What I Carry and Why: The .327 Federal Magnum Ruger LCR

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Courtesy Anner

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My first dedicated concealed handgun was a Smith & Wesson 642. The lightweight alloy frame and pocket-friendly footprint was a joy to carry. However, I sucked at shooting revolvers and the J-frame didn’t exactly beckon me to practice. So I ventured down a long and winding road, partially documented here. I have since returned to the revolver game with Ruger’s LCR, prompted in part by TTAG’s review of the .357 Magnum model.

Fast-forward a few years where we find a lot of slightly used holsters sitting in a footlocker and my EDC for the last four years is a Ruger LCR in .327 Federal Magnum (simply ‘.327’ from now on). It’s my longest-running continuously-carried EDC gun to date.

The powerful and flexible .327 offers some advantages over the mainstay snubbie calibers — .38 Special and .357 Magnum — but .327 hasn’t found as much mainstream success as its metrics on capacity and performance would suggest it should.

The venerable.38 Special (introduced in the 1890’s) and .357 Magnum (1930’s) enjoy a massive head start in the wheel-gun world and continue to dominate sales. In time, I expect .327 to make some inroads as the merits of the caliber draw interest.

Ruger LCR .327
My EDC pocket-dump, sans pocket holster or phone. Ruger LCR, 4rds Underwood 95gr Xtreme Defender, 2rds home-brew duplex loads, O-Light S-Mini, Leatherman Skeletool, wallet, and POM OC spray. (Courtesy Anner)

If carrying a firearm is a risk management endeavor, then the LCR in .327 is the perfect EDC companion for my daily life. There’s a lot of material in that statement, so I’d like to share some thoughts on each aspect.

First, some background reading that influenced my decision-making towards .327 . . .

LuckyGunner Lounge, .32 round-up.
LuckyGunner Labs, .327 data.
LuckyGunner Labs, .38 Special & .357 Magnum data.

Boutique Calibers

As a young boy, I grew up in a family that had just five calibers among all the firearms we owned: .22 LR, .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, .223 Remington, and 20 gauge. Those served every need we had and the .22 LR guns accounted for about 90% of the ammo we fired.

Sticking to just a few calibers had a lot of benefits: simpler ammo selection, fewer cleaning supplies, less risk of inserting the wrong cartridge into a chamber, and a high degree of familiarity with each cartridge. My siblings and I grew up well-versed in firearms safety and appreciation of their utility.

I carried that mentality forward, and although I’m up to a dozen calibers now, it’s not for lack of trying. Each ‘new’ caliber I introduced to the collection was not without significant analysis.

What capability did this new cartridge have that I couldn’t achieve with what I already owned? And even if the new caliber was better, was it better enough to justify adding complexity and cost to the collection? Could I sell off an existing caliber, both guns and ammo, to offset the new investment? Did the new caliber offer bulk or ‘cheap’ practice options, or would I be stuck buying premium 20rd boxes?

As passionate as I am about my hobby, adding complexity boils down to a cold, calculated decision.

As an example, my journey into 10mm: When I bought my first 10mm handgun, a GLOCK 20, I had a distinct purpose in mind. I would be hiking in the mountains of northern New Mexico where I’d seen plenty of black bears in years past. Mountain lions were also known to roam the area. I wasn’t a good revolver shooter (yet!), and just six to seven rounds of .357 Magnum wouldn’t suffice…half due to my proficiency as a revolver shooter, and the other half due to my proficiency as a revolver reloader.

Additionally, ISIS had just released their “Top 100” hit list, naming 100 members of the US military and listing their addresses. They’d simply combed social media and found 100 names, intending to inspire lone wolf attacks against US service members. Eight of those names were at my base and six were my immediate coworkers.

We’d recently returned from a deployment in which we had turned a lot of ISIS thugs into pink mist. The whole affair came to nothing…no attacks or significant activity. However, the uproar among the military spouses produced two positive outcomes. First, an awareness of exactly where service members were vulnerable to attack when in garrison. Second, that we were all effectively disarmed off base (before and after work) because we couldn’t bring firearms on base.

The wing commander soon changed that firearms policy, as TTAG documented. All individuals with a concealed carry license could have a handgun in their vehicle, keep it locked in their vehicle while on base, and would then have it available once off base. If I had to stop at a gas station at 2am after a late flight, I could now do so armed.

I needed (needed!) a handgun that could handle black bears, mountain lions, and punch through a windshield or car door to decisively disable a wannabe ISIS martyr on the other side. The GLOCK 20 fit the bill: 15+1 capacity, impressive muzzle energy, and can shoot .40 S&W as a cheaper training option. The 10mm round earned its way into my collection on the merit of its performance and how much more effectively it addressed specific purposes than calibers I already owned.

