Ruger’s New PDW Platform Sets The Stage For Next-level Personal Defense.
As we’ve seen with recent events, it’s no longer a stretch of the imagination to believe that the normal order can break down rather quickly and get ugly, real fast.
Once supply lines were broken down because of layoffs, lost production or “social distancing” orders, people began to feel the pinch in a hurry, and even the best of us didn’t always rise to the occasion. There are multiple videos online of people getting into fights at stores and gas stations over relatively small things such as toilet paper. And that was even before the mass layoffs and the various government interventions.
Maybe what happened earlier this year is a wake-up call for people to start taking the notion of being prepared for such events more seriously. Certainly, it was a lesson in how civility buckles under the weight of even the slightest disruption.
For me, the recent turmoil emphasized the need for a more robust, but low-profile, defensive carry kit when I’m out and about. Luckily, Ruger came along at just the right moment with its new 9mm PC Charger.
Bridging the Gap
The PC Charger is the next evolution of Ruger’s extremely popular PC Carbine—particularly, the recent chassis model. It’s a large-format pistol chambered in 9mm. However, it sports an extremely short barrel in comparison to the PCC. Just like its predecessor, it has interchangeable magazine well systems for both Ruger and Glock pistol magazines, and it also shares the same ability to separate the barrel and forend from the receiver via the quick takedown release. This allows the PC Charger to be broken down quickly and easily for storage in a relatively small bag or pack.
The Charger is a blow-back-operated pistol, although it features a dead-blow tungsten weight to help reduce bolt travel and minimize recoil. The 6.5-inch barrel is threaded (½x28) for a suppressor or other muzzle device. The folks at Ruger also kept lefties in mind: They designed both the charging handle and the magazine release to be reversible for intuitive operation.
The forend includes M-LOK attachment points, along with a factory-installed hand stop to protect the shooter. The glass-filled polymer chassis system allows the user to switch out the grip with any other standard AR grip of their choice, so that opens up a lot of possibilities for customization. Additionally, the real design coup is the short Picatinny rail at the end of the PC Charger’s receiver that allows the shooter to install a stabilizing brace or other accessories for even further customization. In short, the PC Charger can be almost whatever you want it to be.
I wanted the PC Charger to be a stopgap defensive kit for times when I can’t have a full-powered rifle with me. Sure, there are AR pistols on the market that are short and shoot more-powerful cartridges than a 9mm platform such as the PC Charger. However, they’re still quite bulky overall and aren’t as easy to stow away discreetly into a daypack or bag for effortless carry.
To be clear, my intent wasn’t to replace my daily carry pistol but to supplement it. With the ability to take the same magazines as Ruger or Glock pistols, the PC Charger gives the user an efficient way to share the same ammunition—but in a slightly larger and more stable platform. That’s the magic of a large-format pistol. It’s not necessarily more inherently accurate than a standard pistol. However, it provides a more stable shooting platform, which tends to improve the shooter’s accuracy and effectiveness when it matters most.
To take advantage of the PC Charger’s potential, I added a few accessories that would enhance its (and my) performance while still maintaining its compact and low-profile form factor.
First, I reached out to the folks at SB Tactical and requested SB’s new FS1913 folding brace to attach to the Charger’s Picatinny rail at the rear of the receiver.
SB Tactical offers two versions of that folding brace: One has a polymer strut, and the other—the “A” version—has an aluminum strut. The “A” version weighs a few ounces more, but I felt the trade-off was worth it for the rugged build quality. The “A” version costs $249, but it’s well worth the price, considering the excellent machining and attention to detail. But, if money’s tight, the polymer version can be had for around $50 less.
I’ve had an Aimpoint Micro H1 red-dot optic for about 18 months, and I’ve been trying to find just the right fit for it. I found it with the PC Charger. The Micro H1 (the Aimpoint H2 is now in production) is the perfect red-dot companion to the Charger because of its very compact size and long battery life. Some sort of wizardry allows my Micro H1’s 2 MOA red-dot to stay powered for years at a time on just one 2032 battery. That means there’s no fiddling with it when I bring it out to rock and roll.
Another company I hold in high regard is Streamlight. I’ve been using its LED lights and laser modules for years and years, and I still haven’t had one go bad on me. From penlights to weapon lights, every Streamlight product I’ve used has been worth every single penny, and then some. One of my favorite products is the TLR-7 weapon light; I have several of them. They’re designed well, are easy to operate and very ruggedly built.
The TLR-7 offers a 500-lumen output—more than enough light for a large room or hallway. Even so, it’s not so bright that the user’s vision is impacted by the blinding glare of splashback from the light. In the future, I might switch out to a TLR-8 for the Charger. The TLR-8 includes an aiming laser in addition to the LED light. I’m sure that could be handy in certain situations.
Part of being prepared is not only having the gear, but also getting in lots of practice so that when the time comes, its use and operation will be second nature.
