Why would someone want a rifle or carbine that shoots pistol-caliber 9mm ammo? If you use it for home defense, it would be so loud indoors. Isn’t a rifle or carbine like this as loud as a shotgun or larger caliber gun? What would you use it for? Plinking or home defense or what? Isn’t the recoil very stout from such a small-profile, short-barrel, lightweight carbine? Aren’t handguns more accurate than shotguns and most rifles? Also, the portability and storage of a rifle is not as convenient as a handgun. Someone can have fun plinking at the range with low-cost .22LR ammo, so do you really want to spend more for 9mm ammo? And what about adding optics and lights to a less than 20″ carbine barrel, as compared to a handgun?
These were some of the thoughts going through my mind when I received this gun from Ruger. On the packing slip, Ruger labeled this a “Pistol Caliber Carbine-9, 9mm Rifle.” Usually, a rifle with less than a 20″ barrel is called a carbine. Well, there are benefits and limitations to everything and everybody and what is a limitation or benefit for one may be just the opposite to another. So what are possible benefits of using a Pistol Caliber Carbine? Your mileage may vary!
Benefits of Using a Pistol Caliber Carbine in 9mm
- Fires at a greater velocity (standard factory rounds) than most handguns (due to longer barrels) and resulting bullet energy benefit
- Not as loud as most handguns, shotguns and other rifles
- Generally more accuracy and stability with simple and reliable blowback action than most handguns
- Lower recoil than most handguns and other rifles (with exception of .22LR) for pacing faster and precise follow-up shots
- Lighter weight, portable and more mobile than most rifles
- Can add same accessories to carbine that can add to rifles (optics, lights, vertical foregrips)
- Pistol magazine compatibility with presently-owned Glock and Ruger magazines
- Pistol Caliber Ammo – Same caliber as everyday carry handgun; low cost and plentiful 9mm
- Pistol Magazine Capacity to 33 rounds (factory) or so for additional Home-Defense Firepower
- Multiple uses for fun target plinking, home defense, competition, survival, camp/trunk gun
- Some indoor ranges allow only pistol calibers (e.g., 5.56mm prohibited)
- Could have same Manual of Arms for already owned rifle
Ruger PC Carbine Overview
The new Ruger PC Carbine is an improved version of an earlier PC Carbine model they introduced about 50 years ago. There was also a Ruger Police Carbine introduced around 1996. The earlier ones were not take-down models nor did they have threaded muzzles.
Today Pistol Caliber Carbines are offered by several manufacturers and are in demand now, considering their above benefits. They range in price from about $300 to over $1,500. Be sure to consider the various mag wells offered to match the guns you presently own or plan to buy.
The Ruger PC Carbine comes with two mag wells, the Ruger one and a Glock mag well adapter. The Ruger mag well accepts Ruger SR-Series and the new Ruger Security 9 mags. My Glock 17 mags (17 rounders) fit the Glock mag well adapter fine.
Note for using older Glock mags that have only one mag latch slot: the mag release button must remain on the left side of the carbine and not reversed.
It is easy to take down to remove the barrel/forend assembly by rotating it counterclockwise, then inserting the different mag well.
Thought Before We Jump Into the Ruger PC Carbine Review
I want to analyze, offer my opinions, and give my recommendation or not for the new Ruger PC Carbine in 9mm. Several readers and students know the criteria I use to analyze my recommended handguns, and I will use my same ten criteria for this carbine. Here are “Ben Findley’s Criteria for Evaluating Any Gun.” I want to help you analyze the Ruger PC Carbine 9mm carbine so you can make the best selection for yourself. You can add or subtract from my criteria to meet your needs and preferences.
I was very anxious to shoot the Ruger PC Carbine and to analyze it factor by factor. Know that I am not on the Ruger payroll, have not been paid by them for this article nor influenced to say certain things about the Ruger PC Carbine. I want to be honest and straight-forward with my opinions and ideas the way I see the carbine to help folks sincerely.
Specifically, I wanted to know about its accuracy and its reliability. What are its pros and cons? Is this a PC Carbine I would recommend?
First, I want to present the specifications and some features for the Ruger PC Carbine 9mm. Then I give you the ten criteria that I use to evaluate all guns. Finally, I present my analysis and how I specifically evaluated the Ruger PC Carbine against each of my criteria and my Range Field Test to recommend or not recommend it. As always, set your own criteria and priorities, do your own research and check my data and information with yours, for your own personal selection process.
