From the reliable and dated lever action rifle, to the highly modular, polymer laden modern examples, pistol caliber carbines have been a part of the working man’s life since the settling of the American West. From merely sharing ammunition with the sidearm of the day, to sharing magazines and accessories, the pistol caliber carbine (PCC) has come a long way since the time of lever action rifles. There are many variations in style to suit one’s preference or intended use, but most can bring value, utility, and fun to a wide variety of tasks and shooters. Why would you want to use a rifle in a handgun cartridge, one might ask? While almost all handgun ammunition is considered under-powered compared to an intermediate or full power rifle cartridge, there are quite a few benefits that can be had by stepping up, or down, to a PCC.
To begin with, this style of firearm can be made lighter and simpler, due to the low strain handgun cartridges put on materials. While traditional rifles commonly weigh upwards of six pounds bare, many PCCs can be had that weigh under five pounds loaded, with sights equipped. My two personal examples, the KelTec Sub2000 and CMMG Banshee, weigh 4.25 and 4.9 pounds respectively. This, combined with relatively low recoil, results in a handy, easy to carry platform that does exceptionally well with new or inexperienced users, or those who may be smaller in stature. The additional point of contact inherent to switching from handgun to long gun also lends an ease of accuracy that, while not unique to this concept, is compounded by the low recoil and works to increase the practical accuracy for many different disciplines of shooting.
Another advantage held by PCCs over handguns is the velocity gained by lengthening the barrel. 357 magnum is one of the best and earliest pistol cartridges to gain a favorable reputation in rifles, in some cases benefiting from gains of almost 1000 feet per second of velocity, and 400 to 600 foot pounds of energy. As a general rule, lighter bullets tend to gain more velocity by increasing barrel length, and that information should guide your ammunition choice for a PCC to get the most out of every inch. I’ve included a table below with a few examples of the potential velocity increase in a longer barreled format.
|Federal 115gr JHP||1150||1300|
|Gold Dot 124gr JHP||1250||1400|
|HydraShok 147gr JHP||960||1080|
(Data collected from Ballistics By the Inch)
Its clear from these examples that the velocity is higher with a longer barrel, but what might not be obvious is the benefits gained in 16” 9mm barrels:
- Increased expansion in rounds that might otherwise be less effective
- Better energy at further ranges, and less elevation adjustments
- More barrier penetration with non expanding projectiles
These benefits, along with the low cost and recoil of 9mm ammunition, have the potential to make you and your 9mm PCC a reasonably effective combo, so long as you take advantage of it’s characteristics to train more. That shouldn’t be an issue, as my pistol caliber carbines are the most enjoyable of my collection, and the first rifle I think of when I consider teaching a new shooter.
By James Boone