While standing at the counter at Parabellum Firearms and Range waiting for the clerk to finish up the paperwork, this carbine had my full attention. The black synthetic stock had the appearance of a traditional American rifle rather than the AR style that is so popular these days, so the appearance makes it stand out from the herd. The takedown feature also had a great deal of appeal, even though it is hard to explain exactly why for a practical reason. I don’t do much hiking and I can carry a large rifle with me in the truck, but for people with a different lifestyle who like walking around, this takedown feature could be a thing. The carbine breaks apart with the press of a small lever on the bottom side and a slight twist. That is cool, and cool needs no explanation, as cool is self-evident. My first impression while I was still at the counter was that it was going to be fun to shoot. What will the future hold for this carbine?
The Gun The Ruger PC Carbine ($649, ruger.com) comes with a synthetic stock that has a length of pull of 13 inches, so it will fit well with most shooters as delivered. The stock has a sling attachment point at the fore end. The pistol grip of the carbine is comfortable and would be familiar to anyone who owns a Ruger 10/22. The stock is more rounded and traditional-looking than the 10/22. The top of the receiver sports a section of rail that is nearly seven inches long for attaching optics. The fore end has a two-inch section of rail on the bottom for attaching lights or lasers, making this carbine as handy as a pocket on a shirt for a number of shooting applications. If your shooting needs call for lights, lasers, or optics, this carbine is ready to go. This carbine could do USPSA, Steel Challenge, varmint shooting, and perhaps even home defense.
The fluted barrel measures 14 inches, and comes threaded. The aperture sights are mounted on the barrel, and they naturally line up to the eye as the carbine is shouldered. How well will the sights line up in a match? Time will tell, but a good performance seems possible if not likely. The safety is located on the front end of the trigger guard, as is the bolt stop. The magazine release is located to the front left of the magazine well, and can be reversed if the shooter prefers. (Consideration for the left handers of the world―what a novel idea.) The magazine release is oval in shape and is large enough to be easy to hit in a hurry; it is located forward and high so that it will not be hit accidentally. The charging handle is located on the right side of the receiver, but it can be moved to the left side. Ruger has set this carbine up to fit a large number of shooters with the ambidextrous charging handle and magazine release. Kudos to Ruger for putting together a well-thought-out and well-constructed carbine.
The takedown lever is nestled into a recess on the bottom of the fore end. A gentle push forward of the lever and twist of the barrel and the pistol grip while the bolt is locked to the rear, and this carbine is in two pieces. Taking this carbine apart was cool the first time, and it has been cool every time since then. I don’t expect that to change. The features of this gun are fairly impressive. Perhaps the feature that was most prominent the first time the PC9 was out in public was the fact that it accepted Glock magazines. The carbine comes with an adapter that allows the use of Glock magazines. While I was shooting a Steel Challenge club match at the Riley Conservation Club, several squad members and other shooters were intrigued by the fact that I was using Glock magazines. The adapter for these magazines goes in easily; I was able to do it without any adult supervision or assistance, and my state of mechanically declined nature is fairly intense. If I can do it, you can do it. The PC9 functioned flawlessly at that first steel match and it ran perfectly on the range when Jake and I tested it in a number of drills. We shot the PC9 with Federal’s American Eagle FMJ 124-grain and the Syntech 115-grain ammunition during our range day, and I used that same ammunition during the steel match. Good ammo and a good gun yielded good results. That’s not a surprise. So the PC9 functions, but how does it perform?
Performance One should not judge the PC9’s ability to perform based on my Steel Challenge results. I was able to win two divisions at the match with pistols, but finished way back in the pack in PCC. There are a couple of reasons for that finish, and I wish the carbine could be blamed. The only time I shoot PCC is when trying a gun for a review. The point is, I am a pretty weak PCC shooter. I was using the iron sights, and I am sure few if any of the competitors were using iron sights. We also have a few PCC shooters at Riley matches who are pretty solid competitors with a PCC, but I won’t name them in order to prevent them getting big heads.
At a later date, Jake and I were able to put the PC9 through its paces one afternoon down at the Martinsville Sportsmen’s Club. Jake shot a number of drills first with an optic on the carbine, and then I shot the same drills with the iron sights. He used a Vortex Crossfire red dot sight on the PC9. Jake was able to install the dot on the range and sight it in very quickly and easily. (He is not any more mechanically inclined than I.)
