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Thread: My DA/SA Traditional: Ruger P89

  1. #1
    Member JonInWA's Avatar
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    My DA/SA Traditional: Ruger P89

    The recent threads that we've had in the last month, and a couple in the past year regarding the current state of manufacturer's reliability/durability have definitely piqued my interest. Wile currently I'm pretty firmly invested in Gen 3 Glocks, a review of my logbook over the years shows that at various points I've owned many DA/SA (or TDA-whatever you want to call 'em) handguns- a significant portion of the SIG-Sauer Classic catalog (multiple P220s, a P225, multiple P229s, a P228, a Sigpro 2340; multiple Walter P5s (both early and late production variants), a P5C, multiple P.38/P1s, a late production P88; multiple CZ 75s and multiple CZ 83s; a Beretta 92D, 92D Centurion, a Beretta 92 Compact L Type M, a Beretta 8357 Cougar; a Ruger P85, P944, and multiple P89s...

    Out of this eclectic melange, the only ones that have stood the test of time and interest for me have been my Beretta 92D (which I've discussed previously in some depth on the forum here)-and a late production (2007) Ruger P89. A P89?? Yep-and there are some cogent reasons why.

    First, the development of the P85/P89 was an exceptionally personal quest for William Ruger. His goal was dual-both to create a state-of-the art "wondernine" 9mm personal defensive pistol for both general and duty use, to provide it at a commercially viable (read "acceptably profitable") pricepoint that would be lower than virtually any competitor on the market, and to achieve selection as the DoD multi-service issue handgun (what became the XM9 and XM10 trials of the mid-to late-1980s). The state-of-the-art aspect was assured by the experience and skill of the Ruger project engineering team (who were reportedly given a "clean sheet of paper" start point and commensurate budget/company developmental resources) and William Ruger's very personal attention and involvement; the price-point was achievable due to Ruger's experience in investment casting materials and technology, and the creation of a new production facility in Prescott, AZ designed to exploit the technology and manufacturing scales required. While the P85's development was insufficient for the XM9 trials (which in many ways was unfortunate), it was quite ready for the XM10 trial. The guns submitted for the XM10 trials were the "mature P85" (revised firing pin safety, revised flatter/shorter slide stop/release lever, revised barrel/slide fit, revised sear, triggerbar, pins, and thicker barrel link, one piece cast barrel, revised rear sight (in terms of height and provision of a grubscrew for securing after drifting), and slightly revised grips (slightly dished-in). his gun did not achieve DoD selection, as realistically the XM10 trial was Beretta's to lose (which of course they didn't), but the Ruger submission passed with flying colors according to information passed to me by an industry participant.



    The P85 (once it moved from the initial 2-piece barrels to the 1-piece ones, and with phase one of the barrel-to slide modifications) was a decent combat handgun. Reliability was excellent, durability was forecast at at least the 20K round level (in consonance with DoD contract stipulations) and accuracy was acceptable, if not exceptional (around the 3"-4" point at 25 yards). As 2nd Armored Division staff officer and subsequently as a Group XO I chose a 1990 production P85 as my personal defensive weapon, liking the Ruger's toughness. I don't recall that weapon ever malfunctioning, but when I took an early retirement as a Major and subsequently went through law school, it was sold. The only modification that I dit to it was to replace the Xenoy grooved resin grips with a set of Uncle Mikes Craig Spegel-designed checkered Santoprene ones, which I felt provided a better grip, especially in adverse weather conditions.



    In 2007, nostalgia hit, and I decided to obtain a current production P89 as close to the configuration of my original P85. My local gunstore was a bit surprised that Ruger still produced the P89, but was easily able to obtain one for me in September of 2007. That date is significant, because unbeknownst to me, Ruger, after William Ruger's death, was being led by Steven Sanetti and Michael Fifer, who by the 3rd quarter of 2007 had introduced and executed a thorough analysis and on-going revamping of Ruger's design. manufacturing, quality control, and marketing processes-of which my particular P89 was a very fortuitous beneficiary of. Shortly after mine was produced in August of 2007, Ruger removed the venerable P89 as a catalog item, although subsequent Ruger records indicate that it was actually produced for several succeeding years, presumably as for special order LEO/military contract lot(s)(Large known organizational adopters of the P85/P89 included the Israeli Air Force, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Wisconsin Highway Patrol, and the San Diego Police Department).

