Gun Test Scoop:
New, Slimmer Ruger P345 Tough, Reliable, Lightweight

by Dave Workman
Senior Editor

Ruger's tough new Model P345 semi-automatic in .45 ACP is one tough, reliable customer, as a recent range evaluation using an assortment of factory ammunition demonstrated.

Gun Week got an exclusive first look at this slimmed-down Ruger self-loader, and we were impressed on a number of key points.

This exposed hammer pistol features Ruger's ambidextrous hammer-drop safety mounted on the slide, and in addition, there is an internal lock accessible through a slot on the right safety lever. This lock is engaged or disengaged via a small key (two are supplied with each pistol). A quick turn renders the pistol incapable of firing.

The pistol is of the locking breech design with tilting barrel, a system that tends not to be sloppy, but instead rather tight (more about that in a moment). The feed ramp is solid and there was no indication that it would not feed any hollowpoint bullet one loaded into it.

There is also a loaded chamber indicator on the top of the slide, right behind the ejection port. It rises conspicuously when a round is chambered.

And Ruger has finally molded an accessory rail into the front of one of its pistols. The frame, made from reinforced polyurethane, will not interfere with holstering, as its edges do not project out from the side of the dust cover.

Equipped with two seven-round magazines, the P345 has a far slimmer profile than any of its older siblings in the Ruger lineup. The slide is narrower, and the grip frame, which accommodates a seven-round single-stack magazine, is slimmer and easier for smaller hands to grasp, than any of Ruger's earlier models with double-stack magazines. It compares favorably with the grip on my Commander-sized Auto-Ordnance pistol, and I'll have to admit that the slide-to-frame fit on the Ruger is considerably tighter than on the Auto Ordnance, which rattles a bit if you shake it hard.

In fact, the Ruger overall is very close in size to that Commander clone. Length on the bushingless barrel is an even 4 inches, and there's a full-length guide rod for the recoil spring.

Translation: This pistol would be a good choice for anyone looking for a new sidearm for concealed carry or home defense. The accessory rail would allow the homeowner to mount a laser sight or tactical flashlight up front as well.

Sights are finished in black and dovetailed front and rear. The rear dovetail is very wide and shallow, and there's a hex-slot screw that may be loosened to allow windage adjustment. My test gun had highly-visible three dot sights, and out-of-the-box at seven yards, the pistol shot just slightly to the left. A simple loosening of the rear sight screw and a gentle tap of the sight to the right remedied that problem in a snap.

Ruger designed this pistol with an external extractor, which many people favor over internal extractors.

Ruger builds the P345 with a black polymer frame offset by a handsome, partly brushed, partly matte stainless steel slide. The matte finish looks like some sort of very fine bead blasting. Wide-cut cocking serrations are found on both sides of the slide, ahead of the safety lever. The entire setup makes for an attractive two-tone contrast that's very pleasing to the eye. That lightweight frame keeps the weight of the pistol down.

Unlike other Ruger semi-auto pistols, our test gun (Ser. #664-02064) had a grip that features a distinctive recess on both sides, to better accommodate the human hand. There is molded checkering on both sides, and the front and rear mainspring housing.

The contrasting silver/black is even more enhanced by the stainless trigger surrounded by black polymer, along with the stainless slide release lever, and the black sights off-setting the stainless slide.

Ruger's red emblem is molded into both right and left sides of the grip frame.

In addition to supplying two keys for the internal safety, Ruger also packages this pistol with a stout padlock to be used when the gun is in storage. The bar of this lock is rubber-coated to protect the gun's finish, and the bar is designed to fit down through the ejection port and grip frame. It will only fit one way, however, and that is on the right side of the pistol, where the ejection port is lowered.

Ruger packaged the gun with two magazines, a magazine loading tool, the internal lock keys and the padlock, which also came with two keys. The hard-sided case does not have a slot for inserting a padlock, but one could easily be drilled through a small recess on the front to make this case airline-acceptable for travel.

Even though the magazines are single-stack models, they are not interchangeable with a standard Model 1911 magazine. Ruger's magazine has a pretty substantial hard plastic floor plate that appears capable of taking a real beating if the magazine is ejected and it drops to the ground.

The magazine release is located on the left side of the frame behind the trigger.

Easy Cleaning
Ruger designed their semi-auto to tear down pretty easily, and the only problem I had with the process is that the handgunner must remember to push down the ejector during the reassembly process.

