I still recall when I saw the first Ruger P85, 9mm pistol. I was living in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the time. Only one gun shop in town had a P85 sample, and people were literally lining-up all week long to see this new pistol. There were several reasons for this, first of all, this was the first center fire semiauto handgun from Ruger. Secondly, the design of the P85 and appearance was rather radical at the time. And, I believe lastly, was the retail price of the P85 – which was $295.00 – well below what other similar 9mm pistols were selling for. Of course, for the first few months, you couldn’t purchase a P85 for the retail price – whoever had them in-stock, were selling them above the retail price, and people were paying the price, too.
The P85 didn’t actually appear on the handgun market until 1987 because of design and manufacturing problems. And, there were very low production numbers to start with. (Ruger was just getting their new factory in Arizona up and running, and the P85 was hard to come by.) I owned two of the first P85s to come on the market. One was flawless, the second sample had a strange problem, where the slide would lock open for no particular reason, while firing the gun. I never was able to figure out what the problem was – the slide would lock open during recoil, and it wasn’t retracting to the fullest rear position – the slide would lock open about halfway through the recoil process. I traded that gun off after a couple weeks. The other P85 sample worked perfectly, but the accuracy was lacking. Ruger resolved the accuracy problem in short order. However, there were some reports of the P85 causing accidental discharges when the slide mounted decocker was applied – the firing pin would hit a loaded round in the chamber and the gun would fire. These things happen, even with the best gun designs – there are teething problems. However, Ruger was quick to recall guns and make the needed improvements on the P85. I had enough confidence in the then new P85, that I carried one on-duty when I was the chief of police, in a small town. The sheriff in the county where I worked – he also carried a P85.
Through the years, Ruger updated the P85, with improved models, like the P89, which was cosmetically the same gun, but there were big improvements in the barrel making process and the safety aspects of the gun. There were a number of other improvements over the years, and each time, the P-series of guns got better and better. And, if you’ve followed my articles for any length of time, you know I consider Ruger firearms, to be real “meat and potato” firearms – they are rugged firearms, and priced for the average person. That’s not to say that Ruger doesn’t make some spendy firearms – they do! However, most of the guns in the Ruger line-up are meat and potato guns in my humble opinion. And, if you’re like me, you want the most value for your money as you can possibly get – and Ruger provides this.
I had quite a few SurvivalBlog readers e-mail, and ask me why I haven’t featured a Ruger P95 in my articles. Some asked me what I had against Ruger firearms? Well, I answered each and every e-mail I received. First of all, I didn’t have a Ruger P95 in my meager gun collection. Secondly, I have nothing against Ruger firearms. They are always a best-buy in my book, and some of the strongest firearms on the market. If anything, Ruger over-engineers their guns – they are made strong. [JWR Adds: While I formerly shied away from Rugers for political reasons, I now fully endorse the company. To explain, the Late William B. Ruger, Sr. had cozied up to anti-gun politicians, in the hopes that they would slow their legislative onslaught. Among other things, Ruger actually endorsed a ban on magazines over 10 round capacity for citizens. I found that reprehensible. A few years after the passing of Bill Ruger in 2002, the company resumed selling 20 and 30 round magazines to mere mortals. I'm glad that they saw the light.]
I e-mailed Ruger and requested a P95 sample for this article. And, my timing couldn’t have been worse – I made my request when we were in a real buying frenzy, especially with Ruger firearms – they were backordered several months on firearms – they weren’t even taking any orders from distributors – they were making firearms as fast as they could, and still couldn’t keep up with supply and demand. Happily, Ruger is back on-track, but some Ruger firearms are still a little bit hard to find. Beth McAllister, who is my super-contact at Ruger, got me a P95 sample inside of a couple 2-3 weeks – thanks, Beth!
This isn’t my first P95 sample – I owned a used P95 some years ago, and there have been some subtle changes in the design. And, the current P95 is the best in the P-series if you ask me. What we have is a polymer frame, with a light texturing on it, for a sure purchase on the gun. We also have an ambi mag release, and the mag release isn’t pushed “in” – instead, it is pushed forward. The slide is made out of stainless steel, with a decocker, and manual safety in one. On top of the slide, we have nice, 3-dot combat sights, that are adjustable for windage with the rear sight. The stainless steel barrel is 3.90″ long – so the P95 is a bit compact in my humble opinion. Honestly, I’ve owned quite a few Ruger P-series guns over the years, and I’ve NEVER once had to make any adjustments to the rear sights – they were always dead-on. There is also a massive external extractor on the P95. A rounded combat-style hammer is also a nice feature.
The P95 comes in, of course, 9mm – and I still live in a fairly “free state” and can have full-capacity mags – the P95 holds 15 rounds in the mag, and one in the chamber, for 16 rounds on-tap. And Ruger also provides a second mag with their guns. I wish more gun companies would do this – some, like Kimber, only provide 1 mag with their 1911 handguns – why? The P95 only weighs-in at 27-oz, quite a bit lighter than the original P85 that weighed 33-oz empty, with it’s aluminum frame. One thing I really like on the P95 is the trigger pull – in double-action, as well as single action. With the hammer forward, the first shot will be double-action, and the trigger pull is super smooth, at about 10-11 pounds. The single-action trigger pull is about 4-5 lbs and just as smooth…the pull is long, but smooth – what’s not to like here? There is also a Picatinny rail on the frame, if you want to mount a light or a laser on your P95. The trigger guard is rounded, too – not like the squared trigger guard on the original P85 was – I like it!
Take-down on the P95 is a bit different than some similar guns, however, it’s quick and easy, and described in the instruction manual – read it before your attempt to take your P95 apart for cleaning.
