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One of the fastest-growing segments in the everyday carry (EDC) handgun market has been the subcompact, extended-capacity, optics-ready handgun. So, I wasn’t surprised when Ruger entered the arena with the Max-9. In many ways, you can think of the Max-9 as an optics-ready version of Ruger’s reliable and now-discontinued single-stack LC9. Here are some of the new pistol’s key specs:

  • Striker fired operation
  • 3.2-inch barrel
  • Crisp trigger with a short reset
  • Tritium fiber-optic front sight
  • Black dovetail rear sight adjustable for windage
  • Reversible magazine release
  • Slim medium textured grip that accepts either 10- or 12-round magazines
  • Optics-ready slide that will co-witness with either a JPoint or a Shield-pattern micro red dot sight
Optics plate removed from Ruger Max-9
With the optics plate on the slide removed, you can see the mounting holes that will accommodate many different types of red-dot sights. Yamil Sued

Ruger Max-9 Dimensions

With overall dimensions of 6×4.52 inches and an empty weight of 18.4 ounces, the Max-9 fits perfectly into the EDC pistol category. The Max-9 ships with two E-Nickel Teflon-coated magazines and a finger-grip-extension floorplate. The Max-9 sports multiple safeties. It has an integrated trigger safety, a manual safety, an internal striker block, and a chamber port that allows for a visual confirmation of a loaded or empty chamber. A Pro version of the pistol is also available without the manual safety feature.

Front sight on Ruger Max-9
The front sight on the Ruger Max-9 uses a length of fiber optic and a tritium insert for a bright aiming point under all lighting conditions. Yamil Sued

Clunky Field-Stripping 

The field stripping the Max-9 follows the same basic procedure as that of the LC9 family of pistols. The takedown pin is exposed by moving a cover to the side on the left side of the frame where it can then be pushed out from the right side with a paper clip. It’s easy to describe but fairly cumbersome and time-consuming to execute and is one of the only negatives about this pistol. 

Range Test with Federal Ammo

I wanted to test the Max-9 for both accuracy and reliability, so I headed to my local indoor range, C2 Tactical in Scottsdale, Arizona. I fired the Max-9 at a distance of ten yards from a Ransom International Multi Cal Steady Rest. 

I tested the Max-9 with two similar 124-grain rounds, the Federal Syntech Training Match and the Federal Punch. Both rounds have listed muzzle velocities of 1150 fps and an energy rating of 364 foot-pounds. The Federal Syntech Training Match features a lead projectile with a polymer jacket. Federal’s Punch uses a jacketed hollow point projectile. During the evaluation, both rounds fired to a nearly identical point of impact.

Due to the current ammunition situation, I was only able to shoot four 5-round groups with each load, so I could have enough ammunition available for the reliability part of this test. My accuracy results with the Federal Syntech Training Match were an average of 3.25-inches, and with the Federal Punch, the groups shrunk down to an average of 3 inches. These results are not bad for a sub-compact production handgun with such a short barrel and sight radius.

Magazines for Ruger Max-9
The Ruger Max-9 ships with two magazines and a finger-grip extension floorplate that can be added to the magazine for an improved grip. Yamil Sued

Ruger Max-9 Sights

I was very impressed with the combination of the solid-black rear sight and the tritium fiber optic front sight. I know a lot of people that prefer dots on the rear sight, but that solid color really enhances the contrast with the front dot. And when I say contrast, I mean it. The fiber optic front sight glowed like a beacon indoors as it picked up the overhead light at my shooting bench.

For the reliability test, I shot steel outdoors. Using an MGM BC-C zone target at 10 yards, I fired the Max-9 as fast as I could. The steel rang with hit after hit to where I felt I couldn’t miss. I pushed the target to a more challenging 25 yards and, again, had no problems getting impacts. Yes, I was slower, but the Max-9 performed great. 

Grip detail on Ruger Max-9
This detail shows the medium-grade texture on the grip of the Max-9 and the finger grip extension on the magazine. Yamil Sued

Ruger Max-9 for EDC

After my range testing, I was curious to see how comfortable the Max-9 worked for EDC. I tried it with a couple different holsters for a few days. First, I used a Kydex inside the waistband (IWB) holster made by HAWG holsters. Even though I’m not a huge IWB guy, the combination of the HAWG holster with the MAX-9 proved comfortable for daily wear. For a leather option, I tried a Galco Fletch High Ride Belt Holster. Though I’m not a fan of thumb-break holsters, I was impressed with how well the Max-9 fit my body in this Galco. I hardly noticed the weight of the rig at all.

I did all my accuracy, reliability, and holster testing as the Ruger Max-9 shipped from the factory—without a red-dot sight. And though I was very happy with how the pistol ran and functioned, I think it will really shine with an optic on top. The trend toward red dots on EDC guns is one of the best innovations in the shooting world in years. With guys like me who have aging eyes, it is a game-changer. The trick is to check out the many options in terms of manufacturers, dots sizes and price ranges to find the optic that’s right for you. 

But even without a red dot on it, the Max-9 is a capable and comfortable EDC option. I wouldn’t hesitate to carry it on a daily basis for personal protection and feel it delivers a lot of performance for the size. 

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