Pistol Caliber Carbines

Kel Tec



What is a Carbine?:

A carbine is a rifle design that has been shortened in length for more convenient use and / or storage in confined spaces where the greater length of the full-size rifle would be a hindrance, in environments like in the jungle, or in buildings or vehicles.  The smaller size and lighter weight of carbines makes them easier to handle.  In military applications they are typically issued to high-mobility troops such as special-operations soldiers and paratroopers, as well as to mounted, supply, or other non-infantry personnel whose roles do not require full-sized rifles.

What is a Pistol Caliber Carbine?:

A pistol caliber carbine is a compact, magazine fed, shoulder fired weapon that fires traditional semi-automatic handgun ammunition such as 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and 10mm.  Think of them as a semi-automatic, not too distant cousins to submachine guns such as the H&K MP-5, Beretta M-12, UZI, etc.

Advantages of a Pistol Caliber Carbine:

  • Same ammo as your primary handgun.  A carbine that matches your sidearm in ammunition makes plenty of sense.
  • Many can use the same magazines as your primary handgun.  A carbine that uses the same magazines as your sidearm makes lots of sense.
  • Low Recoil.  This makes it user-friendly for any family member big enough to shoulder it. Very user-friendly for small stature folks.
  • Higher velocity.  Having a longer barrel, you can expect higher ammo velocity with your pistol caliber carbine than you can from your handgun.
  • Plenty of capacity.  Several manufacturers make 20-round, 30-round, and even 33-round magazines that can be used in certain pistol caliber carbines (Kel-Tec with Glock pistol magazines, Beretta Storm carbine with Beretta M92/M9 pistol magazines).
  • Light, easy to carry.  Many pistol caliber carbines and handier in enclosed spaces than a MBR (main battle rifle).   Also they tend to make for handy car guns as well.
  • Much quieter and less muzzle flash than rifles.  This makes them much more user-friendly indoors or from an enclosed space.  Also less blinding to the operator in low light
  • Very easy to suppress.  In a caliber like 45 ACP almost all factory ammo will be sub-sonic.  A suppressed PCC will not require special ammo for maximum effectiveness.
  • For range plinking giggles the ammo is cheaper.

Disadvantages of a Pistol Caliber Carbine:

  • PCCs are fun but limited by their cartridge. Pistol caliber ammo just isn’t in the same class as even .223.
  • Pistol bullets may actually carry through barriers better than light, jacketed rifle rounds.  Pistol bullets are slow and smash their way though a barrier.  Lightly built rifle bullets at high velocity tend to tear themselves apart when they hit anything, leading to reduced penetration.
  • Pistol caliber carbines are falling out of favor for serious work.  Those in LE and the military are finding a carbine chambered in 5.56 is much more effective, does not pose any greater danger of over penetration is more reliable than the pistol carbines, and uses a common ammo to their other long guns.
  • You can buy a pair of Mossberg shotguns for the cost of these carbines.

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AR-15 Style Pistols & Carbines:

CMMG Guard:

  • CMMG Guard
  • Rather pricey — MSRP $1350.
  • Uses Glock magazines.
  • Not reliable with hollow-point ammunition (as seen in the following video).

Palmetto State Armory PA-9:

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Kriss Vector:

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Marlin 1894C .357 Magnum:

Marlin 1894C Essentials:

  • .357 Magnum and the Literature
  • I have cronographed Remington158 grain JHP ammunition out of my 1894C at 1784 FPS.  In comparison, the same ammunition averages 1298 FPS out of my 4″ Ruger GP-100.
  • Lighter 125 grain .357 Magnum ammunition may be too fast, unstable, and may shed its jacket on impact and not perform correctly.  I have not seen any ballistic gelatin tests to support this.
  • You can shoot .38 Special ammunition of of this rifle.  Some of the newer rifles come from the factory with threaded barrels.  You can use a 9mm suppressor on the rifle.  .38 Special is still subsonic with this rifle, so they are extremely quiet.  You will have to experiment to see whether 130-grain or 158-grain .38 Special is the most accurate out of your rifle.  Do not shoot .357 Magnum through your suppressor.  You will destroy your suppressor, and the ammunition is super-sonic and will still make a sonic crack.

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Beretta CX4 Storm:

Beretta CX4 Essentials:

  • Available in 9mm parabellum, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.
  • The 9mm and .40 S&W versions are designed to use either the Beretta M92 (9mm) / M-96 (.40) pistol magazine, or the Beretta Storm pistol magazine.   If you are buying carbine to match a Beretta pistol, be sure that it is the correct model to match your pistol’s magazines.  The two models will not use both types of magazines.
  • Mecgar makes 20-round 9mm magazines for the 9mm Beretta M9 / M92 and 15-round magazines for the .40 S&W Beretta M96. These will work great.  Stay away from any other aftermarket magazines, such as Promag, USA Magazines, etc.  Use only factory magazines or Mecgar brand.

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Kel-Tec Sub 2000:

Kel-Tec Sub 2000 Essentials:

  • The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is available in 9mm and .40 S&W.
  • There are models that can use S&W 5900 series magazines, or Glock brand magazines.
  • Personal experience has shown that the Kel-Tec does not like CCI’s Blazer brand aluminum case ammunition.  Stay away from it.
  • Test fire a bunch of the type of ammunition that you intend to carry before you trust your life to it so as to verify accuracy and reliability.
  • The triggers are terrible, but can be replaced with quality after-market parts.  Do your research first.
  • The sights are crude, but adequate for what the firearm is designed for.  It is problematic to mount any type of optic on it and still be able to fold it up.  There may be aftermarket option in the future.  Do you research and share if you find anything.
  • Like most blow-back action firearms, these are terrible for suppressing.  There is a huge amount of bang that will come out of the action. I’ve tried it with an AAC Tirant-9 and 147 grain sub-sonic ammunition. It was still very loud.

