Ruger PC Carbine: Ideal for Home Defense?

Man shooting the Ruger PC Carbine rifle at an outdoor range

Twenty-five years ago, the North Hollywood shootout with heavily armed bank robbers punctuated the need for rifles in police hands. It isn’t well known, but many agencies including the LAPD and Washington State Patrol issued the Winchester 1894 .30-30 until at least the 1980s. Most of the agencies I worked with issued shotguns, and the officers were familiar with 12-gauge slug capabilities.

A .30-30 or 12-gauge slug between wind and water would have put an end to the shoot-out practically before it began. As it was, many officers were wounded. They used personal initiative. Two officers donned body armor over their running shorts as they arrived on the scene. Courage and fast thinking (sadly missing from some shootings) was the order of the day.

Ruger PC Carbine 9mm rifle right profile
This is the standard, plain, vanilla version of the Ruger PC.

Carbine Background

I was involved in carbine training and wrote an abstract cataloged on the Federal level which was used to convince city fathers in many cities to foot the bill for AR-15 rifles, or at least allow officer-issued carbines to be deployed by trained individuals. SWAT is fine, but it is mostly misused. Personal initiative is all that matters in many instances.

It is an up-and-down cycle among those confronting evil men. For many years, peace officers and anyone in need of a handy rifle kept one at hand to ward off attacks. Then, an era of prosperity and good feeling came along. The lessons of the past were forgotten.

Cops had to reup to face mechanized bandits such as the Barrow gang. (Despite their portrayal in cinema, this gang was among the most evil and despicable human garbage to go on a killing spree.) Facing stick-up men armed with high-capacity 9mm handguns and the first wave of armed terrorists led to an improvement in police handguns. Civilians thinking and adoption quickly followed. Meanwhile, the pistol-caliber carbine was largely ignored.

There are many reasons. Semi-automatic versions of popular submachineguns were unhandy with heavy trigger actions. In truth, most were poor firearms compared to their fast-talking cousins. The AR-15 rifle was the default choice among police and civilians alike. While the excellent Heckler and Koch MP5 9mm was of some use, the advantages in power and accuracy of the AR-15 led to the demise of the 9mm SMG/carbine in police and military use.  

With this background in mind, it is surprising — even to myself — that I have adopted a 9mm carbine for home defense. It isn’t an AR type. I have not enjoyed good reliability with these types, and frankly, if I deployed that platform, I would prefer the 5.56mm rifle.

Ruger PC Carbine 9mm rifle with free floating handguard
The author prefers the free-floating handguard version.

Ruger PC Carbine Features

The Ruger PC Carbine has changed my mind about 9mm carbines. I think the Ruger PC Carbine is a great choice for home defense — perhaps the single-best long gun for many shooters. A real barrier to choosing a home defense firearm is to assume the firearm must do everything. That isn’t true. It only needs to defend the home.

Both IDPA and USPSA now offer 9mm carbine-class matches. That’s great. Predictably, some of the competitors are adding after-market triggers (and the like) to a famously reliable platform. As issued, the Ruger PC 9mm carbine is a very reliable firearm. If you fiddle with it, well, then it becomes a range toy.

I cannot imagine any different outcome based on experience with the 1911, Glock, CZ, AR-15, and several shotgun patterns. The home defense carbine doesn’t have to win the prize in competition or take medium-size game. It isn’t a coyote gun. It is for defending the home.

Ruger PC Carbine 9mm with adjustable stock
Looks are not everything, but the adjustable-stock version with free-floating handguard has that certain bling.

A feature I like a lot, for convenience and easy inventory, is the ability of the Ruger PC to take pistol magazines. The Ruger Security-9 magazine is the default magazine selection. However, Ruger offers an easily changed magazine well to convert the PC carbine to Glock magazines. These magazines are plentiful and offered in capacities as high as 33 rounds.

If there is a more widely available or reliable magazine, I have never seen it. This makes for great commonality. I don’t envision using both the handgun and carbine in a running battle, but the ability to interchange magazines is a good feature. The ultra-reliable Glock magazines are easily loaded, completely reliable, as well as long-lived in service.

The Ruger PC is offered in both 9mm Luger and .40 S&W. I have no experience with the .40 version. I am certain it is a hard hitter. My first Ruger carbine was the standard, fixed-stock version. Today, I used the adjustable-chassis version with an aluminum handguard. It handles well and the M-Lok attachments offer plenty of room for mounting lights or accessories.

