What Happens When You Shoot A Bullet Proof Vest? We Test Engarde Body Armor

Did any of these penetrate the Engarde Body Armor? Read on to see...

Did any of these penetrate the Engarde Body Armor? Read on to find out…

Is he a plastic Saddam Hussein or a 1970s Porn Star? We don't know, but either way he's protected with Engarde Body Armor.

Is he a plastic Saddam Hussein or a 1970s Porn Star? We don’t know, but either way he’s protected with Engarde Body Armor.

Did I mention we’re giving away a set of FREE body armor? Thanks to the good folks at Engarde, we are. You can get full contest details here, but in short, it’s simple to win. Just like our Facebook page and you’re entered.

The Engarde folks sent us two sets of body armor. One to give away and the other to shoot to pieces. After all, we wouldn’t want to give our readers any untested gear, right?

Since we couldn’t find any willing, and breathing, human volunteers, we dressed up Plastic Saddam with some Engarde Exterior Body Armor and took him to the range. Most of the folks at our local shooting range thought he was a 1970s era porn star, but we knew he was a bona-fide, genuine, evil dictator that really needed to be shot. Either way, with that hairdo and cheesy mustache, dispensing of him was a service to humanity.

A quick look at Engarde Body Armor

This specific model is similar to the Engarde Patrol. It’s an external setup with soft panels that are inserted into the carrier front and rear. The sides overlap so there is full coverage around the body. The carrier also features external pockets which are sized to house optional ceramic plates for protection against rifle and machine gun rounds. The soft panels included with the system are intended to stop pistol calibers only.

The Dyneema soft panels fill the entire space of the carrier. Soft panels insert via a full-width Velcro closure across the bottom of the vest.

The Dyneema soft panels fill the entire space of the carrier. Soft panels insert via a full-width Velcro closure across the bottom of the vest.

The material inside the panels is genuine Dyneema SB-21. While I didn’t count exactly, there are about 40 layers of Dyneema material in each ballistic soft panel. Each layer of Dyneema feels somewhat like a cross between wax paper and plastic tarp material. It’s got a slick and waxy feel to it with a “crinkly” texture. And it’s very, very lightweight.

This specific product is rated National Institute of Justice (NIJ) IIIa. The simple description of the NIJ IIIa rating is that it’s intended to stop most pistol rounds in calibers ranging from .32 through .44 Magnum. Previous certification definitions like NIJ II would not necessarily stop .357 Sig full metal jacket or hard jacketed .44 magnum rounds.

I won’t go into NIJ specifications here, but levels are carefully documented for different type of projectiles, i.e. full metal jacket, moving at specific maximum velocities.

Strength is achieved via layering. While I didn't count, there must have been at least 50 layers of Dyneema material on each side.

Strength is achieved via layering. While I didn’t count, there must have been about 40 layers of Dyneema material on each side.

The vest we tested is rated for up to four straight-on, zero-degree angle hits per panel and two thirty-degree oblique hits. As I did not want to worry about deflected shots, I only tested zero-degree deflection scenarios, so perfect performance would be defined by four stops per panel.

Did it stop bullets?

For no specific reason other than some weird OCD tendency, I decided to shoot the front of the vest with smaller caliber pistol rounds including .32 ACP, 9mm and .357 Sig. The back vest panel I reserved for the slow and fat heavies like .40 S&W, .45 ACP and .44 Magnum.

After being shot several times, the Engarde vest puffed up like Michael Moore at free pizza night at CiCi's. The layers of Dyneema separate while absorbing energy of the incoming projectiles.

After being shot several times, the Engarde vest puffed up like Michael Moore at free pizza night at CiCi’s. The layers of Dyneema separate while absorbing energy of the incoming projectiles.

Being me, I was a bit curious about two things. First, I wanted to verify the vest met manufacturer claims. Would it stop handgun projectiles in the rated bullet type and velocity parameters? Second, could I exceed those parameters and possibly make it break? And by “break” I mean at what point would a round be able to penetrate the vest?

During the vest destruction, I was careful to move shot placement around so that no two impacts were closer than three or four inches to each other.

