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Ruger P90 45 ACP Pistol Review
The Ruger .45 ACP P90 Pistol Turns 10 - By Dick Metcalf, Technical Editor, Shooting Times.
Big, solid, and well-built, the P90 resists the trend toward ever lighter and ever smaller autoloaders for concealed carry.

uger introduced the P90 45 in April 1991, and commercial shipments began in early May. It was the company’s first .45-caliber semiauto pistol featuring a seven-shot magazine and decocker-lever design. Right after the Ruger P90 pistol's introduction, I spent a day at Ruger’s Prescott, Arizona, plant, under the direction of plant manager Bob Stutler. I had the opportunity to examine and shoot a prototype version of the new 45. Now, on the occasion of its 10th birthday, a revisit to what some of Ruger’s own employees now call the big old brute of the P-Series line seems appropriate.

1991 was a big year in P-Series history. In addition to the P90, Ruger also introduced the Model P91DC, a .40-caliber decocker pistol, and the 9mm Model P89DAO, the company’s first double-action-only (DAO) design. Earlier that year, Ruger had already announced a new decocker version 9mm Model P89DC and the manual-safety 9mm Model P85 Mark II—both offered in either blued chrome-moly or stainless-steel versions. That made a total of seven separate new P-Series catalog model listings in the same year. The P89 and P90 are still with us, in blued and stainless manual safety versions, and stainless decock-only safety models. The P89 is also available in a DAO model; all versions of the P85 and P91 have since been discontinued in favor of other P-Series configurations in the same chamberings.

A True Family

Regardless of chambering and slight configuration differences, all Ruger P-Series centerfire auto pistols have the same basic design. All have double-action mechanisms and operate on the classic Browning short-recoil principle. Metal-frame models are constructed from hard-coated investment cast A356T6 aluminum alloy; the recent compact P95 9mm and P97 .45 have molded polymer frames. All P-Series barrels, whether for blued chrome-moly pistols or stainless-steel pistols, are cast from heat-treated 400-series stainless steel. Many other small parts—such as hammers and triggers—in all P-Series pistols are also made of stainless steel. Standard barrel length for full-size guns, including the P90, is 4.5 inches. The two-piece, grooved black grip panels are made of General Electric 6123 Xenoy resin.

All P-Series pistols feature an oversize trigger guard to permit safe function with a gloved hand, and the front of the trigger guard bow is recurved to accommodate the support-hand forefinger in a two-hand hold. The rear sight is dovetail drift-adjustable for
windage; front and rear sights have white-dot inserts for high visibility. All P-Series models or versions are ordinarily shipped with an accessory package consisting of a fitted, lockable black polymer gun box; a padlock with keys; spare magazine; and
magazine loading tool.

Ruger P90.45 ACP
Semiautomatic Pistol

Manufacturer .....Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc.,
200 Ruger Rd.
Prescott, AZ 86301
Model ...................................KP90D
Operation ............Recoil-operated autoloader
Caliber .................................45 ACP
Barrel length ..............4.50 inches
Overall length ............7.75 inches
Weight, empty ..........33.5 ounces
Safety ......................Ambidextrous hammerdrop decock safety;
sear disconnector,
internal firing pin block
Sights.................. Three white dot;
drift-adjustable rear; pinned-in
front Patridge blade
Sight radius ...............5.69 inches
Rifling ...6 grooves; 1:16 RH twist
Stocks .....General Electric Xenoy
industrial-grade polymer
Magazine capacity ........7 rounds
Finish ..........Matte stainless steel,
gray anodized aluminum
Price ........................................$539

The P90

As for the Ruger P90 .45 specifically, at first glance it looks to most observers to be the same dimensions as the full-size P89 9mm, in spite of its bigger caliber, but not quite. To allow for the fatter round, the .45’s slide is about .100 inch taller/thicker than the 9mm’s. And while the frames are essentially the same externally, internally the P90 was a completely reengineered gun. It’s a real .45, not a worked-over 9mm.

