Building the Ultimate Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC) Truck Gun

Building the Ultimate Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC) Truck Gun

Posted by Drew Forge on 14th Sep 2021

There’s no denying it: Pistol caliber semi-auto carbines are HOT right now. Also ranking high in the debate-and-insult category on message boards, newsfeeds, and forums is the modern interpretation of the “Truck Gun”. Combine these two concepts, and brother - you have a concept that’s sure to wrangle an opinion out of most anybody in the firearms community.

In case you’ve been under a rock, a couple quick definitions are in order.

Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC): Essentially a rifle in a pistol caliber. A PCC needs to meet overall length requirements: 26” minimum overall with a 16” minimum barrel length (as dictated by the ATF). Failure to meet these requirements means you better have a tax stamp in hand saying you have an SBR (Short Barrelled Rifle), or the gun needs to have been built from the ground up as a pistol. Having a rifle in a pistol caliber offers several benefits: better terminal ballistics than the equivalent caliber launched from a handgun; more precise bullet placement over a handgun; lower cost of ammunition; reduced noise, blast, and recoil than a rifle caliber, and my favorite - the ability to potentially have one magazine system for your rifle and your handgun. For instance, our subject rifle for this article is a Ruger PC Carbine in .40 S&W, with the magazine adapter changed out so it feeds from Glock 22/23/27 magazines.

Truck Gun: The “Truck Gun” is a firearm that rides along in your vehicle with you. Lots of debate flies around regarding a full rifle vs. PCC vs. Shotgun vs. Handgun to fulfill the “truck gun” mission. Each bullet-launching platform brings its own advantages to the table; however each platform has to play by its own set of rules as well. In my home state of Maine, you can legally carry a loaded handgun in your vehicle when being used in a theoretical defensive capacity. A loaded rifle, carbine, or shotgun in your vehicle is a big legal no-no here, no matter the intended use. Therefore, many build AR-platform pistols as a Truck Gun workaround. Whatever you decide to use (and who says you have to have just one Truck Gun?) make sure it fits the mission at hand and stays within legal parameters regarding dimensions, intent, and your location.

So, in a nutshell, a “Truck Gun” is a gun that legally travels with you to help you take on whatever needs you deem necessary - predator or pest control on a farm, engaging game at longer ranges, security when camping, defense against hordes of predatory zombies, you get the gist.

Having loosely defined what we’re working with here, let’s look at our test subject, shall we?

The Ruger PC Carbine

The Ruger PC Carbine was introduced in 2017 as an evolution of the ill-fated PC9 and PC4 carbines. With an eye cast towards the police market, the new takedown PC Carbine provides law enforcement officers a carbine that offers magazine and caliber compatibility with their duty weapons. Essentially feeling like a really, REALLY over-built Ruger 10/22 Takedown, the Ruger PC Carbine is available in a bunch of configurations to offer up a suitable starting point for your desired build. The PC Carbine is available in 9mm and .40 Smith & Wesson, ensuring usefulness when paired with your similarly-calibered sidearm. The PC Carbine comes with easily-swapped magazine wells that change magazine compatibility between the Ruger SR9 magazine setup and Glock magazines.

My particular Ruger PC Carbine is a model 19109 standard-issue PC Carbine in .40 S&W. It has a standard forend (as opposed to other models which offer an aluminum free-float handguard with M-LOK compatibility). The rifle has the standard, uber-durable ghost ring sights, a fluted 16 ⅛” barrel with a threaded muzzle, and black synthetic stock with adjustable LOP via spacers. Since, in my opinion, the world should run on Glock magazines, I plunked in the Glock magwell and threw the supplied Ruger SR magazine and magwell in a box someplace.

The blowback Ruger PC Carbine is rugged and a bit heavy (over 6 ½ lbs in stock form with no magazine or accessories) if you’re used to handling flyweight 10/22s. But that weight goes into ensuring the Ruger PC Carbine is reliable and durable and incredibly easy to shoot. Even with hot .40 S&W defense loads, the Ruger PC carbine is an absolute pussycat to shoot, with minimal recoil and practically zero muzzle rise. I can see why the 9mm variant is so popular on the match circuit; the guns are very easy to control and shoot quickly and effectively.

A Ruger PC Carbine as a Truck Gun?

The Ruger PC Carbine has a lot of things going for it for consideration as a Truck Gun. First and foremost, its ability to be quickly and simply taken down and reassembled (a la a Ruger 10/22 Takedown) help ensure compatibility with laws: if a gun travels in a locked case, broken down to multiple separate pieces that need to be put together to be used as a firearm, you’re usually within the letter of the law (though be sure to check your local laws first!). A Ruger PC carbine’ fore and aft halves can be quickly slammed together when needed. Jam a magazine in the magwell, operate the bolt, and you’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll. A broken down takedown rifle also requires a smaller case to keep it in, and therefore takes up less valuable space in your rig.

