Reliability and low recoil at an affordable priceÂ
Story and Photos By Dr. Martin D. Topper
Recently, Sturm, Ruger and Co. invited a group of gun writers to its Prescott, Arizona manufacturing facility to view newly released products and prototypes. One of the prototypes was a .40 S&W caliber version of Ruger’s popular SR9.
After a morning tour of the factory, we all headed out to Gunsite to try the new .40-caliber pistol. We had been told that the new SR40 had very mild recoil, but as we began shooting at paper targets and steel plates, we generally agreed that this was the softest-shooting .40 we had ever used.
In addition to their low recoil, the SR40s proved extremely reliable. They were fired nearly continuously for several hours in the 105-degree heat of Arizona’s Chino Valley and they just kept running. Given this kind of performance, I couldn’t wait for Ruger to announce the production version and send an SR40 to me at the Florida Gun Exchange.
The SR40 is a striker-fired .40 S&W pistol that has a through-hardened stainless steel slide and a glass-filled nylon grip frame. The frame houses a stainless steel locking block insert and the pistol’s fire control mechanism. It is a full-size service pistol with an ammunition capacity of 16 rounds when fully-loaded with 15 cartridges in the magazine and one in the chamber.
This pistol is 5.52 inches high, 7.55 inches long, 1.27 inches wide and weighs 27.25 ounces unloaded. Its six-groove stainless steel barrel is 4.14 inches long and its rifling has a right-hand twist of 1 revolution in 16 inches. All exterior surfaces are rounded, which makes the SR40 less likely to damage clothing and less detectable when worn under a jacket.
The SR40 has a number of safeties, including a safety lever in the trigger, a passive firing-pin safety, a pop-up loaded-chamber indicator and an ambidextrous manual safety. There is no magazine safety, and this makes the SR40 capable of firing with the magazine removed.
The sights are snag-free and have three white dots that allow the shooter to rapidly index them in low light. The rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation. The front sight can also be drifted to further adjust for windage, if necessary. In addition to the adjustable sights the dust cover has a rail on which the owner can mount a tactical light or combination light/laser.
The pistol’s grip has a reversible lower backstrap that has both flat and arched sides. This allows the SR40 to fit a broad variety of hand sizes. This pistol comes with two magazines and has a suggested retail price of $525. Considering its many features, it is an excellent value.
When I picked up the SR40 from the Gun Exchange, I examined its exterior for defects and checked the functioning of its safeties and other controls. Everything worked as designed. I noticed that the manual safeties and the slide lock had rather small levers. These controls blend well with the snag-free design of the pistol, but they do not lend themselves to quick manipulation. I generally prefer manual safeties with extended levers because they allow the gun to be carried cocked and locked.
As for the slide lock, an extended release is generally not needed because the slide can be easily moved rearward with the weak hand to chamber the first round from a new magazine during a speed reload. I really liked the way that the SR-40’s D-shaped ambidextrous magazine releases and its smart ejection of empty magazines when the releases were pressed. The only other feature I’d like to see on this gun is an optional XS front night sight.
While field-stripping the SR-40 for its initial cleaning and lubrication, I took a few minutes to check its internal fit and finish. There were no tool marks or burrs anywhere on the interior of the slide or on the locking block insert. The surfaces of the fire control unit’s components were all well-formed and closely fitted.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the field stripping procedure for the SR-series guns, it is a bit different than many other pistols. After removing the magazine, it’s important to remember that the slide must be locked in the open position while using an object like the eraser-end of a pencil to depress the ejector. The slide must also remain locked open while removing the takedown pin.Â After that, the slide should be firmly held in the weak hand and allowed to go forward slowly when the slide lock lever is depressed.
When the pistol is reassembled, it’s important to lock an empty magazine in place after re-mounting the slide so that the ejector will be raised into its proper position.
After reassembling the pistol, I left it unloaded and measured its trigger pull. The trigger broke at an average of 7 pounds. The trigger had a bit of creep in its take up and a small amount of overtravel. Trigger reset was very short, which is a very popular feature in a self-defense pistol because it significantly decreases the shot-to-shot interval. My overall impression after examining the SR40 is that it is well-made pistol.
Given the results of the initial evaluation, I was anxious to take the SR40 to the Flagler Gun and Archery Club’s ranges to see if it lived up to my expectations. The first step in the evaluation involved 15-yard accuracy tests from the bench using an MTM front rifle rest and measuring velocities using a Shooting Chrony chronograph.
Black Hills, Winchester and Speer provided 180-grain JHPs for testing. The 180-grain JHP at about 980 fps is the load for which S&W and Winchester originally developed the .40 S&W, and it is the load that many law enforcement departments prefer.
