only). The frames are polymer, while the cranes, cylinder frames and cylinders are metal. In fact, the guns are difficult to tell apart when laid side-by-side.
The only significant difference in the LCR-357 is the weight; all other dimensions are identical. In order to contain the higher pressures of the .357 Magnum round, Ruger engineers had to beef up certain areas of the revolver, most notably the cylinder frame and cylinder. The cylinder frame is stainless steel instead of aluminum alloy and is responsible for most of the additional 3 1/2 ounces of weight. Other minor changes include a slightly narrower groove in the top strap for the rear fixed sight and some beveling of the barrel edge near the forcing cone.
The LCR-357 can now digest the whole range of .38 Special and .357 Magnum ammunition. Unlike manufacturers of some other ultra-lightweight revolvers, Ruger does not warn against the use of lightweight .357 Magnum bullets.
Concealed Carry Impressions
Snubby revolvers are easy to carry. While not as flat as a semiautomatic pistol, small revolvers remain a deep concealment favorite. The Ruger LCR makes a great concealed carry gun, and the LCR-357 nearly as much so. The additional 3 1/2 ounces on the LCR-357 feel almost unnoticeable in most methods of carry on the belt, inside the waistband, in a shoulder holster or similar methods. The weight becomes more noticeable if you are carrying in a pocket or on the ankle. If you are looking for the lightest revolver to accommodate one of these methods of carry, there are other choices on the market. However, if you can tolerate the extra few ounces, the LCR-357 fills the role of a great carry gun.
There are so many great holsters on the market to fit J-frame-sized guns, it’s a shame that LCR owners are left out.
I toted the LCR-357 around in a variety of rigs, but mostly in the pocket and inside the waistband. However, this brings me to my most serious complaint about carrying the LCR-357 (and the LCR as well). Ruger made the trigger guard on the LCR family of revolvers too big. While it may arguably be designed for use with heavy gloves, the overly large trigger guard makes the LCR revolvers incompatible with almost all of my existing holsters that fit S&W J-frames and similarly sized revolvers. There are so many great holsters on the market to fit J-frame-sized guns, it’s a shame that LCR owners are left out. I hope Ruger will consider a change in the future because I don’t think the snubby-carrying world was clamoring for a larger trigger guard. In the meantime, make sure your intended holsters fit the LCR before deciding to make this your carry gun.
LCR .357 at the Gun Range
The original LCR in .38 Special is a very soft shooting gun. As such, the LCR platform was a natural choice for the “upgrade” to .357 Magnum. Shooting a lightweight snubby in .357 Magnum can be a daunting experience. The noise, the
blast and the sharp snap of magnum recoil can feel unpleasant and sometimes painful. Anyone who will voluntarily go out and shoot 50 rounds of full-power .357 Magnum loads in a lightweight snubby can go shooting with me anytime. Needless to say, the big question in the review was going to be: How is the recoil?
Not to keep you in suspense, I was very pleased with the LCR-357’s performance with magnum loads. I am not particularly recoil-sensitive, but I can tell unpleasant from tolerable for most shooters. The magnum recoil in the LCR-357 is considerably more manageable than most lightweight snubbies.
The noise and the concussion remain — not much Ruger can do about that. Ruger claims that the new bevels on the barrel help direct some of the energy away from the shooter. There may be something to that, but it’s hard to say for sure without an advanced scientific degree that I do not possess. However, the “snap” of the felt recoil is clearly less pronounced than with similar guns. I think this taming of the recoil can be attributed in part to the higher grip of the LCR that better aligns the muzzle with the arm for better recoil management.
Competitive revolver shooters have long known that a high grip on the back strap is better for reducing muzzle rise. I also attribute some of the recoil dampening to the excellent Hogue Tamer grips. Changing the grips to something harder (like the available Crimson Trace Lasergrips) will definitely affect the amount of perceived recoil. And finally, I think there may be some recoil absorbing properties to the polymer frame as well, similar to what many shooters will attribute to polymer-framed semi-automatics.
In short, people who have shied away from snubby magnums in the past may want to give this gun a try. I asked a number of people at the range to try the gun with full magnum loads. All agreed it was manageable. Even a brand-new shooter commented that he noticed the gun but it didn’t hurt him at all.
Features and Functioning
Perhaps even more interesting was the LCR-357’s performance with standard .38 Special loads and .38 Special +P loads. The few extra ounces tame the perceived recoil noticeably more than the standard LCR. For those who are extremely recoil-sensitive, the LCR-357 may be a great choice for use with .38 Special ammunition.
Another interesting feature of the LCR is the design of the cylinder release latch, which is partially recessed into the side plate of the gun. While I generally don’t prefer the “push-in” style release, as compared to the “push forward” style seen on other revolvers, the design has a real functional advantage in a heavy recoiling gun. Most small revolvers will draw blood from me after a while as the twisting force of the recoil drives the cylinder release latch into the base of my thumb. With the LCR-357, my thumb survived an extended shooting session without any blood loss.
The LCR-357 functioned flawlessly with a wide variety of ammo in .38 Special, .38 Special +P and .357 Magnum. The practical accuracy of the gun is very good, due to the relatively light and smooth double-action trigger pull and the good quality fixed sights. Like the original LCR, the LCR-357 is a very capable shooter.
Final Thoughts on This Ruger
Ruger has done an outstanding job of beefing up the LCR to handle .357 Magnum. The excellent handling and recoil characteristics of the LCR platform make this a great shooting gun for its compact size. I don’t think you will find a comparably sized snubby revolver that shoots any better. If unpleasant recoil has dissuaded you from carrying a magnum snubby in the past, this could be your solution. In addition, extremely recoil-shy shooters may opt for the soft shooting .38 Specials from this lightweight revolver.
The excellent ergonomics of the LCR platform create a great shooting gun in either caliber.
The Ruger LCR-357 has a suggested retail of $575, which is just $50 more than the standard LCR. As of September 2010, there were not many LCR-357s on dealers’ shelves, so actual street prices are difficult to determine. Once supply catches up to demand, the price should stabilize at a little less than $500. This is considerably less than comparable Smith & Wesson models, and should be quite competitive. The LCR-357 ships in a cardboard box, but does include a nice pistol rug with the Ruger emblem.
This new LCR-357 would be a great choice for anyone looking to carry a snubby .357 Magnum, or anyone looking to tame the recoil of the .38 Special in a lightweight gun. The excellent ergonomics of the LCR platform create a great shooting gun in either caliber.
Related: Learn what to look for when choosing your best gun…
[ Duane A. Daiker is a contributing author for Concealed Carry Magazine, but is otherwise a regular guy — not much different from you. Duane has been a lifelong shooter and goes about his life as an armed, responsible, and somewhat opinionated citizen. Duane can be contacted at [email protected] or through his fan page on Facebook, and welcomes your comments and suggestions.
The author previously reviewed the Ruger LCR .38 Special in the July 2009 issue of CCM, entitled: “Ruger LCR: It’s Not Just About the Polymer.” Readers may want to refer to this previous review for more general information on the LCR platform. ]
|Crimson Trace Corporation
|Hornady Manufacturing Company
|Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.
**The Ruger LCR-357 was provided by the manufacturer, and was later purchased at a discounted price. The holster pictured was provided by K&D Holsters for a previous review at no charge. Some of the ammo for testing was provided at no charge by Hornady and Winchester. Prices as of Sept. 2010.