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3 Reasons Pistol-Caliber Carbines ‘Outgun’ Everything Else

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Each weapon in your home armory is there for its own unique purpose. While that polished 1950s-era coach gun might have secured its spot as your safe queen, your other rifles and handguns were likely purchased for more active roles. And whether for hunting or for tactical applications, a weapon should fulfill the reason why you own it.

In an emergency situation, the mission at hand might be somewhere between a long-range engagement and an up-close defensive scenario. It is in such a situation that a pistol-caliber carbine rifle system could be the perfect sidekick.

What Exactly Is the Point of Running What Some Consider a Rifle-Wannabe?

Pistol-caliber carbine rifle systems are very literally in a class of their own. What exactly is the point of this class?

I could agree that for most close-quarters combat (CQB) applications, you might as well just go with an AK-47. However, depending on JUST how close, how many threats and how fast you need to move from one target to the next, you’d theoretically be able to outgun an AK with something that’s more maneuverable, lighter and has less recoil.

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At the same time, where a handgun falls short is when sight picture stability is needed for a target that’s more than 20 yards, or so, away. I’d want to draw my Glock at 0 to 10 yards, and I’d want to run an AK for those 25- to 100-yard engagements. But what about that 10- to 25-yard gap?

That’s when I want a pistol-caliber carbine rifle. Two of my favorites are the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 and the Beretta Cx4 Storm, and I’ll discuss those more in detail below.

Here are the advantages of carrying a pistol-caliber carbine rifle:

1. You Can Maneuver in a Tight Spot to Avoid a Sticky Situation

I’d grab my AR-15 once I’ve reached more open areas, or perhaps a Springfield XD if I’m in a back alley and someone jeopardizes my life and limb.

Story continues below the video

But aside from those types of scenarios, I’d pick a pistol-caliber carbine for those trickier 5 to 75 yarders, such as urban-to-rural bugout and home-defensive situations. For one, pistol-caliber carbines are just amazingly maneuverable. Take a look at the TNP run-n’-gun footage below:

As he was running the Sub 2000 through the “trenches” (which I believe is called “The Sledgehammer”), I noticed two interesting points:

  • First, there’s no way I could hit those longer-range targets with the same speed and accuracy with a handgun. At the same time, there would be little noticeable speed/accuracy advantage in using a full-blown battle rifle.
  • Second, he was able to hit targets with an effectiveness comparable to that of a handgun, but also have more maneuverability and speed.

2. You Can Run Them Seamlessly With Your Glock or Beretta

One of my absolute favorite parts about the Sub 2000 and the Cx4 Storm systems is the fact that they’re built for gorgeous integration with certain handguns. For instance, here’s a list of handgun magazines that the Sub 2000 will take (based on which model you purchase):

For the 9mm chambering:

For the .40 S&W:

One of the reasons why I’d go with the Glock 19 or 23 models of the Sub 2000 is because it will accept those huge, 33-round Glock magazines. The G17 or 22 models aren’t able to accept mags from their smaller compact counterparts.

And whereas the Cx4 Storm might not have nearly the magazine diversity options, it’s still designed to accept your Beretta Px4 magazines because it’s practically the same exact platform as its pistol counterpart: the Px4. The only difference is the addition of the buttstock, the barrel length and the aesthetics.

Why is this important? Well, when situations get lively, I like things simple. One great way to promote such simplicity is to require only one type of magazine for both weapons.

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3. Comfy Ergonomics + Featherweight + Reflex Optics = High-Speed Lethality

I’m not saying that AR/AK systems are inadequate for CQB applications. I am saying that pistol-caliber carbines offer a few additional advantages over battle rifles for those particular scenarios. For instance, having mentioned the aspect of maneuverability before, here’s a huge reason why the advantage goes to the PCC on this point. Compare the weights below:

  • Kel-Tec Sub 2000 – 4 pounds
  • Beretta Cx4 Storm – 5.68 pounds
  • AR-15 – 5.5 to 8.5 pounds

Granted, the featherweight AR beat the stock Cx4 by weighing in at only .18 pounds lighter. However, those weights aren’t based on a fully loaded weapon. And a 5.5-pound AR-15 is uniquely made for its weight, likely forsaking its own design capabilities to reach out and touch someone at 300 yards.

In that sense, you might as well just go with the Cx4 (and most certainly the 4-pound Sub 2000) for a run-n’-gun scenario. In most cases, your typical ARs should be about 6 to 7 pounds, with an overall standard length of 39.5 inches. Both the Cx4 and the Sub 2000, however, are about 29-inches from buttstock to muzzle.

