Reviewed: Ruger LCP II .380 ACP and .22LR Lite-Rack

We review the Ruger LCP II .380 ACP and its companion gun, the LCP II .22LR Lite-Rack.

Reviewed: Ruger LCP II .380 ACP and .22LR Lite-Rack

According to NSSF surveys, there were approximately 5.4 million first-time gun buyers in 2021, which equated to approximately 29.6% of all sales being to new gun owners — and about a third of those were female buyers. Many of those new customers cited that they just wanted something for EDC protection, and likely, that need falls into a small form factor that carries and conceals easily.

Though there are many options, there are few guns that conceal more easily and sell as well as the proven micro-sized 10.5-ounce Ruger LCP models. The Ruger LCPs offer customers a surprisingly accurate gun in one of the smallest formats available, which is still practical and reliable. At a slim .75-inch width and roughly 5.2-inch x 3.7-inch size, the LCP models are smaller than most men’s wallets. Even a simple 3.5-inch blade Spyderco knife looks monstrous next to these guns. Though the guns are tiny, the .380 ACP recoil is not too difficult to manage, even with the hottest of rounds. And with standard-velocity .380 ACP ball ammo, it is quite fun for the seasoned shooter. For new gun owners, the spicy snap of defensive rounds still might seem a little frightening, so Ruger offers the LCP II in .22LR Lite-Rack model for an easily manipulated and lighter-recoiling gun.

For dealers, the LCP and LCP II models are not new, but Ruger’s new marketing positioning and advertising around the LCP II series to the first-time buyers is new. It should be obvious that the features Ruger is pushing on the LCP II Lite-Rack Rimfire is focused on a whole group of new shooters — young and old and male and female. Ruger is putting some money and resources into repositioning a favorite defensive carry pistol of seasoned gun owners to new shooters with the .380ACP and .22LR models.

Ruger has done well keeping the LCP line current and is now on its second generation LCP II models with updated features customers requested, such as deeper serrations for charging and manipulation, better grip, trigger and sights, integrated trigger safety, and a last round hold-open. The LCP II lineup offers the base .380 and .22LR Lite-Rack models plus other models that include a Lite-Rack oversized grip model and .380ACP models with Viridian green or red laser sights.

When we look at how new gun buyers purchase, most start with a smaller-caliber firearm, as is recommended by most trainers. New shooters are not used to the slap-and-rack process that seasoned shooters easily use to manipulate everything from rimfire pistols to Desert Eagles — new shooters need to work through the learning curve. Ruger has noted that new and many older shooters want a low-recoil firearm that is easy to manipulate, and they also like the idea of transitioning to a larger caliber as they progress. The LCP II platform allows new shooters to start with a proven, rugged and reliable .22LR 10+1 chambered LCP II Lite-Rack pistol and then move to the .380 ACP model later on. The relatively low cost of the LCP II also provides an option for dual purchasing for a .22LR to practice with and a .380 to carry.

From a construction perspective, the two guns are almost identical, with the exception of some internal bits and safety specific to the rimfire version. In fact, the .380 will accept the .22LR slide and vice versa; however, they are obviously non-operational due to a different ejector, safety, and hammer. From a training and familiarity perspective, they are almost imperceptibly identical when in hand. Disassembly and reassembly is not the easiest, but it is at least simple, only requiring one pin to be pulled using any small screwdriver. Cleaning should still be easy enough for new shooters, and even with very dirty little .22LR rounds, a quick soak and wipe down with WD40 or CLP and pulling through a Swab-it or Bore-Snake is really all that is required for reliable operation.



From a defensive perspective, most still consider the .22LR rimfire round underpowered and less reliable than centerfire rounds; however, a fair amount of recent data from hog hunters taking 200-pound hogs with .22LR headshots and gunshot victim data suggests that .22LR is indeed very deadly. Crunching velocity and ft./lb. energy data from rounds fired from these LCP II .380 and .22LR versions, most hot .22LR rounds generated around 50 ft./lbs. of energy, while .380 ACP 90-grain defense rounds netted about 150 ft./lbs. of energy. The energy of either round is significantly less than the 400 ft./lb. energy levels of a 9mm round; however, lower energy means less recoil, which is a positive for new shooters.

Though CCI has dominated the high-power .22LR rimfire podium, Federal just introduced a Personal Defense Punch .22LR Rimfire 29-grain round that delivers a pretty hot 1,025 fps from a 2-inch barrel. Between these Federal and CCI options, customers do have quality ammo and an impressive 10+1-round capacity for defensive needs. Though Ruger designed the LCP II .22LR for new shooters, this has become a go-to backup and trail gun for seasoned shooters as well. The accuracy is very good, even for snake-sized targets at a few yards. During testing, we were able to keep the 6-inch steel singing at 50 yards with both the LCP II .380 and .22LR models.

Ruger has done a lot of engineering and testing to ensure reliability. In fact, our heavily used test model has been extremely reliable. The only reliability issues experienced during our long-term testing over the last year were very limited to low-quality ammo or directly due to a less-than-regimented cleaning cycle.

A rimfire is a great first gun. Considering that these new gun owners have no guns and are looking for something to protect themselves with, 10+1 rounds of the humble .22LR rimfire in a simple and easy-to-operate LCP II package is a great option. For those who just want a very low-recoil and easily manipulated gun, the LCP II Lite-Rack is a logical gun for dealers to suggest for new shooters. The gun is light in the hand with a reduced-power slide spring and H&K VP9 style charging ears to help manipulation even further.

Rimfire ammunition is inexpensive, which should motivate the customer to train more, and the recoil should limit fatigue. All this allows customers to get very comfortable and confident with the firearm. The .22LR Lite-Rack also features a thumb safety with an initiative press-to-fire movement that is simple for new shooters to remember, as opposed to other firearms that require the safety to flip up to fire, such as the Walther PPK. For the seasoned shooters, they may not use the safety, but it is there if they want to use it, and it is unobtrusively designed.



For new customers who want a bit more power, they can step up to the 6+1-round LCP II .380 ACP model. It is still a comfortable-shooting gun even for newer shooters, but it lacks the afternoon-of-fun quotient of the rimfire model. For seasoned shooters, the tiny LCP II .380 ACP has become a favorite backup pocket gun that has proven its reliability over the last few years from a reliability and accuracy perspective. A few of the dealers I talked with noted the laser-sight models are reportedly doing well with newer shooters.

Many little .380 ACP pocket pistols are picky with which ammo functions well. Luckily, the LCP II has delivered great reliability regardless of ammo — even typically problematic open-tip hollow-points feed well in the LCP II. With some of the full-power loads, the LCP II is snappy to shoot, but with standard-velocity ball ammo, the LCP II is actually pretty fun to shoot and surprisingly accurate for a 2.75-inch barrel.


Final Thoughts

If we think back to our first shots, the .22LR is a great place to start and delivered a great training ramp to larger and more powerful calibers. Ruger is working hard on positioning these two guns for first time shooters and with the features these are great first guns for new gun owners that want something they will shoot a little and carry a lot.



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