In addition to the increased thickness of the P90 slide, there are several other external differences between it and previous P-Series pistols. A significant one is the absence of an external trigger bar plunger protruding through the left side of the frame in front of the trigger guard. The reason is that the trigger mechanism of the P90 was completely redesigned from the system employed on the P89s, with certain parts eliminated or repositioned. The result is a double-action trigger pull that is distinctly smoother and more even than the P89’s.

The P90 magazine release system is also different from the original P-Series setup. The release on the P89 9mm is ambidextrous and works from either side at the same time. The release on the P90 is reversible; you decide which side you want it on and then leave it there until you change your mind. The engineering reason for this change was a consequence of the different configuration of single-column .45-caliber magazines versus staggered-column 9mm magazines. Ruger spokesmen point out that most shooters never utilize the ambidextrous aspects of guns that have such features, so a gun with a feature that can be switched to whichever side the shooter wants is sufficient. Well, that’s an okay argument, but I prefer ambidextrous in all things—perhaps because I’m left-handed and I believe it helps to be able to easily operate a handgun with either hand alone in case of injury in a time of crisis.

Another difference between the P90 and the P89 is the magazine floorplate, which is flat steel on the P89 and molded polymer (same material as the grip panels, actually) with an embossed Ruger eagle on the P90 contoured to blend into the angles of the butt of the grip frame. The polymer floorplate is thicker than the steel floorplate and allows for a more positive seating when thrust home in a rapid under-pressure reload.
All subsequent P-Series introductions have employed the P90-type plate instead of the P89’s.

Shooting Ruger’s .45 ACP P90

Factory Load
(Inches )
Federal 180-gr. Hydra-Shok
Hornady 185-gr. HP/XTP
185-gr. (+P) Golden Saber
CCI Blazer 200-gr. TMJ Combat Match
PMC 230-gr. Starfire
Winchester 230-gr. SXT
Overall average accuracy
NOTES: Accuracy is the average of 10
seven-shot groups fired from a sandbag benchrest at 25 yards. Velocity is the average of seven rounds measured 10 feet from the gun’s muzzle.

The most original innovation of the P90 and its siblings was the introduction of the now-familiar P-Series decocking lever, mounted on the rear side of the slide in the same place as the manual safety lever on a “standard” gun. When the pistol is cocked, rotating the decocking lever downward causes the hammer to safely drop, and then the lever springs back up into its original position, leaving the gun ready to be fired by a long cocking-pull on the trigger. It manages to be high up and out of the way and easy to reach and operate at the same time. As there is no hammer-back safety feature, a Ruger Decock-Only gun cannot be carried in Model 1911-style cocked-and-locked mode. Ruger’s manual safety models will also safely drop the hammer on a cocked gun but must be manually returned to the “Fire” position before they can be fired. Likewise, they cannot be carried cocked-and-locked. (Incidentally, the P90s I fired and reviewed back in 1991 did not have ambidextrous levers; current P90s do).

Big, solid, and well-balanced, the Ruger P90 may go a bit against the current trend toward ever lighter and ever smaller auto pistols for concealed-carry tools, but it is a real pleasure to shoot and certainly as concealable as the ever popular Model 1911. It feels good in the hand and shoots well. Preparing this column I ran six different .45 ACP factory loads through a current-production P90DC. The results are listed in the chart.
Ruger has always emphasized that the primary function of all P-Series pistols is to serve as a “PDW”—Personal Defense Weapon—and the standard to which they are engineered. According to military and law-enforcement procurement specifications, that amounts to 4.5-inch overall accuracy at 25 yards. The P90 passes with flying colors. It’s a fine firearm and combines Ruger’s well-proven reliability, strength, and dependable performance with the greatest and most classic of all pistol cartridges. I’ll make a point to shoot mine a lot more this year—in celebration of its 10th birthday.

This article was originally published in Shooting Times magazine in August, 2001.

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