This is one reason why the sheer ergonomics and weight would make a downright lethal combination, especially if a reflex-style optic were mounted. Essentially, that would allow the operator to engage a single target at stunning speed – and even move quickly to engage multiple targets in a single, fast-moving fight.

Final Thoughts

Super short, pistol-caliber rifles do have their place among the more lethal firearms. This is because force-on-force engagements often occur at closer ranges. Sure, it’s possible to get an exchange of fire out to 200 yards or so. But if each opponent has been tactically maneuvered into a range of 0 to 50 yards, that’s when the stakes become desperately high. Then it’s the best-trained and properly armed team that will be standing when the battle is over.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your views in the section below:

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  1. An AR pistol beats a pistol caliber carbine in so many ways it’s no contest in any category of comparison.

    • Disagree Mike. A PCC is much better suited to in home defense IMO. Much less blast to damage hearing and disorient the shooter. Have you ever touched off a 5.56 carbine in a bedroom or hallway? A long gun is still way better than a pistol for in home use provided you stay put or are trained to clear rooms with a carbine. You can fire much faster and more accurately, and have higher capacity (30 rds). PCCs are the best in home HD weapon IMHO.

  2. I agree with the pistol caliber carbine is good for filling the 10/25yrd gap, but situations dictate. We rarely know our situation especially in the civilian world. IMO a 300BO AR pistol or SBR would fit perfect for anything a handgun is short, plus reach out. I just think the 10/25yrd gap isn’t enough to actually carry it.

  3. Pistol calibers are my choice for defense in-close, although a .45 or .357 would be my go to ammo. Carbine, SBR, or lever action if that’s a style you can use fast and accurately. The Beretta black carbine is nice, but a more economical variant to add punch to the carbine might be a .45 Hi-Point. Made in America, sturdy, reliable, and from all accounts as accurate as you need in a firefight.

  4. One really cool point that was not mentioned is the Keltec Sub2000 folds and can fit into a briefcase or backpack. While it’s not a ‘rifle’, having it close at anytime plus accepting your pistol mags are two awesome advantages. As said early in the article…different tools for different jobs.

  5. A very interesting article with a lot of good points and a few that are either not correct or not really applicable. the author of this piece is apparently what is called in the fraternity of gun owners, a ‘gun snob.’ The first person to leave a comment is a bleeding gun snob. So many gun snobs feel that the more expensive a firearm is, then, by logic, the better it has to be. Walmart has fallen into this by discontinuing AR-style firearms and semiauto rifles. Sure, similar firearms can be purchased at places other than Wally World, but at a much higher price point. Hence, Walmart feels that if you want a firearm, you should have a wheelbarrow full of money, therefore, they cut off their nose to spite their face by giving up a lot of profit represented by customers not rolling in cash. I have gone with a PCC, the .40 S&W carbine produced by Hi-Point firearms. Okay, I can hear the snobs chortling and ready to make comments about ‘monkey guns,’ but surprise, Hi-Points are no longer ‘monkey guns.’ To me, the most important factors when selecting a firearm are: #1, reliability. If the arm doesn’t go bang every time you hit the ‘go’ button, you have a very expensive paperweight. Hi-Point arms are begrudgingly admitted to being a very reliable arm, capable of firing thousands of rounds with no malfunctions, digesting anything you feed it. #2 is accuracy. The Hi-Point PCCs, at least the ones I have fired, are perfectly capable of firing groups at 25 yards offhand that you could cover with a fifty-cent piece. #3 is warranty. Almost all modern firearm manufacturers have a decent warranty, but none I have seen match Hi-Point. If your Hi-Point ever fails to perform, regardless of the cause, just send it to Ohio by UPS (legal because you own the arm and are dealing with the Manufacturer directly.” I broke down my pistol to paint the frame, and no one told me about the recoil spring. If you have a Hi-Point and have to disassemble it, be aware that recoil spring is like a bomb. The pistol blew up, scattering parts hither, thither and yon. I called Hi-Point and told them I thought I had voided the warranty. They told me to package up the parts I had and all magazines, and send to them by UPS. At the factory, they replaced all missing parts, checked the arm for function, tuned all six magazines and test fired them. The pistol was sent to me in less than two weeks, along with a note thanking me for allowing them to help me. All work and return shipping was no charge. #4, and least important to most is the price point. I also own a Springfield XD40, and the Hi-Point pistol AND the .40 S&W PCC together, cost less than the XD40 alone. I am not pleading poverty, but So-so Security does not lend well to owning expensive firearms. A pistol that cost me $169, and a carbine that cost me $340, at Cabela’s gave me a system for home defense, plinking and hunting, if I wish with two arms using the same magazines, not just the same ammo. Equipped with HP flip down forward grip (included with PCC) a magazine holder that holds two spare mags on the stock and a Tasco Red Dot Reflex sight, give me a system I trust my life with. FYI, I am a former deputy sheriff, prison guard and I teach people to shoot. I am not some yokel who just bought a gun but don’t even know which way the bullets are loaded in the magazines. Hi-Point makes pistols and matching carbines in 9mm, 40S&W and .45 ACP. the only downside is 10-round magazines, but changing magazines only takes seconds, and a long magazine only makes the arm difficult to maneuver.