    My P89 was the base entry, blued, manual safety DA/SA variant. I again switched out the OEM Xenoy resin grips for a set of new Uncle Mikes (at that point discontinued, but easily available), and the flush mainspring cap at the pistol's butt was replaced with one with an incorporated lanyard loop. Another nice surprise was that Ruger had subtly re-engineered both the magazines and magazine latch point; the new magazines were stainless steel with a thicker polymer baseplate, and slightly taller, minimizing the transition from magazine to barrel feed ramp. When I went to the range to conduct my initial break-in and sight zeroing, I found that the gun was an absolute tack-driver, literally routinely achieving 1" to 1.5" groups-with a very decent (albeit long travelling) DA triggerpull, and a very crisp SA pull, with a short and discernible reset point. I subsequently replaced the Uncle Mikes grips with a set of Hogue rubber cobbblestone fingergroove grips, when I found that one of the Uncle Mikes grips was experiencing retaining tab shrinkage or deterioration, inducing grip slippage in the frame.



    While primarily carrying and competing with my Glocks and 1911s, I used the P89 in multiple IDPA matches, where it acquitted itself extremely well-to the point where in short order I ordered a Blade-Tech IWB (in olive drab, to continue with my Army use commemoration theme). While not a truly significant test, in one match there was driving rain throughout the match, and ejected magazines were thoroughly exposed to puddles and mud-the gun performed flawlessly. In a recent match earlier this month, my shooting friend and IDPA club president who obseerved its performance throughout the match came up to me and quietly stated that he thought that I was performing better with the P89 than any of my other guns that I've been concentrating on (Glock, Beretta, and 1911), which gave me pause for thought.

    What I've got is an exceptionally accurate, reliable, and durable DA/SA pistol. The OEM sights are quite good,and enhanced by painting the front sight dot with fluorescent green and the rear sight dots with fluorescent orange. I experimented with the OEM Xenoy grips after the Uncle Mikes failed, but found that I preferred and performed significantly better with the Hogue grips, which maximized grip and hand position, particularly in the frontstrap/triggerguard and rear tang/backstrap areas. Its a pistol that successfully negotiated the grueling XM10 DoD trials of the 1980s, and has had a quiet history of successful organizational use. Additionally, Ruger had quietly continued to provide significant quality improvement modifications to the gun over it's production lifespan, notably in a "phase two" further barrel-to-slide fit modification (resulting in the rear of the barrel breachblock protruding above the plane of the slide), and revising the profile of the safety levers, both re-positioning the lever shelves and making them significantly larger(and far more ergonomic). As the gun is designed for "all-spec" military production 9mm ammunition, the triggerpulls, while heavy, are very smooth (the DA pull is particularly revolver-like); I've found it to be capable of detonating some very thick-primered Israeli issue ammunition (possibly intended for open-bolt submachine gun use).

    So-Why isn't the gun more highly regarded today? One reason was due to it's initial reputation for mediocre accuracy and ergonomics, both of which were quietly dealt with by Ruger. Another reason is possibly due to Ruger's marketing, and/or the shooting community's perception of the P85/P89 as a sort of a low-price-point volkspistol aimed at price-point contracts and lower-budget buyers (kind of a "bubba" gun...) In my opinion, the gun is much better than this perception-and, at least in my sample size of my late-production example, a very efficacious pistol, one capable of competing with more modern and much higher priced contemporaries. While I don't see it replacing, or significantly displacing my Glocks in the overall long-run scheme of things, I am viewing it in a very favorable light, both for carry and competition; I'm actually carrying it as I write this, I've used it in one club-level IDPA match so far this year, and plan on using it in at least one upcoming one, and it's on my short list for consideration in this year's Washington State IDPA sanctioned championship match this summer.

