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Today’s gun market has an almost endless list of handgun and rifle options, each featuring a wide selection of calibers, parts, accessories, and other customization options. If you are an experienced gun owner, you may already own one or multiple firearms in each category.

However, a third option, standing between traditional rifles and handguns, has become highly popular among American shooters: the Pistol-Caliber Carbine (PCC). In fact, the PCC chambered in 9x19mm is the world’s most popular pistol cartridge.

Learn more about what makes the 9mm carbine a great firearm and the best models available.


A Pistol-Caliber Carbine (PCC) is a long gun chambered in a cartridge primarily intended for, or associated with, handguns. Although the term “pistol-caliber carbine” usually refers to modern interpretations, firearms fulfilling the same purpose as modern PCCs have existed almost as long as handguns.

The purpose of a pistol-caliber carbine is to offer rifle-like controls and ergonomics like the stock and forend and compatibility with a cartridge designed for a handgun. PCCs often feature longer barrels and sight radiuses than handguns, resulting in a firearm that is easier to aim accurately, has better range, and generates less recoil than a handgun.

History of the Pistol Caliber Carbine

Different firearms have entered the definition of what we understand to be a pistol-caliber carbine today, with each concept influencing modern-day versions.


One of the first historical firearms that could be considered a PCC is the Winchester Model 1873 lever-action rifle.

One of the selling points of the Model 1873 was its availability in multiple cartridges that the Colt Single-Action Army was also available in, such as .44-40 WCF, .38-40 WCF, and .32-20 WCF. In particular, the .44-40 version led to the Model 1873 gaining its nickname: “The Gun that Won the West.”

This compatibility allowed a shooter of the era to arm themselves with a reliable Winchester rifle and a Colt revolver without requiring them to carry two different kinds of ammunition. The same cartridges could be chambered in the rifle or the revolver, saving money and streamlining logistics.

Today, multiple manufacturers such as Marlin, Henry, and Rossi offer modern interpretations of this concept using common revolver cartridges. It is possible to find lever-action rifles chambered in .357 Magnum/.38 Special, .44 Magnum/.44 Special, .454 Casull/.45 Colt, and more.


Around the turn of the 20th century, handguns such as the Mauser C96 and the Luger P08 were available in shoulder-stocked configurations or could be easily modified to accept a shoulder stock.

Although still effectively pistols in terms of performance and ergonomics, the addition of a shoulder stock helped the shooter stabilize the sights and shoot more accurately, effectively creating a carbine out of a pistol.

Some models took advantage of the extra accuracy by pairing the shoulder stock with a longer barrel. The extra barrel length increased the muzzle velocity and made the firearm more similar to a rifle. Historical examples include the Luger LP08 Artillery and the Mauser C96 Kavallerie Karabiner (Cavalry Carbine).

More modern takes were often machine pistols fitted with stocks, allowing the shooter to control the firearm more effectively when set to burst mode (e.g., Beretta 93R) or full-auto mode (e.g., Stechkin APS, OTs-33 Pernach). Even the Glock pistol has a full-auto version (the Glock 18) that can be fitted with numerous aftermarket stocks, keeping the original pistol carbine concept alive.

The Submachine Gun

The concept of the submachine gun was based on many of the principles introduced by the MP18: a long gun (requires two hands to use) chambered in a pistol cartridge, shorter than a full-sized rifle, and featuring a fully-automatic mode for maximum effectiveness in close quarters.

Virtually all of the world’s most popular submachine guns follow this template. Famous examples during World War 2 include the Thompson, the M3 Grease Gun, the MP40, the Sten, the PPSh-41, the Beretta Model 1938, and the KP/31.

Post-WW2 examples further refined the concept, resulting in what many shooters consider among the world’s finest SMGs: the Heckler & Koch MP5, the Uzi, the Beretta PM12, the MAC-10, and the Skorpion.

Modern, post-cold war examples include the B+T MP9, the Heckler & Koch UMP, the CZ Scorpion EVO, and the Kalashnikov-derived PP-19 Bizon and PP-19-01 Vityaz. Arguably, the entire Personal Defense Weapons (PDW) category, such as the FN P90 or the H&K MP7, traces its lineage from the submachine gun.

Modern PCC'S

The pistol-caliber carbine, as we currently understand it, is a category of firearms that mainly exists in the civilian realm, primarily due to legal reasons.

In the United States, any firearm with a stock and a barrel length under 16 inches is regulated under the National Firearms Act as a Short-Barreled Rifle (SBR). And any firearm capable of fully-automatic or burst fire modes is legally considered a Machine Gun.

