Firearm: Ruger Max-9 (MSRP: $499)
We featured Ruger’s new Max-9 micro-compact, double-stack 9 mm pistol not too long ago, and I wanted to take a second look at it for its optics capability. The introduction of the Max-9 gave another option to the burgeoning market of smaller-than-subcompact pistols with almost-full-size capacity, and Ruger’s entry offered a red-dot cut for a substantially lower price than others. Price is often one of the deciding factors in a large(ish) investment like a handgun, so naturally the Max-9 is going to get some scrutiny.
Cut for the pretty-much-standard RMS footprint, the Max-9’s optics cut has one interesting (and here, when I say “interesting,” I mean “weird”) difference from other optics cuts—you have to insert two metal pins into the rear of the cut before adding a sight. It’s not hard by any stretch of the imagination, but it does require good eyesight and a degree of coordination, both of which, well… Once the pins are in place, the sight can be installed with two screws. Again, it’s not difficult, but it is puzzling why this extra step is needed—unless there’s something else coming down the road (I honestly don’t know, but that’s the only thing that makes sense to me).
The design and aesthetics of the Max-9 should be familiar to those conversant with Ruger’s semi-automatic handguns. Texturing is similar to that found on the LCP II, Ruger-57 and Security 9, and the Max-9 has the same cocking serrations fore and aft as the bulk of Ruger’s semi-automatic pistol line. The Max-9 is striker-fired, like the American line of handguns, and maintains a thumb-activated safety for the right-handed shooter. The light weight of the Max-9 – 18.4 ounces unloaded – means it requires a firm grip when firing, especially +P ammunition, but it’s not especially onerous. Use the extended magazine to get a full, three-finger grip and it’s much better.
In the end, the Ruger Max-9 is a smart, savvy addition to the Ruger line. The capacity and optic-capability of the Max-9 show that Ruger is paying attention to its competition and the market, and its design shows its Ruger heritage. It’s not only incredibly robust, but affordable – exactly what you expect from a Ruger.
Holster: DeSantis Holsters Slim-Tuk (MSRP: $34.99)
Affordable is exactly the reason we’ve opted for the Slim-Tuk holster from Desantis for the Max-9 today. Ambidextrous and tuckable, the Slim-Tuk line is feature-rich while costing less than a box of premium ammunition (although these days, that’s a pretty low bar). Kydex construction gives the Slim-Tuk rigidity without adding a lot of bulk, and the 360 C-clip can be rotated to accommodate inside-the-waistband carry at a variety of positions, including appendix-style.
There’s also a generous cut for an optic, and the Shield RMS2 we’ve chosen for the Max-9 had plenty of clearance in the Slim-Tuk. When opting to put a red dot on a pistol, especially a small pistol like the Max-9, it’s critical to ensure the holster you’re hoping to use is not only cut for an optic, but doesn’t impinge anywhere. The most common areas for problems are the front of the optic, where the slide cut ends, and the overhang of the optic on the slide, especially if the holster has a sweat guard.
Optic: Shield Sights RMS2 (MSRP: $430)
While we chose the holster for the Max-9 to match the affordability of the Ruger, we chose the optic based on the ruggedness. Shield Sights RMS2 isn’t the least expensive micro-red-dot sight out there, but with its aluminum construction and glass lens, it’s quite robust. Given Ruger’s reputation for being tough, this is a pistol you might run +P ammunition through from time to time, and the RMS2 is built exactly for this sort of punishment.
With a 4-MOA red dot that adjusts for brightness automatically, there’s little you need to do with the RMS2 once you’ve mounted it to the slide and zeroed it. There’s even a thoughtful divot that allows the standard iron sights of the Ruger (which are excellent) to co-witness without needed suppressor-height variants. The Shield RMS2 uses a standard CR2032 battery that should last a year or more with standard usage, and two sets of mounting screws are included with the sight.