Because despite all the back-and-forth on the Second Amendment lately, we have not had a bona fide gun review on here for a while. And yes, the Czar is the kind of guy who italicizes bona fide even though it is a perfectly valid English phrase now.
Yesterday, the Czar left the Castle and returned back to the dacha, whereupon he and the Цесаревич headed off to our favorite shooting range where we tried the Ruger P89, a 9mm pistol-thing pictured right over here.
We each fired about 50 rounds through it, and found some flaws with it.
First, this particular one really pulls to the right. Normally, that’s a shooter problem: pulling too hard on the trigger. And when a 10-year-old really needs to pull hard on a trigger, okay: you can expect that. But even the Czar—who can hit the paper at first light firing one-handed with either hand (we are indeed ambidextrous), found that the gun kicks to the right no matter what direction the trigger is jerked. That could of course be just this weapon, but we doubt it.
We had three failure-to-feeds, including one stovepipe. The Czar could attribute that to a magazine getting worn out, but then the Czar did some research and found this problem repeated from many P89 owners.
Third, there is the mechanics of its operation. Yes, there is a decocking safety: that’s not only a small detail, it is in fact quite reassuring to our 10-year-old shooting buddy who enjoyed the sense of confidence that he could turn the gun effectively on or off.
No, the problem is with the ergonomics. When the Czar shoots the last round from the magazine of his beloved Springfield XD40—and indeed on most other handguns he uses, he brings the weapon back toward him. With the right thumb, we eject the magazine; with the left hand we pull the empty magazine out and drop it. We then retrieve the fresh magazine and insert it into magazine well, slap it upward, and almost instantly use the right thumb to depress the slide catch and rack the next round. You should see us do it; it is quite fast.
With the P89, there is no button for the magazine: there is this little knurled lever you push away from the grip to release the magazine. The problem with that is that the right thumb is generally insufficiently long enough to fully disengage it. As a result, the magazine does not eject.
So what you have to do is this: relax the left hand, use the left thumb to press the magazine release catch forward (not a big deal, since the Czar uses a thumbs-forward grip anyway as shown to the right…unless we are trying to determine if the gun jerks to the right and we use a one-handed grip). Then, we slide our hand down the grip to tug out the magazine, switch the magazine out, and then use the left hand again to hit the slide catch—since the right thumb again is still not long enough to reach it.
And then, the shape of the magazine foot pinched our royal skin on our left hand three or four times, because it traps the edge of the hand in between the magazine and the well.
The problem with all this is that your left hand is moving a lot more than it should to do all this, if you want to keep the right hand holding the weapon on target. That’s just bad ergonomics. With a Springfield, Glock, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, HK, Beretta, and so on, you can do this in half the time by working both hands together.
That said, the weapon’s military origins are pretty clear (an earlier version, the P85 was on trial with the military as a replacement for the M1911A1; the P85 lost out to the Beretta 92, and the military’s issues with the P85 were fixed in the P89). The weapon feels quite robust in the hand, with very light recoil. Our Цесаревич had little difficulty with the weapon, and demonstrated a great ability to rapid fire (bang-bang-bang-bang-bang) with it until we told him to cut it out as he was scaring the general population.
The weapon did not seem as bulky as, say, the 9mm PX4 Storm, with a fairly small slide. But yeah, there are a lot of levers, knobs, toggle switches, joysticks, bumper pads, and doorbells on this thing to rival an Xbox 360 controller. It’s all obvious what each does, but they are packed tightly together on the smaller slide and might be intimidating to a new shooter who may be used to modern weapons with just a trigger marked PULL TO BANG.
We should note the Ruger P89 has been discontinued and replaced with the P95. In full disclosure, we have not tried the P95; unfortunately, glancing at the replacement shows all the ergonomic problems we had with the P89 are clearly still present on the new version. By total contrast, consider the Ruger SR9. That will be next on our list of Rugers to try, and the Czar can see simply from photos of the SR9 that everything is where is should be on a weapon, and that the Czar can do his fast reload without any modification. As should be the case.
Suggestion: pass on the P-series, and go right to the SR-series.