So let’s take a closer look at results by ammunition type.

.32 ACP

Just for variety, I shot the vest with three different .32 ACP rounds with a Walther PP: Fiocchi 73 grain full metal jacket, Hornady 60 grain XTP and Cor-Bon 60 grain JHP. I thought perhaps the small diameter round nose of a .32 ACP FMJ might stand a better chance of sneaking through the vest undetected so to speak.

A .32 FMJ (left) and .32 hollow point (right)

A Fiocchi .32 FMJ (left) and Cor-Bon .32 jacketed hollow point (right)

No such luck.

This .32 ACP hollow point flattened to about 20% of its original length. And yes, it stopped immediately on impact - I did not remove any layers of Dyneema in this photo.

This Hornady .32 ACP hollow point flattened to about 20% of its original length. And yes, it stopped immediately on impact – I did not remove any layers of Dyneema in this photo.

The full metal jacket projectile flattened like a spoon, one hollow point somewhat self-destructed and the other flattened to about .125 inches top to bottom. If you’re covered head to toe in this material, and attacked by a horde of Walther PPK wielding evil dudes, you don’t have much to worry about, except bruises.


Since I was feeling ornery, I decided to use 9mm ammunition that was designed to penetrate – Hornady’s Critical Duty. It’s a 135 grain 9mm load that is designed not to expand as easily as the standard Critical Defense load. It’s intended for law enforcement use where barriers like car doors and windshields might be encountered. And it travels at about 1,115 feet per second, so considering the heavier than average weight for 9mm, it’s moving right along. I’ve even tested this load against a giant pile of BS – The New York Times – and it performed superbly. To make sure velocity was up to par, I shot it from a Glock 17 Gen 4.

This Hornady Critical Duty round hit within ½ inch of the edges, yet still was stopped in the first five to eight layers (of 40)

This Hornady Critical Duty round hit within ½ inch of the edge, yet still was stopped in the first five to eight layers (of 40) of Dyneema

Again, no luck. And I noticed something really interesting that would appear a few shots later with the .357 Sig testing. All giddy with excitement and curiosity, I yanked one of my shots a bit off target, so it hit within ½ inch of the right hand side of the vest. I expected the projectile to take the path of least resistance and deflect away from the vest altogether. Contrary to my assumption, the round traveled inwards towards the center of the best and got tangled up in the Dyneema material. It’s almost as if the edge hit encountered more resistance than less.

.357 Sig

Keep in mind, by this point, the front panel had been shot 5 times, or one more than it’s rating. As the panels are shot, the Dyneema sheets start to separate as projectiles dump energy into the vest. As the layers separate, penetration is more likely.

Although I didn’t really plan to be unfair from the start, that’s kind of what happened. Shots six through eight, or double the vests rated capacity, were done with a smoking hot round – the .357 Sig. The projectiles are the same diameter as 9mm at .355 inches, but velocity is cranked way up. The two rounds I shot, Georgia Arms Gold Dot and Winchester PDX1 Defender both use 125 grain bonded projectiles at 1,400 and 1,350 feet per second, respectively. I used a Glock 31 with a 4 ½ inch barrel to get every possible bit of velocity advantage.

The .357 Sig Georgia Arms Gold Dot flattened completely - even though it was the 6th shot at the front vest panel - two over rated capacity.

The .357 Sig Georgia Arms Gold Dot flattened completely – even though it was the 6th shot at the front vest panel – two over rated capacity.

Shot six was the Georgia Arms Gold dot. It flattened completely into a nickel-sized blob of lead. Like the previous projectiles, it was stopped cold in the first ten layers of Dyneema material.

Next up were shots seven and eight, which exactly doubled rated capacity of the vest. These were both Winchester PDX1 Defender .357 Sig rounds. The seventh shot didn’t flatten, but tumbled and got caught up about half way through the vest panel – another complete stop.

The eight shot, or double the rated capacity of the vest, passed through the front panel, but didn't even penetrate the mesh of the back panel. It was clearly out of gas.

The eight shot, or double the rated capacity of the vest, passed through the front panel, but didn’t even penetrate the mesh of the back panel. It was clearly out of gas.