These regulations virtually eliminate every submachine gun and pistol carbine from legal ownership, barring significant expense and paperwork. Consequently, modern PCCs are semi-automatic, pistol-caliber firearms reminiscent of submachine guns but do not possess highly-regulated features, keeping them accessible and affordable to the average shooter.

Modern PCCs often feature a 16-inch barrel (the legal minimum for non-SBR rifles) and ergonomics reminiscent of modern rifles (e.g., AR-15-style controls, adjustable stock, etc.). They are not only chambered in typical pistol cartridges but many models are also designed around commonly-available handgun magazines (e.g., Glock mags).

The modern PCC offers a modern interpretation of the historical pistol-caliber lever-action rifle, allowing shooters to use the same ammunition and sometimes magazines in both the handgun and the rifle.

Due to its affordability and ubiquity in modern handguns, the most common chambering for modern-day PCCs is 9x19mm. Although alternative chamberings are available (e.g., .40 S&W, .357 SIG, .45 ACP, 10mm Auto), there are far more 9mm products than anything else in this product category.


If you’re wondering what makes a pistol-caliber carbine worth getting, here are some reasons why shooters enjoy owning theirs.


Not all rifle cartridges shoot as softly as 5.56mm, and virtually none of them generate as little recoil as 9x19mm and equivalent pistol calibers. This factor makes them easy to shoot and control, even when firing rapidly.

Therefore, a pistol-caliber carbine is ideal for shooters looking to graduate from a .22 LR rifle but aren’t yet ready for a traditional rifle or carbine. It is also a safer and easier to control alternative to a 9mm handgun for beginners.


Opting for a 9mm carbine will cost significantly less per shot than a traditional carbine or rifle chambered in typical cartridges, such as .223, 5.56mm, or 7.62x39mm.

Consequently, a PCC is a great way to shoot a carbine with modern controls, ergonomics, and compatibility with commonly available attachments and accessories without breaking the bank.


If one or multiple of your defense firearms are handguns, a pistol-caliber carbine can use the same high-quality self-defense ammunition, offering increased performance and ease of use without the risks associated with high-velocity rifle projectiles like overpenetration or fragmenting after passing through a wall.

If you need more stability and accuracy than a handgun for home defense but don’t want to commit to using a traditional rifle, the PCC offers the ideal selection of characteristics and advantages you need.


A PCC generates less noise than a rifle-caliber platform using the same barrel length for two reasons: pistol cartridges generate less maximum pressure than rifle cartridges and don’t require barrels as long to burn the entirety of the powder.


If you already own a 9mm pistol, buying a 9mm PCC is a sensible choice, as it allows you to use the same cartridges in both firearms. The carbine’s longer barrel will enhance the performance of your preferred ammunition, delivering more muzzle velocity and, in turn, terminal effectiveness.

Depending on your chosen carbine model, your PCC may even accept the same magazines as your pistol, simplifying your logistics and saving you money. For example, you can use the magazines you carry in your concealed-carrying setup in either the pistol or the carbine.

-The above article was taken from The remainder of this is written by Kelly Flanagan/CEO of PSG Security Academy, LLC.

The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is my choice for a pistol caliber carbine and it not only takes 9mm ammunition but it also feeds them from my Glock pistol mags. The grip fits the 15 round, 17 round and 33 round OEM magazines made by Glock and also the less expensive but reliable aftermarket magazines made by Magpul, ETS and the KCI and Kahn magazines manufactured in South Korea. Having to only carry one type of magazine that fits both of my guns is a win/win scenario and that's why I've always loved the Glock brand. We were taught commonality and standardization in the military and I try to instill that in all of my students.

One of the great things about the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is the ability of it to fold it in half, making it a great "truck gun" or "backpack" rifle while out hiking. The 9mm round in a 16" barrel which gives it the muzzle velocity of a .357 Magnum. When you bump into that Grizzly on your hike, don't you want something with the knockdown power of a .357 but with 33rds in the magazine instead of just six in your cylinder?

I have owned the 1st and 2nd generations of the Sub 2000 and I will now be upgrading to the 3rd generation which comes without the crappy built-in iron sites but now comes with a rotating front rail that you can mount an optic to. It swivels 90-degrees so you don't have to remove it every time you want to fold it up, which could make you lose your zero, a problem with the older generations

At a price point under $400, the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is my choice as the #1 pistol carbine on the market today. Are there better guns, tasked for this purpose. Well hell yeah there are but those cost $1500 and up so why break the bank on something that isn't meant to replace your AR-15. It's just a little concealable gun with much better range than your pistol... until you can get to your higher powered battle rifle.

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Good information! Thanks, Kelly!

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