Ruger Max-9 Review: “You Can’t Go Wrong with It”

The micro compact 9mm has redefined the concealed carry market. The Sig Sauer P365 changed the game with its small size and increased capacity. These guns combine the best parts of single stack and compact carry guns and the Ruger Max-9 is a worthy addition to the micro compact lineup.

Luke from USA Carry aims Ruger Max-9
Luke from USA Carry likes the Ruger Max-9.

Luke from USA Carry [YouTube channel] spent several months testing a Max-9 and gives the lowdown in the video linked below. The Max-9 was the last of his micro-compact tests, following the P365, Springfield Armory Hellcat, Taurus GX4, and Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus.

Ruger Max-9 Specifications

  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Capacity: 10+1 or 12+1
  • Barrel Length: 3.2 inches
  • Overall Length: 6 inches
  • Height: 4.52 inches without magazine
  • Width: 0.95 inches
  • Weight: 18.4 ounces
  • Safety: Available slide-mounted thumb safety
  • Slide and Barrel material: Through hardened steel alloy with black oxide finish. Cold hammer-forged barrel.
  • Grip Frame: High-performance glass-filled nylon
  • Front Sight: Standard Tritium Fiber Optic
  • Rear Sight: Drift adjustable rear notch
  • Optic ready
  • MSRP: $579.00
Ruger Max-9 pistol with 10-round magazine
The Ruger Max-9 with flush 10-round magazine. (ruger.com)

Lots to Like About the Ruger Max-9

Size

Luke likes the Max-9’s dimensions. The micro compact pistols have shorter grips, but Ruger includes a pinky extension for the 10-round mag so you can get all four fingers on it. Luke recommends using it since it doesn’t affect concealability.

Luke from USA Carry

Same with the 12-round extended mag. The gun ships with one standard and one extended mag. Luke prefers the 12-round mag because it gives the Ruger almost the exact same height as his Glock 48 EDC with a Shield Arms 15-round magazine. He has no problem concealing either one, and the Max-9 throws in a shorter slide and barrel.

Luke also likes the Max-9’s width. “It just feels thinner than some of the other pistols.” That’s because it is thinner. The Ruger is the slimmest of the micro compacts, coming in at just 0.95 inches.

Micro compact pistols specs comparison chart
Here’s how the Max-9 aligns with other micro-compact pistols. The MSRP has increased to $579 since this video was filmed.

Features

Luke says one of his favorite things about the Max-9 is that every model is optic-ready. You don’t have to choose a specific model or pay more to get that capability. Luke thinks all new carry pistols should include that feature. The Max-9 is compatible with 15 different optics using the JPoint and Shield pattern footprints. Luke uses a Holosun 507K for his test.

Ruger Max-9 compatible optics
The Max-9 is compatible with 15 different optics.

Each model also comes with blacked-out drift adjustable rear sights and a standard tritium fiber optic front sight. That’s a nice feature usually left to the aftermarket. A top observation port eliminates the need for press checks.

Ruger Max-9 front sight
The tritium fiber optic front sight comes standard.

The manual thumb safety is optional so either preference is available, again, all for the same price. The slide has corner cuts that save a little weight and look kind of cool.

Springfield Armory Hellcat and Ruger Max-9 optic footprints
The Springfield Armory Hellcat optic footprint (left) and the Ruger Max-9 footprint.

Ergonomics

“It feels like a Ruger,” Luke says. “I don’t know how to explain that. It just feels like a Ruger. I like that.” The gun is streamlined and flat, with no bulges. The grip has a shallow finger groove at the top and features a skateboard-like microdot texture on the sides, rear, and front. The magazine baseplates have the same texturing.

Ruger Max-9 pistol with 12-round magazine
Ruger Max-9 with the extended 12-round magazine. (ruger.com)

The trigger guard undercut allows a high grip and its longer angle provides more flexibility. Luke notes that the undercut and the grip in general are better and more comfortable than the Hellcat.

Luke says, “The controls are really nice. The minimal slide stop doesn’t bulge out too much but is still easy to hit.” The thumb safety is right where you want it, assuming you want it at all. The serrated mag release is also minimalist, but Luke has no issues with hitting it. The mag release is reversible for lefties.  The gun has front and rear cocking serrations and a serrated front trigger guard.

Ruger Max-9 Pro pistol
The Max-9 Pro comes without the manual thumb safety. (ruger.com)

A Different Takedown System

The Ruger Max-9 differs from other pistols in that you need a tool for takedown and field strip. A small punch, whether it be a small screwdriver, Allen wrench, or whatever, is needed to remove the pin holding the slide to the frame. Luke is not a fan of needing a tool.

Ruger Max-9 Final Thoughts

Luke says he had fun shooting the Max-9 and that “it wasn’t too snappy like some micro-compact 9mms can be” The gun shot well through the 500-round test with zero malfunctions from a mix of full metal jacket and hollow point rounds. He shot from a 7 to 15-yard range and says the accuracy is what you’d expect from a micro compact 9mm pistol. Luke says it shoots better than the Hellcat, which is his main reference point since he’s shot it the most.

recoil as shown on the Mantis X10 Elite training system
The Max-9’s recoil as shown on the Mantis X10 Elite training system.

Luke notes that the Max-9 does rattle a bit. He checked around and learned that the rattle is a tolerance issue and is completely normal. It’s purposeful and does not affect the gun’s performance. He says it was a non-issue for him. The gun does not rattle in its holster.

Luke concludes that he would have no issues carrying the Ruger Max-9. He would not upgrade anything other than adding an optic. He does recommend picking up extra extended mags, though.  “I don’t think you can go wrong with it,” he says, “especially at the price point and the features they give you for that price.” ‘Nuff said.

William "Bucky" Lawson is a self-described "typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast". He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, "here and there". A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar - preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.

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