  6. as a sub 2000 owner, (in 9mm) i can without a doubt say it is one of the finest designs available. it folds up easily, and is also easily “beer can accurate” out to 100 yards. the ar will always be the favorite in some ways but there is no reason to doubt the wonderful little kel tec. a note though, i have found that it jams every now and then, and less as you break in the ridiculously strong buffer spring. if you do end up with one, keep the bolt open for the first year, because when i first got it, it chomped casings like an angry dinosaur. after a happy year together though, i would recommend it to anyone, as a shockingly accurate, light, maneuverable little carbine that could realistically replace a pistol as a sidearm, or be strapped to a backpack. stay strong brothers.

  7. I decided I wanted a pistol cal carbine and i wanted it to use Glock mags and i wanted it in .40, I bought one and from day one it was a POS, after many trips back to the manufacturer I demanded a refund, I got it. I’ll just say it wasn’t built by any of the ones mentioned here.

    Now for the point, I’m not a great Glock fan, but I figured if my carbine was going to use glock mags I might as well have my side arm using the same mags, I got a G-35, now I’m searching for a carbine, I’ve about settled on the Just right, now 100 % but close and likely will be the one but only after I speak to them personally and confirm that if it too is a POS I will get a refund when or IF they can’t make it function.

    I see this debate about 10 to 25 yards and laugh, the .40 round out of a rifle barrel will knock your dick in the dirt out to a hundred yards without a doubt. And to argue about it almost anybody who actually shoots their weapons can hit a man sized target at 100 yards, if they can’t they need to take up knitting.

    The glock 40 mad comes in a 22 round version and can be improved with an extended base plate, I found the thought of having a carbine with a red dot sighted in for 75 yards as well as my pistol using the same mags to be a plus.

    Yea I have AR’s several and a beautiful Arsenal Inc made n America AK that is awesome, but I still see the need for the pistol cal rifle, ok, maybe the need is really want, but I can load 40 a lot cheaper then 223.

    At the end of the day it’s all about wanting not needing.

  8. It’s another $400-$600 hunk of metal you have to clean and train with that you could be spending on for more mags, ammo (training time), etc. Or even another handgun to have in a place where you might find yourself not carrying. I think they’re fun, but really don’t fulfill a real need. If you can’t get around a corner with a rifle, you’re not going to be shooting at something out of the effective range of a pistol. If it’s not an ideal situation for a pistol (including one where it’s my only option), I want rifle power put-down capability and I have no problem with speed and accuracy with an AR. The Kel-Tec in a backpack is about the only application I can see that it would be helpful in, but I don’t really see myself carrying one around like that on a regular basis.

  9. I disagree with your close quarters combat/defending your home senarios,i believe a(for example)avoid 9mm handgun and a pistol caliber carbine like the CZ SCORPION CARBINE RIFLE are great for close quarters and more than adequate vs the AK,The AK or AR or any rifle caliber cartridge would shine and be far superior in the open terrain if you had to bug out especially if you are on foot.

  10. I meant a 9mm combo not avoid sorry about the misspelling.

  11. Why, when I hit ctrl+f can I not find the word “shotgun” anywhere on this page. A short barrel saiga-12 is better than any rifled caliber at 10-25 yards. You don’t even need sigth picture, you just look and shoot.

  12. Does anyone know of any ballistic data for 9mm SBR (e.g., ~7″)? I’m thinking a standard pressure load, high-mass projectile (e.g., 147 grain) in hollow point would be best to minimize velocity and prevent early expansion. I’d really like to see some gelatin confirmation though. Thanks.

