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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.