Reviewed: Ruger LC Carbine 5.7x28

This carbine is rugged and affordable, and it’s packed with features its competitors lack. Could it replace the AR-15 as a home-defense gun?

Reviewed: Ruger LC Carbine 5.7x28

Considering the overtime the Ruger engineering team has dedicated to product introductions plus the Marlin acquisition, it is shocking they had the energy or time left to introduce the Ruger 5.7 pistol and then this LC Carbine in the same 5.7x28 caliber.

Since the 2020 introduction of the wildly popular Ruger 5.7, it was obvious that Ruger was offering competition to the expensive and often hard-to-find F&N Five-Seven pistol chambered in 5.7x28. Ruger’s 5.7 delivered a more modern-featured pistol with wide availability, all for about half the price. Now Ruger is offering customers another 5.7x28 rifle option beyond the FN PS90 carbine. Most love the crazy uniqueness of the PS90, but the uber-compact Ruger LC Carbine in 5.7x28 is half the price, offers brutally simple operation, and has many features the non-NFA PS90 does not.

The Ruger LC Carbine offers an adjustable stock and a threaded barrel, and it’s a very compact 22.75 inches with the stock folded. It shares magazines with a Ruger 5.7 pistol, making things simple if you own the pistol and rifle. The LC Carbine design offers a more familiar AR-style format with lots of rail space and MLOK slots for accessorizing. The LC Carbine is also light at 5.9 pounds, which makes it just over a pound heavier than a Ruger 10/22. Obviously, this LC Carbine design conjures thoughts of a future shorter Ruger LC Carbine Pistol format… we can only hope.


THE 5.7x28 ROUND

The 5.7x28, aka the 5.7, is a pretty snappy little round developed from the ground up by FN first and foremost as a more lethal replacement for the 9mm NATO round. The 5.7 round typically has lower muzzle energy than today’s hot 9mm rounds, however, the 5.7 delivers the same 50-yard energy as the 9mm round but carries that energy all the way to 150 yards — greatly extending the range for compact firearms. Testing determined that the fast 2,000+ fps round was 27% more effective on soft targets and similar to the 9mm on hard targets. The consumer FN-branded 5.7x28 round, tipped with the Hornady V-Max bullet, has proven to be very effective defensively, delivering exceptional accuracy and greatly reduced recoil. Certain steel core armor-piercing rounds will defeat soft body armor, however, those rounds are restricted for government and LEO use.

A big deal has been made about the cost of the 5.7x28 rounds, but the complaint is focused on an absence of less-expensive training and plinking rounds priced similar to bulk box 9mm and .223 ammo. What the market still needs is a substantially less expensive training round, and hopefully Ruger’s firearms will push that market demand.

FN’s defensive ammo loaded with Hornady V-MAX bullets (with current retail prices hovering around $55/box of 50), is about the same cost per round as quality defensive 9mm ammunition. Though American Eagle is offering a slightly less expensive FN-authorized FMJ round, many people ask why the 5.7x28 round is so expensive when similar-performing .17 Mach 2 and .22 Hornet rounds are offered at half the price of 5.7 ammo.

The 5.7x28 round is 40% lighter in weight and offers more density per magazine than .223 Remington rounds, which is important for those who want to carry more capacity with lower weight. For the backpacker, this means they can carry 170 rounds of 5.7x28 vs. 100 rounds of .223 at the same weight. Both accuracy and feeding reliability has also shown to be improved with longer bottleneck ammo case designs compared to pistol caliber carbines.


Ruger LC Carbine Features

The LC Carbine design process was focused on offering a magazine-compatible rifle counterpart to the very popular Ruger 5.7 pistol, with similar ergonomics. The biggest advantage to the 5.7 round is the extremely light, controllable recoil, very similar to a .22 Magnum rimfire round, with more proven lethality than the 9mm round. In the LC Carbine, the round delivers nearly unnoticed recoil with zero muzzle rise. As a home-defense option, the Ruger LC Carbine is a fantastic easy-shooting, fast, slim and light format option with a lot of ammo capacity with a low incidence of wall pass-through of errant rounds.

The attention to design and ergonomic details are well-planned-out, with the safety, bolt and magazine release positioned where they would be expected compared to the manual-safety version of the 5.7 pistol model. The magazine release does have a bit of a unique lever toggle feel, however, it seems to work in the same manner as any other pistol. Of note, the magazine will accept 21 rounds, but in testing, it bobbles the first or second round if loaded beyond a 20-round capacity.

Like other recent Ruger pistol caliber carbine designs, the LC Carbine is “ambi-everything,” with the charging handle, magazine release and folding stock offering complete flexibility on right- or left-hand operation. The only exception is a left-side-only bolt release, however, most owners will release the bolt by pulling back on the non-reciprocating charging handle. Also included on the receiver is a vertical industry-standard rear Picatinny rail for the option to attach your choice of stock. However, the included folding stock is really quite good from a design and ergonomics perspective. If customers want a right-side-folding stock, they only need to remove a few screws and swap the rear stock components around.

Ruger has delivered a familiar AR format with the full-length 1913 spec top rail and MLOK slots. Ruger has included flip-up sights, integrated rear QD sling-mount points, and a MLOK QD sling mount. As with most Ruger firearms, only one magazine is included. The LC Carbine features a threaded nitride-treated 16.25-inch fluted steel barrel for durability.

The trigger, safety and magazine release are all carried over directly from the Ruger 5.7 pistol design, with the lower frame essentially replicating the pistol. The trigger is the same Secure Action fire-control with a smooth, round break similar to a striker-fired feel.

The upper serialized receiver is a bit unique with its own special toolless takedown process. Like most unique firearms, once you learn it, the process is simple and quick. The upper also features a two-piece bolt-over-barrel design that positions the barrel more rearward that expected compared to an AR-15. The result is a more compact firearm that balances almost perfectly at the grip. Overall, the LC Carbine feels extremely well-balanced and points fast.

As with the Ruger 5.7, the magazine safety is 1911-style and offers very fast operation. In many ways, it feels faster and more ergonomic to operate than an AR platform. For Galil and Tavor fans, the non-reciprocating side-charge handle feels very fast and convenient. While running timed drills, I was shocked to see better times with the LC Carbine than I did with my Ruger AR556 I brought for testing. And the accuracy was excellent with just a Burris Fast Fire III red-dot. Reloads were fast as well, with the grip-centered balance and grip reload. Uzi famously noted that hands can always find hands, and thus the UZI was designed with a grip-based magazine. I see the speed reload similarities here in this LC Carbine as well.


Final Thoughts

As a writer, I see a lot of bright and shiny new firearms hit the market, however, the LC Carbine will have a lot of people pausing and asking the question of whether this is a better and lighter home-defense tool than an AR-15. According to real-world testing, it can do the job, and even better than a pistol, it is wide open for accessorization and suppression (and I am sure many aftermarket parts will come) all in a durable and rugged light format with high round density.


Spec Sheet



Capacity: 20+1

Weight: 5.9 lb.

Overall Length: 28.70 - 30.60”

Length of Pull: 12.50 - 14.50”

Twist: 1:9” RH

Barrel Length: 16.25”

Barrel Feature: Fluted, black nitride

Thread Pattern: ½”-28

Receiver Material: Aluminum alloy

Grooves: 8

Stock: Folding, adjustable LOP

Sights: Adjustable Ruger® Rapid Deploy

Receiver Finish: Type III hard-coat anodized

Suggested Retail: $979


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