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Best Short Rifles & Rifle Caliber Pistols: Small Guns, Big Power

Who doesn't love a short gun with some big boom? We walk you through some of our favorite compact rifles perfect for CQB and home defense.

The firearm world works in trends, and these trends affect each category of firearms differently.

Concealed carry pistols are all about the micro compact class, shotguns are leaning towards gas-operated semi-autos, and rifles…well, rifles are getting short.

CMMG Banshee MK47 Shooting
CMMG Banshee MK47

When I say short, I don’t just mean your standard carbine, and hell, even your typical short-barreled rifle. Nah, man, we are going short — with barrels 10 inches or shorter. These make up a class of firearms I call the shorties.

Shorties use rifle calibers, or well, mostly rifle calibers. (They certainly don’t use pistol calibers.)

Popular Rifle Calibers, Part I
Popular Rifle Calibers

These shorties can be short-barreled rifles or braced rifle caliber pistols. Heck, they don’t even really need a brace to make the list. Although, braces make them much easier to handle.

So, let’s dive into what a shorty is and some of the best ones we recommend. Keep reading!

Summary of Our Top Picks

  1. Best High End Option

    Q Honey Badger

    Nice build, reliable, but a little pricey

  2. Pistol or Rifle Option

    Sig Sauer MCX Rattler

    Built on MCX platform, comes as either a rifle or pistol

  3. CMMG Banshee MK47

    Uses AK mags, so it's easy to stock up on spare mags, but has ergos of AR-15

  4. Budget Pick

    Diamondback DBX

    More affordable and offers a lightweight, compact design

  5. Best Bolt-Action

    Christensen Arms Modern Precision Pistols

    Carbon fiber barrel makes it lightweight and accurate

  6. Best AK Style

    IWI Galil ACE Gen 2

    Modernizes AK style for an up-to-date, shorty

  7. Best for CQB

    Maxim Defense PDX

    Super small and lightweight

  8. Best Modular PDW

    CZ Bren 2 MS Carbine

    Accepts AR receiver extensions so lots of brace options, SCAR-like PDW

Table of Contents

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Why Shorties?

Short rifles and rifle caliber pistols provide a compact and uber short platform.

They can be ballistically neutered depending on the caliber compared to a standard rifle. However, they aren’t designed for long-range shooting or even moderate-range shooting.

Galil ACE Gen 2 Shooting
Galil ACE Gen 2

These shorties excel at close quarters combat and home defense. They provide the power of a rifle in a platform roughly the size of an SMG.

Even when ballistically neutered, rifles offer more velocity, penetration, and power than a pistol caliber. They often work best when paired with a suppressor.

Plus, they are just fun!

Best Short Rifles

1. Q Honey Badger

Q’s Honey Badger provides us with one of the highest quality shorties on the market.

It’s available as a braced pistol and SBR and sports a 7-inch barrel. From the ground up, the Honey Badger is designed to function with a can and utilize the silencer-friendly .300 BLK load.

Q Honey Badger in 300 BLK
Q Honey Badger in .300 BLK

To keep things short, Q utilizes a short two-position brace or stock that allows for a very short and compact package when everything is collapsed.

At only 4 pounds and 8 ounces, the Q comes in as a super lightweight fighter. Not bad for a true rifle caliber weapon.

Best High End Option
2400
at Primary Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

The Honey Badger utilizes an adjustable gas block to tun the gun for super or subsonic loads, and you can use it with or without a suppressor.

It’s topped off with an amazing trigger, an M-LOK handguard, and Q’s own Cherry Bomb muzzle device compatible with Q suppressors.

2. Sig Sauer Rattler

The MCX utilizes a short-stroke gas piston design, making the gun extremely reliable with the shortest barrels.

As such, a weapon like the Rattler was bound to come out. This short little gun sports a 5.5-inch barrel and comes in both 5.56 and .300 BLK.

Sig Sauer MCX Rattler PCB

5.56 seems obnoxious out of a 5.5-inch barrel, and you’ll see a lot of ballistic neutering with such a short barrel. You’ll most certainly want to pair it with a can. .300 BLK makes way more sense in this weapon since it’s made for a shorter barrel.

The pistol version

Either way, the Sig Rattler provides a compact platform that comes as a pistol or rifle.

Without a receiver extension, the stock or brace can collapse or fold without affecting weapon function. A folding stock provides an even shorter shorty that weighs only 5.1 pounds.

Sig trimmed corners, reduced the grip, minimized the stock and brace options, and drove the Rattler down in size, and I greatly appreciate it.