After removing the magazine and making sure the chamber is clear, retract the slide until a mark on the slide lines up with a mark on the left side of the grip frame, pop out the slide stop pin and then allow the slide to move forward and off the frame. Withdraw the guide rod and recoil spring, and pull the barrel out through the bottom of the slide.

I like to clean the interior of a slide with a small toothbrush and Hoppe's No. 9 or similar solvent to really loosen and remove powder residue. Thanks to modern spray solvents, this probably isn't necessary, but I do it, anyway.

Once the slide is clean and the solvent is wiped out, I treat each slide rail with just a dab of white lithium grease or, for really cold environments, substitute a couple of drops of Tetra gun oil. Trust me, you're not going to hurt the polymer with any of this stuff. You might also add a drop of gun oil to the recoil spring guide.

Once everything is cleaned up, simply reinstall the barrel, insert the recoil spring and guide rod, push the ejector down into the magazine tunnel, run the slide back onto the rails and reinstall the slide stop. You're back in business.

Retiring to the Snoqualmie Valley Rifle Club range on a couple of different afternoons, I found the new Ruger to be what one might expect, and then some.

My quick dislike is in the inherently long double-action trigger stroke found on every Ruger pistol I've ever fired. It's not a design flaw, it's just the way these handguns are built. While the trigger stroke is long, on my test gun it was pretty smooth, and that's a plus. Subsequent single-action shots found the trigger back farther and thus easier for my index finger to engage.

I took along ammunition from Remington, Federal, Winchester, Taurus and Black Hills Ammo. All of it was of the jacketed hollowpoint variety, and I did not experience a single failure to feed. The assortment consisted of Winchester SilverTips and SXTs, Federal Hi-Shok and Hydra-Shok, Remington Golden Saber, the Black Hills load using a 230-grain Gold Dot JHP, and the Taurus stuff loaded by PMC featuring Barnes' all-copper Hex bullet.

Perhaps it is the grip shape, grip angle or the small indent on both sides of the grip in front, or a combination of things, but felt recoil when firing this seemed a bit lighter than when shooting a 1911. Make no mistake, there's nothing wrong with a 1911 grip frame, especially with the flat mainspring housing. There's no real scientific way to gauge this sort of thing, but I can say without pause that the new P345 is pleasant to shoot.

As noted earlier, my initial session found the pistol shooting a tad to the left. This is never anything to be concerned about, because the rear sight can always be tapped slightly one way or the other to bring a pistol into proper alignment. Once that's accomplished, simply re-tighten the holding screw and you're good to go.

One thing I noted about the P345 is that the magazine well opening is not beveled, and the edge is square. This means that for a fast reload, a shooter will have to be fairly well practiced at switching magazines.

After firing several magazines of various brands of ammunition through the pistol, consistently managing to pepper targets, I tossed out a 12-ounce tin can and bounced that around the range for a few minutes, using the Black Hills loads, and even when I missed the can, it wasn't by much!

But if I can whack a small target like that around, hitting something bigger probably won't pose that much of a challenge.

'Testing' Not Over
I've got this Ruger pistol for an extended "testing and evaluation" period, so as you read this, rest assured that I'm continuing to put the pistol through its paces. We'll certainly see how it fares after a lot more ammunition goes down range.

No, this won't be one of those "10,000-round torture tests," primarily because I don't have 10,000 rounds of .45 ACP sitting around handy, and I'm too damned lazy to reload that much, thanks! Besides, it's much more fun to take this, or any pistol back and forth to the range, out in the mountains, down along the river and elsewhere to see just what kind of "every day" abuses it might handle.

The plan is to have the P345 along on dusty rides through the high mountains this summer, wading across icy streams, maybe get dropped in a patch of lingering snow "by accident" and endure some other misadventures that all-too typically make my day in the wilds.

When that's done, we'll have a pretty good idea of just how well this pistol really stacks up to the kinds of service demands that shooters place on their guns. When the dust-and the gunsmoke-settles we may just have to sing a victory tune.

Meanwhile, you will probably find stocks of this new Ruger P345 already at your favorite gun dealer's store, or you can contact Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. (200 Ruger Rd., Dept. GWK, Prescott, AZ 86301; phone: 928-541-8820; on-line: www.ruger.com) for more information.


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