Pistol Caliber Carbine: Novelty, or Are They Useful?


I'm personally a huge fan of pistol caliber carbines. While there are many folks who believe they're a novelty, or at best, just a good way to have fun at the range, they actually serve a purpose in my house and firearms collection. Going forward, try to remember that I don't own many guns for collection purposes minus some family heirlooms. Each gun in my home needs to serve a purpose or it doesn't belong here.


My favorite pistol caliber carbine also just happens to be one of my favorite guns, period. I acquired, by happenstance, a Definitive Arms AKX9. I've done numerous reviews on this gun for other publications, which I'm not going to link to here to pull away from the purpose of this article.

Just let it be known that Definitive Arms is one of the top AK manufacturers in the US and that the AKX9 is a totally blueprinted design that is built around the 9mm cartridge.

What this means is that instead of a Frankenstein rifle where parts are sourced from other guns to make something in 9X19 work on the (albeit modified) Avtomat Kalashnikova platform, everything is actually engineered to work. And, work it does. I'm approaching the 10,000 round mark with this rifle and it's flawless.

But, the rest of what I'm about to say also applies to AR9 rifles, Ruger PC Carbines, and most of the others out there.

Home Defense:

My pistol caliber carbines, especially my AKX9 with the 32 round Colt Stick Mags (made by ASC), are meant for home defense. They're short, lightweight, and chambered in something that will stop a bad guy.

While I don't want to get into the “bad guy stopper” or “stopping power” arguments right now, suffice it to say that a 9mm hollow point traveling at faster velocities because of the longer barrel is much more capable than my handgun with a four inch barrel.

I won't go into much detail, but this carbine is stashed in an area of my house where I can get to it if I'm in that part of the house. If I'm in a different part of the house, I will not go to that gun unless I find myself there.

Easier to shoot:

Something that falls on many deaf ears is the simple fact that long guns are easier to master than handguns are. I know that I, personally, shoot a rifle much better than I can a handgun. And, I can put rounds on paper at longer distances in a more accurate fashion.

That's just the way it is. Why? Well, there are a few reasons why people are generally more accurate with a rifle, one of them being that the sight radius is longer so there is a greater chance that you'll be lined up right.

Also important is carbines, in general, produce less recoil for easier follow up shots in the grogginess of night. This is compounded by having a pistol caliber carbine. There is usually, though not always because there are some things in play here like ammo type, gun weight, etc., less recoil in a pistol cartridge.

pistol caliber carbine

Cheaper, depending on caliber:

So, this one may or may not be true in your area or depending upon the chosen caliber of carbine. However, for me, in my area, and for 9mm–it's cheaper than 223/556. And, when ammo is cheaper, you are (hopefully) more inclined to train with it more often.

Granted, hollow points can be expensive. But, after your initial making sure they run in your gun, you won't be firing them as much and will train mostly with FMJ.

More ammo at my disposal:

Let's say that my home is invaded by several attackers at once in a true to the phrase smash and grab type of heist. Besides the fact that bad guys usually travel in packs, it's even more likely that there'll be more than one baddie invading your home because there is almost always strength in numbers.

If you grab your handgun during an invasion and end up in a shootout but only have twelve rounds in your non-dedicated carry/home defense gun, you may find yourself up that proverbial creek.

I carry 30 rounds in my Colt Stick mag, and there are Glock mags with a higher capacity, as well, if your home defense gun runs them.

More ammo, not less, is almost always a better option when you're in a fire fight. It's better to have some left over than not have enough.


Let's say you love your Glock handguns and have magazines galore hanging out in your house. Also let's say that your AR9 takes Glock mags. Guess who has some compatibility going on? In addition to that, if you are already stocking ammo in your chosen caliber you know you've already got it, so there is no more reason to buy anything extra.

This is a good deal if you're so strapped for cash that you can literally only afford two guns. Both can be chambered in the same caliber and you don't have to worry about anything else.

Wider range of use:

I know plenty of people who belong to indoor ranges who'd love to shoot their 5.56 NATO chambered rifles/carbines but cannot because range rules dictate that you can only shoot pistol calibers.

Many ranges will allow you to shoot a pistol caliber carbine all day long at an indoor range, simply because, well, it's not a rifle caliber. This is great for many reasons, but just the training purposes and making a smooth transition from an AR9 to an AR-15 is good enough for me.

In my case, it'd be making the transition from an AKX9 to an AK47.


There are plenty of naysayers about the PC Carbines. But, I'm personally a big fan and see the usefullness very easily. What I want to know right now, is do you think they're useful for anything? Why, or why not? Let us know in the comments below.

Also, while I have you here, I just wanted to take a moment to tell you about our newly released Home Defense Course. It's freaking awesome and you're going to learn a ton from it. You can check it out, here.

About Joshua Gillem

Josh is a lifelong practitioner and student of the gun. He grew up shooting/hunting with his dad, and was given his first gun, a 12 gauge shotgun, when just a small boy. After high school, he joined the Marines where his love for firearms blossomed as he qualified with an M16A2, an M9, and a 240G. Josh has been writing about firearms and tactics for several years, owns the blog Gunners Den, is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, and believes that each individual person has the right to self-defense by any means necessary. Currently residing in gun-friendly NC, he carries a concealed gun on a daily basis, even in his own house.


  1. Rich hoffman on November 13, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    I’ve had a Mech Tech carbine conversion for several years and love it. Mine is in 45 and out of the box hit4” groups at 100 yards. A better shooter with some fine tuning could probably do better. USDPA now has a competitive catagory for these.

  2. Donttreadonsnek on March 19, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    PCCs are basically the poor man/civilians answer to LE and military being able to have SMGs.

