Here’s What You Need to Remember: The Ruger P94 was a historically underrated handgun. Although eventually outdated by more modern designs, it was accurate, rugged and reliable. It is still well regarded by Ruger aficionados and was an important stepping stone to the company’s contemporary line of pistols.
During the 1980s, an invasion of European nine-millimeter handguns washed over the United States, achieving swift victories in the American handgun market and capturing large market shares. One of the first American counterattacks against this invading force was the Ruger P-series semiautomatic handgun. The P-series was ultimately exemplified by the P94 handgun.
Much like the 1960s saw the “British invasion” of pop music into the United States, the 1980s saw a similar invasion of the so-called European “Wonder Nines”—a slew of black, high capacity, nine-millimeter semi-automatic pistols. Wonder Nine pistols were typically nine-millimeter handguns made of polymer and aluminum, resulting in strong but lightweight firearms, often with magazine capacities fifty percent larger than their American equivalents.
The P85 failed to win the JSSAP project—the contract went instead to Beretta—but the gun was released to the civilian market. There it was known as a dependable, rugged, affordable handgun that was easy to disassemble for cleaning. The slide, barrel and internal parts were all made of stainless steel, while the frame was made of aluminum. The only plastic used in the P85 was for the grip panels. Normally a double action handgun, it also had an exposed hammer for single action use. It had a noticeably chunky exterior typical of late twentieth century Ruger handguns, which tend to be slightly overbuilt.
In 1994, Ruger came out with the P94 handgun. The P94 represented a maturation of the P-series design that benefited from seven years of being on the market. The gun’s blocky features were trimmed back quite a bit, resulting in a sleeker, more modern-looking weapon. The slide in particular, which looked like something from a 1940s-era handgun, became more monolithic and plain-looking—and in this case plain was definitely better. The ribbed grip panels, which looked antiquated in the 1980s, were replaced with a more contemporary waffle pattern.
The .40 S&W round’s popularity has receded in recent years, due to what many consider an unpopular recoil action and the marketing of more lethal nine-millimeter ammunition. The P94 itself was discontinued in 2004, ten years after the first introduction, and today in its place Ruger offers the SR40 pistol.
The Ruger P94 was a historically underrated handgun. Although eventually outdated by more modern designs, it was accurate, rugged and reliable. It is still well regarded by Ruger aficionados and was an important stepping stone to the company’s contemporary line of pistols.