It was hard to shake an AR at last year’s SHOT Show without hitting a pistol caliber carbine. They’re all the rage these days, including Ruger’s new PC Carbine seen here, but did you know Ruger’s been making semi-auto PCCs for almost 60 years?
My grandpa has a Model 44 from the 70’s, which he’s shipping out to me in the next couple weeks. Production on those began in 1961. The Deerfield Carbine was, in effect, a .44 Mag Mini-14 made from 2000 to 2006. Finally, the Police Carbine is a 90’s version of the very subject of this review.
Of course, none of those were a takedown design. And none of those featured a threaded muzzle. Nor did they take GLOCK mags.
Yes, that’s right, this gun from Ruger comes with a magazine well adapter for GLOCK magazines. Installed from the factory, though, is the insert for the more obvious choice: Ruger magazines. SR series and Security-9 mags will work, and a 17-round SR9 magazine is included with the PC Carbine (or a 10-round mag with a non-threaded muzzle for restricted states).
It’s called a mag well insert because, well, you insert it. Down through the top of the stock, it’s held in place primarily by the receiver.
Both Ruger mags and GLOCK mags reliably locked the bolt open on empty. Magazines inserted easily and locked into place properly. Both magazines wobble more in the magazine well than I’d like, but without a single feeding issue encountered I think it’s fair to say Ruger has it figured out.
Spacers allow for length-of-pull adjustment on the fixed, glass-reinforced nylon stock. From 12.62″ to 14.12″, in half-inch increments.
A reciprocating charging handle ships from the factory installed on the right side of the PC Carbine’s bolt (see above), but is easily switched to the left side (see below). Likewise, the magazine release can be switched from side to side (note: it has to be on the left side for Gen3 and older GLOCK mags).
All tools required for disassembling and adjusting the PC Carbine — namely, three hex wrenches — are included.
Integrally-machined into the top of the 7075 aluminum receiver is a Picatinny rail for an optic. Shield RMS seen above.
For lights, lasers, bipods, or coffee makers, a short Pic rail section is molded into the front of the handguard. There’s a replaceable sling swivel stud up there as well, and a molded-in stud adorns the buttstock.
The rear sight (a ghost ring sight) is easily adjustable for elevation and is drift adjustable for windage. The entire sight is also easy to remove from the barrel to allow for additional scope clearance, should you choose to run a large optic.
Up front is an anti-glare serrated, protected blade sight.
At the muzzle, standard 1/2×28 threads allow for the mounting of suppressors and other accessories. Threads are clean and precise and the shoulder is generous.
The factory thread protector smartly uses an o-ring to prevent it from walking loose, even when only finger tight.
To break the PC Carbine down into fore and aft halves, lock the bolt to the rear. Then pull forwards on the release latch underneath the handguard and twist the front half about 45 degrees (clockwise if you’re looking down the rifle in the normal fashion).
Then simply pull the two halves apart.
Re-assembly is more or less the opposite, except you don’t have to touch the release latch. Simply insert barrel into receiver at the correct orientation, and twist to lock in place.
Broken down, the PC Carbine is a fairly compact package. The barrel half is about 16.25″ in total length and the stock half, with a single recoil pad spacer installed, is about 20″ in length.
Less so, of course, with a long suppressor like my Liberty Cosmic in place and a 33-round GLOCK mag sticking out. But it’s still a compact package if not entirely light in weight. The PC Carbine, sans accessories, clocks in at 6.8 lbs.
Some of that is down to the bolt itself. It’s a honkin’ large chunk of chrome-moly steel…
With “a custom tungsten dead blow weight that shortens bolt travel and reduces felt recoil and muzzle rise.” That tunsten weight — this one marked with a “1” — fits loosely into its recess in the bolt so it can slide forward and back. Just a tiny amount, mind you, but it’s supposed to be enough for that “dead blow” action.
What I do know is that it’s quiet when suppressed. Far quieter than a 9mm AR. There’s less pop out of the action and the action noise itself is quieter. Also, there’s no gas blowback to the face whatsoever.
Much of this I attribute directly to the PC Carbine’s large, heavy bolt. It cycles smoothly and solidly and seems to delay the action enough to reduce ejection port pop.
But what if I wanted to run .45 ACP or 10mm or some other caliber that’s more powerful than 9mm?
Ruger appears to have built the answer — the solution — to that question right into the PC Carbine from the get-go. I have to assume the “1” on the tungsten weight marks it for 9mm use and maybe .40 S&W and such as well. Maybe there’s a “2” planned for .45 and a “3” planned for 10mm? Who knows. But a boy can hope. Recoil spring weights could be changed, too.
Did any of our eagle-eyed readers spot it in the previous photo? The bolt face is a separate piece! With nothing but a strong fingernail or a small flat head screwdriver, it can be removed from the bolt carrier. If this isn’t for the express purpose of easy caliber changes, I’m the pope in the woods pooping on bears.
