Ruger® MAX-9® Pro Micro-Compact 9mm Semi-Automatic Pistol

by Boge Quinn

photography by Boge Quinn

September 2nd, 2021

Full30 Video Link

Ruger's NEW Game-Changer: the MAX-9 Compact 9mm Semi-Auto Pistol

by Boge Quinn

photography by Boge Quinn

March 15th, 2021

Full30 Video Link

lick pictures for a larger version.

 

 

 

 

The MAX-9 comes with one 10-round and one 12-round magazine. Extra magazines and other accessories are available from www.shopruger.com.

 

 

Also included is a pinky-extension floor plate for the 10-round magazine.

 

 

Trigger guard is serrated for "finger-forward" grip.

 

 

Magazine release is reversible for left-handed shooters, if desired.

 

 

Witness hole allows quick check for loaded chamber.

 

 

Manual safety.

 

 

 

 

Front sight is an excellent Tritium-illuminated unit with a Fiber-Optic pipe, drift-adjustable for windage.

 

 

Rear sight is steel, drift-adjustable for windage.

 

 

Size comparison: 6-round Kahr CM9 (left), 12-round Ruger MAX-9 (right).

 

 

Magazine / Grip measurements: 6-round Kahr CM9.

 

 

Magazine / Grip measurements: 12-round Ruger MAX-9.

 

 

Ruger has been at the forefront of firearms innovation since 1949. From Ruger's humble beginnings manufacturing reliable, rugged, and inexpensive 22 semi-auto pistols; through their revolutionary improvements to Single-Action sixguns; through their semi-auto 22 rifles that quickly became the most popular in America; through their excellent Military-inspired semi-auto rifles; through their rugged and innovative Double-Action revolvers; through their groundbreaking shotguns, single-shot rifles, bolt-action rifles, and semi-auto centerfire pistols, the number of innovations fostered by Ruger are too numerous to list.

Nowhere is Ruger's innovative spirit more visible than in the proliferation of lightweight, concealable revolvers and easily-concealable semi-auto pistols. For more than a decade since Ruger's introduction of their LCP 380 Pocket Pistol, the market for small, lightweight pocket pistols has exploded as Americans seek solutions for easily-concealable "Personal Protective Equipment". The design of these pistols, to this point in their evolution, has trended in two simultaneous directions: reduction of size, and increase in ballistic power. While the 380 ACP cartridge can be quite effective given properly-designed ammo, the greater ballistic capabilities of the 9mm Luger cartridge has been the goal for an optimal compromise of power and portability. As design and manufacturing technology has evolved to the point where the 9mm pocket pistol is only marginally larger, if at all, than the 380 designs, the 9mm pocket pistol has become very popular as a carry option. In fact, my "Every Day Carry" (EDC) weapon of choice for the past several years has been just such a 9mm pocket pistol; for "social work", these pistols are a wonderful compromise between effective ballistic performance and ease of carry. These small 9mm pistols drop easily into a pocket, and one can carry such a pistol all day without even noticing its presence. Even when I am carrying one of my preferred larger holstered pistols, such as a large-framed revolver or a 1911 pistol, that 9mm constantly resides in its designated pocket, with a couple of extra magazines in the opposite pocket.

The only drawback to the last generation of 9mm pocket pistols (and, admittedly, it has never before seemed like that much of a drawback, until now) has been the magazine capacity limit imposed by the small physical size of the pistol's grip area. The magazine capacity of these 9mm pocket pistols has always been limited to six rounds, or seven rounds in the case of pistols such as the Ruger LC9s. In order to increase the 9mm pocket pistol's payload, it was previously thought, one of two design changes would have to be made: first, the magazine, and thus the grip frame, would have to be lengthened to the point where the pistol would no longer fit comfortably in a pocket; or second, the grip would have to be fattened enough to accommodate a double-stack magazine, thereby rendering the pistol both harder to conceal and harder to handle well, substantially detracting from the pistol's intended purpose.

Enter the Ruger MAX-9 compact 9mm semi-auto pistol.