In addition, Cor-Bon provided three lightweight loads for testing: the 140-grain all-copper DPX HP, the 135-grain Power Ball and the 115-grain Glaser Blue Safety Slug. I did not have a sufficient supply of the Glasers to run an accuracy test, but I did measure this load for velocity and terminal effect. The full results of the accuracy test are listed in the accompanying chart.
The SR40 proved to be as accurate as other .40 S&W service pistols I’ve tested. The pistol was most accurate with the 180-grain loads, but it was also quite accurate with the 140 DPX. As I conducted the accuracy tests, it became apparent that the gun tended to shoot high and right with all loads, so I adjusted the rear sight and sighted the pistol for a dead-center hold.
I fired the SR40 in a couple of stages at the Flagler Club’s informal weekly Bullseye Match. At 25 yards, the pistol put all shots on the 8- x10-inch target, but its 7-pound trigger proved a bit heavy for Bullseye competition.
When it comes to velocity and energy, the SR40 performed as expected. Velocities were 941 to 988 fps for the 180-grain loads with extreme spreads of less than 50 fps. The average energy levels for these three loads were between 354 and 390 ft/lbs of energy.
The lighter bullets were faster, and their energy levels were higher. The highest energy load was the 115-grain Glaser Blue Safety Slug, which developed an impressive 487 ft/lbs at the muzzle according to Sierra’s Infinity ballistics program.
Given the energy levels of these loads, I was interested in seeing how the bullets would perform in my water test. I use two 3-gallon jugs that are 9 inches wide. I abut them lengthwise, and that gives me a total of 18 inches of water. The last jug is backed by phone books, just in case the bullet goes through both jugs.
It’s a good thing the phone books were there, because all three 180-grain JHPs went completely through both jugs. All of the 180-grain bullets expanded to between .58- and .635-inch, and they all hit the jugs quite hard. The 140-grain DPX penetrated to the end of the second jug, and its six copper petals expanded to .78-inch.
The only bullet that did not penetrate into the second jug was the Glaser. It completely fragmented, and its #12 pellets were spread out in a fan shape across the bottom of the jug. Most of the pellets penetrated 5 to 9 inches. Throughout the accuracy and velocity tests, the Ruger performed flawlessly, feeding and extracting all ammunition.
IDPA MATCH PERFORMANCE
Because the pistol ran so well, I decided to conduct a few tactical drills and take the SR40 to an IDPA match. These drills were all conducted from a draw. They included double taps while moving and point shooting at 3 yards, body armor drills at 7 yards, single shots to the head at 10 yards and double taps at 15 yards.
During all the drills, all shots were center torso or in the head. I was very pleased with this level of accuracy. These drills were run with the pistol loaded to its maximum capacity with two different 180-grain JHP loads. Again, the gun ran without a hitch.
Given this level of performance, I was very interested in seeing how the SR40 would stack up against the competition in the monthly IDPA match at the Flagler Club. It didn’t take long to find out.
The SR40 quickly and consistently put accurate shots down range. The gun’s rounded contours and ramped sights made it fast out of the holster, while the contours of its grip made it point naturally.
FAST AND RELIABLE
Once the gun was clear of the holster, its three-dot sights got on target very quickly. In addition, the pistol’s mild recoil and quick trigger reset saved considerable time when shooting double-taps and body armor scenarios. The ease of reloading the SR40’s tapered double-column magazines also helped keep times to a minimum.
All of these factors were complemented by the pistol’s total reliability. No time was lost clearing stoppages. I even mixed a variety of ball and hollowpoint ammunition in some of the magazines just to see if I could make the gun malfunction. No luck there, it simply kept running.
When competing in an IDPA match, I usually don’t have fast times because I don’t cut corners. One can shoot fast times if one is willing to do tactically unsound things, such as sticking the gun through windows or resting the gun on cover, which usually exposes more of my body to the target.
Instead, I keep my mind focused on the fact that in a real confrontation, bullets would likely be coming at me. Therefore I concentrate on movement, gun retention and not crowding cover. The ease of shooting the SR40 and its total reliability allowed me to focus on these and other tactical priorities rather than waste time trying to keep the gun running.
A SOLID INVESTMENT
From the moment I fired the SR40 prototype at Ruger’s Gunsite Seminar, it was clear that this is a very good pistol. Now that I’ve put several hundred rounds through a production model, I’m even more impressed. So much so that I purchased the gun from Ruger.
This high-capacity .40 S&W pistol is accurate, extremely reliable with a broad range of ammunition, soft on recoil and user-friendly. Its suggested retail price is very competitive, and I think that civilians and law enforcement agencies alike will think twice about paying several hundred dollars more for guns that may not have all of the SR40’s features.
Black Hills Ammunition
Flagler Gun Club
Florida Gun Exchange
Sierra Infinity Software
Sturm, Ruger & Co.