Two boxes of 9mm ammunition with an extended Glock magazine
Ruger’s PC 9mm carbine has proven reliable with a wide range of ammunition.

This setup reflects my core ideas on home defense. Reliability and fast handling are most important. At 6.0 pounds, even the trigger action is crisp and clean offering good control. The standard carbine allows adjusting the length of pull using spacers. I prefer the adjustable-stock version as illustrated. It is less semi-permanent. Along with the takedown action, this allows easy storage.

Handling and Operation

The Ruger PC 9mm has been fired with a wide variety of ammunition. I don’t particularly care for steel-cased ammunition, but a recent stroke of luck allowed the purchase of 400 rounds at a bargain price. The Ruger PC and Glock 19X pistol made short work of these. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject — but the ammunition was dirty!

The PC Carbine is fast into action. I keep the carbine chamber-empty. Grasp the handguard and bring the PC to the shoulder, rack the bolt, and you are good to go. I keep the safety off. While the crossbolt safety is easily manipulated, chamber-empty, home ready, and safety off is my ready mode.

While the bolt handle and magazine release may be changed for left-hand operation, they were left as issued for my use. An Inforce combat light is mounted forward on the handguard, via the supplied M-Lok attachment. I thought hard about a sling but decided against it.

A sling is essential for movement in the open and for steadying the hold when firing at long range. In the home, the sling may catch furniture in deployment. If kept in a bag, the sling may snag on deployment. A home defense carbine is one thing, and a bug-out gun is another. I went without a sling. 

Ruger PC Carbine in 9mm with a coyote brown Glock pistol
The author’s Ruger accepts Glock magazines. This is a great setup.

I have enjoyed excellent results with Holosun optics. For this mission, I chose the HS403B sight. At around $200, it is affordable but useful. The sight features 12 brightness settings and up to 100K hours battery life. The HS403B features easy manipulation and fast operation.

The red dot sight makes for fast hits and easy transition between targets in rapid-paced drills. At this point, I should point out several advantages of the 9mm carbine. Some ranges do not allow rifle rounds but are OK with a 9mm carbine. There is less flash and blast than the 5.56mm rifle, and control is easy enough.

The Ruger PC has never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. The original carbine has fired between 1,000–1,200 cartridges — mixed brands, mostly ball ammunition and plenty of hollow points. I am nearing 400 cartridges with the free-floating barrel version. Accuracy is always interesting.

Man shooting a Ruger AR-15 rifle at an outdoor shooting range
The Ruger AR-15 is a fine rifle. However, the Ruger PC works better for many shooters.

The red dot-mounted carbine has been fired primarily at 25 yards. The Holosun was easily sighted in. Federal Hydra-Shok and HST 124-grain loads make cloverleaf groups. To gauge practical accuracy, I fired the Ruger PC at 50 yards.

From a solid benchrest, taking time for accuracy, the Ruger put three Federal HST bullets into 2.1 inches. That is plenty of accuracy for defense. The carbine would have some utility as a pest popper (good for coyote with proper shot placement).

Ammunition performance is always important. I would give the 5.56 NATO a big edge in wound ballistics, no surprises there. But the 9mm is a good round for home defense. When you figure in the great advantage in accurate shot placement — compared to a handgun — the 9mm looks good. However, don’t count on a lot of velocity advantage.

Bob Campbell shooting the Ruger PC Carbine 9mm rifle from a bench rest
The iron-sighted carbine is a great choice to 50 yards or more.

The 9mm and .45 ACP carbines don’t gain much in a 16-inch barrel carbine. The .357 Magnum carbine may gain 500 fps or more, the 9mm uses a relatively modest charge of fast-burning powder. I have fired several loads over the chronograph. On average, 147-grain loads — my least preferred loads — gain 100 fps.

The Speer Gold dot clocked 990 fps from the Walther Q5 and 1,101 fps in the Ruger PC carbine. Hornady’s 124-grain FlexLock +P clocks 1,163 fps in a Glock 17, 1,180 fps in the Walther Q5, and 1,220 fps in the Ruger PC.

Upset Hornady Flex Lock bullet
Hornady Flex Lock loads offer excellent performance.

In penetration and expansion testing, the Hornady load went from .56 to .58 expansion and penetrated 20 inches, versus 18 from a pistol. While any advantage is good, the real advantage of the carbine is in handling and hit probability. As for overpenetration concerns, the best advice I can give is to hit the target. Don’t miss, and the bullet will expand and stay in the body, not fly out a window. The Ruger PC carbine is reliable, easy to use well, and offers enough power to handle threats. It is an ideal home defense firearm.

