Sturm Ruger seems to have the everyday working man and woman in their plans when they start designing pistols.
Ruger delivers exceptional value, high quality, and rugged reliability in their pistol designs that equal or rival many of their closest competitors. The EC9S compact 9mm semi-automatic pistol is no exception.
The Ruger EC9S was introduced at Shotshow in 2018 and touted as the next logical evolution of the Ruger LC9 design. The EC9S is slightly larger and slightly heavier than the LC9. The trigger pull is better and the overall feel of the gun seems more comfortable for a lightweight small frame 9mm pistol.
In this Ruger EC9s review, we will look at the design and construction of this relatively new pistol in the Ruger lineup. We will consider shooting performance and reliability as well.
I will also give you my thoughts and opinions about carrying, shooting, and maintaining this compact pistol from Sturm, Ruger, and Company.
A Short History of the EC9S
Almost everyone is familiar with the LC line of Ruger compact pistols. The LC9s and the LC380 are two of the most popular concealed carry firearms in the Ruger line. However, there has always been criticism of the LC pistols, especially the trigger pull that often gave shooters problems.
In 2018, Ruger introduced the EC9S. According to Ruger, the E stands for “Essential,” as in “essential carry.” In response to their customer base, the EC9S is basically a Ruger LC9s that is lighter, has a better trigger pull, and costs less overall. What more could you ask from a compact pistol?
Anytime I see a firearms manufacturer touting a new model of pistol that is small, lighter, and cheaper than its previous versions, I get suspicious. In the case of the EC9S, I was concerned that Ruger had fallen into the trap of trying to meet customer expectations are the expense of reliability and accuracy. I think most shooters have these suspicions when they encounter a compact pistol that falls into the less than $300 range.
I have always liked Ruger guns. I have found them to be reliable firearms that are easy to maintain and shoot well. However, in the case of the EC9S, I was prepared to be a little disappointed. Much to my surprise, this is not the case at all.
The Factory EC9S Features and Specifications
Although they look alike, the EC9s is not the same gun as the LC9 from Ruger.
Before we get into the details of this review of the Ruger EC9s, let’s get the basic information out of the way. A quick look at the factory specifications for the basic EC9S pistol and the features that Ruger includes give us a foundation for our review.
- Magazine capacity – 7+1
- Slide Material – Through-hardened alloy steel
- Barrel Material – Alloy steel
- Barrel Length – 3.12 inches
- Grip/Frame – Black, high-performance glass-filled nylon
- Sights – integral to the slide
- Slide finish – black oxide
- Barrel finish – black oxide
- Width – 0.90 inches
- Weight – 17.2 ounces
- Overall length – 6 inches
- Height – 4.5 inches
- Rifling – 6 groves, 1:10 inches right-hand twist
- Striker fired design
- Light, crisp trigger pull
- Easy to concealed carry lightweight design
- Ruger quality construction
- Checkered grip for a secure and comfortable shooting experience
- Includes a finger grip extension floorplate for an improved grip
- Integrally machined sights with glare-reducing rear-facing serrations.
- Ruger lifetime warranty
The specifications and features of a factory basic EC9S give us a quick overall look at this pistol. Considering that this gun can be found for under $300, it seems that Ruger has scored a home run in this pistol. Such a low price warrants a closer examination of the parts of this pistol can many shooters suspect may be sub-par to save money.
Getting Into The Details
I like to start any pistol review with a look at the individual parts of any pistol, not just Ruger pistols, that contribute to the overall function of the gun.
The operating systems of the pistol and the way the pistol is designed work together to either make or break a semi-automatic pistol as a viable firearm.
I usually start with a look at the frame and grip but on this occasion, I have elected to start with the trigger and trigger safety on the Ruger EC9s pistol. One of the biggest complaints about the LP9S was the difficulty that some shooters had with the trigger. Ruger addressed this issue with the design of the trigger.
The EC9S still has a much heavier pull than I would like. My improvised trigger pull gauge ( a luggage scale) puts the pull between 7 and 8 pounds. This is not excessive by any means, but my taste would prefer a bit lighter load on the trigger.
The trigger pull is rather long with two distinct stages in the trigger takeup. The break on the trigger is crisp and clean with no creep. I found the trigger action to be consistent and repeatable.