I was anxious to get this new P95 out to the range for some fun shooting. I found half a box of Blazer FMJ 115 grain ammo in my ammo box in my car, and headed right to the range, instead of heading home for more ammo – yeah, I was “that” anxious to shoot this hummer. I loaded-up the mag with 15 rounds of this Blazer 9mm ammo – and I had numerous problems - empty brass wouldn’t cleanly eject, and some wouldn’t even feed from the mag. Could I have gotten a lemon from Ruger? Not a chance! I’ve had a lot of problems with this Blazer brass-cased 9mm in the past. It’s not very powerful, and doesn’t always have enough power to fully operate the slide in recoil. So, rounds don’t eject cleanly, and rounds don’t get picked-up from the mag during recoil. I knew it wasn’t the P95 having problems – it was an ammo problem.
I headed home, and got some Black Hills Ammunition (www.black-hills.com) 115 grain +P Barnes TAC-XP hollow point ammo, and some of the Buffalo Bore (www.buffalobore.com) 95 grain Barnes TAC-XP +P+ hollow point ammo to test. There were zero malfunctions with either of these ammo brands – which proved, to my mind, that it was the Blazer ammo, and not the P95 – just as I surmised. I fired more than a hundred rounds of the +P+ Buffalo Bore Barnes ammo through the Ruger P95 – the gun ran extremely smooth with this round. And, seeing as how this is only a 95 grain bullet, and even though it is +P+ rated, there wasn’t any noticeable difference in recoil from standard velocity loads. This would prove to be an excellent load for stoking in your house gun – where you might worry about over-penetration of a 9mm through walls. The load is easy to handle…and Buffalo Bore uses a flash retardant power, so your night vision won’t get ruined if you fire the gun in low-light conditions. I was getting 4-5 inch groups, at 25-yards with the Buffalo Bore load – more than “combat” acceptable. I fired over a rolled-up sleeping bag, over the hood of my car.
The Black Hills 115 grain TAC-XP +P Barnes hollow point proved to be the accuracy winner in the P95 – I was getting 3 to 3 1/2-inch groups if I did my part. And, the Black Hills 115 grain +P Barnes load was also a pussycat in the P95 – anyone can handle this load – anyone! I didn’t do any penetration tests with either the Buffalo Bore or Black Hills loads, but I know that the 95 grain Barnes load won’t penetrate as deeply as the 115 grain bullet will – that’s just common sense. However, both rounds will penetrate deep enough to get the job done in a self-defense situation. And, remember – please remember – there is no such thing as a magic bullet – shot placement is still what matters.
Just before doing this article, Buffalo Bore sent me some of their new 9mm 115 grain Barnes TAC-XP +P+ ammo – and I only had a limited supply, so I didn’t get to do a lot of testing with this round. The recoil was on-par with the 95 grain +P+ load and the Black Hills load – I could hardly tell the difference between the bullet weights. Then again, I don’t find the 9mm punishing in any way. It is a caliber that you can shoot all day long. I also fired 100 rounds of Black Hills 115 grain FMJ reloads through the P95, and every round functioned perfectly – unlike the Blazer new ammo, that caused a lot of problems. I would have zero problems carrying Black Hills reloaded ammo in any of my carry guns – I’m that “sure” of their reloads!
Picking a brand of ammo is important to a lot of people. And, let’s be honest here, some guns shoot certain brands or styles of ammo better than other guns do. I have never fired any Buffalo Bore or Black Hills ammo that was more than accurate for the task at hand. The Buffalo Bore 95 grain Barnes TAC-XP +P+ shot groups a little bigger than the Black Hills 115 grain Barnes TAC-XP +P rounds did. For this particular Ruger P95, I’d pick the Black Hills 115 grain +P load for my daily carry use because it was a bit more accurate. For a bedside load, I’d take the Barnes 95 grain +P+ load if I were worried about over-penetration. For my money, you can’t go wrong with any of the Black Hills or Buffalo Bore loads in the P95.
In more than 500 rounds of testing the P95, the only problems I encountered were with the Blazer 115 grain loads – then again, most 9mm guns I’ve fired this under-powered ammo in, I’ve had problems! The only “good” thing I can say about this Blazer ammo is, it’s cheap, and it’s good if you want to practice malfunction drills. The P95 just perked along without any problems with the Black Hills and Buffalo Bore ammo – as expected!
In summary, I like the way the P95 fills my hand, the grip angle feels good – real good! The gun balances nicely, and the texturing on the polymer grip helps secure the gun in your hand when firing. The trigger pull is outstanding, in double-action, as well as single-action. Years ago, you’d pay a gunsmith at least $150 to give you a trigger pull like this, but the Ruger P95 is a production gun – seriously!
And, like all Ruger firearms, you get value for your hard-earned dollars. The P95 has a full retail price of $429 – but you can usually find Ruger handguns deeply discounted. My local gun shop usually sells the P95 for around $359. As a matter of fact, they had a used P95 decocker model, now discontinued by Ruger for $299 a week ago – I bought (traded into) it – it was like-new! I sure didn’t “need” this P95 decocker model, not since I had the brand-new current P95, but I couldn’t pass it up.’
Ruger firearms are still “meat and potato” firearms if you ask me – at least many of their guns are. I believe you get added value for your hard-earned money when you buy a Ruger, than you do with many other brands of firearms. Are Ruger handguns “pretty?” Well, it’s all in the eye of the beholder – I thought the old P85 was “sexy” to my mind…and the current P95 is very stylish if you ask me. It has a polymer frame like many of today’s handguns do, and a stainless steel slide…and you get a second mag, combat sights, super-smooth trigger pulls, and total reliability – with good ammo. What’s not to like here? If you’re in the market for a new 9mm pistol, give the Ruger P95 a close look – you’re gonna like the value there, as well as the gun. It’s a gun you can bet your life on!