My Criteria And Considerations for the Ruger PC Carbine Review
Here are ten of my criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for this Ruger PC Carbine review. In addition to my criteria, other subjective features may be appealing for some. For example, a particular style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, non-porting or porting, added extras like a holster and pouch, and customer service. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion.
I must admit that all gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want a gun to meet all of my criteria. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my ten criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine.
Ruger PC Carbine 9mm Range Test
After a quick cleaning, I took the Ruger PC Carbine to the range to shoot it right out of the box, without any windage or elevation adjustments. Its ergonomics were fine, and it felt good in my hands. Since I specialize in handguns, I had not shot a rifle in over a year, so I was rusty. You can see above and clearly identify my first five shots high and to the right.
But it came back to me, like riding a bike, and I made some adjustments. I still need improvement, and with the longer sight radius than a pistol, I had trouble seeing and focusing on the front sight clearly with my aging eyes. I had to get used to this particular sight picture and sight alignment.
Well enough excuses.
I shot Sig Sauer 115, 124, and 147 grain FMJ and 124 and 115 grain JHP rounds. Thanks to Sig Sauer for providing my test ammo. I shot about 200 rounds total and was anxious to see the gun and my accuracy with this carbine.
I was surprised that the recoil was even lighter than my compact 9mm pistols. It was very manageable, the charging handle easy to move. My Ruger and Glock mags all worked well. The trigger press was smooth and soft, but certainly longer than my pistols.
I started at 25 yards and saw my hits improve as I moved in to 20 yards, 15 yards, and then 10 yards. This is a very fun carbine to shoot, and I shot 200 rounds quickly, with my 17-round pistol 9mm mags. I had no malfunctions, failures to feed or eject, no misfeeds, and no stoppages. What a fun gun to shoot. I just wish I could see the front sight more clearly with my old peepers.
Range Test Results for the Ruger PC Carbine for Each of My Ten Criteria:
1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 9
The accuracy of the Ruger PC Carbine was acceptable for me at distances of 10, 15, and 20 yards, but not so much at 25 yards. The latter is on me and not the gun. Remember, my poor eyesight and lack of shooting a rifle for over a year. Not excuses, but the facts of the matter.
Other than my 25 yard hits, the others at various distances were well within a 3″ group, without adjustment and a scope or optical help. If I were to buy this carbine, I would get a scope to help myself. It does work best with a center-mass sight picture. I need more practice with it, and 200 rounds is just a beginning. It was a very fun gun to shoot.
2. Trigger Press – Score: 9
The trigger press averaged about 4.95 pounds with eight readings from my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. I was expecting a lighter press close to 4.5 pounds or less since the pistols I usually shoot are lighter in relation to the weight of their trigger press than a rifle like this. So, this carbine weighs about 7 pounds and has a 4.95 pound press, while a Ruger SR1911 9mm weighs 27.2 ounces (1.7 pounds) and has a 4.75 pound press.
I thought the Ruger PC Carbine would have a lighter trigger, but it will probably improve more after break-in and shooting it more. I prefer near a 5# press for all my guns, and this was close.
There really is no definitive “right” trigger press, since it depends on what gun and type you are shooting and what you are shooting at. Rifle triggers are meant to have a slow, gentle, and gradual press with precise shot placement more important (usually) than speed.
3. Trigger – Score: 9
The trigger had a very identifiable click and reset point. I liked the smooth, relatively light, and crisp trigger. My shots were consistent each time, and I could definitely press the trigger for accuracy.
4. Barrel Length – Score: 10
The 16.12-inch stainless steel, cold hammer-forged chrome barrel helped control muzzle flip and recoil. It should also be durable. The barrel was fluted and threaded so that it can accept a suppressor. If I use this carbine for home defense inside the home, I want to get a suppressor added to help save my hearing. The steel barrel was of high quality, and it fits tightly with the frame.
5. Sights – Score: 9
I like that the Ghost Ring rear sight can be adjusted for elevation and drift adjusted for windage. The front sight was a protected blade and worked well. But, again my poor eyesight (and color blindness) made it difficult for me to see the front sight crystal clear. Shooting pistols, I have been spoiled by the bright green fiber optic front sight for a better lock onto the front sight.
