When you’ve already sold over a million and a half, how do you sell more? By making the product better.

In 2008, Ruger introduced its LCP (Lightweight Compact Pistol). It was essentially a copy of the George Kehlgren-designed Kel-Tec P3AT, but with fit and finish many reviewers considered smoother and “nicer.” The economy-level price of this double-action, hammer- fired, polymer-framed .380 was close to the Kel-Tec’s.

The gun was such an instant hit that most industry insiders blamed it for the shortage of .380 ammunition that followed for years. Popular? By the beginning of 2016, Ruger had sold over one and a half million LCPs.

What accounted for the little gun’s extraordinary popularity? Several things. At under ten ounces unloaded, and described by many reviewers as “wafer-thin,” it was extraordinarily easy to conceal. One friend of mine, using a clip that attaches to the rear of the frame, has been known to wear his when clad only in a swimsuit, the seven-shot autoloader going unnoticed. The size/weight format simply took away the excuse, “My wardrobe won’t allow me to carry a gun.” The low price and Ruger’s long reputation for sterling reliability and customer service had a lot to do with it, too.

And the LCP was and is . . . cute. I hate to use the words “cute” and “gun” in the same sentence, but it’s true. At gunblast.com, writer Jeff Quinn nicknamed the little gun Elsie Pea, and that instantly caught on.

The original was not without its perceived shortcomings. Its trigger pull was long and heavy for every (double action only) shot, a marksmanship challenge exacerbated by the fact that the pistol itself was so light compared to the poundage being exerted upon the trigger, and so small some hands couldn’t get a good grip on it. Being so narrow, well under an inch in width, the frame channeled the recoil into the web of the hand enough to be uncomfortable for some. And the vestigial sights got in the way of hitting small targets, which is more of a consideration in some self-defense shootings than a lot of folks care to admit. Finally, the slide did not lock back on an empty magazine, and manipulating the slide lock lever manually was awkward with such small parts. This was an issue for many taking their pistol to a CCW class and struggling to obey the command to “show clear.”

Ruger listened to the complaints. Their interim answer was an upscale model with excellent dovetailed sights and a smoother trigger, the LCP Custom. But a more conclusive answer would come in the next generation of the pistol, the LCP-II.

Meet the LCP-II

I had the good fortune to be among a group of gun writers invited to attend a seminar on new Ruger products including this one in September 2016 at the awesome FTW rifle training and game ranch in Texas, weeks before the pistol was introduced to the public. We were generally very pleased with the new LCP-II, which carries an MSRP of $359. And, yes, it’s still cute; it has already been nicknamed “Elsie Pea Too.”

At 10.6 ounces it’s slightly heavier than the original LCP, and it is slightly wider, this to better distribute recoil across a wider part of the shooter’s hand.

The sights are dramatically better than those of the original. Big and blocky and quick to the eye.

The slide does, indeed, lock itself back on the new LCP-II magazines when the pistol is empty. However, while the LCP-II will function with earlier LCP magazines, it will not lock open on them due to the different construction. The LCP-II comes with one magazine and two easily interchangeable floorplates for it, one flat for maximum concealment and one with a finger-flange to offer a better hold, though you can expect your pinky finger to have to tuck under the butt of this tiny pistol with either one.

Curved grasping grooves front and rear on the slide combine with new internals (more on that momentarily) to make the slide distinctly easier to operate. This is particularly important for folks with smaller, weaker hands. It was explained, “If you take the slide off, there is a leading edge with an inclined plane that makes the slide retract easier.”

But the big difference is the trigger. The easiest way to explain it is the way a Ruger engineer put it to us at the seminar: “The LCP-II is a bladed-trigger, single action pistol. The LCP is half cocked. The LCP-II is cocked.”

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