The eight shot found how much punishment the vest could take, as it passed through and was immediately stopped by the back panel. At this point, having absorbed eight hits, the vest was done. It had blimped up to approximately eight inches thick as the panels expanded more and more with each subsequent hit.

As the rated standards call for up to four “straight on” hits, I would certainly say it did it’s job absorbing eight – three of which were from very hot .357 Sig rounds. Now let’s look at the back panel, where I tested the “heavier” and larger caliber rounds.

.40 Smith & Wesson

I had no doubt the Engarde vest would stop a relatively slow 180 grain .40 S&W projectile, so I decided to try a lighter weight and higher velocity round – the Speer Gold Dot 155 grain bonded hollow point. I clocked this specific round at 1,168 feet per second from a Beretta PX4 Storm.

Both the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain FTX .357 Magnum (left) and Speer Gold Dot 155 grain .40 S&W (right) were stopped cold.

Both the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain FTX .357 Magnum (left) and Speer Gold Dot 155 grain .40 S&W (right) were stopped cold.

I’ll let you guess what happened. With the first hit on a fresh Engarde panel, I observed full “splat” with virtually no penetration into the vest.

.357 Magnum

Next up was .357 Magnum shot from a Ruger LCR. I used Hornady’s Critical Defense 125 grain FTX round. As expected, the second shot on the fresh back panel yielded the same result – a flattened bullet caught in the first several layers of material.

.45 ACP

Getting bored by all these stopped bullets, I decided to try a couple of different things. First, I had to try one of my favorite carry loads for my Springfield Armory TRP 1911Remington Golden Saber 185 grain +P. It’s a jacketed hollow point that I’ve choreographed at 1,167 feet per second from this particular pistol.

It penetrated exactly two of the 40 Dyneema layers before flattening completely. Yes, two.

So it was time to try a different option. I recently picked up a box of DoubleTap .45 ACP +P hard cast ammunition. It features a solid lead, semi-wadcutter projectile that’s designed for hunting thick-skinned critters like wild boar. Surely this would do something dramatic right? It was also the fourth shot at the back panel – the last shot within the performance rating of the vest.

Both the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain FTX .357 Magnum (left) and Speer Gold Dot 155 grain .40 S&W (right) were stopped cold.

The DoubleTap 255 grain hard cast and Remington Golden Saber 185 grain +P .45 ACP projectiles.

Well, the 255 grain hard cast projectile did manage to penetrate a bit further. One layer. That one passed through two and stopped at the third, making a small tear in layer three. Only 37 more layers and it would have gone right through.

.44 Magnum

I know, there aren’t many .44 Magnums on the streets, so testing body armor against that isn’t really practical. But it did sound entertaining. So I dug out a box of Magtech 240 grain semi-jacketed soft point ammunition and launched one from a Ruger Super Blackhawk.

.44 Magnum versus Engarde Body Armor

.44 Magnum versus Engarde Body Armor

The result? Yet another deformed bullet, this one caught in the first four layers of the vest’s material. Add “magnum” to the mix and you get one more layer of penetration. Only 36 to go!

Closing Arguments

This was enlightening and a little bit shocking. After shooting each side of the vest, I cut it open to examine the results. As described earlier, the Dyneema material somewhat resembles wax paper. Heavier and stiffer, but not something you would think capable of stopping a bullet. Even though I understand the science behind it, it’s still mind-boggling when you feel how light the panels are.

This vest worked beyond what is advertised. I had to shoot the front panel to double the specification before it failed. The rear panel was shot five times – all with some insanely powerful handgun loads and never failed.

A slew of really messed up bullets.

A slew of really messed up bullets.

There was no deflection. All bullets were caught up in the material and stopped cold. Two shots hit on the very edge of the vest, yet were still trapped.

Watching the target stand and vest “jump” with each shot, I quickly decided I would prefer never to be shot, vest or not. While these have saved hundreds and maybe thousands of lives, getting hit with a supersonic projectile will still leave a mark. Ouch.

