I have long been a big fan of the Old West. The ingenuity, perseverance, practicality and sheer grit that went into the westward expansion of our Republic are nothing short of admirable, and the mark that this epic undertaking left on the character of the nation is indelible. One of the hallmarks and a theme that I revisit often in my prepping and homesteading endeavors is the philosophy of making more out of less. In the Old West, this philosophy was even applied to weaponry, and the advantages of pairing your handgun and your rifle in terms of caliber were often emphasized.
The primary advantage of this philosophy is that you need to stock less ammo if both your main weapons eat the same thing. It also makes reloading on the fly more convenient, quicker and less confusing; both weapons can be fed from a single cartridge belt; and either weapon can be loaded without looking down to see what you are grabbing. This is a big bonus in a high stress situation. Another benefit is that pistol caliber ammo is generally more compact than rifle cartridges; you can fit more in less space. Firing the same caliber ammo through the longer barrel of a rifle or carbine gives it more juice (translated: greater muzzle velocity, greater terminal energy, greater “Stopping Power,” and greater effective range and accuracy). All this leads to a huge advantage in terms of effective use of ammo supplies. These advantages are as manifest in packing a 21st century get home bag as they were in packing for a 19th century cattle drive.
My first venture into this concept was a salute to my cowboy spirit. In a deplorable act of impulse buying, I found myself in possession of a Winchester Legacy Edition Model 1894 chambered in .45 Colt (.45 LC). I fell in love with this little rifle, and with modern loads I have taken game as large as wild boar and even deer at moderate ranges. The natural evolution was to add a Single Action Army revolver in the same chambering. The winner was the Uberti Cattleman Patron, which is a beautiful rendition of the 1873 Colt. With this pair of weapons, I am well-equipped for a lot of eventualities in a survival situation, from hunting, to bear attack, to personal defense against two-legged predators. Lever guns are still a quick handling and practical defensive arm, and with a (good) bit of practice the SSA is an adequate defensive handgun. I shy away from recommending the single action as a primary handgun in most situations, but its rugged durability, simplicity and dependability makes it a reasonable choice for wilderness scenarios where high volume firefights are less likely than hungry mountain lions. A full cartridge belt and a couple of spare 50-round boxes of shells in the bottom of my pack or saddle bags is a lot of shooting with these guns, for a relatively low weight and volume.
If You Want More Modern Guns
But what if you aren’t ready to go all Cowboy Retro? The good news is that there are some great choices for paired pistol/carbine combos in modern configurations. These combos often have the added bonus of magazine compatibility which offers a savings both in space and capital outlay when you are gearing up.
I have said it before and here it goes again — I am an unapologetic fan of Hi-Point’s guns. I have seen all the negative posts, and while I don’t discount them I have to say that I have two of their 9mm pistols and one TS9 carbine, and as long as I feed them +P ammo in new brass I have found them flawless through thousands of rounds. I have had a few failure to feeds with less expensive ammo in once fired brass, but this isn’t the ammo I would bring to a gunfight anyway.
I like the Hi-Point carbine a lot. For starters, it is quite inexpensive. It is also American made and sports a lifetime warranty. It is eerily accurate. Best of all, the magazines from the carbine function flawlessly in Hi-Point pistols of the same caliber. In practical terms, aside from the saved expense of buying a bunch of magazines of two different types, what this means is that if I am in a hairy spot and my carbine becomes non-functional I can fight on with the pistol and reload from the same pouches. This is a good deal; it means that if the long gun goes down all those magazines have not been converted to useless anchors.
If you are a Glock guy, and have caught the pistol caliber carbine bug you should take a serious look at the Kel-Tec Sub-2000 series. Although not as inexpensive as the Hi-Points, these are a fairly economical alternative. They are made in 9mm as well as .40 S&W, which are both practical and ubiquitous defensive handgun calibers. The 9mm Sub-2000 can be configured for use with Glock 17, Glock 19, S&W 59, Beretta 92 (M9) or Sig 226 magazines. The .40 S&W Sub-2000 can be configured to use Glock 22, Glock 23, Beretta 96, S&W 4006, or SIG 226 magazines. If you currently own any of these handguns, or are considering them, the addition of a Sub-2000 is eminently practical in both ammunition and magazine compatibility conferring all the advantages previously discussed.
The Sub-2000 series has developed a solid reputation as a very reliable and accurate weapon. Kel-Tec has taken the concept a step further and made these little carbines foldable. This feature makes them a great trunk gun, and they can even be concealed or stored in your bug-out bag or backpack. This keeps your weapon out of sight until conditions warrant having it at the ready. This is an awesome feature in my book.
Beretta has also entered a horse in this race, the CX4 carbine. This is the priciest of the carbines discussed here, but it is also the most aesthetically pleasing. Disclaimer: Aesthetically pleasing is the last concern where any tactical weapon is concerned, but let’s faces it; cool is cool and sharp is sharp! Fortunately, the CX4 has shown itself to have all the quality and reliability that we have come to expect from Beretta .The CX4 also comes in both 9mm and .40 S&W, and it is adaptable to accept any full-size Beretta PX4, 90-series or 8000 series magazines using optional adapters. This could make the weapon even more magazine-versatile, but you have to have the right adapters. I think if I were to acquire this weapon I would make it a point to have every adapter made.
These are just a few of the options available in pistol caliber carbines, and there are a lot more out there including those (like the old Marlin Camp carbine and some past and current offerings by Ruger) that afford many of the same benefits in a more “sporting” and less paramilitary configuration. I am a firm believer in this concept, in that it gives you more bang for your ammunition buck and more mileage from your magazines. This is definitely an option that should be explored.
What tips would you add for pairing rifles and pistols in the same caliber? Tell us in the comments section below.