The Ruger MAX-9 is a striker-fired 9mm pocket pistol, based upon Ruger's successful LC9s pistol. The MAX-9 features a couple of real improvements over what has been offered in the past. Not the least of these innovations is a 30% to 50% increase in magazine capacity over and above what has been possible with earlier designs (both by Ruger and by other makers), at essentially no increase in the pistol's dimensions. Ruger accomplished this impressive increase in firepower by ingeniously redesigning the grip frame, and designing a nifty magazine that tapers from a double-stack body to a single-stack feed. Not being a gun designer myself, it seems almost magical what Ruger has accomplished here: creating a 9mm pocket pistol that accommodates a magazine of 10 or 12 rounds, in a package that is the same size as a pistol that holds a 6 or 7 round magazine. Following is a size comparison between the Ruger MAX-9, Ruger's LC9s, and what has been my EDC choice for the past several years, a Kahr CM9 Tungsten:

Size Comparison: Compact 9mm Pistols

  Kahr CM-9 Ruger LC9s Ruger MAX-9
Chambering 9x19mm 9x19mm 9x19mm
Weight with Empty Magazine 15.9 ounces 17.3 ounces 18.4 ounces
Barrel Length 3.1 inches 3.12 inches 3.2 inches
Overall Length 5.61 inches 5.98 inches 6 inches
Overall Height 4.2 inches 4.45 inches 4.52 inches
Grip Width 0.939 inch 0.945 inch 0.954 inch
Frame Width 0.975 inch 0.878 inch 0.897 inch
Slide Width 0.908 inch 0.901 inch 0.95 inches
Maximum Width 1.125 inch 1.05 inches 1.06 inches
Trigger Reach 2.48 inches 2.75 inches 2.75 inches
Magazine Capacity 6+1 7+1 10+1 or 12+1

As can be readily seen, there is no practical size difference between the Kahr and the MAX-9. The Kahr is 2.5 ounces lighter than the MAX-9, but that difference cannot be readily discerned by my hand. The Kahr is 0.39 inches shorter than the MAX-9,  but the balance of the Kahr is slightly forward from that of the MAX-9, making the Kahr feel slightly more muzzle-heavy than the MAX-9. The difference is negligible, but it is there, and to my hand it favors the MAX-9.

The MAX-9 is constructed with the familiar Ruger toughness and durability. The slide is made from through-hardened alloy steel, finished in black oxide, and the barrel is similarly black oxide finished alloy steel. Firing +P and +P+ ammunition proved to be no problem for the MAX-9, and all loads tried functioned 100%, with no failures of any kind noted; this level of reliability is the most crucial aspect of a firearm upon which one bets one's life.

The grip frame is high performance glass-filled nylon, and is medium-textured for a secure and comfortable hold. I found the grip texture to be just right, with an aggressive-enough texture to aid in the only type of "gun control" which should be discussed, while not so aggressively-textured that the hand is abraded under recoil, or concealment becomes a problem.

The MAX-9's trigger is excellent, incorporating an articulated safety lever in the center. After just under one-quarter inch of lighter takeup, the trigger travels another one-quarter inch before breaking cleanly and consistently at 3 pounds, 2.3 ounces for an average of five pulls, as measured by my Lyman Electronic Digital Trigger Pull Gauge. Not only is trigger travel short and trigger pull pleasantly light, the pull is very smooth and even, yielding a much better pull than one would expect from a factory trigger. Also, the trigger resets after only about 3/8" of slide travel. Very nicely done, Ruger!

The safety features of the striker-fired MAX-9 are several. As mentioned above, the trigger incorporates an articulated safety lever, which will be familiar to those who are accustomed to striker-fired pistols, and is automatic in operation. Internally, the MAX-9 incorporates a striker blocker. Externally, there is a manual safety that will be intuitive in operation for those who are familiar with the safety of the venerable 1911 pistol: the safety lever naturally and comfortably falls under the shooter's thumb on the port side of the pistol (the lever is not ambidextrous), and operates by sweeping UP for Safe, and DOWN for Fire. The safety lever is easy to operate with the right thumb, and clicks positively into each position. Finally, the top of the barrel hood has a witness hole which serves as a loaded-chamber indicator. None of these reduce the importance of a firearm's primary safety, which is located between the shooter's ears, but the MAX-9 is a very safe design that should prove to be proof against anything but fools.