The model tested, identical to the one we’re giving away, is a great “emergency” option for civilian use. It slips over your head, outside of your clothing, and can be put on in seconds. Engarde makes lots of other models with some designed to be concealed, so check them out.

Don’t forget, we’re giving an identical set to this one away free! All you have to do is like our Facebook page. Or you can get full details here.

Did you like this?

Then be sure to check out our latest book, The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition. It’s available in print and Kindle format at Amazon:

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

A Litte More On Rule 1: A Gun Is Always Loaded

Rule 1: A Gun Is Always Loaded

Rule 1: A Gun Is Always Loaded

Rule 1: A gun is always loaded!

Yes. Always. Even when it’s not.

Every year we hear about people who are accidentally shot with ‘unloaded’ guns.

  • “I thought it was unloaded!”
  • “I’m sure I unloaded it last time I put it away!”
  • “It wasn’t loaded before!”
  • “Maybe I was loaded last time I unloaded it!”

Of course, a gun is not technically always loaded. But the intent of Rule 1 is to treat a gun as if it’s always loaded. If you treat a gun like it is loaded, you tend to change your behavior in terms of how you handle that gun.

Hopefully you won’t check out the sights by aiming it at someone.

Hopefully you won’t pull the trigger, unless you’re actually ready to fire the gun at a safe target. More on that in a minute.

And hopefully you won’t do anything else careless with it.

Rule 1 is first on the priority list, because it’s Rule 1, but also because it covers a lot of safety ground. Treating a gun like it is loaded and ready to fire has a fantastic ripple effect that makes everyone around safer.

So take it seriously. Pretend that a gun is loaded every single time you look at it or touch it. Pretty soon you’ll start believing that it IS actually loaded. Even when you look, and verify that it’s not, you’ll want to look again to make sure. This is a good thing. Never ignore a gut feeling to check the status of a gun just one more time to be sure.

Ruger LCR Revolver loaded rule one

Is this Ruger LCR loaded? Trick question! Of course it’s loaded!

I like to have some fun with this when teaching new shooters the safety rules. Not for fun’s sake alone, but to really drive home the point.

Immediately after telling them Rule 1, the gun is always loaded, I pick up a gun, point it in a safe direction, and open gun’s action to show them. It’s empty of course, but I don’t tell them that. I ask them if the gun is loaded. It’s even better when both kids and adults are present in this new shooter orientation. Almost without fail, the kids look at me with an odd puzzled look for a second, then respond “Yes! It IS loaded!” Kids are much better students than adults. They love getting this trick question right! Adults tend to score about 50% on this pop quiz. About half of them look intently then tell me that the gun appears to be unloaded. We all have a quick laugh when I tell them, “WRONG! It’s ALWAYS loaded!” Then they get it.

So be creative when talking about the rules of gun safety with others. You can have fun teaching people to be safe – and just maybe they’ll tend to remember a little better!

Holster Review: Pretty Dangerous Accessories Ladies Gun Holster

Shhh. It’s our secret…

Pretty Dangerous Accessories Holster with Springfield Armory EMP 9mm

Pretty Dangerous Accessories Holster shown with a Springfield Armory EMP 9mm

That’s the very appropriate tagline advertised by Pretty Dangerous Accessories. While Pretty Dangerous Accessories offers innovative jewelry designs and clothing for shooting women, we elected to take a look at their holster line.

We had to solicit the skills of our female staff for this assignment because, well, let’s face it, men have the fashion sense of Silly Putty. You see, we needed feminine input not only for functionality testing, but commentary on more intangible factors like fun, fashion points and cuteness. And “cuteness” is as foreign to guys as choir practice is to Lindsey Lohan.

Ways To Use A Pretty Dangerous Accessories Holster

Gun fit versatility is designed in to the Pretty Dangerous Accessories holster. It features an open top / open bottom design somewhat like the famous “Yaqui Slide” style. This allows the holster to fit a variety of pistols and revolvers regardless of slide length. As long as the body fits and the trigger guard is properly covered, you’re good to go. There is a metal clip on one side that allows for different mount options as we’ll discuss in a sec. The clip is removable if you can figure out a scenario where that would benefit you.