Pistol or Rifle Option
2699
at Kygunco

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Want more deets? Head to our Rattler review for more info!

3. CMMG Mk47 Banshee

Do you want an AR-15 in 7.62×39 but don’t want to deal with the weird magazines? Well, CMMG has you covered with the Mk47.

CMMG Banshee MK47 Left Side
CMMG Banshee MK47 Left Side

Instead of using odd, expensive, and weird-looking magazines, the Mk47 utilizes AK magazines through a proprietary lower receiver. AK mags are everywhere and are superbly cheap.

CMMG Banshee MK47 Front End
CMMG Banshee MK47

You lose your LRBHO and gain a paddle-style mag release, but other than that, it’s all AR-15.

We got an M-LOK handguard, flat top upper, brace, stock compatibility, and safety, pistol grip, and trigger.

1375
at Kygunco

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

7.62×39 does a great job from short barrels and remains pretty effective from the 8-inch Banshee barrel.

Oh, and Banshee makes a lot of sense as a name when you shoot this thing and hear the wail it creates!

Johnny B took the Banshee for a whirl, get his thoughts in the review or video below.

4. Diamondback DBX

When you want to go super short and super lightweight, then the Diamondback DBX is for you.

Does the 5.7x28m qualify as a rifle round? Well, maybe not, but it’s not a pistol round either! The DBX uses the 5.7x28mm and weighs a mere 3 pounds unloaded.

Diamondback DBX (Photo: TTAG)

The DBX brings you an incredibly lightweight platform using a round that’s flat to 150 yards.

Diamondback went with the FN Five-SeveN magazines, so you get 20 to 30 rounds of the handy little 5.7 round. A rear 1913 rail makes adding a brace easy, and you can fire the weapon with the brace folded.

Budget Pick
1073
at Kygunco

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

This shorty gives you a super short platform with an 8-inch barrel without all the flash and concussion that most short barrels with rifle calibers emit.

Its design makes it super short and very easy to use, especially from a defensive perspective.

5. Christensen Arms Modern Precision Pistols

Let’s slow it down, ladies and gentlemen. Drop your semi-auto actions and grip your bolt handles because the Christensen Arms Modern Precision Pistol gives you a super shorty in a bolt-action format.

The MPP comes in numerous calibers, but the .300 BLK is the only one that qualifies as a shorty with its 7.5-inch barrel.

Obviously, you can brace the pistol and easily add a bipod to drive the precision upward. At the MPP’s core sits a Remington 700 action fitted with an AICS magazine and billet aluminum pistol chassis. It’s all about being short but accurate.

The carbon fiber barrel keeps things light and ultra-accurate. Plus, the action is so damn smooth and nice it’s tough to hate.

Best Bolt-Action
2297
at Kygunco

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

With this sweet little bolt action shorty, you’ll have no issues putting .300 BLK rounds down range at impressive distances.

6. IWI Galil Ace Gen 2

The IWI Galil Ace Gen 2 delivers three caliber options with its 8.3-inch barreled model.

Shooters can pick from 5.56, 7.62×39, and 5.45×39. Of those three, I’m saying go with 5.45 for the cool factor, but if you plan to shoot it a ton, then go with 7.62×39 for the affordability.

Galil ACE Gen 2
Galil ACE Gen 2

5.45 will deliver less recoil and more control in the shorter platform, but both do well with shorter barrels ballistically.

The Galil takes the AK and modernizes and refines it so much it’s arguably an entirely different platform. This includes ergonomics enhancements that are to die for.

Galil ACE Gen 2 Shooting
Galil ACE Gen 2 Shooting

Forget the AK safety, give me the Galil design and the Galil’s left side charging handle, and did I even mention the superior optic rail that makes adding red dots a breeze?

AKs are excellent, but Galil is objectively better. Plus, they use standard AK mags, which makes it easy to keep up a stash of cheap mags.

Best AK Style
1748
at Kygunco

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Check out our full video review below or read the review!

7. Maxim Defense PDX

The Maxim Defense PDX offers shooters an AR platform that’s super short, super light, and quite sweet from front to rear.

The gun comes in 5.56, .300 BLK, and 7.62×39. Of these three, I’d likely go with .300 BLK for efficiency but 7.62×39 for cheap ammo.

Either way, you get a 5.5-inch barrel topped with the HATEBRAKE! I have to yell because without it and some hearing protection, you’d be deafened quite quickly.