    • As for training, some of the older indoor ranges for us city folk make you use a dollar a round frangible ammo for any ar or ak platform. You can get far more training and cost effeciency with something like the sub2k. I have the evo 3 and from what ive seen, with its 7.72 barrel, the velocities were only about 20 fps less than someones 16″ ar 9mm, using the same ammo, so you’re really not losing anything with the scorpion’s shorter barrel. Although I own that, im almost delerious to get the newley designed .40 Sub2k. What a perfect camping/kayaking/outdoors rifle folded in your backpack to supplement your handgun,just in case. Especially if a natural disaster hits, and you have to walk or bike , a little hard to get around with a sbr/pistol type ar/ak in certain post hurricane or whatnot situations.

  13. I see a lot of comments from people who have never shot a rifle indoors or in a car. You need to try it before you slam pistol caliber carbine. Go to your local gun range with your ar 15 with no hearing protection. Also when shit hits the fan you going to shoot first ask questions later. You’ll run out of ammo real quick. If you get a shot over 150 yards your in the open and won’t last long anyway. In a survival situation you fall back to fight another day. You stand you’re ground you will die in an extended gun battle with your family at your side.

  14. Norman Gofuqurselv

    Yea pistol carbines are great til you have to engage targets out of pistol range. Think people there are reasons why subguns are dead and sbrs rule the domain. Rifles trump pistol carbines everyday and any situation.

  15. I love my AR, but am not going to take time to put hearing protection on if someone is breaking in. An AR indoors is a nogo, as are full house .357 magnums. They will rupture both eardrums.

    I am leanong towards a CX4 as I already have a PX4 (that I love).

  16. Practical Applications

    All of this is real fun academically, but if you are seriously making an argument based on defense inside of 70 yards then why in the world don’t you buy a 12 gauge? Pistols are cool cause they can be concealed. They are the best fighting knife and decent to 50 yards, well outside of defensive range I might add. But if a Glock 19 isn’t enough and a rifle is too much then a shotgun is absolutely king. I totally respect the want vs need argument. I want one of these carbines. They are cool. Just don’t tell me they fill a gap. 12 00 buck throws 9 9mm pellets at once…

