When you first look at the Ruger PC Charger, you may wonder, “What exactly is it?” Technically, it’s a pistol. It’s a pistol because the barrel is shorter than 16” and it isn’t manufactured with a buttstock. The PC Charger falls into a new category of weapon that may LOOK like a rifle but is classified as a pistol.
This brings up certain legal aspects that must be followed by gun owners, we will talk about those later. At an MSRP of around $800, the Ruger PC Charger is an affordable alternative to other “pistols” on the market such as the HK SP5, Rock River RUK-9, and SIG Sauer MPX.
The Ruger PC Charger is chambered in 9mm, one of the most popular self-defense rounds available today. 9mm has had significant improvements in recent years and is now the most popular caliber for law enforcement use. It’s also *relatively* cheap (although ammo prices have skyrocketed lately as a whole).
Because the PC Charger is technically a pistol, it’s legal to carry concealed if you’re licensed. That said, it’s not as easy to conceal as most other traditional pistols.
The barrel of the PC Charger is just 6.5 inches in length, with an overall length of 16.5 inches. As I mentioned before, it cannot by law be manufactured with a buttstock, or it would be classified as a short-barreled rifle.
Many owners, however, equip them with arm braces. SB Tactical was the pioneer in pistol arm braces, and still offers some of the best on the market. The PC Charger weighs just 5.2 lbs in its standard configuration.
It comes with a 17 round magazine standard. Some of the features that make the PC Charger stand out from standard pistols include the picatinny rail system on the top which can accommodate most aftermarket optics, and the ability to accept standard aftermarket AR style pistol grips.
Pistols may not legally have a forward hand grip, but the Ruger PC Charger comes with a small “hand stop” attached under the barrel for secure hand placement.
Another useful feature is the flared magwell which aids in rapid magazine changes. The rear of the receiver has a vertical picatinny rail which readily accepts many aftermarket arm braces. The handguard also features MLOK slots which allow for attachments such as flashlights and lasers.
Legal Issues – Pistol Braces
There has been lots of talks recently about pistol braces and bump stocks, and the ATF has not made it easy to stay up with their latest decisions. As I said before, there are specific differences that make a pistol a pistol and not a short-barreled rifle.
Specifically, they must not be manufactured with a buttstock, or have a buttstock added. That’s where SB Tactical came up with their idea of an arm brace. It’s sneakily similar-looking to a buttstock, but with an opening that goes over your forearm and is held in place usually with velcro.
Thus, in 2012 the pistol arm brace was born. SB Tactical did their homework before bringing the arm brace to market. They got pre approval from ATF before beginning to sell them. ATF went so far as to confirm in 2014 that arm braces were NOT buttstocks, and would not change a pistol into a short-barreled rifle, even if the brace was shouldered in the same manner as a buttstock.
Then, in January of 2015, right before SHOT Show in Las Vegas, the ATF mysteriously reversed course. They said that the act of shouldering an arm brace would magically turn the pistol into a rifle. SB Tactical and SIG Sauer (whom they partnered with) took ATF to court in an attempt to clarify the strange reversal.
Finally, in 2017, ATF again reversed course and recommitted to their 2014 ruling that no matter how an arm brace was used. It was still a pistol and not a short barreled rifle.
Fast forward to 2020, and a firearms company called Q released an AR style pistol called the Honeybadger. It was equipped with an SB Tactical arm brace. The ATF quickly sent them a cease-and desist-letter, telling them that the Honeybadger was a short-barreled rifle and illegal to own without an NFA tax stamp.
Gun owners, fed up with ATF and their back and forth, protested the ruling. It got so bad that the DOJ stepped in. They put a 60 day hold on enforcement of the ATF ruling. This would push the decision until after the 2020 election.
In December of 2020, DOJ and ATF released their “proposed guidance” on arm braces, and let the public comment on it. The response was swift, over 60,000 people commented, almost unanimously in opposition to the proposal.
The response was so convincing that DOJ withdrew the proposal, something that is nearly unheard of. So that’s where we are now.
Or are they? The proposed rules are still technically “under review”, so it could again change sometime soon. But for now, arm braces on pistols like the Ruger PC Charger are still legal.
UPDATE: On the day this article was written, President Joe Biden went on television to announce several new gun control proposals. One of the proposals was to place pistol braces such as ones compatible with the Ruger PC Charger under the National Firearms Act (NFA). This would not technically make them illegal to own, but it would make them harder to purchase and own legally. It’s important to note that he merely announced his intentions to do so. He has not signed an executive order doing so (yet).
Legal issues aside, the PC Charger by Ruger is an affordable, reliable substitute for higher priced AR style pistols such as the H&K SP5 and the SIG Sauer MPX. Both of those pistols cost more than twice as much as the Ruger PC Charger.
High capacity AR style pistols like the PC Charger are a fun in-between weapon. Not quite a rifle, not quite a pistol. But they are all fun.