Ruger uses a standard trigger safety that doesn’t engage the sear release until the trigger safety lever is depressed by your trigger finger. There is no noticeable effect on the trigger, so the trigger lever goes mostly unnoticed. I like the inclusion of a trigger lever safety to help prevent accidental discharge situations.
The integrated trigger safety is much the same as other models of similar pistols.
The reset on the EC9S is barely noticeable except for an audible clicking sound as the reset occurs. Since most average shooters don’t depend on trigger reset, this may not be a problem.
For trained shooters who consistently get a second or third shot as soon as the trigger resets, this can be an issue.
The Pistol Controls
Typical of Ruger compact and subcompact concealed carry pistols, the Ruger EC9S uses standard semi-automatic pistol controls including a manual thumb safety. The location of the controls is standard and anyone familiar with operating a semi-automatic pistol will have no trouble manipulating the controls.
The external manual safety is conveniently located and doesn’t interfere with a solid pistol grip. The unobtrusive size of the manual safety doesn’t pose any problems for everyday carry like some pistols with an external safety lever.
The magazine release button is rather small but is robustly stippled for easy manipulations. One factor that may be considered is anyone with extra-large hands may have trouble getting a finger on the magazine release button without changing their grip.
I found that my strong-hand thumb easily pressed the mag release button without having to search.
I did find the slide release lever a bit small and hard to manipulate. However, this is not a large issue for me as I rarely use the slide release. I prefer to grasp the slide and perform a full cocking motion anytime I need to release the slide forward.
Grips and Frames
Taking the Ruger EC9s into my hand was a pleasant surprise. I am often put off by the way subcompact pistols fit into my hand. Surprisingly, the EC9S feels like a much larger pistol. This may be a result of the magazine finger grip extension that effectively lengthens the grip.
The grip angle is similar to other Ruger models and works well for me. The grip frame angle allows me to bring the gun to the firing position and quickly acquire a target without having to adjust or think about my grip.
Grip Texture and Accessories
Ruger does sell a variation on the basic EC9S model that comes with Hogue HandALL Beavertail grips sleeves installed at the factory. While I had no problems maintaining a solid grip on this small firearm, I can see how the addition of a grip sleeve would make shooting this pistol much more comfortable for some people.
Like most modern subcompact semi-automatic pistols, Ruger uses a high-performance glass-filled nylon frame on this little gun. This saves weight and doesn’t affect the performance or durability of the firearm.
The frame has aluminum insert rails on which the slide rides giving the frame rigidity and durability.
The Ruger EC9s slide is machined from alloy steel. The rear of the slide has six grasping serrations machined in to facilitate a secure grasp on the slide when necessary. Since I prefer to use a full slide reset when loading or reloading, this is a welcome addition to the EC9S.
The sights on the EC9S are machined as an integral part of the slide. There are no drift adjustable rear sights on this pistol. I suspect that this was done as a cost-saving factor.
However, the sights work well and accuracy didn’t seem to be impaired. At the ranges where most compact self-defense guns are used, having adjustable sights doesn’t seem to be a problem.
The Ruger EC9S comes from the factory with alloy steel magazines. Typically the box contains one magazine but larger capacity magazines are available as accessory purchases.
One feature I like is the magazine disconnect. The disconnect prevents the gun from being fired when the magazine is not inserted into the mag well. This prevents an accidental discharge should the trigger be inadvertently pulled during a mag change when a live round is left in the chamber.
My Overall Impression of the Construction of the Ruger EC9S
The Ruger EC9S gives the impression of typical Ruger attention to detail in the manufacturing process.
The edges of the slide and frame are rounded and there were no visible machine marks on any part of the pistol I examined. The fit and finish of these compact pistols are much better than you might expect on a gun costing less than $300.
Functionality, Reliability, and Accuracy
These are the big three concerns for any pistol you intend to conceal carry as a self-defense firearm.
In simpler terms, you want your gun to go bang when it is time to go bang and put the bullet where it is intended to land. Let’s take a look at how the Ruger EC9S stacks up in these three critical areas:
I like to break down functionality further into three more categories. Functionality, to me, is defined by how easy the gun is to maintain, how easy it is to shoot, and how well it can be concealed when it is carried as part of my everyday carry.
