There is a degree of sense in having a pistol and carbine in the same caliber, though there are good arguments to the contrary. A pistol caliber carbine is less “powerful” than a rifle caliber carbine, and may not be much more compact. Why go for something with less range, and potentially, less effectiveness?
On the other hand, such carbines have the potential to have substantially less recoil and muzzle blast, a lower report, and there is much to be said for having to stock only a single caliber that will generally cost less than rifle rounds. In addition, for most shooters whose needs run primarily to practice and home and/or self-defense, having to shoot beyond 50 yards is unlikely. Ranges will likely be much closer. A properly designed pistol caliber carbine just might be convenient, versatile, and meet many contemporary needs.
Ruger has long had a reputation for building sturdy, reliable, accurate and usually, not particularly sexy firearms. While some of it’s designs, such as the 10-22 and Mark IV, the latest iteration of Ruger’s founding .22LR pistol design, set the standard for the industry, others are workmanlike and effective, but inspire little enthusiasm.
Ruger has had a 9mm carbine on the market for years in one version or another, but I always found those offerings uninspiring, until the newest 9mm offering. I’ve been looking for a takedown carbine I could toss in a vehicle for trips, something usable to 100 yards or perhaps a bit more, yet compact enough to fit into a case that doesn’t look like a gun case. My carry gun–a Glock 43–is a 9mm, which simplifies ammo supply issues, sort of, but more on that later.
The PC Carbine is a modified blowback semiautomatic that weighs in the area of 6 pounds and ten ounces. Depending on how many of the included spacers one chooses to add to the polymer stock, the carbine is about 35.5” long with a 16.31” barrel. The receiver is made of aluminum, and the barrel is substantial, tapered, and nicely fluted, making it very stiff, while removing excessive weight. The carbine balances roughly at the magazine well.
The takedown mechanism is similar to that of the 10-22 takedown models, and the process is easy: in the recess just forward of the magazine well is the takedown lever, which is actually a round steel pin. Lock the bolt to the rear, push the takedown lever forward, and rotate the forend/barrel counterclockwise only about 20° and slide the unit forward. While Ruger has done most of the details on this carbine right, it would be better for the takedown lever to have a paddle configuration. It does not take much effort to manipulate it, or to rotate or remove the forend/barrel, but a paddle would take less felt effort, and make it easier to grasp the forend. To reinstall it, ensure the bolt is locked back, insert the barrel lugs, and rotate clockwise. It’s not necessary to manipulate the takedown lever, and everything snaps smoothly into place.
One note: the knurled ring at the joint of the receiver and forend/barrel is there to ensure a firm and repeatable fit. The included owner’s manual explains how to adjust it. It has click detents, so once properly set, won’t change without purposeful manipulation. It needs to be set to provide only a little resistance when assembling both parts, and is easy to do.
The carbine comes with a single 15 round Ruger Security-9 Pistol magazine. It is also compatible with Ruger SR-Series magazines, and a Ruger American Pistol well is available from Ruger. The Security 9 is an inexpensive, striker fired polymer pistol, that is reportedly well designed and accurate. However, a substantial selling point is the carbine also comes with an interchangeable Glock magazine insert. Many shooters have been, for a long time, frustrated that Glock hasn’t produced a pistol caliber carbine–or a .22LR caliber pistol, for that matter–but Ruger has filled that market niche.
Changing the magazine inserts is also easy. Merely loosen the two screws–like the 10-22–holding the receiver assembly to the stock. They are retained in the stock, a smart feature that keeps them from becoming sucked into the gun screw and small spring black hole that always seems to appear when guns are being cleaned. Press one small latch in the magazine well in concert with the magazine release button, and lift the unit up and out. The Glock unit simply slips into place and locks. The entire unit has some play when fitted into the stock, but I suspect this aids reliability. The Glock insert will fit any double stack Glock mag, though I suspect most will use the 17 round Glock 17 magazine or the 15 round Glock 19 magazine. Unfortunately, my single stack Glock 43 magazines won’t fit. Glock manufactures a 33 round magazine, but the smaller capacity magazines are easier to load, and balance better in terms of weight and with the lines of the carbine. Magazine insertion and release are positive.
One other interesting feature is the magazine release button may be switched to the right side of the receiver, with one caveat: older Glock magazines with a retention slot on only one side of the magazine will require the release button to stay on the left side, as it comes from the factory. Newer magazines with retention slots on both sides can work either way.
The bolt handle, which reciprocates with the movement of the bolt, can be fitted to either the right or left side of the receiver, but in order to remove the receiver for cleaning, the bolt handle must first be removed. This is done with a 5/32 Allen wrench, one of which is provided with the gun. Two additional Allen wrenches, necessary for common maintenance/adjustment tasks, are also provided. Requiring tools for the removal of the bolt handle is a less than optimum feature, but the carbine is not designed with military specifications in mind, and for most, having the ambidextrous option will likely outweigh any inconvenience.
Takedown for cleaning is uncomplicated. Lock the bolt to the rear and separate the forend/barrel and receiver. Let the bolt go forward, unscrew the two screws holding the receiver to the stock, and lift the receiver assembly out of the stock.