The additional barrel length of a carbine helps eke another 150-200 feet per second (fps) out of a pistol caliber such as 9mm or .40 S&W. The has the benefits of improving the caliber’s terminal ballistics and flattening trajectories - making targets easier to hit at longer ranges, while ensuring magazine compatibility with a carry handgun if you so desire - just one magazine system to store in your vehicle simplifies logistics considerably! In full disclosure, though I do have a .40 S&W Glock 22, I usually carry a 9mm Glock 19 or a SIG Sauer P365 as a CCW - but I wanted the additional horsepower of the .40 S&W’s capacity to handle heavier bullets and the additional .045” bigger hole to punch in my targets, so I sourced a .40 Ruger PCC for truck gun duty.

The Ruger PCC also lends itself well to modifications (Which we’ll get into shortly), but in stock form, those sourcing a Ruger PCC as a Truck Gun will find that the robust ghost ring sight setup can be accessorized easily via the picatinny rail atop of the PC Carbine’s receiver. Any number of optics can easily be mounted to the PC Carbine; I prefer low-power scopes due to the lack of needing batteries, however I will say that a good red dot will really be a match made in heaven for the little rifle. I usually run the Ruger PC Carbine with no optics to save space and weight - but I have mounted a Bushnell TRS-26 to the top of the PC Carbine and it was a match made in heaven. This one’s your call - plunk your favored optic on the PC Carbine and don’t look back. Ruger also provided a short rail length at the last three inches or so of the forend; just enough room for a weapon light or a bipod attachment. Warning: If you mount a light on the Ruger PC Carbine and intend to use it as a hunting rifle - again: check your local laws lest ye appear to be a night time poacher.

Speaking of appearances: a Ruger PC Carbine in stock form also doesn’t really LOOK like a terrible evil black rifle; it won’t set off alarms to the rank and file as easily as, say, a similarly-capable AR-15 platform rifle would. As provided from Ruger, a PC Carbine really does appear to be a 10/22 or similar hunting rifle - no extra-dangerous pistol grips, flash hiders, or collapsible stocks - though we can change that.

Hot-Rodding the Ruger PC Carbine Truck Gun with TANDEMKROSS

When I was looking to optimize my PC carbine, I got in touch with my pals at TANDEMKROSS immediately. I knew they had just introduced a bevvy of accessories for the Ruger PC Carbine that completely changed the handling, ergonomics, and capabilities of the rifle. While TANDEMKROSS offers products generally marketed towards the competitive shooter, I have found from past use that TK’s stellar products go beyond the competition and into the practical. You see, professional shooters demand the same attributes of their guns that the rest of us require off the range: reliability, practicality, ease of use, and durability. Therefore, a well-designed competition part will certainly accentuate a stock firearm’s design and improve the end product without compromising the needs of the end user. TANDEMKROSS has this engineering feat NAILED. Let’s dig into the changes I made to my Ruger PC Carbine that, in my opinion, make it an improved Truck Gun.

TANDEMKROSS Upriser Chassis and Hive Grip

Easily the most dramatic change I’ve made to my Ruger PC Carbine is the addition of the TANDEMKROSS Upriser Chassis. The Upriser replaces the rear stock of the PC Carbine with a carefully designed reinforced polymer chassis that considerably improves on the traditional rifle-type stock.

First and foremost, the fixed stock of the original has been replaced with the capability of mounting a receiver extension (AKA “buffer tube”) from an AR-15 type rifle. Available in straight (in line with the barrel axis) or angled configurations, the AR-15 receiver extension provides the use of any mil-spec AR-15 collapsible stock on your Ruger PC Carbine. If you don’t have one, TK can provide a Rim/Edge buffer tube and stock for a few extra bucks. Pro tip: since there isn’t a buffer and spring riding inside the receiver extension/buffer tube, you can fill the tube up with survival or maintenance gear; just be sure to securely block off the end of the tube, as the back of the Upriser chassis is open to the buffer tube.

The TANDEMKROSS Upriser chassis also provides the end user the ability to mount a standard AR-15 pistol-type grip to the Upriser chassis. Though any regular AR-15 grip will work (I tried a couple different Colt and Magpul iterations successfully), I absolutely recommend the TANDEMKROSS Hive Grip. This rubberized wonder provides all kinds of grip traction with the TK hive pattern molded into the rubber surface of the grip. It also allows the user to store extra batteries or any other kit into the watertight storage compartment in the bottom of the grip. The grip angle also feels similar to a 1911 pistol, so many familiar with that platform will enjoy the ergonomics of the Hive Grip.

The real huge benefit to the TANDEMKROSS Upriser Chassis is the fact that the Upriser allows the stock to be telescoped down, shortening the overall dimensions of the rifle - even more so when the rifle is taken down to store or transport. Less storage room equals more winning when you’re camping or overlanding.

