8 Reasons to Invest in a 9mm Pistol-Caliber Carbine

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Here is a list of compelling reasons that a PCC might just become your favorite, most-used firearm. Keep reading…

Gil Horman, NRA Publications

Just before our first wedding anniversary, my wife and I were rear-ended at high speed while making a right-hand turn. Our car was totaled and my wife suffered serious soft tissue damage to her neck and shoulder. Although she has healed over the years (the pain has never completely left her), it was a long time before she could participate in any shooting sports, let alone fire guns with stiff levels of felt recoil.

Ruger PC9
Ruger PC9

I started researching low-recoil defensive options that she could use (if you’ve ever wondered why I write about this topic as often as I do, now you know). At the time, Ruger was still making the now-discontinued PC9 Police Carbine chambered in 9mm. If not for the magazine well designed to accept Ruger P Series pistol magazines, the blowback operated PC9 could be mistaken for a 10/22. It was lightweight, compact and easy to operate. I thought my wife would be able to manage the recoil at the practice range so that it could be kept on hand as a home-defense gun. The carbine had the added benefit of using the same magazines as a Ruger 9mm pistol we owned at the time, making for an ideal home-defense pairing.

I strolled into a local gun shop and asked the college kid behind the counter to hand me a PC9 carbine off the rack for closer inspection. His face took on a subtle, but noticeable, look of distain. As if I had asked an English butler to pass me a dead mouse, he slowly reached for the rifle and with forced professionalism dropped it into my hands.

I explained why I was interested in this particular model. I was looking for a low-recoil defensive option for my wife to use. In a perfect dead-pan voice he said, “Yes, and when the ammunition runs out it will make an excellent club.” In other words, after 15 rounds of “wimpy” 9mm hollow points fired through a 16-inch barrel harmlessly bounced off the home invader, like so much confetti, my poor wife would be forced to swing for the bleachers.

This gun store conversation took place in the late 1990s when the 9mm and all of its platforms were still wrestling with the reputation of being weak defensive options. It’s a bias that’s stuck to 9mms of all sizes like glue, even the carbines. That is, until the last few years. Defensive 9mm pistols of all shapes and sizes have moved to the center of the defensive limelight. And this year in particular, pistol-caliber carbines (PCC) chambered in 9mm have enjoyed a surge in sales not seen before.

Here are eight reasons why 9mm PCCs are a good choice for home defense as well as general shooting —

ONE: A Variety of Models to Choose From
Some types of firearms are only available in limited configurations which in turn can make it a challenge to find a good fit for some shooters. This is not the case with pistol-caliber carbines. The 9mm PCC may be enjoying a new level of popularity today but it’s been manufactured by several companies for quite some time. I still hear folks talk about how much they love their Marlin Camp 9 even though the gun has been out of production since 1999. 

NOTE: CLICK ON THE PHOTO CAPTIONS TO VISIT THE WEBSITES

JRC carbines
Just Right Carbines offers a wide range of configurations.

If you enjoy working with the AR-15 type carbines, several 9mms are available from reputable manufacturers including the SIG Sauer MPX 9, and the Wilson Combat AR9. The 9mm AR models tend to come in two varieties, those with dedicated 9mm only lower receivers and those that use standard .223/5.56 lowers fitted with magazine adapters.

Some models, including the Just Right Carbine, are built around proprietary actions that accept AR-15 accessories. The receivers, barrels and controls are unique but the removable grips and six-position adjustable shoulder stocks can be swapped out for popular aftermarket AR-15 upgrades.

If the AR-15 is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of other designs to enjoy. For instance, the Chiappa Firearms M1-9 is a modern variation of the WWII-era M1 carbine. One of the more unusual options (if you can find one) is the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 which folds in half for easy storage.

Kel-Tec Sub-2000
Kel-Tec Sub-2000

TWO: Proven Designs
Many semi-automatic 9mm PCC platforms use blowback-operated actions, which are among the simplest and most reliable designs available. The bolt assembly is held in place by its own weight and the recoil spring. The force of the cartridge case being pushed backwards by expanding gases cycles the bolt. That’s all there is to it. There’s little in the way of complex parts, gas tubes or pistons to worry about failing and the guns are often easier to clean and lubricate.

Chiappa M1-9
Chiappa M1-9

THREE: Pistol Magazine Compatibility
Just like the Ruger PC9 mentioned earlier, many of the modern PCC platforms feed from removable semi-automatic pistol magazines. Right now many carbines have magazine wells and bolt assemblies designed to work with the common, easy to find and inexpensive Glock factory and aftermarket magazines. This is especially convenient if you already own, or plan to buy, a Glock pistol. Companies that make pistols as well as carbines, like Beretta, often build their carbines to accept the same magazines as their handguns.



FOUR: Low Levels of Felt Recoil
I continue to be baffled by the notion that if a gun doesn’t leave the owner battered and bruised at the end of a practice session it’s not a legitimate home-defensive option. Guns don’t need to hurt the operator in order to be effective. In fact, low recoil provides a couple of important tactical advantages. Any activity associated with pain can cause us to hesitate. In a fight for your life, when every moment counts, it’s important to avoid any unnecessary hesitations that may cloud a defender’s judgment. Low recoil also aids in placing faster, more precise follow-up shots.