At this point, another major similarity with the 10-22 design is apparent. The trigger module looks very much, in size, shape and design, like the 10-22 module. The hammer is steel, but the body of the module is polymer, and like the 10-22, is held in place by two identically sized through pins. Push the pins out, and the module easily drops out of the receiver.
I won’t go into the entire cleaning process. Ruger’s manual is well designed, features all of the clear illustrations necessary, and is easy to follow. The design is not quite as quick or easy to clean as the 10-22–with the exception of being able to clean the barrel from the breech rather than the muzzle–particularly when taking the bolt entirely down for cleaning, but this is a more complex design. All effective gun cleaning requires the judicious use of Q-Tips, but the Carbine has a few more nooks and crannies than the 10-22, though it is, by no means, difficult to clean. Entirely taking down the bolt assembly is certainly not required for every cleaning, but will be necessary, perhaps every 500-1000 rounds or so.
One interesting feature is the Tungsten “dead blow weight” that drops into the bolt. There is a little play in the fit, so the dense Tungsten helps attenuate felt recoil, lessens bolt travel, and greatly reduces any potential drama of shooting the carbine.
One note on reassembly: if the receiver will not easily slide into the stock, check the several through pins of the trigger module. They fit relatively loosely, and are held in place by the walls of the stock. If one slides out a little to one side or the other, it will be impossible to seat the receiver. Centered properly, everything fits together without effort.
The trigger feels very much like a 10-22 unit, and Ruger advertises it as a 4 pound, 12 ounce trigger. With a wide blade like the 10-22, it feels lighter, releases cleanly, and is an aid, rather than an impediment, to accuracy.
From the factory, the Carbine comes equipped with a nicely produced ghost ring rear sight, and a front post sight protected by wings. The rear sight is adjustable for elevation via an allen screw, but windage requires drift adjustment. It would be nicer to have a screw adjustment here as well, but this probably saved money.
Because the Carbine comes with an integral receiver accessory rail, I suspect most shooters will opt for optical sights. I equipped mine with a Vortex Strikefire II red dot sight. I’ve found them to be reliable and well made. For a carbine that will be used at 100 yards and less–probably less–a quality red dot sight is adequate. The mount that normally comes with the Strikefire II is suitable for an AR-type, thus too high for the PC Carbine, but Vortex has a nice, and inexpensive, low mount that works well. The standard sights are visible in the lower portion of the Strikefire, but do not interfere with the optic. Some always ask: what happens when the batteries run out? Simply transition to the factory sights.
The Carbine does have a short accessory rail molded into the polymer forend which would be suitable for light or laser. I may opt for a Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro laser/light combination. The light is only 150 lumens, but I would expect to use the laser at 20 yards and closer. The hold under effect of the red dot isn’t as pronounced as with an AR-type weapon, but at close ranges, it’s there. I also have substantial experience with the CT unit, and it would fit nicely.
By “hold under effect,” I mean the high sight line of AR-type weapons. At very close ranges, the kind one would see in home/personal defense, a round will impact about 4” below the optical red dot, which is sighted in for 100 yards. Sighting a laser dot for 15-20 yards eliminates the necessity to remember and adjust for that factor.
Another “nice to have” for the carbine would be accessory rails on the sides of the forend, but I suspect Magpul, or Ruger, will eventually catch up with that issue, and again, it probably helped Ruger keep the cost low. Ruger’s suggested retail price is $649.00, but I was able to find my Carbine for $520.00, which I suspect will be the case for most potential buyers
Shooting the Carbine is a pleasant experience. Recoil impulse is greater than a 10-22–which is minimal–but substantially less than every other 9mm carbine I’ve fired. Muzzle rise is negligible, report is mild, and it’s easy to keep the sight on target for multiple shots. It snaps up quickly from ready, and swings easily from side to side.
The Carbine feels like what it is: a well-designed, well-made, substantial firearm. The Carbine feels centrally balanced, which is a good thing, and another obvious design feature. At the muzzle is a knurled ring protecting a standard 1/2”-28 set of threads. Ruger calls this a “thread protector,” which it is, but it is there primarily to allow the attachment of suppressors, which is a smart feature indeed. A longer barrel can make subsonic ammunition more effective while still retaining its decibel-reducing qualities. If Congress ever manages to wake up and deal with Progressive stalling tactics, Americans might have the hearing-protecting effects of suppressors more widely available, and it appears Ruger sees that future possibility, as do other manufacturers.
Accuracy is outstanding. Shooting at 50 yards, with a red dot sight, and not working terribly hard at it, I managed three shot groups in the 1” to 1.5” range with aluminum cased Federal ball ammunition. Functioning was entirely reliable from the first round.
I’ll probably end up designing and making my own carry case, leaving a space for a future suppressor. The PC Carbine meets several specific needs, and does so better than anything else on the market. It’s not a particularly sexy design, but it has a great many positive and useful features, has Ruger sturdiness and reliability, and it’s a great deal of fun to shoot. Perfection is hard to come by; until then, the PC Carbine will do.