We tried to get creative and figure out a variety of ways to use this holster. Here’s what we found:

  • Clip it on jeans for an easy mount / easy removable outside the waistband holster.
  • Clip it to an interior pocket in a purse or other carry bag to keep it exactly in place and out of the clutter.
  • Clip it on a boot!
  • Clip it to other clothing items. We’ll leave that to you.
  • While driving, clip it to a surface in your car for accessibility. Be sure to check local laws regarding car carry with and without a concealed carry license.
  • And more…

Fun for Fashionistas

Pretty Dangerous Accessories inventor, founder, accountant, production manager, and chief designer Julie Ruster Price has an interesting background which led to this combination of style and function. She was a cop for years, but also had experience in fashion and merchandising.

Yes, you guessed it, Julie was the driving force behind the creation of the first Elite Tactical Response Unit for Lifetime Network’s hit show Project Runway. In between emergency deployments to resolve cat fights in the contestant’s shared apartments, Julie hatched the idea for Pretty Dangerous Accessories.

Some ask why devote energy to fashionable materials and designs for a product that will be rarely seen by others. “Why not?” responds Julie. “YOU can enjoy it!”

Gun Fit

We tried the Pretty Dangerous Accessories with a variety of concealed carry friendly handguns. With few exceptions, we found this holster design to  do an admirable job of protecting the trigger and providing a stable means of carrying a gun.

One of the keys to the multi-fit design is assigning a specific gun to a specific holster. That means you’re better off getting different holsters if you plan on using multiple size guns. Being made of leather, the Pretty Dangerous Holster quickly conforms to fit a specific handgun. For larger guns, it will stretch to fit – within reason.

Here are some of the guns we tried with good success:

 Pretty Dangerous Accessories Hair On Cowskin holster with Walther PPK

This combination of a Cylinder and Slide customized Walther PPK and the Pretty Dangerous Accessories Hair-On Cowskin Holster was a winner. The fit was excellent and we found it easy to get a good solid firing grip. And let’s face it – Walthers are just plain elegant and need a holster with equal style.

 Pretty Dangerous Accessories Eggplant Ostrich Holster with Glock 17

We were somewhat surprised to find that a full size Glock 17 Gen 4 worked just fine in this Eggplant Ostrich Holster.

Pretty Dangerous Accessories Black Lizard Holster with Glock 32

Of course, all of the Glock models in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .357 Sig share the same slide and frame width, so the Glock 32 equipped with Crimson Trace Lasersights fit perfectly in this Black Lizard Holster.

Pretty Dangerous Accessories Duty Rose Leather Holster with Glock 26

Here’s a Glock 26 Gen 4 equipped with a Pearce Grip Extension with a Duty Rose Leather Holster.

Pretty Dangerous Accessories Duty Red Croc Holster with Beretta Tomcat

The Beretta Tomcat 3032 .32 ACP with custom grips is wide enough to get a reasonably snug fit in this Red Croc Holster.

Pretty Dangerous Accessories Duty Eggplant Ostrich Holster with Ruger LCP

The Ruger LCP .380 ACP fits in this Eggplant Ostrich Holster, but it’s somewhat loose. It will work fine with certain carry methods – although the gun positions a little too deeply in the holster to get a proper firing grip without adjustment.

Pretty Dangerous Accessories Duty Red Croc Holster with Springfield Armory TRP

A full size Springfield Armory 1911 TRP Armory Kote in the Red Croc Holster. A pretty dangerous gun in a Pretty Dangerous Accessories holster. Just right for the pretty dangerous lady in your life. Notice the trigger is fully protected.

Pretty Dangerous Accessories Duty Ostrich and Rose Duty Holster with Ruger LCR

The Ruger LCR Revolver has a slightly atypical trigger guard. It’s more of an oblong, egg shape – but it still makes lousy omelets. In any case, the fit is a little iffy on this holster. We had 5 different ones in for evaluation and we managed to fit the LCR in two of them. If this is the combination you want, just let the folks at Pretty Dangerous Accessories know you need a bit of extra room. Or gently encourage your LCR to cut down on the late night snacks.

