The pistol-caliber carbine (PCC) is becoming more prevalent, with shooters viewing it as a possible alternative for a self-defense long arm as opposed to the default shotgun or AR. Until recently, classic select-fire weapons modified for civilian ownership have typified the PCC category. This is accomplished by converting the submachine gun to fire semi-auto-only and by installing a 16-inch barrel. Examples include the Sterling, Uzi and 9mm AR. Yet another, albeit unorthodox, option for someone converting the ubiquitous Glock pistol is to do so with a stock chassis, such as the Mako KPOS. Consumer options are rounded out with specifically built PCCs such as the Kel-Tec Sub-2000, the MasterPiece Arms 9mm Side Cocking Carbine and the EMF JR carbine. The increasingly uncertain supply of ammo—coupled with rising prices especially for rifle calibers—makes a semi-auto PCC a viable option. My caliber of choice for a PCC is the 9mm, for its increased magazine capacity and the preponderance of reasonably priced ammunition.

Some will question the utility of employing a pistol cartridge in a shoulder-fired weapon. I would counter that most engagements happen well within a 100-yard range, especially in civilian settings, with handling and reliability playing more of a factor in quick, reactive engagements than specific calibers do. Also, less-experienced shooters will find the lower recoil impulse and muzzle blast of a pistol caliber fired from the shoulder easier to manage, which often translates to better accuracy.

Why the Nine?

A carbine chambered for 9mm is a much more potent package than any handgun is. The advantage comes from the PCC’s superior accuracy. A carbine has multiple points of contact when interfaced with the shooter: at the shoulder and cheek, with hands spread further apart than when on a handgun for more stability. And the difference in muzzle blast between a 9mm carbine and a rifle becomes even more pronounced in confined spaces.

Additionally, many more 9mm than rifle rounds can be carried in a small space—two slim, standard-capacity, 9mm magazines fit into the same area as one M16/AR-15 magazine. Also consider that the semi-auto PCC is lighter than its 16-inch rifle brethren, and that the 9mm costs less than rifle cartridges. Also, you can shoot a 9mm at training courses and indoor ranges where rifles are usually forbidden.

A 9mm carbine can be used with steel-plate targets without having to resort to specialty frangible rifle loads. And don’t forget the old standard touting the advantage of having both a carbine and handgun chambered in the same caliber. A carbine and handgun that can accept the same magazine is a real bonus.

As mentioned above, numerous weapon styles fall into the PCC category. One of these is the 9mm, AR-type Rock River Arms LAR-9, the latest twist on what Colt started in the early 1980s with its fourth-generation, 9mm Model 635 submachine gun. The Model 635 is patterned off the M16/AR, firing from a closed bolt and including similar sights, operating controls and trigger. The Colt 9mm utilized a blowback operation rather than the M16/AR-15’s direct-impingement gas system. The RRA LAR-9 carbine follows in the M635’s footsteps and operates with Colt or modified Uzi magazines.

A major advantage of the 9mm AR is its similarity to the standard AR. (Proofing magazines for the former is a must to ensure reliable operation.) The LAR-9 can be had as a short-barreled rifle or with a 16-inch barrel. Another manufacturer that’s making a name for itself with 9mm ARs is American Spirit Arms.

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