Keeping an everyday carry firearm in top working order is essential. Carrying a gun every day exposes it to all kinds of possible problems that need to be addressed regularly. I have found that a gun that has a hard disassembly process is a gun that doesn’t get maintained properly.
The takedown process of the Ec9S is simple but has some problems.
The removable takedown pin is prone to be easily lost, especially if you must break down the pistol on the range. Compared to similar guns, this is a shortcoming of the EC9S in my book. Otherwise, the gun is simple to maintain.
If you are shooting factory loads, a quick swab of the barrel and judicious use of a good lube on the rails is usually all that is needed.
Shooting The EC9S
For a sub-compact 9mm, the EC9s is surprisingly easy to shoot. Many small-frame semi-automatic pistols are difficult to hold securely and deliver almost punishing recoil to the shooter.
A lot of the felt recoil is a product of the grip/frame angle. Ruger got the formula right on the EC9S which makes the felt recoil a lot less severe that on many other small frame pistols.
I do think that the addition of the Hogue grip sleeve that is available as an option would make the shooting comforter even more pronounced.
Concealing the Ec9S
I had no trouble concealing the Ruger EC9S under even the most restrictive clothing. Admittedly, your choice of holster will make a difference in both comfort and concealability.
I routinely wear an inside-the-waistband holster and carry a Glock 43. The Ruger EC9s is so close to the size of the Glock 43 that I can’t conceive of any problem wearing an IWB holster.
Even an outside-the-waistband holster can be easily concealed with the EC9S if you choose the right outer garments. A t-shirt suffices quite nicely when untucked. I managed to wear a pair of cargo shorts and a lightweight t-shirt with an IWB holster without any problems.
The last thing you want to worry about with a defense weapon is whether or not it will function at the moment that is most critical. Reliability is dependent on both the way the gun is manufactured and how well it is maintained. I tested the EC9S using factory loads of both ball ammo and several different self-defense loads. In all, I sent about 300 rounds downrange.
During my test, the Ruger EC9S proved to be as reliable as I could want. I never suffered a single failure to feed, any kind of malfunction of the ejection system, or a short stroke on the slide. Even the specialized self-defense rounds fed without a problem using the factory magazine.
I always encourage anyone who intends to carry a concealed firearm and defensive ammunition to test the gun and cartridges to ensure that everything works together. There could be no more dangerous situation than a failure to feed when faced with a critical situation.
Upfront I must make it clear that the Ruger EC9S is never going to be a choice for competitive shooting. The short barrel and the size of the frame don’t lead the EC9S to great accuracy over distance. However, I must also say that I was genuinely surprised at how well some of my groupings occurred.
Of the 300 or so rounds I fired during my testing, 200 were ball factory ammunition. The balance was an assortment of self-defense rounds that I keep in my storage for testing and personal defense.
I first approximately 50 rounds at 25 yards. This was all ball ammo and performed about as I expected. I managed to keep all of the shots on the paper and the vast majority were in the black on a standard silhouette target. Suffice it to say I wouldn’t want to engage a threat under stressful situations at 25 yards with this pistol.
I first the last of the ball ammo at both 15 and 7 yards. My accuracy improved immensely at these ranges. At 7 yards, all of my shots were inside the 8-ring on the target. At 15 yards, all hits were inside the 7-ring.
The last of my test rounds were the self-defense ammunition. I fire these more as a test of functional reliability than for accuracy. I tend to do a few mag dumps as fast as possible to see if a failure to feed occurs.
I also load up a few magazines with a mixed batch of this ammo and fire them all at 7 yards. Most of my shots remained on the paper. Even when doing a mag dump as fast as possible, I kept everything on paper. All in all, this is a relatively comfortable little gun to shoot.
My Recommendations about the EC9S from Ruger
If you want a solid performing sub0compact pistol chambered for 9mm, you won’t be disappointed with the Ruger EC9S.
When you consider that the price point for this firearm generally comes in below $400, I would consider this a bargain. I do recommend that you spend a few extra dollars to get the variant with the Hogue grip sleeve factory installed.