Closing Arguments

This is a versatile and functional holster design. One has to be careful about checking fit with your choice of handgun as it’s a one size fits all design, but we found this holster to work with a broad array of handguns. When tweaking the design, the Pretty Dangerous Accessories team scoured the gun shows to try as many models as possible, so if in doubt, just give them a call before ordering. The only drawback to the one-size fits many approach is fit can be a little loose depending on your choice of gun. We found revolvers and mid size semi-automatics like the Walther PPK and Springfield Armory EMP to be quite snug and secure.

Our Rating

3 Nuns Three Nuns! Stylish AND dangerous. This is a nice holster design. For certain “mid-sized” concealed carry guns, the fit is perfect. It particularly shines with short barrel revolvers. We also liked the variety of leather finishes. Why not make a personal holster fashion statement?
Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!

Read about more carry styles and over 120 different gun holsters in The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters – available at Amazon.com! Learn more about our Insanely Practical Guides!

Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters


Gun Review: Ruger LCR .357 Magnum Revolver

Taming the Beast! A Featherweight .357 Magnum.

Suggested Retail Price: $575.00 www.ruger.com


The Good The Bad The Ugly Our Rating
This is a shootable gun. The polymer frame soaks up some of the potentially aggressive recoil in this ultra-light pocket cannon. We wish that a little more attention was paid to polish and finish of some of the polymer frame areas – especially inside the trigger guard. Our 158 grain .357 Magnum handloads were quite, umm, interesting in this gun. To be expected of course. 3 Nuns Four Nuns!
We gave the LCR 4 Nuns for the simple fact that it has been designed to actually shoot what its chambered for. Something that not all lightweight snubbies can claim.


Ruger LCR .357 Magnum Revolver

The Ruger LCR .357 is a beast tamed.

Hello boys and girls, and welcome to Physics Happy Fun Festival with My Gun Culture.

Today we’re going to see what it feels like to fire a .357 magnum out of an ultra-light handgun.

The Ruger LCR 357 launches a projectile at nearly one and a half times the speed of sound, yet weighs just 17 ounces. (Tweet This)

While physics ‘R physics and pesky little concepts like ‘equal and opposite reactions’ still apply, both gun and ammunition manufacturers can perform some nifty tricks to minimize the subjective measure of felt recoil. Yes, the force headed back towards your face is still the same, but if more of it is dampened by the gun, and the power curve of that little firestorm in the cartridge is lengthened a bit, then it can feel somewhat better to the one doing the launching. Or at least minimize blunt-force trauma. Blunt-force trauma is a big deal after all. We saw it on CSI Miami.

First Impressions of the Ruger LCR .357 Magnum

The stand out feature of the Ruger LCR .357 is shootability.

You can actually shoot .357 magnum loads out of this gun. And live to tell about it.

We think it’s some type of voodoo magic related the combination of the polymer frame flexiness and the Hogue Tamer factory installed grip. The other factor we noticed about full power .357 magnum load shootability was choice of ammunition. No, we’re not talking about different bullet weights and velocities. We’re talking about more voodoo magic related to powder selection, burn efficiency, and probably warp drive technology. The LCR did in fact appear to be surrounded by a bubble of normal space-time with minimal traces of anti-matter

Ruger LCR .357 Magnum Hogue Tamer Grip

The combination of one piece Hogue Tamer grip and polymer frame makes a noticeable difference in perceived recoil.

The LCR is fitted with a one-piece Hogue Tamer grip that is firmly affixed to the polymer frame by a single screw in the bottom of the grip – well out of the way unless you use the, ummm, cup and saucer hold. Friends don’t let friends shoot with cup and saucer holds anyway. The Hogue Tamer is firm where it needs to be firm and squishy where it needs to be squishy. The front, sides, and lower half of the backstrap are firm rubber with minimal give. However, there is a section at the top of the backstrap that is quite mushy – and it’s right where the web of your hand between your thumb and index finger falls. We found this to make a BIG difference in comfort and we suspect it is entirely by design. A small detail that makes a big difference. As a side note, the one piece grip has a cutout on the left side which allows unobstructed ejection of empty brass and easy reloading with a speed strip or speed loader.