    While my preferred holster is the previously mentioned Blade-Tech IWB, I also have, and have been pleased with a Tactical Tailor OWB general purpose holster, Bianchi's ubiquitous M12/UM84 modular military flap holster (currently employed on a Tactical Tailor shoulder harness set-up for field use), an Eagle Industries Special Ops tanker-style shoulder holster, and a Wilderness Zip Slide.



    Best, Jon
    Last edited by JonInWA; 03-25-2014 at 03:17 PM.

  2. #2
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    Maybe it's coming of age in the '90's in Texas and going to Academy a lot, where Rugers just dominated the shelves...but I've always had a soft spot for the old school Rugers. All of 'em. Mini's, P-series, you name it. Always wanted one, never got one.

    Good write up.

  3. #3
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    Rock solid guns. I have a P94 that is approaching 75K rounds.

  4. #4
    Site Supporter JodyH's Avatar
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    I had a P89 back in the day, I wasn't really shooting a lot back then but that beast was "flawless" when it came to reliability and the accuracy issues I had were all because the nut behind the trigger needed tightening.
    "For a moment he felt good about this. A moment or two later he felt bad about feeling good about it. Then he felt good about feeling bad about feeling good about it and, satisfied, drove on into the night."
    -- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy --

  5. #5
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    When the P85 came out . I headed to the GS and bought one.
    Back then I had a thing for USA made handguns Colt ,S&W Ruger .

    The Pistol ran great and I don't recall any problems for the time I had it.

    The major problem it had . It wouldn't group at all ! I was a crazy I never had a pistol that wouldn't group.

    Matter of fact its the only and worst pistol I ever owned ! Accuracy wise !
    Last edited by Rich; 03-25-2014 at 04:40 PM.

  6. #6
    Member SecondsCount's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    When the P85 came out . I headed to the GS and bought one.
    Back then I had a thing for USA made handguns Colt ,S&W Ruger .

    The Pistol ran great and I don't recall any problems for the time I had it.

    The major problem it had . It wouldn't group at all ! I was a crazy I never had a pistol that wouldn't group.

    Matter of fact its the only and worst pistol I ever owned ! Accuracy wise !
    I shot one in the mid 90s and the best I could get was 2-3" at 21 feet. I wasn't the most accurate shooter back then but I could shoot well under 2" with my Taurus PT99 at the same distance.

    They do seem to be very sturdy and reliable. Of the many I have seen at the range, only one had a breakage which had something to do with the recoil spring assy. coming apart. Locked the gun up solid.
    -Seconds Count. Misses Don't-

  7. #7
    Site Supporter jetfire's Avatar
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    I bought a P89 quite literally because of Desperado.
    I shot the PX4 before it was cool.

  8. #8
    Hobbyist JAD's Avatar
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    There was a rental P89 at the gun shop and shooting range where I first started shooting. My friends and I would rent it fairly often (because of desperado obviously). We encountered in that pistol our first "link jam". My friends extrapolated this into the idea that all links are always bad and therefore 1911's are bad because they have links. I am turn took that concept and expanded it into the idea that all people who don't like 1911s are idiots. That started me on 1911s. So, interestingly, the shape and character of most of my gun safe is really dictated by the Ruger P 89.

  9. #9
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    I would of been very happy if it could group 3inch at 7yards. More like 8inches at best

    I don't know if I can put it to words? But each group would be different. and placed at a different location on the target.
    You never knew what you would get.

    I know for sure I wasn't the only owner who had this problem. Ruger did end up fixing it with later versions.

  10. #10
    Site Supporter ST911's Avatar
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    The P-series isn't as robust as many would believe, with a few odd vulnerabilities. These were discussed in detail in their armorer courses and agency support, with varying amounts of candor depending on source. They meet the needs of most folks that bought them, but they remain mostly a value priced, clunky, hobby gun that is best left in that role.
    الدهون القاع الفتيات لك جعل العالم هزاز جولة الذهاب

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