6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 9
The 6.8 pound unloaded weight of the Ruger PC Carbine was fine, and I maneuvered it well. Of course, there are pros and cons for gun weight for various uses and type of gun. A very personal decision.
7. Caliber – Score: 10
Shooting the Ruger PC Carbine was comfortable in my hands, and the 9mm caliber was pleasant to shoot. I handled the light recoil very well. As always with pistols, I do prefer the 9mm caliber and my primary concealed carry guns are 9mm, as well as my home defense gun.
So this 9mm was natural for me. The felt recoil was lighter than my 9mm pistols, and I managed it easily. It digested the various weights of 9mm ammo easily without a single malfunction or stoppage.
8. Capacity – Score: 9
There was only one 17-round steel magazine included. It was a quality SR9-Series magazine and had view holes for round count. I prefer manufacturers include three magazines as standard, but realistically for this 9mm carbine, one is OK since I had several other mags to use from my other Rugers and Glocks. I wanted Ruger to include at least two mags with this carbine.
9. Ergonomics – Score: 10
The ergonomics of the Ruger PC Carbine were very nice. The butt pad with two extra spacers helped for comfort and for sizing to accommodate different shooters. The delayed straight blowback action and its light recoil made shooting the gun fun.
The ease of take down so you could put the two smaller pieces in a gym bag, backpack, or trunk of your vehicle was convenient and handy. I love its portability.
The threaded barrel was a welcomed addition, so you could add a suppressor to help dampen noise level inside your home, so you can use the Ruger PC Carbine for home defense. It also has a thread protector and solid O-ring for concentricity of the muzzle device and bore.
The textured forend helped me to acquire a firm and comfortable grip. The magazines dropped freely as well. It does have an ambidextrous magazine release and an ambidextrous charging handle.
10. Miscellaneous – Score: 9
I disassembled, lubed and cleaned, and re-assembled the Ruger PC Carbine without problems before I shot it, as always with any gun. Disassembly was easy, and it was straightforward and quick to takedown without tools. Its portability and ease of storage are major benefits. The Ruger PC Carbine does have 2 rails, one on top of the receiver and one under the front forend assembly.
The Ruger PC Carbine comes in a cardboard box and with one mag which helps lower its price. It does not include accessories, but it does come with a lock, 3 Allen wrenches, one mag, two extra buttpad spacers, and the Glock mag well adapter. There is an implied warranty, rather than a full or limited one.
Total Points = 93 out of 100 Possible.
Ruger PC Carbine Review Conclusions
I certainly RECOMMEND the Ruger PC Carbine in 9mm for consideration as your fun target plinking carbine and your home defense rifle. But, I would have a pair of earplugs nearby or get a suppressor added to its included threaded barrel, to protect your ears if it is needed for home defense.
This is not only a fun gun to shoot, but an accurate and reliable gun with very moderate recoil. Its felt recoil was very manageable for a 9mm because of the longer carbine barrel.
The interchangeability between Ruger mags and Glock mags is an added bonus. Because it is a Take Down model, it is very portable and handy to take with you when backpacking, in your boat or vehicle, or camping. Its steel chrome barrel makes it a very durable gun and resistant to rusting.
My aging eyes wanted brighter sights, but I want to shoot it more to see how my front-sight focus improves. But I was very impressed with its accuracy and its very controllable recoil for a 9mm carbine. I had no malfunctions or stoppages whatsoever with the 200 rounds I fired.
These are just my opinions and ideas, so handle and shoot it for yourself. I hope this Ruger PC Carbine review has helped you gain some information you did not previously have. Consider that these are just my opinions with limited live-range fire and shooting myself only about 200 rounds of ammo.
Create Your Own Criteria
Like always, I recommend that you shoot any gun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what features are important to you and you are willing to pay for ahead of your range time. Then critically evaluate the gun yourself per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several mentioned in my book, “Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials“), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds.
I hope this review and my opinions help you make a decision that is appropriate for you and your personal preferences and needs.
Continued Success and Safety First Always.
Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.
Prescott, AZ 86301
Sig Sauer for Elite V-Crown 9mm JHP-FMJ ammo
Newington, NH 03801
Photos by author as marked and by Ruger.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney in your state or jurisdiction for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense, stand your ground law, and concealed carry. This is not legal advice and not legal opinions. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2018 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at ColBFF@gmail.com.