Are you a fan of pistol caliber carbines (PCC) for home defense? How does the Ruger PC compare to your favorite PCC? Would you prefer 9mm or .40 S&W for home defense? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Man shooting the Ruger PC Carbine rifle at an outdoor range
  • Inforce weapons light on a M-LOK rail
  • Man shooting a Ruger AR-15 rifle at an outdoor shooting range
  • Ruger PC Carbine in 9mm with a coyote brown Glock pistol
  • Bob Campbell shooting the Ruger PC Carbine 9mm rifle from a bench rest
  • Ruger PC Carbine 9mm rifle with free floating handguard
  • Upset Hornady Flex Lock bullet
  • Doug Koenig shooting a Ruger PC 9mm at an IDPA competition
  • Ruger PC Carbine 9mm rifle right profile
  • Two boxes of 9mm ammunition with an extended Glock magazine
  • Ruger PC Carbine 9mm topped with a Holosun red dot sight
  • Ruger PC Carbine 9mm with adjustable stock
  • Bob Campbell shooting the Ruger PC Carbine 9mm rifle from a kneeling rested position
  • Woman wearing hearing protection and a combat belt holding a Ruger PC 9mm rifle

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (19)

  1. Couldn’t agree with the writer anymore. I would only emphasize the accuracy is outstanding and general feel is absolutely worth it. Perfect truck/backpack primary.

  2. .40 S & W for me.

    Have had a Spanish Firestar pistol since 1995 and the caliber is indeed a hard hitter with 165 grain Federal rounds and accurate.

    Looking forward to my new Ruger PC

  3. I really like my Ruger PC Carbine. Almost as much as my M1.30 cal carbine. I put the cheapest red dot on the PC and it is an outstanding improvement, as well as the muzzle break. My teen grandkids love it too.
    As far as ammo goes, caliber is not much of an issue. Liberty and NovX are great defensive loads, and the polymer jacketed ammo is clean, no fouling & cheap. I have four 33 rnd Glock mags that work perfectly, I like a sling and the PC points very quickly, esp with a red dot.
    I like the new one with adj stock and shroud forend, the barrel can get really hot when emptying a 33 rnd mag…..

  4. My PC Carbine is a 9mm Beretta Storm in FDE. A Sig red dot sight and Sig FDE small weapon light. Great maneuverability and 9mm is plenty potent from the carbine length barrel. Hit ability is fantastic compared to a handgun. The price could be less but great quality.

  5. Martin

    Point well taken.
    The vast majority of shooters are able to hit much much better with the PCC than with a pistol. There is some velocity increase but hit probability is much higher.
    Not to mention easier to shoot well than an AR in 5.56mm.
    So many advantages.
    Thanks for reading.

  6. I love the versatility of having a long gun that is chambered in the same round as my sidearm, 357 and 44 being two that I like. That being said, I have not enjoyed the fact of distance that I can reach out to with the current calibers, 9mm included. However, with the introduction of the new Ruger 5.7 carbine, I am much more inclined to carry the 5.7 side arms

  7. I have been looking for a Ruger PC40 for over 2 years. Ruger claims that they still make them. Any suggestions on where to find one? Thanks

  8. I bought my PC9 about 7 or 8 years ago. I have the take down version. I love it for what it does. One reason I bought it was because it used the same magazine my SR9 used. Contrary to Kevins thoughts, a pistol does not hold twice the rounds of the PC9. I bought a couple of 32 round extended magazines. Made issues with the PC9 moving and aiming. Also, the 32 round magazines have issues working in my pistol. I shoot at 25 yards because that is all that is necessary around my home. If they are further out they are running and I am not going to explain why I am shooting at someone leaving. The gun is accurate and shoots anything I put into it. I load my own for practice and as my pistol prefers 124 grain ammo, that is what I load. 115 grain works well as I have shot it when I found it every cheap (several years ago you could by 9mm cheaper than I could load it.) Cloverleaf results are common. I happen to really like peep sights so I only use the original. I have experience with a red dot. Do not use one often so when I do it costs me time.

