Gun Test: Ruger PC Carbine

NRA American Rifleman | Contributor

By Brian C. Sheetz, American Rifleman

During the latter part of the 19th century, it was not uncommon for cowboys to pack both a single-action revolver and a lever-action carbine—each chambered for the same ammunition. Back then, that typically meant a rimmed cartridge such as .44-40 Win. carried on gun belts and bandoleers. It was an eminently sensible system by virtue of the fact that it simplified the user’s ammunition supply.

Nearly 150 years later, the concept still makes a lot of sense, depending on the circumstances, especially since most defensive firearms now feed from convenient detachable-box magazines. That development alone has simultaneously revolutionized the carriage of extra ammunition and the quick reloading of firearms. Previously, fine motor skills and ingrained muscle memory were required to successfully pluck those rimmed cartridges singly from their leather loops and shove them, one by one, into chambers or tubular magazines—often while under pressure. And while it’s true that some 21st century shooters still enjoy the nostalgia such guns recall—a point not lost on Ruger, which still offers many single-action revolver models—most of today’s buyers are more interested in modern guns designed for personal defense. That is a point of which the company is also keenly aware.

Two such models that exemplify that conviction are entirely new designs, yet were somewhat informed by ground the company plowed in the not-too-distant past. The first is a pistol-caliber, semi-automatic long gun chambered in 9 mm Luger and appropriately labeled as the PC Carbine, and the second is a like-chambered compact, semi-automatic pistol called the Security-9. Both names are evocative of past Rugers that enjoyed success among scores of shooters. One, the Ruger Police Carbine, was chambered in either 9 mm Luger or .40 S&W and shared magazines with like-chambered pistols from the firm’s original P Series. The other, the Security-Six revolver, was also, coincidentally, manufactured in 9 mm Luger using full-moon clips, although the bulk of its production was in .38 Spl. and .357 Mag.

But as with all families, any similarity in name is often more than made up for by a disparity in traits. And so it is with the latest Rugers. Whereas the former Police Carbine was compatible only with magazines from the company’s sole line of extant center-fire pistols, the new PC Carbine accepts magazines from three current Ruger pistol lines: the SR Series and Security-9—which, curiously, are not interchangeable between their host pistols—and the American. Even more compelling, the PC Carbine is also capable of being fed from the now-ubiquitous Glock-pattern magazine. And since the new Security-9 pistol is, of course, fed from a detachable-box magazine (in its case, one holding 15 rounds), it allows for quicker reloads than any revolver—even one using moon clips.

What the two newest Rugers really share, though, is the company’s strength of bringing together the latest in manufacturing technology, features and design to optimize firearms for their intended purposes—in these cases, keeping law-abiding armed citizens safe from the deadly threats inherent to modern life.

The Ruger PC Carbine

The pistol-caliber carbine concept seems either to attract or repel depending on how those considering it perceive such a gun’s role. Detractors question why someone would want an arm with the bulk and weight of a rifle but possessed of only a pistol’s power. Looking at it from the opposite position, however, supporters suggest that such a carbine’s longer barrel enhances the velocity, and, thus, energy and lethality of most handgun cartridges. Also, being a shoulder-mounted arm with diminished recoil compared to true rifles, and having a longer sight radius than a pistol—not to mention accommodations for red-dot or magnified optics—make it far easier for most shooters to score hits with than any handgun. Its lesser recoil also increases its ability to make accurate repeat shots rapidly—all of which makes it potentially easier to master by a greater range of users. In any case, it’s probably best to see the pistol-caliber carbine not as a rifle replacement, but as a pistol force-multiplier.

Ruger’s latest take on the concept, the PC Carbine, wisely applies several notable improvements to the company’s previous effort. For one, the PC’s method of operation, like its predecessor, is fundamentally a blowback design, though the mechanism is much improved and greatly simplified. In addition, the PC borrows from Ruger’s phenomenally successful Model 10/22 semi-automatic rimfire carbine not only in some aspects of its general layout, and even in a few specific trigger group components, but, most notably, in its mimicking of the Takedown version’s ability to be quickly and easily separated into two compact sections. Perhaps most importantly, in terms of its market appeal, the PC, with a simple swapping out of magazine well inserts, can be quickly converted to accept Glock-pattern 9 mm Luger magazines, including that company’s own 33-round example originally developed for the G18 machine pistol. Finally, the PC Carbine is priced to attract—essential in an era of $450 AR-type rifles—with a suggested retail of $649 that is likely to translate to over-the-counter figures in the high $400s.

The gun is not as high-tech in appearance as most other currently offered pistol-caliber carbines, which tend to be based either on unique designs or on adaptations of the AR. Its buttstock and fore-end are molded from 33 percent glass-filled nylon into a fusion of traditional and modern lines. The butt is capped with a rubber recoil pad and spacer system borrowed from the company’s Gunsite Scout Rifle. It has a molded-in sling swivel stud and stippling in panels on either side of the pistol grip, which also features slight palm swells. Further, the buttstock forms the magazine well, which houses a large, serrated, metal magazine release button that can be installed on either side. Internally, the release engages Ruger magazines at a rectangular cutout in the front center of their bodies. Two action screws secure the receiver to the stock. They pass through imbedded brass inserts that prevent their falling free when the receiver is removed.

Once the receiver is free, either of the Ruger magazine well inserts, one of which is marked on its mouth “SR9 S9” and the other “RA9,” or the Glock magazine insert, marked “G9”, can be dropped into place within the magazine well as the magazine release is pressed. As the receiver is reinserted into the buttstock, and the action screws tightened to 65 in.-lbs., the insert is clamped firmly in position. It’s worth noting here that Ruger advises that some Magpul Glock-pattern magazines may not function reliably with the PC Carbine. Factory Glock magazines, however, have been found to function well, as have some other aftermarket offerings, including 50- and 100-round drum designs.

