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Pistol Caliber Carbines: Why the Rise in Popularity?

Pistol caliber carbines are really having a moment right now in the gun world, and honestly, we love to see it.

Aero Precision EPC Full Build
Aero Precision EPC Full Build

These firearms sport a lot of upsides. Personally, we love how accessible they are in terms of both cost and usability.

But where did this surge in interest in PCCs come from, and what sets these guns apart from regular ole rifles?

Ruger PC Charger in hand
Ruger PC Charger

We’re going to dive into the PCC world, look at their popularity, as well as their growing presence in the competition scene.

Table of Contents

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A Little PCC Backstory

A pistol caliber carbine is a carbine-length gun chambered in 9mm, 10mm, and .45 ACP.

Most of them utilize direct blowback and accept mags that also work with common pistols — Glock, Ruger SR9, M&P mags, etc.

Now, as for where they came from, that’s a little more complicated.

Foxtrot Mike FM9B Glock Mags
Glock Mags

Arguably, you can draw some direct parallels between the modern pistol caliber carbines and the carbines of the late 19th century.

It made a lot of sense to have a long gun and a handgun that used the same caliber back before the West was won.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show

This ammo compatibility between your long gun and your sidearm is great when walking or riding long distances with your ammo.

This holds today when it comes to defensive options.

The idea of a carbine that takes the same ammo and mags as the handgun you’re carrying offers some obvious appeal — especially if you build a “defense in depth” system. (Using your pistol to get a long gun in a vehicle or another room of your house.)

9mm Steel Cased Ammo
One round to rule them all…

Logistically, being able to swap mags back and forth just makes sense.

Pistol Caliber Carbines in Modern Era

Moving out of the Wild West, we saw interest in PCCs from police.

Again, under the same thinking, law enforcement wanted the same magazine and ammo compatibility between the sidearm on their hip and the long gun in their patrol vehicle.

This led to the development of things like the Ruger Police Carbine to go along with the Ruger P-series handguns.

Ruger PC-9 Carbine (AmmoLand)
Ruger PC-9 Carbine (Photo: AmmoLand)

Further spurring interest in pistol caliber carbines has been the popularity of submachine guns in military and police use and popular culture.

Bruce Willis did an awful lot of marketing for H&K every time he slapped the charging handle on that MP5 in the first Die Hard film.

Die Hard MRP5
Iconic

That was followed by a new wave of tactical first-person shooter video games like Call of Duty and Battlefield.

With millions of players, these games cemented the “looks like a rifle but shoots 9mm” style as fixtures in the minds of many young gun enthusiasts.

17. Faxon Bantam Glock Magazines
Faxon Bantam

While PCCs and submachine guns are technically different, the idea of a short, carbine-length that doesn’t require a $200 tax stamp and a wait became even more appealing.

This leads us to today, where PCCs make brisk sales all across the country and even overseas.

The short and long of it is, 9mm is cheaper and more accessible than 5.56 NATO or .308 Win.

Taurus GX4 Mags with 9mm
9mm

Additionally, 9mm performance is still very effective out of an AR-style platform.

What about alternative PCC calibers?

The same goes for 10mm and .45 ACP.

These rounds are cheaper, great for training, and will still stop a threat in a defensive situation if needed.

10mm 1911 and ammo
10mm

And really, the appeal of the PCC hasn’t changed. Much like our cowboy kinfolk, having multiple platforms all running the same caliber makes life a whole lot easier and more efficient.

From defensive to recreational to even competition shooting, magazine compatibility and only worrying about one caliber proves advantageous.

Silencer Center Banish 45 PCC

Not to mention, these firearms serve as great training tools for new and experienced shooters alike. They’re often lightweight and easy to wield, offering a more beginner-friendly (a.k.a. less intimidating) platform.

And there’s practically no recoil with the carbine/9mm pairing. It’s a great stepping stone into larger ARs and bigger calibers. Perfect for learning the fundamentals!

KelTec Sub2000 Shooting
KelTec Sub-2000

All of these reasons combined led to most major firearms manufacturers churning out their own PCC variants.

Competition

And of course, like with 3-Gun a few years ago and PRS after that, whenever something catches on in the gun world, the big competition organizers notice.

PCC

3GunNation and USPSA offer PCC divisions now, thanks to the huge surge in interest in these guns. They’re some of the most packed divisions despite only being a few years old.

Want to get your hands on some competition-ready pistol caliber carbines? Check out our guide here.

Conclusion

Pistol caliber carbines aren’t really a new thing in the gun world, but they are certainly enjoying some newfound popularity and with good reason.

PSA 9mm PX-9
PSA 9mm PX-9

These awesome firearms are helping first-time shooters find their footing, and they’re making life a lot more fun for us experienced hands too.

What do you think of pistol caliber carbines? Just a trend, or something that’s here to stay? Let us know in the comments below! Ready to grab a PCC? Check out our suggestions for the Best Pistol Caliber Carbines: 9mm & Beyond.

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6 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    PewPewPapa

    Glock 19 + Ruger PC Charger is a great 9mm HD combo! Same mags, plus 33rd Happy Sticks make range day a lot of fun with the Charger. It stands at the ready with a 24rd Goldilocks-just-right size/capacity mag for the MBR quick-access safe. Love the way it shoots - great trigger and plenty accurate for HD.

    August 15, 2021 7:54 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    LazrBeam

    You left out .40 cal, Megan. Not only 9mm, 10mm, and .45 but .40, also. I have a Keltec Sub 2000 in .40 cal and takes Glock mags. It’s the companion to my Glock 23.

    August 12, 2021 8:34 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Andy

    I have an AR-15 with a Guntech magwell block and Colt style smg mags. This setup permits LRBHO for far cheaper than the Glock mag route.

    August 10, 2021 4:53 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    sound awake

    im not going to spend 1500 dollars or more on a ppc that i can shoulder and put a scope on but really only use out to 100 yards
    i have two 10.5 ar pistols one in 5.56 one in 7.62x39
    theyre both 10 inch steel capable and still lethal lethal lethal at 300 yards with a 2 moa red dot on top
    they both set me back only 750 each including the optic
    no possible alternate universe or reality exists where i would ever think that any handgun round would be better in those two platforms
    and .223 and 7.62x39 and 9mm tula are all basically the same price per round right now
    all my guns are for shtf
    they all got a job to do
    so for me...handgun rounds are for handguns

    August 10, 2021 1:24 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Silky Johnson

      $750 for an AR with an optic? From my experience, you get what you pay for and I wouldn’t trust that inexpensive setup for SHTF. Not everyone can afford fancy stuff, though. PCCs are fun, quieter and cheaper to shoot. I say try and collect as many guns as you can fit in your safe.

      August 10, 2021 5:38 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    John

    Darn it Megan! Now I want to build a PCC and make the money pit a little deeper

    thanks for the article :)

    August 10, 2021 11:01 am