The sights on the MAX-9 are a cut above what one would expect in a pistol of the MAX-9's price range. The rear sight is thankfully steel, dovetailed into the slide and drift-adjustable for windage, with a medium-high profile and a vertical front face which would aid in racking the slide against a table or corner, should it become necessary. The front sight is excellent, featuring a combination Tritium / Fiber Optic bead that makes the sight picture very easy to acquire in both bright and low-light conditions. The Bad Guys often come out at night, and such a front sight can be very important to keeping Mom's favorite boy, or those he loves, out of harm's way. If you have ever shopped for Tritium night sights, then you know how much value is added by Ruger's inclusion of such a sight into the very reasonable price of the MAX-9.

As optical sights have become smaller and more reliable, and the prices of them have begun to decrease, they have recently become very popular on semi-auto pistols. In fact, a mini-industry has formed to convert pistols to their use, along with a proliferation of brands and styles from which to choose. With the availability of different styles, sizes, and price points, it has actually become practical to use such sights on a defensive pistol. The top of the MAX-9's slide features a removable plate, with mounting holes pre-configured underneath to accommodate a wide variety of these optical sights. I know of fifteen different currently-available optical sights that will bolt right up to the MAX-9, and there will undoubtedly be more as their popularity increases and their mounting systems become more universal; the spec chart below contains a list of these currently-available options. While not really practical (yet!) for my preferred pocket carry method, optical sights are a viable option for belt carry without adversely affecting the ability to conceal the pistol. Also, with an optical sight installed, the MAX-9 could very well be pressed into service on the target range.

You may smirk at my suggestion that the MAX-9 could do Yeoman's Duty as a target pistol, but hear me out: the MAX-9 is inherently no less accurate than its larger siblings, with the major difference relating to accuracy being the short sight radius (the distance between the front and rear sights) dictated by the pistol's smaller size. As a rule, the shorter the sight radius, the greater the potential geometrical error imposed by the shooter's natural "sight wobble"; this is why shorter-barreled firearms are considered to be less accurate than their longer-barreled siblings, not because of any inherent inaccuracy related to barrel length. With an optical sight installed, this limitation is eliminated; no longer is there a sight radius with which to contend, but there is only one sight plane, and nothing has to be lined up by the eye. This can aid in both precision and speed, and Ruger has us covered with the MAX-9.

Specifications - Ruger MAX-9 Compact 9mm Pistol

Model Number: 3500
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Slide: Through-Hardened Alloy Steel, Black Oxide Finish
Grip Frame: High-Performance, Glass-Filled Nylon
Barrel: 3.2 inches, Alloy Steel, 6-Groove, 1:10" RH Twist, Black Oxide Finish
Overall Length: 6 inches
Overall Height: 4.52 inches
Slide Width: 0.95 inches
Weight: 18.4 ounces
Trigger Pull, Average: 3 pounds, 2.3 ounces
Sights: Drift-Adjustable Tritium / Fiber Optic Front, Drift-Adjustable Rear, Optic Ready
Current Options for Direct Mount / Co-Witness Optics Shield SMS2, RMS, RMS2, RMSw, SMS, SMSc, & RMSc

Holosun 507K & 407K

Swampfox Sentinel

Crimson Trace 1500 Series

Sightmark Mini Shot A-Spec M3

HEX Wasp

SIG ROMEOZero

JPoint MRD

Magazine Capacity: 10+1 or 12+1
Magazines Supplied: 2 ( 1 10-Round & 1 12-Round )
Magazine Disconnect: NO
MSRP as of March 2021: $499.00 US

Although I plan to utilize the MAX-9 as a pocket pistol with the provided open sights, I did want to put it through its paces with an optical sight, and was quite impressed by the result. The optic I chose was the ROMEOZero 1x24mm sight from SIG SAUER. The ROMEOZero is a direct bolt-on match for the MAX-9, is perfectly sized for the MAX-9 in all dimensions, and is available with either a 3-MOA or a 6-MOA dot. I chose the 3-MOA version, as it glows plenty brightly while providing a smaller dot for greater precision. The ROMEOZero is powered by one CR1632 coin-type battery, with a claimed battery life of ten years, and features eight illumination settings for various lighting conditions. The ROMEOZero neatly includes a built-in co-witness rear sight, but this proved to be unnecessary on the MAX-9, as Ruger's sight design allowed the open sights to easily co-witness with the ROMEOZero. The ROMEOZero is fully adjustable for windage and elevation correction, worked flawlessly, was easy to power on/off, and easy to adjust. The ROMEOZero is readily available from distributors such as Lipsey's, and retails for $259.99.

