Ruger's P90, No Space
Between the "P" and the "9"
Homer with or without Jethro
The first time I
read Homer's epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey,
a prerequisite to becoming a high school freshman, I thought it
was implausible that a city sacking effort could last ten years
when the combined allied participation in World War II lasted
only five. I did, however, enjoyed The Odyssey for its
monsters, temptations and epic challenges. The next time I read
both works, during the year following military service, I found
leaders, bravery, loyalty, commitment, and
persistence...cowardice, deceptions and the frailties of man.
It's amazing how a second look, after accumulating some
experience, could alter an opinion and/or perception.
For me, firearm reviews begin with sitting down at a
workbench with the firearm and reading its manual while
attempting to become familiar with safety and operational
features. Eventually, the firearm gets disassemble and
reassemble until there is a general understanding of how all of
the gun's parts interact, particularly those that were left over
after the first attempt at reassembly. Then it's out to the range to see how
the gun shoots, with two part reviews rolling into handloading
The title of a piece will change several times from
initial draft to final cut as opinions and perceptions are
formed. As an example, my brain makes an instant
connection from the .45 ACP cartridge to the M1911 as a point of
reference. However, the P90 is not a double action version
of a 1911 type .45 ACP, it is a more modern design double action
pistol, put together with advanced manufacturing technology,
just happens to be chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge.
In the words of Neil Young, "Tell me, why?"
Maybe the best place to begin with the Ruger P90
is not so much what it is, but why it is. The P Series Ruger
came into existence in the form of Ruger's P85 as a response to
a 1985 government solicitation for a 9mm pistol to replace the
M1911. The P90, as an extension of the P Series product line,
was introduced in 1991. In product context, The current P89 is a
similar to the alloy framed P90, only chambered for the 9mm
Luger. The P944, chambered for the .40 S&W, is similar to
the P90, but the
P944 incorporates a cam block which is a departure from the
P90's barrel link design. As .45 ACP guns go, Ruger introduced a
slimmer poly frame Model P345 in 2004, a .45 ACP which differs
significantly in design and is outside of the scope of this
There are at least a couple of reasons for a
general movement away from the original M1911 .45 ACP design for
military, law enforcement and civilian applications. The P90, as
is the case with most current designs, is made for safer
operation under stressful and harsh conditions, safer meaning
additional design consideration for protection against
accidental discharge in the event the firearm is struck, dropped
or while its owner might be in a struggle for possession of the
firearm. Double action operation, decocking capability, captive
inertial firing pin, trigger and sear disconnects, even finishes
that keep materials in working order longer with less
maintenance all contribute to this objective. A second reason
for movement away from the M1911 type design is cost.
Like my classic Fred Flintstone lunch box with
matching wide mouth thermos, high quality M1911 type guns are
getting harder to find as the cost of billet machining and finesse fitting
to assure accurate and reliable operation put these guns out of
financial reach of many
shooters. Some M1911 models sell at two and three times the cost of
alternative design products.
The 1911 types that are
inexpensive are inexpensive for good reason; the use of spot hardening in
critical areas, less than precision cast parts, lower grade material
in frame and slide production, and loose parts fit to assure
reliable operation in the absence of close tolerance critical
parts. Some of these guns begin life with
minute of a barn accuracy and rapidly deteriorate from there.
The low cost M1911, pictured upper left, is a good shooter, but
only after several hundreds of dollars in parts changes and
countless hours spent parts fitting.
The P90, represents a direction where
superior design and liberally applied advanced manufacturing
techniques create an opportunity for people to own a pistol of modern design,
chambered for the .45 ACP, that can provide many years of
accurate and reliable service. It can provide that service at a
low cost and without sacrificing quality. The P90 isn't fancy,
it isn't ugly, The P90, devoid of Euro prissiness, is all
business and I'd guess the far greater majority of the gun
buying public would find it aesthetically appealing.
An inevitable, but brief comparison...
The 1911 has a barrel bushing to assist in barrel
alignment and the barrel locks up with multiple radial locking
lugs engaging multiple recesses in the gun's slide. All
precisely fit parts and all subject to diminishing performance
with routine wear and tear. The P90 has no barrel bushing and
lock up is at the large fore and aft surfaces of the rectangular
block that is integral to the gun's barrel. Both use a linked
tilt barrel system for control and timing of lock and unlocked
The traditional 1911 recoil spring system is
comprised of three parts, the recoil spring plug, the recoil
spring and recoil spring guide. The P90 uses a one piece
full length guide and the spring is retained by the slide so an
additional plug is not required.
the P90's safety/decocker is applied, the
firing pin moves into the body of the slide and out of reach of
the gun's hammer. The slide also incorporates a firing
pin block that prevents discharge, unless the trigger has been
depressed, as protection against accidental discharge in the
event the gun is dropped.
Applying the gun's safety cams the trigger bar (A)
downward, rendering the trigger moveable but inoperative and the
sear (B) is depressed which decocks the hammer. The gun has a
number of safety mechanisms to designed to protect against accidental discharge, even in rough
handling, while retaining intuitive and reliable operating.
From the decocked condition, switching the safety to
"fire" and pulling the trigger is all that is required to
discharge the firearm in what would be double action mode. Subsequent operation
would be in single action mode. The P90 does not have a magazine
disconnect to prevent the gun from firing without a magazine in
place, nor does it have an internal key lock. The P90 can
be single loaded and fired.