    If you could get your SBR in whatever state still allows it, you could have a single fire SMG-like.

    That’s why they exist.

    A PCC/SMG is useful for the same reason as in those jobs. No overpen, possible to use subsonic ammo, lighter weight and able to carry much more ammo.

    If anyone brings up the whole “what if they have body armor” issue, any state which allows those russian steel jacket bullets in 9mm can slice right through IIIA, as can civil liberty defense 9mm. I have a feeling the value of those would only increase in a longer barrel giving a marginal but very real boost to FPS.

    Other benefits of PCC entails low recoil for fast follow up shots, a longer sight radius for better accuracy, a place to hold two hands far apart instead of both right on the handle cupping each other meaning higher stability for aiming reasons, and the possibility of using easily accessible hollow point ammo to avoid the dreaded overpen.

    In all honesty, a PCC for home defense seems far superior to any form of 5.56 or russian ak for home defense, as well as superior to a shotgun. Precisely because if you use a hollow point, hitting a wall should deform it enough that it cant seriously injure someone on the other side who you do not intend, muzzle flash is going to be much lower, and noise level is going to be much lower.

    Nothing says home defense like deafening and blinding yourself and your family while missing an intruder and killing your doggo in the next room over because of overpen shotgun or rifle ammo.

    And of course, if you ever need to do some form of entry and extraction of hostage victims, a PCC would be better than an AR15.

  3. Cernunnos on August 3, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Nothing wrong with them, but don’t base your decisions on someone’s theoretical advantage or disadvantage. Over penetration is one example. For the last 15 years, the FBI’s Unified Crime Reports, which trace every reported shooting, civilian or LE, in the US, reported exactly ZERO persons have been inured or killed from over penetration. That is Nada, Nill, Zilch. However, persons have been injured & killed by 1) Bullets that miss; and 2) by the perpetrator, when their defensive pistol caliber round failed to penetrate deep enough for a fast incapacitation. Or kind of like “energy dump” – energy does not kill anything – a hole through something vital does. A through & through shot means adequate penetration.

    The primary 2 reasons for quick incapacitation are SHOT PLACEMENT followed by DEEP PENETRATION. Period.

    So with reality in mind, there are a few advantages of a PCC, but not compelling ones. 1) Less recoil – if in 9mm. 10mm carbines kick harder then a 5.56 carbine. 2) Mag compatibility with your pistol, if you decide to go into a gun fight with only one mag for your long gun. 3) More accurate than a handgun – but also true for rifle caliber carbines. There are a few other minor ones, but keep in mind in terms of raw killing power, a rifle caliber is always superior to a handgun caliber, especially in the most common carried defensive calibers.

    One PCC I do own and adore is my Kriss Vector CRB G2 in 10mm. But it is entirely for the cool factor, and not used in my defensive use plan, even though it takes my Glock 40 mags which is really cool. Now for a full disclosure – I am a FFL with SOT, so NFA guns (full auto SBRs) are part of my plan. But those are all rifle calibers too. And don’t forget that the single best documented one-shot bad guy stopper is a 12G shotty loaded with No. 1 Buck in Federal Flight Control Wad form. Largest wound diameter with adequate penetration at 50″ and under.

    LOL that guy above: “And of course, if you ever need to do some form of entry and extraction of hostage victims, a PCC would be better than an AR15” Wake up and stop day dreaming – armchair operators strike again. The FBI uses select fire SBRs in RIFLE calibers for its hostage recovery team, just like all the armed forces who actually rescue hostages do. That reality thing stinks…..

  4. Clyde Wilbur on August 18, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    Save your ears and add super sensitive hearing by keeping a pair of electronic ear muffs next to your ar9. Yep… they not only block out the gun blasts but allow you to turn them up so you can hear any intruder noises. Be safe, be smart. Use hearing protection that also gives you the edge.

  5. mrmike on September 6, 2019 at 8:59 am

    My Home defense weapon of choice is a 40 caliber PCC. with a matching pistol in 40.
    I also own a 9mm PCC which is a great plinker and backup weapon.
    I own a 223/5.56 rifle, but I know which gun I want for home defense….for me 40 just works, and wont overpenetrate, wont leave me permanently deaf

  6. Ken Miller on December 6, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    PCC’s have 3 advantages: mag sharing, suppressing and compactness. That’s it.
    Yes, they have that (FA MP5 type wannabe) forbidden fruit cool factor. But they don’t make sense. It’s like swapping out a hemi in a challenger for a eco 4 cylinder and saying “but it handles better”. No, just no.
    A 9mm AR has the same recoil (being blowback with heave bcg) as a properly timed 5.56 (if not more), with about 1/3 the velocity.
    The general rule it to try for the MOST power for size (thus the trend of 308 sbr’s), not the other way around.
    We get it… PCC’s are cool and fun. I just tire of people trying to validate that into a role it does not belong (professionals are using rifle caliber sbr’s, not PCC’s).
    IMHO, there is zero a PCC does better than a rifle (or SBR, or rifle caliber pistol).

  7. RESmith on March 1, 2021 at 6:58 pm

    As a former grunt (light infantry, airborne, and mechanized infantry), I find a carbine useful for offensive and defensive operations. As a citizen and homeowner, I find the PCC to be essential for defense of loved ones and property and also the economy issues surrounding a common caliber ammunition. I personally have a .40 S&W PCC that uses the same ammunition and magazines as my home defense pistol and the same ammo as my everyday carry pistol. Due to its ability to be concealed, PCC is a great truck gun and a great home defense weapon once you add the proper bells and whistles.

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