Carrying the MAX-9 depends on one's intended purpose for the pistol. Since the MAX-9 is brand new, there are not a lot of holsters available for it, but I am sure there will be soon. In fact, by the time you read this, there should be several options available at www.shopruger.com

My good friend Rob Leahy of Simply Rugged Holsters in Prescott, AZ, as usual, was Johnny-on-the-Spot with a couple of nice options for the MAX-9. For belt holsters, Rob's "CID Slide" design is perfect for concealed carry on the belt. A minimalist Bikini-slide pancake design, the CID Slide can be configured for either conventional or inside-the waistband use. Rob's holsters are made to order, with several color, leather type, and carving options also available to tailor the CID Slide for your intended purpose. The CID Slide carries the pistol tight to the body for maximum concealment. Rob slightly modified his original CID Slide design to accommodate an optical sight on the MAX-9, and the holster worked perfectly for belt carry with the SIG ROMEOZero installed. Base price of the Simply Rugged CID Slide holster is $50.00 US, with many options available.

Another concealment holster option from Simply Rugged Holsters, one which I will use most often, is Rob's "Pocket Protector" leather pocket holster. A basic "rough-out" leather pocket holster, the Pocket Protector is a well-designed and constructed solution that offers secure carry and ease of use while breaking-up the pistol's outline in the pocket and making it print through clothing much like a wallet. Also, very importantly, the Pocket Protector is easy to use and quick on the draw. I have seen many pocket holsters that will not properly let go of the pistol, and will come out of the pocket with the pistol. If this happens at the wrong time, and you have to fumble with the holster to get your pistol out of it, that could very well spell the end of the line. Because of this, I used to pocket carry without a holster; but not only did this make it more obvious that I was carrying a pistol, but the pistol would move around in the pocket, making a consistent draw impossible. Rob convinced me of pocket holsters' utility many years ago, and I have used one of Rob's pocket holsters since that time. The Pocket Protector is available for a variety of pistols and revolvers - basically, any pistol or revolver that will fit in a pocket or briefcase - and sells for only $35.00 US. I highly recommend them, or any of Rob's holsters.

The alchemists at Ruger have accomplished an engineering feat with the MAX-9 that I would not have thought possible: effectively doubling the firepower of the 9mm pocket pistol without sacrificing anything to size and ease of carry. Ruger has also introduced a way to factory-configure the pistol for a wide variety of optical sight options, all on an attractively-priced pistol that includes state-of-the-art open night sights. The MAX-9 represents the next step in the evolution of concealed-carry pistols, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. This pistol will not be going back to Ruger; it will become my carry companion, the pistol upon which I stake my life daily, and I cannot conceive of a higher praise than that.

Check out Ruger's extensive product line at: www.ruger.com.

Buy Genuine Ruger accessories at: www.shopruger.com.

To Find a Lipsey's Dealer Near You, Click on the DEALER FINDER at: www.lipseys.com.

To Order the MAX-9 Online, Clck on the GUN GENIE at Davidson's Gallery of Guns: www.galleryofguns.com.

SIG SAUER: www.sigsauer.com.

Simply Rugged Holsters, Prescott AZ: www.simplyrugged.com.

Buy Ammo Online at Lucky Gunner: www.luckygunner.com.

The American Marksman Ammo: www.theamericanmarksman.com.

Double Tap Ammo: www.doubletapammo.com.

Buffalo Bore Ammo: www.buffalobore.com.

Gunsite Academy, Paulden AZ: www.gunsite.com.

Lyman Products: www.lymanproducts.com.

Boge Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The MAX-9's trigger pull measured a smooth and even 3 pounds, 2.3 ounces average.

 

 

 

 

The MAX-9's slide features a removable plate, covering pre-drilled holes to fit a number of optical sights.

 

 

SIG ROMEOZero Optical Sight.

 

 

Simply Rugged Holsters "Pocket Protector" leather concealment holster.

 

 

Simply Rugged Holsters "CID Slide" leather belt holster.

 

 

The MAX-9 functioned perfectly with a variety of ammunition styles. Shown are a few of Boge's favorite factory loads.

 

 

The MAX-9 easily strips to its basic components without tools for cleaning and maintenance.