TANDEMKROSS Fiber Optic Front Sight

After the Upriser Chassis, my favorite TK modification for the Ruger PC Carbine is the Fiber Optic Front Sight. The stock PC Carbine front sight is very sturdy and utilitarian. However, it leaves much to be desired when the light levels get low or your eyes get older. If you’re running your gun simple, with no optics (like I am), this rugged aluminum fiber optic sight - a direct bolt-on unit - is a night and day comparison to the original Ruger unit. The bright green fiber optic tube collects and focuses an incredible amount of ambient light, even under semi-dim conditions, and gives you a solid, easy to obtain sight picture. Get you one right now; I would personally consider the fiber optic front sight to be a mandatory, inexpensive upgrade.

TANDEMKROSS “Challenger” Charging Handle

The TK “Challenger” charging handle is a simple affair - a lightweight machined aluminum cone with rubber O-rings - that makes a big difference. The Challenger quickly mounts to the left side of the Ruger PC Carbine’s bolt, operating the bolt through the slot Ruger has provided in the side of the PC Carbine’s receiver in the name of ambidextrous operation. The real reason I like this Challenger is that it makes operating the gun from the shoulder a simple affair - you can charge the gun, or check for an empty condition while still holding onto the pistol grip and maintaining best control of the rifle. It makes the rifle slightly wider, but its improved operative capacity more than makes up for the additional bulk.

“TANDEMKROSS “Victory” Trigger

The jury is still out on this modification, personally - but I get why it’s a popular unit. The Victory trigger provides a flat-faced, match-grade flair to the utility-driven Ruger PC carbine. The flat face allows the shooter to press the trigger straight back; standard curved triggers offer the trigger finger an opportunity to roll as the trigger press is manipulated. The checkered surface improves on this attribute, and the better leverage provides the feel of a slightly lighter trigger pull. The overtravel adjustment screw is a great benefit as well. I like mine, but it would probably be the last modification I did to the PC Carbine.

TANDEMKROSS offers several other accessories for the PC carbine that I haven’t mentioned here; receiver pins, extractors, takedown screws - the works. If you're in the market to upgrade your Ruger to a great Truck Gun or a precision match instrument of steel doom, take a few minutes to peruse the ol’ TK Website.

Additional Considerations for a Truck Gun

The above accessories really turned my PC Carbine into a dynamite go-with gun; rugged, accurate, and effective while maintaining the minimalist affectations I enjoy greatly; I’ve found the more you goof with a product, the more susceptible it is for failure. These products are match-proven and I have confidence they will keep my PC Carbine effective for the foreseeable future as it bounces around in the back of my 4Runner, waiting for the opportunity to pluck off a coyote as I course the logging trails of the North Maine Woods.

But what else should accompany a good Truck Gun? For starters, a good case. At an absolute minimum, your rifle case should be capable of securely holding a couple-few magazines ready for imminent use. Cleaning gear should be essential as well; truck guns are with you to be USED - and sometimes when you need a Truck Gun, the sun ain’t shining and the birds ain;t chirping. Bring a basic cleaning rod setup to dislodge mud in the bore, and a high quality gun oil, bore brush, Q-tips, and patches for cleaning duty.

If you feel like upgrading your “Truck Gun” to a “Grab ‘n’ Go Gun”, you can throw a few other items in/on your bag, like a good flashlight, a knife, fire starting items, first aid kit, and a compass. The sky’s the limit here; go with your perceived needs and address them as you can. The TANDEMKROSS “Tandemkase” rifle bag looks like a good starting point for a rifle case; you can carry the rifle fully assembled if you feel so inclined - and it offers plenty of extra storage for your additional gear requirements. Otherwise, a good hard plastic Doskocil or Pelican case will offer multiple sizes so you can pick the right size for your needs. In addition, they offer foam you can cut out and lay your rifle and accessories into, if you want to get some serious Instagram cool points.

A good sling is always a top-notch accessory to grab as well. I used a simple GI nylon web sling on my rifle, but if you upgrade, to say, a Magpul CTR stock, you can have a QD port out back and a better platform for a two-point sling.

Wrapping it Up

Though we just breezed on the concept, the Truck Gun is an idea worthy of merit; where legal and feasible, I usually carry one with me when I travel - especially if I’m heading into parts unknown for a good adventure. The Ruger PC carbine is the usual suspect; it offers me the right combination of enough portability, ruggedness, light weight, accuracy, and firepower to fulfill any perceived duty I might need a long gun for. TANDEMKROSS has just improved on the concept for me with its outstanding array of accessories and upgrades. If you’re looking to get into the Truck Gun game or just exploring additional options, the Ruger PC Carbine in 9mm or .40 S&W and TANDEMKROSS is a tough combination to beat.