I spent a good amount of time with the PC Charger before writing this review—and for good reason: For AR-minded folks, the manual of arms isn’t quite the same. The magazine release is in a different spot, as is the crossbolt safety. It took a little time to get comfortably familiar with their locations and operation. Also, the PC Charger has a reciprocating charging handle, so new users will want to watch how and where they grasp the pistol during fire.
Before hitting the range, I swapped out the magazine wells to accept Glock 9mm magazines. I’ve got an ample supply of them in a variety of capacities that will fit almost any occasion. Swapping the magazine well parts requires breaking down the pistol to its major components and separating the receiver from the chassis. However, after a couple of dry runs, I was able to get the whole process done in fewer than five minutes, so the learning curve isn’t that steep.
On a few occasions, and with the help of a couple of shooting buddies, we ran the PC Charger both with and without my Octane 9 suppressor. We shot a total of 12 different types and brands of ammunition from Sig Sauer, Fiocchi, Federal, Hornady and Speer. We even threw some of Black Hills’ +P Honey Badger loads into the mix.
Even with more than 600 rounds spent over several sessions, the PC Charger didn’t experience a single malfunction. Our testing included both factory Glock magazines and aftermarket Magpul magazines—and that was shooting the PC Charger straight out of the box and without any cleaning. It doesn’t get much better than that when it comes to reliability!
With its blow-black operating system, we did feel the ker-thunk of the recoil, but it’s not really that off-putting. It’s only 9mm, and that level of recoil is easily tamed, even by novice shooters. The PC Charger is very front-heavy, so the stabilizing brace does its part when used as intended for one-handed shooting. It’s a bit cumbersome to use in that manner, especially when dealing with the Velcro straps, but it works.
Nevertheless, Ruger thoughtfully included a hand stop up front for those who want to use both hands. It served its purpose well, but I had to adjust its position slightly from the factory position to allow a little more room for my hand. And, for the uninitiated: You can’t put a vertical foregrip on the front, because the Charger is a pistol (doing that would create some NFA problems for you).
One of the high points of shooting the PC Charger was the trigger unit, which was borrowed from Ruger’s 10/22. It had a surprisingly light break at around 3.42 pounds, with just the slightest bit of takeup. The reset was not insanely short, but it provided a positive tactile and audible response when it occurred. Aside from the shooting experience, itself, the superb trigger pull also contributed to the Charger’s accuracy while we tested it from the bench.
With the aid of a Leupold 2-7X VXR FireDot scope, I shot some 50-yard groups with a few of my favorite loads from Hornady, Sig Sauer and Federal Premium. To be honest, between the hand stop and the unusual shape of the brace, it was tough for me to get a really stable and unmoving shooting position with the Charger. Even so, most five-shots I shot were in the 1- to 1.25-inch range at 50 yards.
From the ammunition I had available at the time, the PC Charger liked Hornady’s 135-grain Critical Duty loads the most. The two best groups were shot with it and measured 1.06 and 1.12 inches. The Sig Sauer 147-grain Elite V-Crown wasn’t far behind, with a best group of 1.19 inches. And, all those groups were with the Charger wobbling around a bit at the bench. During my accuracy testing, I had six different groups that had three shots going into one hole, so I’m thinking there’s a lot of untapped accuracy potential there to explore, but I was already eminently impressed with the pistol’s performance.
Ready for the Unknown
After the testing was done, I tried out a few bags and packs I use on a regular basis. The PC Charger tucked away into a 5.11 Tactical AMP 24 pack and a Hazard 4 Defense Courier Bag with ease—I didn’t even have to break down the pistol. I still had room for my laptop and accessories in the Defense Courier Bag. Both of these are low-profile products that can be worn or carried in public without drawing attention. I did find, because of space restrictions, that it was better to keep a 15- or 17-round magazine seated in the PC Charger while being carried in that fashion and to have the longer, 33-round magazines on hand for reloads.
When it comes to personal defense, it’s just like anything else in life: You want to have the right tool for the job.
For me, the PC Charger is the perfect stopgap kit for those times when I need more than a standard pistol but don’t have the option of a full-blown rifle. There are similar products on the market, but they’re substantially more expensive. With an MSRP of just $799, the PC Charger can be had for quite a bit less (with a little judicious shopping). That’s a lot of value for your money for what the PC Charger offers, especially considering its accuracy and utter reliability. It also leaves you with enough cash to dress it up the way you like or to stock up on extra magazines.
If you’re looking for a stealthy carry kit to bridge that defensive gap on the go or a handy home-defense package that doesn’t bust the bank, the PC Charger might be for you. But not this one—I’ve already bought it, and it’s riding shotgun with me from now on. You’ll just have to find your own.
RUGER PC CHARGER
- Caliber: 9mm
- Barrel: 6.5 inches (Threaded ½ x 28)
- Overall length: 16.5 inches
- Weight: 5.2 pounds
- Height: 5.6 inches
- Grip: Glass-filled nylon (A2 style)
- Sights: NA/Picatinny rail
- Action: Semi-automatic
- Finish: Type III anodized (receiver)
- Capacity: 15/17/30
Black Hills Ammunition
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the September, 2020 print issue of American Survival Guide.