The HATEBRAKE reduces recoil while functioning as a linear compensator, directing noise, flash, and concussion away from the shooter. It’s pretty handy on the uber short barrel.

Best for CQB
2065
at Guns.com

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

At the back, we have Maxim Defense’s own CQB brace, an ultra-short PDW type that keeps the platform short at 18.7 inches overall.

Plus, at only 5.5 pounds, the gun keeps things light.

8. CZ Bren 2 MS Pistol

I want FN to release the SCAR PDW to the civilian market as a pistol, but they won’t, so instead, we turn to CZ.

The Bren MS Pistol gives you the short-stroke gas piston system with 5.56 and 7.62x39mm options. With 8- and 9-inch barreled variants, these qualify as a shorty, and as such, either caliber will work…but I’d prefer the 7.62×39.

CZ Bren 2 MS Carbine
CZ Bren 2 MS Carbine

However, I’d probably purchase the 5.56 variant since we get to utilize more common AR-15 magazines instead of the proprietary CZ 7.62x39mm magazines.

The Bren readily accepts AR receiver extensions for plenty of brace options and provides a modern modular rifle for the end-user.

Best Modular PDW
1789
at Kygunco

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Its ambi ergonomics are outstanding, the charging handle doesn’t reciprocate, and the weapon is ready for all the modern optics, lights, and accessories you could ever want.

The Bren 2 MS provides me with the SCAR style PDW that FN just won’t sell.

Downsides to Short Rifles

There are downsides to these short rifles.

Obviously, recoil, muzzle flash, and concussion will be significantly increased. These guns are not pleasant indoors, and sadly that’s where they excel.

CMMG Banshee MK47 Beast
Peep that muzzle flash.

They work best with a can for these situations, but getting a suppressor isn’t easy or cheap.

You also lose a lot of range and ballistic performance with these super short barrels. Some calibers do better than others, and the .300 BLK does the best from short barrels.

.300 BLK vs 7.62x39mm
.300 BLK vs 7.62x39mm

The Russian rifle calibers tend to work well, but 5.56 suffers fiercely.

Final Thoughts

Shorties are niche rifle caliber weapons that excel in just a few situations. One of those is the fun factor!

As an average dude, a carbine might serve me well in every conceivable situation, but a shorty is oh so much fun!

Galil ACE Gen 2 Folded
Galil ACE Gen 2 Folded

What’s your favorite shorty? Let me know in the comments below. Not into rifle calibers or maybe you want to add a 9mm to your stash…check out the Best Pistol Caliber Carbines for inspiration!

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9 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Tom Adger

    I have an Adams Arms P2 pistol, in .300 Blackout. 8" barrel, piston gas system. I love it! Should be on the list.

    August 7, 2022 7:31 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Rob Ghisletta

    The Freedom Ordinance, FX-9 chambered in 9 mm really needs to be added to this list.. It is the most fun I have had with my pants on in a long time. A sweet shooting little gal.

    August 3, 2022 8:01 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    B5 Blue

    I have PSA 300BLK AR's 8.5 and 7" barrels along with 5.56 in 10.5 and 8.0 length. Fun to shoot,easier to carry.

    August 3, 2022 5:19 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Jim in Texas

    Watch-out: ATF is considering making all "pistols" with a pistol control brace (PCB) as short-barreled rifles that would require that they be registered under the NFA, so it's mandatory gun registration + $200 tax. They have issued the notice of proposed rulemaking, decision due in Aug 2022.

    August 3, 2022 4:49 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Gene

    My vote would be for an AR style pistol w/brace, ~8-11" barrel firing .45 Super, which should be about ~1,100 fps and 600 ft/lbs energy out of a 5" barrel. 8-11" depending on powder would push the bullet 1,200+ depending on powder burn speed among other things. Energy woul be 800+.

    August 2, 2022 8:42 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Angel

    I'd take my 6.8 LWRC PDW over any of those.

    August 2, 2022 7:48 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Douglas L Dicketts

    Why not mention the elephant in the room..... Bullpups

    August 2, 2022 7:30 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    John

    Where is the callout for the Daniel Defense DDM4-PDW in 300 blackout?

    August 2, 2022 4:05 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Jo Nathan

    Should throw the Zastava ZPAP85 Alpha into the mix...AK pistol with a 10" barrel in 5.56 with a 1913 rail on top and back for a plethora of optics and braces. Just picked one up, and it's good to about 150yrds on 62gr ammo with it's 1:7 twist rate. Built like a tank, chews brass and steel, accurate enough, all for around a grand.

    August 1, 2022 12:25 am
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