  17. Author:

    Full agreement. Title change could easily state TEN REASONS a pistol cal carbine beats the standard combat rifles.
    There is, of course, universal truth: the weapon is only suited for the specified application.
    EG: only pointed sabot rounds will compete with the range of distance 7.62nato (.308) or it’s lesser more popular counterpart 5.56nato (.223) both capable of 350 to 1200 yard accuracy depending on the semantics of both rifle + cartridge.
    Same is true for power / impact (Joule) as obviously the AK47/AR10/Socom rifles will destroy or penetrate PAGST L3 helmets & Armor with likely concussion & incapacitating whiplash on an unlikely miss. *Readers, keep in mind that NATO forces are using steel-core projectiles few civilians can acquire.
    Thus said, I offer point #4:
    KelTec, JR, Thureon, CX Storm – hell, even the hi-point Carbines – are achieving 159 to 250 yard accuracy. Albeit, the lighter grain projectiles lack punch but fly further at higher speed.
    In Defense – hunting – or SHTF… Engaging targets further than 200 yards is a likely risk of becoming someone’s prey. On the hunt, if you can’t fell a deer at 150yds or less… (Or hare at -50yds) I’d say the problem lies in one’s stealth and not their weapons if choice.
    Point #5:
    Whether AR or AK munitions… What variety of ammo is available? Not much. +Power is diverse for all calibers, so null that notion.
    We get FMJ, JSP, the controversial Fragment rounds and expensive (yet effective) ripper rounds. That’s about it. *Readers arguing “armor piercing” or “I got steel core!” – if you have the balls to face the Federal penalties for possession of such munitions – those are indeed big balls…
    Just don’t expect me to admire them.
    I value my freedom & adhere to a personal policy of “don’t carry illegal = don’t sleep in jail”.
    To further the variety in ammo argument, handgun calibers have so many variations including extreme penetration, such as Lehigh or Ft. Scott, plethora of rippers, hollow point (hint ‘modify if needed) impact, fragment, rubberized, snake load, salt load, the rediculous Zombie Killers – all variants indisputably increase the diversity for specialized applications.
    Ballistic testing shows that even 9mm gains more penetration through clay, gelatin, drywall, milk cartons, cinder blocks, etc. 10mm perhaps an overkill unless Grizzlies are your worry – where .40S&W or .357sig is likely “just right”.
    Point #6:
    The new age Carbines are designed adaptable.
    IE: you can easily switch barrel + extractor to other calibers. 45acp/.357sig/9mm/40cal/10mm
    TNW ASR is a great example, but not my first choice. Wilson combat, or for the working man, Just Right Carbines. This bonus capability adds indispensable diversity and would prove useful in WW3 or SHTF.
    Point #7:
    They standardize your ammo. Even better if your carbine accepts the magazine of your sidearm (my Beretta 92 fits my KelTec sub2000) which gives speed, agility and failsafe to the operation of reloading. Mags for both pistol and carbine are cheaper, lighter and can be loaded with (& marked) to employ different types of ammunition.
    Point #8:
    Not only is pistol ammo cheaper… It’s lighter and more compact. As any soldier or serious Hunter will attest after a 15 mile trek… This is a good thing. Not to mention that the mags are less bulky and can be deployed faster.
    Point #9:
    Pistol munitions are quieter. Closer to the 1,170fps threshold of breaking the sound barrier. Meaning, a suppressor keeps your position safer. A Survivalist or Soldier can vouch for how critical stealth is to staying alive.
    Point #10:
    The carbine *metal receivers especially” will last longer under pressure. If well-made, your carbine with 16″ barrel will spit 8000 rounds before the wear points of contact are even noticeable.
    Unless you’re spending $3k on a Scar17, or $2k on the heavy Springfield Socom series…
    You’ll see signs of use within 500 rds on most AR’s and about 1500 rds on most AK’s.
    Due to less accelerant pressure – as also the platform of design – your carbine doesn’t have to mimic an AR15 to be equipped or customized.
    Additionally, spare point number eleven, many Carbines are sold with factory threaded barrel.
    Giving weight to point #9 – at least in areas where suppressors are legally equipped, if such restrictions are even a concern.
    In conclusion, there’s much a carbine can do that an AR / AK cannot – and vice versa. But as a Survivalist, I’ll take a reliable 9mm/.40cal carbine over an AR15 for strictly reasons #9 and #10.

  18. I’ve heard it said that a PCC has the benefit of having all the power of a pistol with the concealability of a rifle.

    I have a Sig MPX that I use for PCC competition and for low cost training. It’s fun to shoot, but it’s the last thing I’m reaching for in a real world situation unless I have the need to suppress it.

    If I have my choice I’m going to have a rifle if at all possible. I really don’t understand the “10-25 yard gap” or the “5yd to 75 yd” argument. Last time i checked my rifle hits targets from 5yds to beyond 200yds without prejudice.

    The key factor that seems to be left out of the authors statements is ballistics. There has been plenty of research that shows that velocity is king when it comes to ballistic performance. There is very little difference in ballistic performance between any of the common handgun rounds, but you really start to see an advantage when you are pushing a projectile over 2200-2300 FPS. Aside from a few specialty rounds, you just don’t get that out of a pistol cartridge.

    And for those that think that a rifle length barrel has some magical ability to accelerate their 9mm loads, the exact opposite is true. With almost all loads I chrono slower out of my 16″ 9mm barrel than out of my 6″ 9mm barrel….

  19. For me the Sub 2000 fills a very niche roll. I’m a dedicated cyclist and I live in a urban area. I can’t just sling a AR on my back in the city and roll on down to the range, no matter what the open carry guys say. The Sub 2000 fits in a normal laptop backpack when folded. While yes any pistol would do the same, can you bullseye a target 100 yards away, unsupported, with a pistol? Maybe if your last name is Miculek. But for me a proper rifle is much better. In a bugout or shtf situation the Sub 2000 is just as suited in dense forest as it is in dense urban areas. The .40 carbine can comfortably lob 200 grain hollow points just under the speed of sound, making for a weapon just as deadly and accurate inside of 200 yards as any subsonic suppressed rifle. Even better, unlike some calibers, the .40 hollow point will expand at subsonic velocities. And unlike certain other calibers, will penetrate more then 10 inches, for clean pass through hunting kills.

    Many pcc’s have the ability to break down or otherwise be concealed in plain sight. This is their single biggest advantage that should not be ignored. That they can be used for survival, defense, hunting, or just fun, is icing on the cake. They are not AR’s. They are not all out war machines. Their role is more clandestine.

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