Ammunition Velocities:

  • Federal 115 JHP:  1317 FPS.
  • Federal 124 JHP Hydra Shok:  1270 FPS.
  • Federal 147 JHP Hydra Shok: 1086 FPS.

Best Distance To Zero The Kel-Tec Sub 2000:

The sights of the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 sit 2.125″ above the center of bore.  Based on the velocities of the ammunition above you should zero your Sub 2000 at (coming soon) feet.  With this zero you can expect a ballistic trajectory as follows: (coming soon).

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Hi-Point 995/995TS:

Hi-Point 995 Essentials:

  • High Point pistols are junky.  I assume that their carbine is too.  Caveat emptor.
  • Inexpensive, but apparently they are reliable.
  • Lifetime, transferable warranty.
  • The magazines are not compatible with any of their pistols.
  • Nutnfancy seems to like it.
  • Factory magazine capacity is 10 rounds. There are higher capacity aftermarket magazines from ProMag, but they will damage the firearm and void the warranty.
  • You can replace the cheesy factory stock with an aftermarket stock from ATI.  It looks like a big improvement from the original.  The ATI brand stock looks very similar to the stock on the Beretta Storm PCC.
  • Although Hi-Point offers a great warranty, because of their limited ammunition capacity I would stay away from High Point products.  Save your money and buy a Kel-Tec or a Beretta.

Don’t use ProMag High Capacity Magazines In The Hi-Point 995:

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Ruger PC-9 / PC-4 — Unfortunately Discontinued:

Ruger Carbines 005

Ruger Carbines 007

Ruger PC-4, .40 S&W Carbine: Awesome, but unfortunately discontinued.

Submitted by Mike:

The Ruger PC-4 (also made in 9mm/PC-9) is an outstanding home defense weapon or truck/trunk rifle. Semi-auto blowback action with factory 10+1 or LE 11+1 round magazines. There is a bolt lock-forward device that keeps the bolt from moving backwards until the trigger is pulled. If you drop the rifle or strike the butt the bolt will not move and the round stays locked in the chamber until the trigger it pulled. The bolt locks back to the rear on the last round. The carbine is solidly built. The steel receiver, heavy recoil spring (with buffer spring) and weighted bolt/operating slide make for very little felt recoil. The polymer stock, chequering and balance give the carbine a great handy quick sight-in capability. The 16” barrel allows for complete powder burn so there is no muzzle flash. The barrel is rated +P+. An average of an extra 200 FPS is gained by the 16” barrel when compared to a 4 ½” handgun shooting the same round. The long barrel makes the carbine perfect for indoor night-time shooting in that there is zero muzzle flash and minimal muzzle blast. The shooter will not be blinded or have ringing ears from shooting indoors in a HD situation. Reliability with factory ammo is outstanding, although Blazer aluminum cartridges are not recommended due to the strength of the blowback system which can cause case separations with aluminum cartridges. The carbine takes the same magazine as the Ruger P-series handguns. Recorded ballistics with Corbon 135 grain JHP show:

PC-4, 16” barrel = 1675 FPS / 810 FT. LBS. of energy measured at the muzzle.

Beretta 96, 4.5” barrel = 1381 FPS / 625 FT. LBS. of energy measured at the muzzle.

Editor’s Note: The Ruger PC-9 (9mm) and PC-4 (.40 S&W) carbines are excellent gear.  The review was placed at the bottom of this page only because the firearms were discontinued by the manufacturer and are harder to find that the other firearms on this page.  If you find one, they are highly recommended.

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One comment on “Pistol Caliber Carbines

  1. I just bought a Ruger PC-4 .40 cal carbine. Way overbuilt. Blowback. Ruger web-site says it can handle +P+ ammo. Huge bolt and crazy heavy recoil spring/slide assembly. Heavy military grade parkerization. Thick chamber. Taking it to the range tonight.
    16 ” barrel.

    Found a website that did a chrono test on this carbine
    Corbon 135 grain JHP= 1675 FPS @ muzzle 800 foot pounds at muzzle.

    It packs more punch than a 10mm out of a 5″ barrel
    1418 FPS/760 LBs.

    A .357 Mag 125 grain out of a 6″ barrel = 1715 FPS 820 foot pounds

    My opinion is a handgun caliber carbine is a great choice for HD. For the following reasons.

    1. Two hands on a carbine stock make for better control of a weapon in a struggle plus you can use the butt and barrel to fend off an attacker.
    2. A carbine is handier and easier to aim in and hold on target with follow up shots.
    3. 16″ barrels maximize powder burn and velocity from handgun ammo. There is a big jump in FPS and foot pounds when you go from a 5″ barrel to a 16″ barrel.
    4. You can hang more accessories off a carbine than a pistol and scope/sight choices are greater.

    I’m going to keep this carbine loaded with a M3X light attached and keep it by the night stand. My M&P .40 will go in the safe overnight now.

    My Sub 2000 is a great handy folding weapon. Light and reliable. I really like it. Zero issues. But this Ruger carbine is so overbuilt I know it will hold up better over time and use.



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