Just the Specs Ma’am…

  • .357 Magnum caliber
  • 5 round fluted cylinder
  • Barrel length: 1.875”
  • Stainless steel barrel
  • Finish: Blackened stainless steel and black polymer
  • Twist: 1:16”
  • Weight: 17.10 oz
  • Overall length: 6.50”
  • Width: 1.28”

Trigger Talk

The LCR .357’s trigger feels surprisingly light. We think that’s a result of smoothness of pull and from the hybrid-rounded trigger face. What’s a hybrid trigger face you ask? Well the LCR’s trigger resembles a flat face trigger in terms of overall width of the face. However the corners are heavily rounded. There you have it.

Here’s how it felt right out of the box before any break-in: It was almost two stage in nature. A long and smooth pull with a point of barely detectable resistance with about 1/16″ remaining until the break. The last 1/16″ of pull had the smallest trace of grittiness, but this went away after about 100 rounds. The unofficial two-stage nature is a big personal preference issue, but we liked it.

Lot’s of folks talk about the “surprise break” but with any pistol we shoot with regularity, we know exactly when it’s going to fire. With that frame of reference, we liked the tactile sensation of knowing when the trigger was about to break. For slow, aimed fire, you can easily stage the trigger for release when your sight picture is just like you want. In rapid fire, the second stage point is not perceptible. This is neither a good or bad thing, simply an observation of how our evaluation model worked.

The Ammo Report – .357 Magnum and .38 Special

Ruger LCR .357 Magnum ammo and .38 Special ammo

We tested the LCR .357 with a variety of .357 Magnum and .38 Special ammo

Since the big hubbub over ultra-light .357 magnum revolvers seems to be related to recoil and the ability to actually shoot a .357 magnum load, we decided to test a variety of both .357 Magnum and .38 Special ammunition and capture both objective and subjective data from various shooters.

Remington UMC .357 Magnum 125gr JSP
This load was a beast that needed to be tamed. Clocking in at an average of 1,155 feet per second out of the 1.875 inch LCR barrel, we never did tame it though. Rated at 1,450 fps out of a test barrel, this 125 grain load was not only stout, but sharp. Did we mention it was aggressively sharp in the LCR? None of our test shooters wanted to try more than one cylinder full. None of us wanted to be on the other end either for that matter.

Hornady Critical Defense .357 Magnum 125gr Flex Tip
Surprise of the day. This new Critical Defense load from Hornady has more or less the same specs as the above mention Remington load – a 125 grain projectile humming along at a factory rated 1,500 fps. In our LCR, with its uber-short barrel, it clocked in at an average of 1,158 fps. A whopping 3 fps faster than the Remington UMC cartridge. However, the difference in perceived recoil in the LCR was noticeably less. In its literature about the new Critical Defense rounds, Hornady claims to offer reduced recoil through magic machinations like burn efficiency. We noticed it. Bottom line? The Hornady Critical Defense load is perfectly usable in this gun. While aggressive, its controllable. And fierce. See our ammunition test results here.

Cor-Bon .38 Special +P 110gr JHP
This had noticeable, but not unpleasant recoil along with a healthy blast factor. Would not be a bad carry load. It seemed genuinely mild in comparison to the .357 loads, although if we had shot this one first, it might have felt more aggressive.

Winchester Supreme .38 Special +P PDX1 130gr
Very soft shooting round. More of a push than a snap. We’re looking forward to doing a separate evaluation on the performance of this load, but in terms of shootability out of the LCR, it was perfectly manageable.

CCI .38 / .357 ShotShells
What else can you say? it shoots a boatload of tiny shot at man’s worst enemy – the snake.

.38 Special Handload (128gr Lead Round Nose Flat Point over 3.3 grains of Trail Boss)
We cooked this up in the man cave for the LCR’s ‘shoot for kicks and giggles’ load. It was in fact fun. A mild recoiling practice load, made even more so with the LCR’s polymer frame. it clocked in at an average of 665 feet per second. Wimpy? Yes. Totally fun plinking round? Yes. We had to lob it at distant targets though.

