Ruger Max-9 - A review of the Micro Compact - but does it deliver?
Ruger is long known for making the very finest in .22LR plinking pistols and rifles. Their American line of rifles is very accurate. Even their ARs are pretty sound. And the Ruger GP100 shooting 38 special loads very well might be the most fun revolver to shoot in history. Recently Ruger has been making serious runs at the polymer striker/internal hammer fired segment and now they're trying to capitalize on the niche that the Sig Sauer P365 created - the micro compact in 9mm for concealed carry. On paper - Ruger put together a hell of a gun with the Max-9 - the problem is that it doesn't deliver.
Before we get into why I think the Max-9 is a hard pass and share my negative experiences - lets talk about why I was so excited looking at the Max-9. First and foremost - it's available in exactly one trim model - and that trim model is Optics Ready with Back up Iron Sights. Yup - you heard it right - you can direct mount a number of optics - but basically stuff like the Holosun 407k or Holosun 507k or any of the Shield RMSc type sights. The optic cut is very well done and as I mentioned - the irons cowitness with the red dot beautifully. The irons themselves are impressive - they're a TFO style front sight - which is to say a tritium fiber optics (get it? TFO) - there's a tritium lamp with a fiber optic pipe in front of it. The idea is it will glow in the day light and glow at night. The rear sight is a blacked out iron - FINALLY somebody is making the optimal set up for iron sights - which is high vis front - blacked out rear - on a carry gun.
The magazines are the next most impressive part - which my model came with a 10 and 12 round magazine. Magazines feel pretty solid - they're difficult to load - just like all of the micro compact magazines - but that's pretty much par for the course.
Size wise the Max-9 competes favorably with others in the segment - height, length and width
The frame is polymer - and it's made out of that proprietary slippery weirdly brittle feeling polymer that Ruger loves to use. They do provide a pretty good etching pattern to break up the slippery-ness in important parts but the fact remains that you're going to want to enhance the texture of the gun - be it with Talon grips, silicon carbide, or stippling. The grip is a bit slippery. Which is a bummer - because the grip is also blocky.
The ergonomics of the Max-9 aren't the greatest - they pale in comparison to the Sig Sauer P365 or the Springfield Armory Hellcat . The P365 really did nail the formula on grip - the Hellcat is rather boxy but has such excellent texture that they are forgiven. The Max-9 reaches levels of blockiness that could make a Glock blush. This is a problem in a gun that's hard to get traction on and has poor geometric fit to your hand to lock in. Did I mention the trigger guard isn't properly relieved to prevent rubbing? Because it's not.
In the writing business - what you're witnessing is a "Pivot" and I begin to deliver on the promise of that first paragraph. Yeah - I wouldn't recommend the Ruger Max-9 and let me tell you why.
Before getting into model-specific woes - of which mine had plenty - lets talk about the trigger. The Max-9 trigger is the creepiest of the lot - meaning that as you pull the trigger to the rear - you hit a wall - but then there are like 2 or 3 micro walls and additional travel before you get to the actual break point. Why is this a big deal - it's a self defense gun not a target gun? Well yes - but the most likely trigger fundamental to be used in a self defense situation is trigger slapping. Trigger slapping can cause people to try to actively control recoil through post-ignition pushes. With a trigger this creepy a post-ignition push can turn into a pre-ignition push pretty damn quick. And that's the trigger you're dealing with.
The pull weight of the trigger - is honestly - very well set up. My specific model pulled right at 5 pounds - which is a good place to be for a self defense trigger - but due to that quality of the trigger - I just can't recommend it. I'm not being a trigger snob when I say that - you have to work at accuracy much harder with this gun than you do other guns in the segment. At this point - I have shot most of the Micro Compacts.
Remember that frame we talked about? Because it doesn't lock into your hand geometerically particularly well - it's easy to introduce muzzle movement while manipulating the trigger - which causes further issues with practical accuracy.
There are two types of accuracy - practical accuracy and mechanical accuracy. Mechanical accuracy is the apex of accuracy the gun is capable of. Mechanically speaking - the Max-9 is VERY accurate - as good as anything in the segment. When zeroing the Sig Sauer Romeo Zero I used when testing the gun - I was rewarded with cloverleaf groups at 10 yards - no problem (other than the focus it took to pull the trigger correctly). As discussed - due to the bad trigger and "meh" frame - the practical accuracy of the gun is very mediocre. It's like having a 500 horsepower motor and bald tires. It's all there - you just can't show it off. Which brings us to the sights. Personally - I don't love TFO sights - I don't find the lines on the sight as sharp as proper highly precise target sights - which is understandable because they're not target sights. I don't think tritium sights are particularly useful for anything other than finding your gun in a dark safe. But no dear reader - my sights I particularly hate because they hit about 3" low at 10 yards. I tested it with two different 124/125 grain loads of my competitive shooting reloads - same issue. I tested it with Wolf 115 grain (hey - it's an ammo crunch and that's all that's been in stock) - that went even worse and hit even lower. The proof - that sights are off - is where my red dot lands in relation to the cowitness from the sights - and that is basically at the base of the front sight - not on the top of the front sight like you'd expect from cowitness sights. The gun's sights are off.
But that's not the worst of my particular model - this gun had to go back to Ruger for warranty treatment because the slide would randomly lock open with ammo still in the magazines. I tested it shooting support hand only and it still locked open with ammo in the magazine. Ruger - with their awesome customer service - turned the gun around inside 10 days. The phone call to Ruger took less than 10 minutes. They really are doing it right from a customer service perspective - BUT - it's a shame the gun had to go back.
The gun returned to me and worked like a top. No issues with locking open. The sights still hit ridiculously low. The price point these come in at - with an MSRP of $559 - I'd just buy a Hellcat. There's nothing this gun does better than it's competitors - except possibly warranty service - which is a shame because I really liked this gun.