The first exercise that we shot was a four-target array with distances ranging from 15 to 35 yards. We began all our attempts with the stock on belt, safety on and carbine held in both hands. This is the type of start position that is common for classifiers in USPSA. Jake’s runs were in 4.61, 3.14 and 3.27 seconds. His points were 34 out of a possible 40 points on the first two attempts and 36 points on the final run. His best hit factor was 11.009. On the same array with iron sights, I managed times of 3.87, 4.15 and 3.71 seconds, with 34 points scored on two of three runs. My best hit factor was 9.1644. We tracked the first shot on all runs to compare iron versus optics. Jake had the best first draw of 1.21 and my best was 1.25.
The second exercise we did was a Bill Drill at seven yards. The purpose was to go fast. We were only moderately successful at that, and the points were not very impressive either. A speed focus by the shooters ruined the results; that is my take on the situation. Jake managed times of 1.94, 2.06 and 2.04 seconds; my runs were a little slower at 2.30, 2.39 and 2.70 seconds. I did manage to get all 30 points possible once, and that was the only run that scored all the points. At that speed I should have had all the points every time, but it did not happen. Nothing impressive here, but it was not a gear problem.
Our next shooting drill involved five static paper targets, a small piece of steel and a swinging target that was activated by the steel. The swinger, steel and one static paper were 25 yards, and the remaining targets were scattered from 10 to 25 yards from the shooting position. This challenge was set up to try the carbine at longer USPSA distances and to give us the opportunity to shoot a target between the activating steel and the swinger. Jake went first on these arrays with his trusty dot, with solid times ranging from 7.04 to 6.81 and 6.79 seconds. The points were nothing to write about, but Jake normally struggles with shooting swingers. On these three runs Jake was down 14, 16 and 26 points out of a possible 65. My runs were 8.18, 8.38 and 9.54 seconds, four points down on the first and last attempts and 14 points down on the middle run. The gun worked well shooting at distance and tracking the movement of the swinger.
This shooting test made me a believer in the capabilities of the PC9 carbine. This was not simple shooting or a place where targets could be hosed. The Ruger was up to the task.
So far the PC9 Carbine was performing well on the range. How would we fare changing magazines?
Our final exercise would be El Prez, which would bring a reload into the testing of the gun. The magazine release is located on the left-hand side of the carbine and has a generously-sized oval shape; it seemed likely that hitting the release should not be difficult. Jake led the charge and scored times of 9.52, 8.23, and 7.82 seconds. All of those times are slower than what can be expected of Jake with a pistol. His first shots on all three strings ranged from 1.25, 1.36 and 1.24 seconds respectively. All of them are better than Jake is going to manage with a pistol draw. This leads me to believe the reload was a struggle, and my observations support this conclusion. Jake’s points were very solid at 54 points on the first two runs and 56 points on the final run. My three runs came in at 10.34, 9.91 and 9.05 seconds total time. My first shot was 1.48, 1.67 and 1.26 seconds. My take would be that the iron sights were harder to acquire; I can beat those draw times with my pistol normally. I struggled with the reload on each run and shot poorly as well. My points were 33, 48 and 54 points respectively.
Reloading any PCC is different than reloading a pistol, and this carbine is different than the AR platform, but with some practice I feel magazine changes could be cleaned up drastically.
The only problem we encountered with the carbine was that on a few occasions the carbine could start to “break down” while firing. Jake is the one who made it happen; this is not the first gun he has broken. If the shooter is putting a lot of torque on the forearm while shooting, it would twist apart as though you were taking it down. It only did this a couple of times, and I shot the steel match prior to it being fixed where it didn’t happen. Once we experienced this we informed and sent video to Ruger. They sent a return label and the carbine was sent back. The same gun was returned to us in a few days after shipping it back. I have fired several hundred rounds through it since and the problem is fixed.
Final Thoughts Something the readers should keep in mind―neither of us is practiced with any form of PCC. Using the two of us as a standard for a serious PCC competitor is shaky at best, but we are great examples of what the average PCC shooter can do. My observations regarding PCC from ROing at matches, shows that reloads are a stumbling point for PCC shooters in general, so our results in this test would be consistent with my observations from matches in general. Generally speaking, I feel this carbine is a shooter and could be competitive in a match when it comes to the shooting, without any trigger work required. Place your favorite optic on the rail and this carbine is going to be able to keep up with the PCCs of the AR platform variety during field courses.
The strength of this carbine could be Steel Challenge, where reloads are not a factor and high capacity magazines are not needed. The PC9 carbine is a very cost-effective and fun way of shooting PCC at the local steel match. With the adapter that makes Glock magazines work, most Steel Shooters already have the needed magazines lying around. If you are looking for an accurate PCC that is fun to shoot, I highly recommend the PC9 carbine. Slap an optic on it, head out for the match, and be prepared to have some fun.
Article from the July/August 2018 issue of USPSA’s FrontSightmagazine. Photos by Jake Martens