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With the introduction of their PC Carbine (Pistol Caliber Carbine), Ruger created a bit of confusion. Well, maybe not Ruger. More like various media outlets and firearms enthusiasts. To be fair, it’s chambered in a pistol caliber – 9mm to be exact. And it’s related to the original Ruger Police Carbine 9mm, known as the PC9. But the new model’s official designation is PC Carbine, and the discontinued model is the PC9 (I’ve rarely seen or heard it referred to as the Ruger Police Carbine). To some, it may seem pedantic to get hung up on the correct names. But they are so different that they deserve to be referred to by their rightful moniker.
The Ruger Police Carbine – PC9
This is the original, first offered back in 1996. Ruger came up with the idea as a companion to their handguns. At the time, they hoped that LEO carrying their P-series handguns would pair them with the PC9. They even offered a PC4 in .40 caliber, for those that preferred the more expensive “short and weak” round. While the idea of a handgun and carbine using the same magazine and ammunition certainly makes sense today, it never really caught on. Even with sales to non-LEO, the volume was too low to sustain, and they ended their production run in 2006.
By today’s standards, the PC9 would probably be considered rudimentary, and low capacity. A bladed front and ghost ring rear sight came standard. There was no Picatinny or Weaver rail for an optic, just regular Ruger scope mounts. And P series magazines held 10 or 15 rounds. A basic polymer sporter stock housed the barreled action. Internally, it was similar to their 10/22 rimfire, but scaled up to handle the larger centerfire cartridges. Simple blowback operation made it both reliable, and inexpensive to produce. No frills here.
The Ruger Pistol Caliber Carbine – PC Carbine
After more than ten years, Ruger surprised the firearms world with an updated 9mm carbine, their new PC Carbine. Announced at the very tail end of 2017, it was one of the “must-haves” of 2018. Taking the original PC9 design a step further, Ruger borrowed again from the 10/22. This time, they included the takedown action. Already a runaway sales hit for their rimfire rifles, this designed transferred well to the PC Carbine. With a barrel and forend that detached from the front of the receiver without tools, it was the carbine no one asked for, yet everyone wanted.
Although the first model PC Carbine had a basic polymer sporter stock, Ruger quickly expanded the lineup. Current options now include a polymer stock/M-LOK forend hybrid, and another model with a free-floated M-LOK forend, as well as AR-style pistol grip and collapsible stock. Every model includes some rail sections for optics as well. There are also threaded and non-threaded versions, along with reduced capacity magazines, for those not living in free states. They even gave in and offered a .40 caliber model again.
Yes, it takes Glock Magazines
Speaking of magazines, that’s where the PC Carbine really wins over the PC9, as well as competing carbines. Originally designed to accept the included Ruger SR9 magazine, Ruger outdid themselves. A user-swappable magazine well (in the box!) could be switched over to accept Glock magazines. That includes G17 and G19 magazines from Glock, along with Magpul and other aftermarket brands. Capacities range from 10 to 33 round sticks, and even 50 round drums. The newer models now accept Security 9 magazines, and there is a Ruger American Pistol option as well. But Glock fans, for whom there is no Glock-branded carbine, could now get a long gun to go with their pistols. Sales have been brisk since.
The PC Charger
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the PC Charger. As with the 10/22, the Charger is a pistol-length version. If anyone was scratching their heads, wondering why we needed a takedown carbine, the PC Charger again answered the question that no one asked. It’s only 16.5″ long, fully assembled. But can still be broken down like the carbine. Don’t think that I’m knocking the design – I have two PC Carbines, and a PC Charger. And I appreciate that they can fit into my short safe. Or a backpack. Probably even a shoebox.
It’s clear that the PC Charger is part of a few trends. There’s the “PDW” (Personal Defense Weapon) trend. And the “Brace all the pistols” trend too. But it (like the carbines) is also highly customizable, with plenty of aftermarket support. So add an optic, a brace, and maybe even find some room for a flashlight on there. And then change up the magazine release, charging handle, muzzle device, trigger, and internal components with aftermarket parts from companies like TandemKross. The potential to “make it your own” is really only limited by your budget.
What’s the point?
Ruger’s PC9 was a fine firearm, just released at the wrong time. Their PC Carbine took that concept, made it even more relevant for today, and dialed it up to 11. Is it on the same level as its Czech, German, or Swiss contemporaries? Perhaps not. But it beats them in price without compromising quality, and it’s made in America. It ticks all the boxes for a fun, defensive, or competition 9mm firearm. The chassis model with adjustable stock, AR-style grip, and free-float handguard has more configuration options than just about any PCC available. An AR-based one shares many features, but can’t compete with the magazine options.
So whatever you do, please don’t confuse the modern PC Carbine with the discontinued PC9. If I could paraphrase one of my favorite engineer quotes, “The only thing they have in common is their shadow”. A PC Carbine is not a PC9.
If it’s not obvious that I’m a fan of this firearm format, and its customizability, here are some additional articles about the PC Carbine and PC Charger.