One topic among shooters that generates a lot of disagreement is the pros and cons of pistol caliber carbines (PCCs). I previously owned a Marlin Camp Carbine in .45 ACP, have a couple of leverguns in handgun cartridges, and I recently picked up a TNW Firearms M-31SA Suomi in 9x19 and a Beretta CX-4 Storm 9x19, so this is something I’ve been pondering.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll mainly discuss PCCs chambered for 9x19, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, and .44 Magnum. Certainly there are other PCC rounds like .45 Colt, but they are less common. Also, it is a mistake to class the M1 Carbine as a PCC. The .30 Carbine round was developed for the Carbine. Handguns chambered for it became available decades later.
I’d like to look at the con first, and in my opinion there really is only one.
PCCs have the bulk, length, and weight of a rifle, but fire handgun cartridges. If you’re toting a rifle sized package, why not have rifle ballistics? This isn’t an idle concern. True rifle cartridges offer better terminal ballistics against game and people, and rounds like .308 or 7.62x39 offer greatly improved penetration against cover.
On the other hand, PCCs have several potential pros for modern American shooters:
- Ammunition that can be shared with your handgun, simplifying logistics.
- Depending on the model, magazines that can be shared with your pistol. E.g., Kel-Tec makes a Sub 2000 which takes Glock magazines, and the Beretta Storm takes Beretta pistol magazines.
- With autopistol cartridges, PCCs offer slightly improved performance, along with much reduced noise and blast, and low recoil. This is a big deal with inexperienced shooters, IMHO.
- With magnum revolver cartridges, PCCs offer significantly increased performance, again with reduced noise and blast. The recoil of a .357 Magnum carbine isn’t bad, but the .44 Magnum still has significant recoil from a carbine.
- Many indoor ranges allow shooting PCCs but forbid shooting rifle cartridges. This makes PCCs more valuable to shooters who don’t have access to an outdoor range. This is increasingly common among urban and suburban shooters.
- Semiauto PCCs chambered for autopistol cartridges typically employ a straight blowback design, which is very simple and easy to maintain. Lever actions chambered for magnum revolver rounds are more complex, however.
- Some of the semiatuo PCCs have very innovative, useful designs. For example, the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 folds in half, while the TNW Aero Survival Rifle easily takes down. Either can be carried and stowed in something like an old laptop briefcase.
- Despite the ballistic advantages of true rifle caliber carbines, PCCs are plenty effective for self- defense, as demonstrated by this case of a Detroit mother who defended her home and family with a Hi Point PCC. And let’s face it, this kind of use is going to be a lot more common than any SHTF scenario.
Some of the PCCs currently on the US market include:
- Beretta CX-4 Storm
- Kel-Tec Sub 2000
- TNW Aero Survival Rifle
- Just Right Carbine
- Rossi Model 92 lever actions
- Marlin 1894 lever actions
- Hi Point 995, 4095, and 4595
- Thureon Defense AR-like carbines
There have also been a number of PCCs which are semiauto-only clones of submachineguns, such as the TNW M-31SA Suomi, Sterlings, Uzis, AR-15s, and HK-94s.
Historically, one draw of carbines and handguns taking the same cartridge was simplified logistics when you were away from easy resupply. In the 21st Century this is less of a consideration. On the other hand, I can see the value of having to grab only one type of ammo if you’re in a bugout situation. Likewise, a carbine and a pistol that can share magazines simplifies logistics.
In my opinion, PCCs are worthy of consideration by preppers looking to add a rifle to their arsenal.