The gun is taken down for transport or storage in identical manner to that of the 10/22 Takedown. A recess in the lower front of the buttstock guides the thumb into position to retract a downward-protruding pin in the fore-end assembly. That allows the fore-end to be twisted and the barrel pulled free of the receiver. The buttstock and fore-end assemblies measure 19 3/4″ and 16 516” in overall length, respectively, and the latter, which also has panels of stippling on its sides, has a molded-in section of accessory rail for the attachment of a light or laser at its lower front just ahead of a metal QD sling stud.

The new PC Carbine disassembles into basic subassemblies by way of three captive screws. The bolt assembly is pictured in detail (inset, above r.) to show its head and tungsten dead-blow weight (arrow). Inserts for Glock and Ruger magazines (above l.) simply drop in.

At first glance, the PC Carbine’s receiver, bolt assembly and trigger group appear similar to those used in the 10/22. The PC’s receiver is machined from aluminum bar stock and is closed at the rear while its bottom and front are open. It is finished in a flat-black hard-anodized treatment. An integrally machined, 6 1/2″-long, 16-slot section of Picatinny rail runs along the receiver’s top surface, and machined openings in its sides include an ejection port on the right and keyways on the right and left for the bolt carrier’s hollow charging handle, which can be swapped by way of a single screw running through its center. Two sets of holes through each side of the receiver at its rear act as attachment points for pins that secure the polymer fire-control housing, which contains a crossbolt safety in the trigger guard’s front and a blade-type bolt catch immediately in front of the trigger guard that is pressed upward to hold the bolt to the rear. Finally, a steel barrel block is attached by way of machine screws at the receiver’s front. It features the recesses that accept a set of lugs machined onto the barrel’s breech end when the barrel assembly is turned into place during assembly. (There is also a knurled ring that can be adjusted to ensure the joint assembles without excess play.)

A bolt carrier measuring approximately 1.125″ square by 4.5″ inches in length rides below a guide rod and a “bolt top” keyed to the bolt. While fundamentally a blowback, the gun’s design also relies on a separate so-called dead-blow weight, mimicking the function of a like-named hammer. The weight measures 0.750″ square by 1.875″ in length and is metal-injection-molded from tungsten—an elemental metal with a density 1.7 times that of lead. According to Ruger engineers, the weight accounts for nearly half of the bolt assembly’s mass, which keeps its overall size reasonable yet still allows the mechanism to counteract the recoil of even 9 mm Luger +P cartridges. The weight rests in a pocket machined into the bolt carrier that allows about 0.025″ of play fore and aft, and, in operation, comes to rest a split second after the carrier, retarding the carrier’s velocity somewhat as it changes direction. That helps prevent the “bolt bounce” effect often associated with such guns, which can result in receiver battering and a lack of reliability. It also softens the blow of the carrier against the receiver somewhat, even though that task is primarily handled by a elastomer buffer attached to the rear of the recoil spring assembly.

As with the 10/22 Takedown, the PC Carbine’s barrel can be rotated out of engagement with its receiver by pressing forward on a lever that withdraws a tapered lock pin. The knurled ring can be adjusted to eliminate excess play from the mechanism.

The PC Carbine’s 16 516” barrel is tapered and fluted, which helps to keep the gun’s weight centered between the hands, making it less muzzle-heavy than its predecessor, which housed a slide assembly and counterweight in its fore-end. The muzzle is threaded 1/2″x28 TPI. and capped with a polymer O-ring and knurled steel thread protector. Steel sights—a fully adjustable ghost-ring rear and a wing-protected blade front—are secured to the barrel with screws and provide a sight picture similar to that of the U.S. M14 and M1 Garand rifles. Future plans call for an optic plate that would replace the rear sight assembly to allow mounting of a reflex sight directly to the barrel.

At 6 lbs., 10 ozs., the PC Carbine has a substantial feel, but its weight is centered between the hands, and the gun comes to the shoulder readily—its iron sights aligning well with the eye when the stock meets the shooter’s face. Beyond resulting in better balance, the new carbine’s design facilitates the take-down configuration since the action’s moving parts are confined to the buttstock assembly.

A recent Ruger-sponsored media event at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Ariz., provided ample opportunity for about a dozen writers to put a sampling of the new carbines through their paces. In the course of running several thousand rounds through the guns in exercises designed to simulate dynamic engagements, the PC Carbine proved its mettle, with all the guns exhibiting excellent reliability and commendable accuracy.

Back at NRA Headquarters, other editors were favorably impressed with the gun’s handling qualities. Accuracy results, as tabulated in the accompanying table, were achieved using a Trijicon AccuPoint 1.25-4X 24 mm scope set at 4X. Comparing velocity and energy figures of the Hornady Critical Defense Lite 100-gr. FTX load fired from the PC Carbine with corresponding results from the Security-9 pistol, demonstrate that, on average, the PC Carbine’s longer barrel added 221 f.p.s. and 117 ft.-lbs. of energy at the muzzle—a 17 percent increase in velocity and a 31 percent increase in energy. In addition, the new NovX 65-gr. polymer matrix load in the PC Carbine achieved 2031 f.p.s. and 595 ft.-lbs. of energy—a 36 percent increase in velocity and a 37 percent increase in energy compared to the Hornady load.


For anyone who concedes that the pistol-caliber carbine concept is valid and who can envision how one might complement a personal inventory of firearms, Ruger’s PC Carbine must be acknowledged as one of the better modern examples. Its take-down feature and multi-magazine adaptability provide a utility that every modern-day armed citizen should at least consider as he or she traverses the 21st century frontier.

Thanks to American Rifleman for this post. Click here to visit AmericanRifleman.org.

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