  9. Nice to see someone address the shared mag concept of a pistol and a rifle/ carbine. It is a subject which I have taken Very seriously for many years. The entire concept is the very essence of common sense. The payoff comes in the increased performance of a caliber which benefits from a longer barrel. Lucky for me I’ve been carrying the same round in a pistol for over 30 years, Jeff Coopers baby, the 10mm. I waited for well over 20 years for someone to build a truly dedicated 10mm carbine. Having owned many iterations of Crockett’s sidearms, all others were left lacking, with the exception of the 1006 Smith, the original 5″ Auto-Cannon and able to dish it out, along with a slightly better than 1911 capacity. The best 10mm pistol created by anyone back when everyone else including Colt was blowing their chit up. It all started with the advent of the Glock 20 and 15 round mags. The 10 had finally arrived at the party. At long last came the CMMG Banshee with it’s 8.5″ Carbine. I have owned other PCC’s in 10mil along with some hybrid chassis type setups but none of them were ever the coup de grace that I was looking for. Delayed blowback design in an AR platform that accepts Glock mags, specifically SGM Glock spec mags capable of 30 rd. capacity. The planets had aligned. Chrono of mild-hot 10mil loads of 150-180 gr. Out of the lil beast are something to behold. Anything at 100 yds. and we’ll beyond is within range. Interchangeable mags between pistol and carbine, just makes the entire setup something only dreamed of 20 years ago. Profound thanks to Glock, CMMG, and SMG. You created something amazing. Beyond actually. Patience comes to those who wait.

  10. Not trying to argue–this is purely for my education. How could you consider a long heavy gun a personal home defense gun over a pistol in the same caliber that holds twice the shells? I doubt the extra barrel length give it a bunch more stopping power. Its harder to hide, slower to get out etc etc. I cant see this as a personal home defense gun. In fact, except in a long firefight where ya may be more accurate with the rifle set up, and one can carry a bunch more 9mm than rifle rounds, I see no use for the gun at all. How many times do citizens get into hundred round long distance firefights ?

  11. Not trying to argue–this is purely for my education. How could you consider a long heavy gun a personal home defense gun over a pistol in the same caliber that holds twice the shells? I doubt the extra barrel length give it a bunch more stopping power. Its harder to hide, slower to get out etc etc. I cant see this as a personal home defense gun. In fact, except in a long firefight where ya may be more accurate with the rifle set up, and one can carry a bunch more 9mm than rifle rounds, I see no use for the gun at all. How many times do citizens get into hundred round long distance firefights anyway?

  12. I call it my 10 pound Glock, since I changed out the mag well. It is paired with my Glock 17. Reliably fires most any ammo brand and weight I’ve put through it. The worst ammo was the Federal Syntech – it did not like that at all. The very best for accuracy was the Sellier and Bellot 115 gr. I’m no marksman, so I was happy with my 4″ groups at 100 yards using a Primary Arms 1-6 LPVO. S+B JHP 115gr opened up the group just a little bit, but I think an acceptable tradeoff. I got about 2″ groups at 50 yards.

  13. I had a Ruger carbine in 44 rem. mag, years ago, and would love to have another but can’t find one anywhere!

  14. Been packing around an original PC9mm for years. Sold the old P89 that used the same mags, but I kept all the extra non “evil” 10 round mags loaded with a variety of ammo just in case hicaps get outlawed where we live now (no longer in Calif). Has the original Ghost Ring sights but I also found a picatinny rail to add a red dot, scope, or reflex sights. These originals “should” be classified as C&R’s as only 10,000 were produced I believe. ATF has not allowed them to be C&R. Anyway it will remain in the home collection no longer needed! Great carbine, also have a Ruger Model 44 Carbine, 44 magnum to back it up!
    Nice article!

  15. Enjoyed the article…A major advantage of a home defense gun in 9 mm is that it doesn’t shoot through walls as readily as most any of the AR or AK varieties. Didn’t buy in 40 cal for that same reason. Have owned a Ruger PC for about four years now…haven’t had to take out any intruders with it yet; but, am fairly confident it would do the job if needed. I find the handling comparable to a military 30 cal. carbine which I was looking for before I discovered the PC-9.

  16. I brought a Ruger PC Carbine when they first became available. I put a 2 MOA Vortex red dot sight on it. It is very accurate at 100 yards and has no feeding problems with pretty much any ammo I use in it. I really enjoy shooting it and agree with the author that it is a perfect home defense weapon.

  17. I have the PC Carbine in .40 with an inexpensive red dot sight. I shoot 165s from Winchester and it is a flat-shooter. With the Glock magwell, 50-round drums are a serious option (and a great time). It’s also my HD weapon of choice. Thanks, Ruger!

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