1911 employs a thumb safety to secures the gun while in a
cocked and locked condition. There is no decocker function or
double action trigger pull to allow firing the gun from a hammer
down condition. This series 1911 does not have a firing pin
block, so the firing pin is not captured when the trigger isn't
being depressed. Over the span of many years, I've not had an
accidental discharge with a 1911, even in rough handling.
However, a thumb safety relies on a very small amount of
material to block a gun's sear and a decent trigger job may
leave only 0.025" of sear - hammer engagement.
The P90 gives the illusion of being
considerably larger than a full size 1911, but it is not. At 33
ounces it is 5 oz less than a steel full size 1911 and 0.500"
shorter because, respectively, of the P90's alloy frame and half inch
shorter 4.5" barrel. At 0.945", the P90 forward slide dimension
is only 0.023" wider than a 1911, however, the P90 slide quickly
broadens to 1.053" which is approximately 0.137" wider than the
1911. It's a tenth of an inch not really noticed in use as the
P90 is thinner at the grip than a 1911 by a like amount. Where a
full size 1911 typically feels a bit nose heavy, the P90's
lighter weight is noticeable and the gun feels more balanced in the
The P90's double action trigger pull is
a heavy but controllable 11 lbs 9 ounces. Single action trigger
pull is light at 4 lbs 1 ounce, but with a bit of creep. The
active double action pull is a long one inch, while active
single action trigger pull is approximately a very short ľ" after take up. Unlike a number of
other modern double action autoloaders out there, the trigger
for the most part moves parallel to the bore and not in a tight
arc. The pull is not as clean as my 1911's, but much better than
any SIG's or S&W pistols I own that are of a similar double/single action
design. The P90 trigger feel is similar to some of the better
CZ75 type pistols I have shot, like the SP01, but with a more
parallel pull motion.
Some other, perhaps more appropriate comparisons...
Ruger P90 - Comparable Model
CZ 97 BD
Trigger Pull DA Lbs
Trigger Pull SA Lbs
Overall Length "
Overall Height "
Overall Width "
Barrel Length "
Sight Radius "
Weight Empty Oz.
*Cocking mechanism not preloaded
The models noted above, based on features,
function and application may help place the Ruger P90's features
and price tag in context. Where other models from the same and
different manufacturers approach the P90 in price, they are
virtually all poly frame guns and chambered in a sub caliber. Ruger's .P90 is
a matte black hard coated aluminum A356T alloy framed pistol, with a
black carbon steel slide and polycarbonate grip panels. The blued
version of the P90 is double action with a ambidextrous manual
safety/decocker function. A stainless steel slide version, the
KP90, provides a
decocker only function in place of the manual safety, however,
both are essentially the same in all other respects. Both firearms are
intended for law enforcement, civilian concealed carry, home
defense, and recreational shooting.
Fit and finish...
P90 is a well finished workhorse. The frame is matte black, the
slide satin black.
Both barrel and guide rod are stainless steel. The gun utilizes a
number of precision cast parts that show up at times in the form of a hollow back trigger, or a parting line on a
hammer, all perfectly functional and durable, if not
ostentatious. It is a firearm to carry on the job where a
firearm is required, or as a concealed carry piece in a
significant caliber or a nightstand resident gun for us rural,
adults only in the home dwellers.
A blue P90 carries an MSRP of $574, however, they
are more routinely sold for less.
Cindy, the retail store
general manager for Real Guns tells me their
is approximately $452.
Shooting and handling impressions...
The P90 appears larger than it feels when held or
gripped for shooting. I know I mentioned this before, but it
bears mentioning again. Controls are located as they are on just
about all other successful autoloading centerfire pistols and
within comfortable reach for one hand operation by anyone with
even medium size hands. The safety/decocker is ambidextrous. The
length of the trigger guard makes room for gloved hands and a
comfortable fit when shooting from a two hand position.
Magazines drop cleanly when released and load without fumbling
for the correct orientation. Surfaces are smooth, no sharp or
pointed edged jump out to bite a shooter's hand.
The 3 dot sight system is easy to pick up and
hold on target, aftermarket sights, HiViz and Tritium type, are
available from quality suppliers like
Ruger's own store. The rear
is dovetail secured, the front sight blade is pinned. Brownells
also offers replacement and upgrade spring sets. There are
numerous sources for fancy wood replacement grips and utility
slip on rubber grips with finger grooves.
The P90 is an easy to shoot gun. At 10 meters, or
at least an approximation for a guy who counts in yards, Keeping
a magazine full in a 2" - 2.5" group is pretty easy. The shape
of the backstrap is very comfortable and just the right size for
me. M1911s tend to cut into my palm after half a box of ammo or
so and SIGs and Glocks are just a bit too wide to feel totally
under control. My wife did a bit of shooting and, for a person
who is not very fond of the M1911, she very much enjoyed
shooting the P90. Her comments were mostly directed at how soft
recoil felt and how much more control she had based on the grip
size and shape.
was clean, not a jam all day, and the gun was tolerant of any
loads fed from the high velocity light loads to the shot putting
weight heavies. During an extended day of shooting, as well as
prior shorter periods of operation, no parts fell off, nothing
broke and the gun appeared none the worse for wear when the
exercise is completed. Nice gun, great price.