So how did .327 find it’s way into my good graces?

Metrics: Performance

(Courtesy Anner)

Among snubbie calibers, the .327 oozes performance. Several RevolverGuy and LuckyGunner Lounge articles have detailed this better than I can. The short version: it’s a high-pressure cartridge sending a medium-weight bullet at a relatively high velocity.

In a direct comparison of similar bullet weights, full-power .327 is about on par with .357 Magnum in ballistic gel tests, or at least close to it. LuckyGunner Labs has an excellent data set for both calibers, linked above.

I carry Underwood 95gr Xtreme Defenders, and I find them less punishing than any .357 Magnum 125gr self-defense loads. My favorite .357 Magnum defensive load, Remington 125gr Golden Sabers, are a relatively mild .357 Magnum load. But even the Golden Sabers are a noticeable increase in recoil—both the ‘snap’ and the ‘push’—than any .327 load I’ve tried. The Underwoods don’t make for a pleasant range session, but I can control them well enough to post split times and accuracy on par with my other snubbies or micro 9mm carry guns.

The .327 has all the performance I could ever handle from a small revolver. I have no doubt the cartridge can defeat heavy winter clothing or the burliest of thugs, as long as I do my part.

Metrics: Firepower

If I’m carrying a mid-size semi-auto, rarely do I worry about grabbing the 15-round extended magazine. The flush 13-round mag works just as well and conceals easier. I’ll give up those additional two rounds because they’re preceded by 13. The gain proportional to the baseline isn’t significant.

However, back when I carried my subcompact single-stack semi-auto, the flush mag only held six rounds. Once capacity is in the mid-single-digits, every additional round matters.

I intentionally grabbed the seven-round or eight-round extended mags, both so the grip fit my hand a little better, and because those extra one or two rounds were a significant boost in capacity compared to the baseline. I got a lot more firepower out of a small increase in size and weight, and it was still entirely concealable.

In a small carry revolver, capacity is always in the mid-single-digits. I’ve run enough one-hand drills with five-shot revolvers to know that those five rounds go awfully fast. In a defensive encounter, assuming I’m doing everything right (I won’t), five rounds isn’t confidence-inspiring.

The LCR in .327 holds six rounds with no changes in exterior dimensions. If I need to double-tap a rabid Sasquatch, I get three full attempts at it. It’s not an impressive capacity compared to the latest micro 9’s, but for other reasons I explore below, I won’t be carrying a striker-fired handgun any time soon.

Other models benefit from the smaller diameter of the .327, improving capacity over their .357 Magnum counterparts: The Ruger SP101 holds six, the GP100 holds seven, and the Single Seven holds — you guessed it — seven.

Flexibility

Even with the added grip length, the smooth contours of the Hogue G10 grips provide a secure grip and yet glide out of a pocket. (Courtesy Anner)

I won’t repeat Chris Baker’s excellent points, captured in the article “Why the best snub nose caliber is .32”. They’re all valid, and they all apply to my calculus. I’ll simply add to them.

My family enjoys hiking, or at least the mellow version of hiking that young children can handle. As much as possible, we try to leave nature alone. We give wide berth to snakes (venomous and non-venomous), we let porcupines wander off, and neighborhood dogs just bark a bit and turn around.

However, nature does occasionally threaten my family or property. I don’t carry earmuffs for the kids while out on a walk, so taking a shot at a four-legged or no-legged threat in close proximity to the kids is an issue. For a short while I tried carrying two guns; the LCR as a defensive piece and a North American Arms Black Widow (loaded with .22LR CCI Quiet) for critters. Carrying two guns got old real fast.

I tested a few loads of .32 S&W Long and I was pleasantly surprised to learn how quiet they can be. Nowhere as pleasant as a suppressed .22 LR, but they won’t destroy my kids’ hearing after a shot or two. So I found the quietest .32 S&W Long load I could and kept a box handy in the garage for family hikes.

As we walk out the door, I would remove two rounds of my defensive load and replace them with the quieter S&W Long ammo. Should I need to dispatch an animal, I had two attempts at doing so without disrupting the peace or shattering eardrums. If I failed to do so after two trigger-pulls, or if we encountered a two-legged predator, I still had four rounds of full-power loads.

.327 Magnum home-brew duplex loads. Don’t mind the excessive crimp…I’ll improve that on the next batch. (Courtesy Anner)

That solution worked for a while, until I found a much better one. Based on components I could find at reasonable prices, I substituted #9 shot and 78gr LRN bullets. The bullets printed within an inch of point-of-aim at 10ft, and the shot produced an acceptable pattern. Even if the 78gr bullet doesn’t hit vitals, the shot will perform well enough.

