Home defense situation, the environment is naturally cramped, and the efficiency of long-barreled rifles drops dramatically because of their reduced maneuverability. Besides, with more powerful rifle rounds, except, maybe, .223 Remington/5.56 NATO used in AR-15 rifles, you bear a risk of overpenetration. Handguns possess excellent maneuverability, but some people experience aiming issues because of shorter sight radius and are intimidated by recoil. But today’s gun market has an elegant solution to offer to those needing something in between a rifle and a pistol – a 9mm pistol caliber carbine (otherwise called a 9mm rifle).
Gritr Sports, the gun store appreciated by many sports shooters and hunters for its wide selection of guns and accessories, has prepared this article for you to define the term carbine, explain the pros and cons of PCCs, and provide you with the list of the best pistol caliber carbines available for 2022.
Is a Carbine an SBR?
First, let’s define a carbine. A carbine is a rifle with a shorter barrel or a shortened version of a full-size rifle. However, it can also be a pistol. We’ll touch on that later.
The first carbines came to existence as weapons designed specifically to be used by cavalry. At first, they were individual designs, but with time, rifles became more complex, and it was easier and cheaper to manufacture carbines based on a particular rifle design.
This is why we refer to shortened versions of rifles as carbines. However, there’s no legal definition of a carbine, which creates confusion.
According to the law and the NFA, we have rifles and short-barreled rifles (SBR). Rifles are firearms with a barrel of 16 inches or more, while SBRs (subject to NFA registration and tax stamp) have barrels of less than 16 inches and an overall length of less than 26 inches. Both types of firearms are designed to be shot from a shoulder, meaning they have stocks.
However, we all know AR pistols, which are often mistaken for AR rifles. What makes them different? – A pistol brace instead of a shoulder stock. Pistol braces were designed to help disabled veterans stabilize their AR pistols. An untrained eye won’t notice any functional difference between a stock and a brace. That’s why AR pistols look like rifles to many people.
After the first pistol brace was introduced, many shooters started using it as a stock, shouldering their AR pistols. However, according to the NFA, it was an act of repurposing a pistol into a short-barreled rifle, which made it a felony.
After several years of hot public discussions, the ATF heeded criticism and permitted shouldering AR pistols but with caveats. You must not encourage others to shoulder AR pistols or modify or improve your pistol brace.
So answering the question, a carbine is a term used to describe short-barreled firearms in general. If a rifle-looking gun has a barrel of less than 16 inches, an overall length of less than 26 inches, and a stock, it’s considered an SBR and must be registered. If a rifle-looking firearm has a pistol brace, it’s a pistol, no matter the barrel length.
So, now you can answer the question “Are pistol caliber carbines considered SBR?” by yourself. Just look at the barrel length and the part that seems to be a stock.
A careful gun enthusiast may have noticed that we have few pistol-caliber carbines compared to a vast array of rifles. Why? We think it has to do with contradictory laws and people’s natural desire to keep everything simple. Another factor is that pistol caliber carbines cost much more than AR-15 rifles in 5.56 NATO. Manufacturers would love to make them more accessible, but they can’t lower the price because PCCs are unpopular and manufactured in low quantities. As a result, the economy of scale can’t be realized. It’s a vicious circle: pistol caliber carbines are expensive because there are not many people wanting to buy them, and the reason for that is the high price.
But we hope that by highlighting the strengths of PCC as a firearm type and promoting existing PCC designs, we can drive this situation from a dead-lock.
Let’s briefly touch on the pros of PCC and then move on to reviewing the top pistol caliber carbines of 2022.
Reasons to Buy a PCC
- Compared to rifles, PCCs are easier to maneuver in close-quarter home defense situations.
- Compared to handguns, a carbine chambered for a pistol round, say a 9mm carbine, is easier to shoot because the felt recoil is reduced due to the more mass of a firearm.
- Compared to handguns, a PCC is easier to shoot accurately due to a longer sight radius and more mass that prevent the gun from moving upwards while the trigger is being pulled.
- Due to a shorter barrel, the bullet flies at a slower velocity and has less energy, which makes overpenetration less likely to happen.
- Compared to handguns, a longer PCC produces less noise and muzzle blast.
The Best Pistol Caliber Carbines
Freedom Ordnance FX9
The FX9 series of 9mm AR pistols and rifles includes various models to address the requirements of as many shooters as possible. For home defense, an FX9 with a 4-inch or 8-inch barrel would be ideal. The series also includes California-legal pistol caliber carbine variants with featureless construction and a barrel of 16-inches.
The FX9 accepts Glock-type magazines, which are widely available on the aftermarket. It’s a reliable and consistent blowback-operated system with AR-15 controls and parts familiar to AR-platform users (safety selector, mag release, pistol grip, trigger, and charging handle), free float M-LOK rail, and a 3-inch suppressor. The FX9 is precision-machined from an aluminum billet.
This extremely reliable 9mm carbine comes at a sound price of around $800, which makes it the best value for money.
Sig Sauer MPX K
Yes, the price of the MPX K may be too high for many people (about $1900), but we can’t help but mention this PCC. It’s also a modular 9mm AR pistol with no buffer tube that allows to fit it with a folding brace. The 3 generation features all AR-15 controls in a fully ambidextrous configuration. The MPX K is a gas piston system known for cleaner operation. This PCC with a 4.5-inch barrel weighs only 5 pounds and cycles very reliably.
The Banshee series includes a variety of pistols and rifles chambered for an array of cartridges. We consider the Banshee MkGs in 9mm with a 5-inch barrel the best option for home defense. The main feature of this model and other Banshee designs is the proprietary, pleasure-to-shoot Radial Delayed Blowback operating system that produces softer recoil and reduces bolt weight. Other features include a mil-spec trigger, ambi charging handle and safety, the receiver machined from aircraft-grade aluminum, and a free-float M-Lok handguard.
Kel-Tec Sub 2000
The Sub 2000 supporting 9mm and .40S&W is a lightweight and simple PCC design. The barrel length is 16.25 inches, which some may consider irrelevant for home defense. However, at the same time, the carbine weighs mere 4.25 pounds (unloaded), folds, and a longer barrel provides more power downrange and a longer sight radius. With this model, you can also choose which handgun magazine it supports to match it with your sidearm.
CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1
This gun has a reputation as the most reliable 9mm gun ever made. The Scorpion EVO 3 S1 has a 7.72-inch barrel and weighs 5 pounds. The single-action trigger is light and allows for consistent pulls, and the blowback-operated system works softly and doesn’t mess with the accuracy. The parts and accessories for the EVO 3 platform are affordable and widely available. In particular, you can attach a folding brace to your Scorpion and use it in two positions.
We hope this article helped you clear up what is considered an SBR and what is not, what a carbine is, and why having a PCC for home defense is a good idea. Besides, now you have some options to choose from. Shop wisely and be safe.