.357 Magnum Handload (127 grain Lead Round Nose Flat Point over 7.7 grains of Unique)
This turned out to be a great .357 magnum practice load. It definitely hit back in terms of recoil, so if you’re interested in practicing with at least a reasonable facsimile of recoil of full-power self-defense loads, this load is a good option. Averaging 1,175 feet per second out of the LCR, it yielded a power factor of just over 150 – just about the same as the Hornady Critical Defense load out of the this gun. While noticeably sharper than the Hornady load, this one was quite controllable in the Ruger. We wouldn’t want to shoot an entire Steel Challenge match with this combination though…

To Mag Or Not To Mag – That Is the Question…

Ruger LCR .357 Magnum with Hogue Tamer grip for recoil

See that squishy part of the grip? That turned out to be a big deal – in a good way.

It seems there are two schools of thought with respect to ultra-light .357 Magnum revolvers.

Team Globo-Gym loves them and is prepared to carry and shoot full power .357 Magnum loads in spite of the, ummm, mild discomfort.

Team Average Joe’s also likes them, but for a different reason. Team Average Joe’s says “hey, why not get the stronger .357 version and you can always carry .38 Special +P loads?” The thinking is that first, you have a more durable gun as it’s designed for magnum pressures, and second, that you always have the option of popping some .357 Magnum loads in there if you want.

With an all metal gun, we would sway towards the Team Average Joe’s train of thought. With the LCR, we’re going Globo-Gym and carrying .357 magnum loads in it. Because we can in this gun.

Our Gripe: It Seems There Are Seams

When we tested the Ruger LCP, one of the standout qualities was the attention to finish detail. It’s also a polymer pistol, but in the LCP, there are not detectable seams where sections are joined. This is especially important inside and outside the trigger guard. With aggressive loads, a sharp seam in the polymer tends to irritate the bejeepers out of your fingers as the gun recoils. Our evaluation LCR had seams. End of the world? No. But if we end up buying this one, we’ll take some sandpaper to the inside of the trigger guard to smooth things out a bit.

The Offhand Pilates Accuracy Test

Following in the ‘gun-riter’ tradition of testing mechanical accuracy by shooting at long range targets offhand, we consulted fitness guru Denise Austin to get some help with the proper Pilates-based offhand stance position. Unfortunately, Denise had a prior commitment filming a “Shootin’ to the Oldies” episode with Richard Simmons so we had to rely on our own accuracy testing protocol. For full details, check out our review of the Ruger LCP.  To summarize our findings, let’s just say that the LCR .357 is easily “minute of evil d00d” capable.

Closing Arguments

This is a nice gun. Our test model came with the standard ramped front sight and notch in frame rear sight. The front sight is pinned in place, not machined, so you can replace it with an XS Standard Dot. We’re going to do this next just for kicks. If you’re ordering one new, you can buy a version with the XS Standard Dot pre-installed.

One more totally random observation. There’s something about the finishes on both the cylinder and frame that makes it easier to clean than say a Smith and Wesson 442. The burny-crud just comes off really easily. We have no idea is this was a design goal or not, but we noticed it after a couple of range sessions. It will be interesting to see if this applies over time and lots more crud accumulation.


He said She said
OK so I was a little nervous to send some full house .357 loads downrange with this one. But I was pleasantly surprised. I lived to tell the tale. While we did not write about them since I did not get an accurate velocity reading, I made some 158 grain .357 loads to test and they were, to say the least, a handful. But physics ‘R physics and all. It’s a light gun. Find a good practice round and carry the big stuff for emergencies. Love that Hogue Tamer grip! Especially the finger grooves in the front – it makes all the difference in shooting the LCR. A minor detail that I noticed was the natural position for my trigger finger on the frame while in ‘ready’ position. The combination of grip and frame design left a very natural spot to park the trigger finger while not shooting. I shot both .357 and .38 Special loads in the LCR and personally preferred .38 Special +P rounds. Although shootable, the .357 magnums were just a bit too aggressive for my tastes. I bet they were aggressive for him also – he just won’t admit it.
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