I keep a minimalist reloading setup, and it’s plenty for small projects such as this duplex load. (Courtesy Anner)

The Platform

The LCR is a masterpiece, as RevolverGuy detailed here and here. I own two LCRs, both DAO snubbie models, in .327 and .357 Magnum. I’ve only made one modification to both guns, adding a set of Hogue G10 grips. These grips allow a full grip and tame the recoil of full-power loads significantly.

I can still pocket carry with the Hogue grips, even with the extra length compared to the OEM Hogue rubber grips, since the G10 material doesn’t ‘grab’ fabric like the rubber grips do. In a pair of my favorite 5.11 shorts, the deep pocket material just glides over the grip and frame as I draw.

I owned the .357 Magnum model first and contemplated selling it after purchasing the .327. I kept it as a backup vehicle gun, and I’m glad I did—if my modest stock of .327 ammo (or anything it can chamber) gets slim, I can practice with the .357 Magnum model and conserve .327 ammo for daily carry.

My Daily Life: Risk Mitigation

So far I’ve described how the .327 LCR is perfect for simple pocket carry, and for addressing low-level threats while out on a family walk. But how about when departing the property?

I live near a small and deeply conservative city in a solidly conservative state. Several neighbors are local or county law enforcement — and also my shooting buddies — so I receive informal updates on crime in the area. There’s not much to report; the occasional overdose, some drug traffic, larceny, and maybe a murder every couple years. We have more churches in the county than real crime stats to report.

At every public event, local cops and county deputies are visible everywhere. Law enforcement here does an outstanding job at making their presence know and warning evildoers to find an easier target. And though I can’t prove it, we likely have the highest per-capita daily concealed carrier total in the nation. An armed society is a polite society.

So when out in town, the LCR rides in my pocket, a CZ-75C rides in the center console, and my wife is always packing her Kimber Micro 380. That’s enough for us in the local area. When we travel to bigger or less stable cities, I exchange the LCR for an HK P2000.

However, I have other risks to address. As a single guy, I carried all varieties of SA and striker-fired handguns in an IWB holster at the 4 o’clock position. I now have a lovely wife and several young children, and they all like to wrestle at unannounced times of the day (the kids, anyway…the wife at least communicates her intentions). I carry every minute that I’m wearing clothes (except when in uniform on a military base), so playing with my kids while carrying is a specific risk I must consider. I mitigate it using two measures.

First, I maximize retention by using pocket carry whenever possible. Unless I’m doing cartwheels, the gun is staying right in my pocket. As I move my legs, crouch, or pull an arm bar on a deserving preschooler, the pocket opening and fabric surrounding the pocket holster tighten down and keep the LCR firmly secure.

Second, I only carry guns with a reasonably stout DA operation. Even if some fabric finds its way inside the trigger guard, it still requires an intentional and sustained pull to discharge. If the gun falls out, there’s no pre-cocked striker or any other risk of a discharge. A DA trigger with some form of trigger disconnect or transfer bar is more drop-safe than the average modern handgun. And even if I really screw up and leave the gun where the kids can grab it, they can’t pull the trigger. Every few months, I have the oldest and strongest kid try to dry-fire it. Using four fingers on the trigger and pulling with all her might, she can’t make the LCR’s cylinder rotate.

As an aside, I absolutely preach firearms safety at all opportunities. The kids accompany me to the small shooting range in our backyard. They get a lot of reps at donning ear pro, practicing muzzle discipline, and learning proper safety awareness.

Except for some competition handguns and range toys, every handgun I have loaded for a serious purpose has a DA or DA/SA operating system. The truck has a CZ-75C, the nightstand safe has an HK P30L, the living room safe has a CZ-75D PCR, the garage has an HK45, and my primary carry gun while road-tripping is an HK P2000.

Conclusion

I started this off by making a dense claim: If carrying a firearm is a risk management endeavor, then the LCR in .327 is the perfect EDC companion for my daily life.

When I talk risk management, I mean the opposing priorities of mitigating risks from outside threats and mitigating risks of negligent discharges with rambunctious children all over the place. Caught right in the middle of that equation is the .327 LCR. It has the power, the capacity, the operating features, the handling characteristics, and the flexibility — it’s the perfect EDC companion for me.

Epilogue

If Ruger is reading this, my dream .327 revolver is a Ruger LCRx, with a 3” or 3.5” barrel, Hogue G10 grips, an adjustable rear sight, and a TruGlo TFX Pro front sight. That’s the revolver you’d find on my hip in an OWB holster any time the kids and I ventured out into the wild.

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