Let’s not forget that the PC Carbine is also a takedown. So let’s break a caliber conversion process down:
• Take it down
• Remove receiver from stock via two captive bolts
• Remove trigger pack and bolt from receiver
• Remove bolt head from receiver
• Install new bolt head, new extractor, and new tungsten weight. Let’s call them #3s for 10mm Auto use.
• Re-install in receiver and re-install receiver in stock
• click on a 10mm barrel
Talk about easy caliber change. The takedown design makes swapping the barrel the fastest part of the whole process.
You may have also noticed that the PC Carbine’s trigger pack has extreme similarities with that of the Ruger 10/22. Well, they aren’t compatible. Some or most of the internal components are the same as 10/22 components, though, so aftermarket options shouldn’t take long.
Not that you’d need or want them, other than maybe a different trigger bow just for looks. The factory trigger here is great. After a little take-up, the shooter is rewarded with a crisp break at about 3.25 to 3.5 pounds. Then a short, crisp reset.
It’s a fantastic trigger. Far nicer than I would have expected in a gun like this, $525 going rate or twice that.
Throwing a Leupold VX-3i LRP 4.5-14×50 scope on the little PCC, I set down to accuracy testing. Nothing fancy, I just rested the front of the PC Carbine on a sandbag and free-handed the rear.
My target ended up at a perfectly random 59 yards, so keep that range in mind when viewing the following results:
American Eagle 147 grain flat nose.
IMI 158 grain FMJ.
Precision Delta 124 grain XTP. Yes, that is five shots. So, it’s fair to say that the PC Carbine is a very accurate rifle with the correct ammo.
Since this group was so good, I removed the barrel then re-installed it, and shot a three-round group (sorry, I’m low on this ammo and wanted to save a final five rounds for a future test):
About a half inch or tree-quarters inch higher, maybe, but pretty darn good. That’s two bullets through the top hole there.
With 500 rounds of mixed ammunition sent downrange, including extremely lightly-loaded range fodder reloads, 100 grain frangible, three brands of hollow points, and 165 grain HUSH subsonic, it’s fair to say the PC Carbine is reliable.
I had a singular failure early on with the reloads, where the action cycled and the next round chambered, but the hammer wasn’t cocked. I think it short-stroked due to a particularly weak load. Outside of that, it fed, fired, and ejected reliably, smoothly, and consistently and never suffered another stoppage for any reason. It locked back on empty every time.
Just like the Security-9, I’m bullish on the PC Carbine. Ruger, despite its 60 years of pistol caliber carbine production, is a couple years late to the game in this current PCC resurgence. However, they have another winner on their hands.
With an MSRP of $649 and an at-retail price closer to $500, it undercuts much of the competition on price while beating most of it on utility and features. The PC Carbine is a caliber-swap capable, takedown, threaded, reliable, ambidextrous, accurate little PCC with an excellent trigger and swappable mag wells. And, yes, it does take GLOCK mags.
Specifications: Ruger PC Carbine
Capacity: 17 rounds
Barrel Length: 16.12″
Overall Length: 34.37″
Length of Pull: 12.62″ to 14.12″
Sights: Adjustable ghost ring rear, protected blade front
Barrel Features: threaded 1/2×28, fluted, 1:10″ twist
Receiver: 7075 T6 aluminum, Type III hardcoat anodized
Stock Material: glass-filled nylon synthetic
Weight: 6.8 pounds
MSRP: $649 ($480 via Brownells)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability * * * * *
The PC Carbine was 100 percent reliable for me after an early short-stroke incident with a weak reload.
Accuracy * * * * *
There’s really no “standard” for pistol caliber carbines, but I’m going to go ahead and say that the PC Carbine is as good as I could envision asking for here. With that 124 grain, fairly precisely-loaded ammo, it was putting bullets through the same hole at 59 yards and turned in about a three-quarter inch, five-round group.
Ergonomics * * * *
Traditional rifle ergonomics rather than AR ergonomics, but it’s very good for what it is. With an adjustable length-of-pull plus side-swappable charging handle and magazine release, it caters to all types.
Customize This * * * *
In addition to the ambidextrous features mentioned above, the PC Carbine has a nice Picatinny rail on the receiver and a short section on the handguard. Plus adjustable stock spacers and a threaded muzzle. Not to mention I’m keeping my fingers crossed for caliber conversions.
On The Range * * * * *
The PC Carbine is a ton of fun to shoot. It’s accurate, reliable, extremely quiet when suppressed, and it has a fantastic trigger.
Overall * * * *
Ultimately, for me this is a five-star gun in a three-star stock. Were I a Product Manager at Magpul I’d be cranking out a backpacker style design for this guy now, and working with Ruger on creating a factory “Charger” version of this in an SB Tactical pistol-braced, AR grip-accepting stock. Regardless, the PC Carbine is destined to be extremely popular, and for good reason.