American Rifleman | The Keefe Report: Optics Ready & Micro Compact Pistols
T.The Ruger MAX-9 is the latest in a hugely popular crop of micro-compact carry pistols that are chambered in 9mm Luger and hold at least a 10-round magazine – a category that might be thought to be from the SIG Sauer P365 single-handedly created or Springfield Armory Hellcat.
In reality, such pistols have been with us for a while, with the market leader being the humble and affordable Kel-Tec P11, designed by the NRA’s George Bullgren winner of the NRA’s Golden Bullseye Pioneer Award and dating back to 1995. Taurus, led by then CEO Bob Morrison (another Golden Bullseye Pioneer Award winner) entered the category with its affordable PT-111 Millennium launched in 1997.
The offerings of the current generation are certainly less extensive and more sophisticated than those of the decade-old Taurus, but he and the Kel-Tec set the pattern for a new generation of double-action or striker-only cannons. The previous generation went out of style due to long, heavy, double-acting triggers, in stark contrast to the much more manageable trigger of the P365 or the blade-in-trigger safety precautions of the forward-fired Springfield and the new Ruger.
There were also magazine capacity restrictions at the time – until Bill Clinton’s so-called “assault weapons” ban in 2004, thanks to the NRA, banned the sunset – so 10 rounds was as many as you’d get in a new round -production pistol. This resulted in single-stack guns like the Kahr P9, the Ruger LC-9, the Smith & Wesson Shield, the Springfield XD-S, the Glock G43, and other top picks for 9mm carried weapons. It seems that those who wanted portable 9mm guns were willing to live with magazine capacities of eight rounds or less, as most states passed the right to carry.
The trick for newer introductions was to make a two-column magazine as thin as possible. Regardless of whether it is a half-double stack or whether the transition in the handle frame is high enough to reduce volume, it is not a full-width double column type like the one found in the brick-like Glock G26.
The other feature to be noted is that the MAX-9 comes out of the gate “ready to look”. Essentially, almost every new pistol introduced this year, with the exception of single-acting revolvers and some M1911s, can accommodate an MRD (Micro Red Dot) sight on the slide from the factory. I have no doubt this trend will continue, and indeed we have plans for future coverage to demystify the complex landscape of MRD sights and the pistols they are supposed to accept. And not only for high-end rifles, since EAA Girsan, Stoeger STR-9, Taurus G3 TORO and SCCY CPX are available in optically-ready versions.
As more and more guns are offered wrapped with a red dot (the easiest way to be optically ready), or at least able to accept them, we see companies making or importing guns that are put into the MRD for themselves. Get in business. The Hex Wasp MRD on top of the Ruger on our cover is a case in point. This is an optic imported by Springfield Armory that is not only suitable for the company’s optics-ready weapons, but is also sold to consumers on the aftermarket. Springfield realized how many Shield MRDs were being sold as packages and decided to introduce its own device to its specifications. Once there is an anomaly, the optics are ready to stay.