Sig MPX
Sig MPX

FIVE: Cheap and Plentiful Practice Ammunition

Proper practice sessions held on a regular basis are the key to mastering a carbine’s controls and to improved accuracy. The more rounds fired downrange per practice session the better. As of this writing, the only platforms I can find that are cheaper to run than the 9mm are those chambered in .22 Long Rifle. The good news is that practice-grade 9mm is more readily available than .22 (which is still experiencing shortages) and can be found in sporting goods and big-box stores around the country.





SIX: Top Notch Defense-Grade Ammunition

The 9mm cartridge is not just popular in the United States, it’s one of the most common calibers used around the world for military, law enforcement, and civilian applications. Millions of dollars have gone into improving bullet designs and overall cartridge effectiveness. More +P loadings are available now than ever before. This improvement in cartridge performance combined with carbine magazine capacities ranging from 17 to 33 rounds provides a level of firepower not to be taken lightly, especially at home-defense distances.

9mm defensive ammo
There is effective 9mm defensive ammo available, and it’s made more so via the higher velocities attained when fired through a 16-inch barrel.

SEVEN: Improved Ammunition Performance
Generally speaking, 9mm pistols are constructed with barrels somewhere between 3- to 5-inches in length. Carbines, on the other hand, are usually fitted with 16-inch barrels. This increased length boosts the performance of the cartridge because of the longer powder burn time, which increases velocity, and additional rifling that improves bullet stability.

The degree to which performance improves when using a carbine depends on the load fired. But in some cases, especially with +P ammunition, the increase in downrange energy is impressive. This table shows some of the 16-inch barrel performance results gleaned from carbine tests posted to this website along with the manufacturers’ listed pistol velocities for comparison.

The standard velocity loads shown here demonstrated a velocity increase of 101 to 238 fps. resulting in bullet energy going up by 70 to 153 ft.-lbs. when fired through a 16-inch barrel. That’s nothing to sneeze at. But it’s the +P loads that seem to benefit the most from the longer barrel. Velocity jumped between 173 to 684 fps. increasing bullet energy by 94 to 356 ft.-lbs. 



EIGHT: Flexible and Fun To Shoot
Whenever possible, it makes sense to invest in firearms that can fill multiple roles instead of just one. The 9mm PCCs fall into this category. These platforms are ideal for informal plinking, target shooting, home defense, or riding along as a trunk gun. I’ve heard that a good sized part of what is driving the new interest in these guns are the new divisions in 3-Gun and other practical-style competitions that allow the use of 9mm carbines. Imagine spending a day honing your shooting skills at a match, getting home, giving your carbine a quick cleaning, and then staging the gun you know inside and out to defend your home in case of an emergency. That’s about as flexible as a gun gets.

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6 thoughts on “8 Reasons to Invest in a 9mm Pistol-Caliber Carbine”

  1. Those are all great reasons and they really are fun to shoot. I have an Uzi (IMI) Original and a couple others I play with at home on my range. Regarding the kid at the gun shop. People like to caliber shame when they have little knowledge of what they are talking about. I as in a shop and asked to see an AR in .223. The pimply faced fellow tried to tell me the .300 Blackout was a better round and not to waste my time with 5.56. At which point I shouldered the weapon after checking it and he sad I couldn’t put my face there because the charging handle would hit me when I fired. So much for gun shop experts.

  2. Many of the reasons for an easy to shoot firearm are applicable to my decision to by a .32 instead of just carrying my GP100. My Beretta Tomcat is simple, lightweight, low on felt recoil and easy to shoot, but also easy to carry. It’s never in the way. If it should come to that, I’m sure I can hit what I need to hit with it. I never had any interest in PCCs until recently. I had a nice lever action in 357 that would have partnered nicely with my GP100, that I got as part of a trade and I sold it without ever shooting it. I kind of wish I had it back now.

  3. I have had a UZI carbine in the past but, I bought a Marlin Camp9 at Kmart when they sold guns. I still have it and just bought a JRC in 9. Some one offered me too much for my UZI so it was sold….lol
    I have shot my Camp 9 a lot over the years and it sure would do a job on any intruder. I have some 9mm 125 SP ammo for just that. They would not bounce off…..

  4. Seems like there are a lot of good weapons that Ruger doesn’t make anymore. Like the .44 Magnum carbine.

  5. I have two carbines in 9mm.. Both are a hoot to shoot…The Just Right Carbine with Glock mags has a red dot and is very accurate especially at 50 yards..I could ring the gong with it at 200 yards but it took a while to get the increased 17 inches of elevation up the chain to connect..My second is a new Sub 2000 gen 2..This one is impressive for it’s small size when folded..At 4 pounds it will fold into a laptop case and can also be carried in a small backpack..It will not take optics if you want to retain it’s folding features..

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