[I should mention that we filmed heavily with many of the products Ive been talking about, and those videos will appear on SHOOTING GALLERY ONLINE over the next couple of months!]
This was, as I predicted, the Year of the Pistol Caliber Carbine. They were all over the place on the SHOT floor, and I don't think we were able to even scratch the surface. While there were a lot of "Me toos!," with many AR manufacturers rushing to get a pistol caliber product out the door, there were some interesting new products as well as substantial evolution from dedicated pistol caliber companies.
Let me start with the one pictured above, the new FightLite PCC, an extension of their subgun project for an overseas client. FightLite was originally known as Ares Defense, and they are responsible for a couple of really cool innovations, including the first (and I think only) successful belt-fed upper (and complete guns) for ARs. Gary Paul Johnson, the author of the standard reference text on assault rifles and a contributor to both DOWN RANGE and GUN STORIES WITH JOE MANTEGNA, has waxed poetic about this conversion. Another significant contribution from Ares was the SCR rifle, which we featured on DOWN RANGE last year. It brought the AR platform to a more standard rifle configuration for those benighted locations with ridiculous laws on "assault weapons."
I talked to Geoffrey Herring, the CEO of FightLite, about the new pistol caliber gun. The one FightLite had at the SHOW was a 9mm version feeding from Glock magazines. Note that this is NOT an AR platform gun — upper and lower are proprietary, designed from the ground up for modularity in caliber conversions and different magazine wells. Initial focus will be on .22LR and 9mm, with maybe a .40 S&W (but with that cartridge down for the count, I doubt that it's much of a priority). Geoff said that a 10mm and .45 ACP versions were a little farther out. Magazine offerings will include Glock, Beretta, CZ, S&W, Sig and Springfield. Geoff noted that because this was based on their SMG design for LEO/Military, they wanted to create a gun that was easily modified to fit whatever pistol magazines.
It's a side charger with the handle on the right, and, boy, is this thing light! They didn't have the exact weight, but it'll come in low. This is definitely one to watch. Geoff said both pistols and carbines will eventually be available, and the price he hinted at was sub-$1000.
Nordic Components and their new modular AR-based PCC (that's the 8.5-inch pistol version above). If you shoot competition, of course you're familiar with Nordic Components — shotgun magazine extension tubes, custom competition .22 rifles, AR parts and accessories. The magazine well is replaceable ($149 for each different magazine well) and right now offers Glock and M&P magwells, with more on the way.
These are relatively higher priced guns, in the $1500 range, and given Nordic's solid footing in the competition world I would expect to see their carbines on the line in USPSA PCC matches.
And speaking of competition-oriented PCCs, I spent some time with my good friend John Paul at JP Rifles going over the upgrades in the GMR-15 9mm PCC. As you know, I've had a GMR-13 for years, and it is a superbly accurate carbine — 1.5 MOA @ 100 yards with Wilson Combat Match 125-gr. The upgrades will definitely catch the attention of the competitor looking to give the Sig MPXs, which currently dominate the fledgling PCC division, a run for their money; they include a flared magazine well for easier reloading, an improved magazine release, bolt lock back on last round (more important to competitors than in the Real World, I would contend) and JP's excellent trigger.
John told me how he fought producing a 9mm carbine until he finally threw up his hands and told his talented staff to "go build one if you want to." The GMR has now become one of their best-selling products. I can't recommend this carbine enough. At $1700 it's not cheap, but JP has proven itself to be one of the great master riflemakers in the country. The GMR is available for either Glock or the plentiful Colt-style magazines.
You probably know War Sport from their top-of-the-line LVOA carbine and SBR, with their distinctive shock cord bungee wrapped handguard that extends to the front of the barrel with cutaways on the side for the BattleComp muzzle brake. This year they're rolling out a 9mm WS-9 pistol and a Honey Badger-styled collapsable stocked version of the SPR, both running off Glock magazines.
I wanted to visit War Sport because they represent the high end of the AR-based pistols.SBRs — enhanced triggers, superior finished, their own muzzle device, short throw safety lever Nitrided bolt, and their own barrels. No word on pricing yet.
You already know I'm a big fan of Angstadt Arms and their UDP pistol and carbine. After last year's SHOT Show I ordered a UDP-9 pistol with a Shockwave Brace from KAK (above photo), and I've been very happy with it. My plan is to SBR it later this year.
For this year Angstadt upped the ante by partnering with KGmade suppressors to produce an integrally suppressed 9mm carbine. They had a prototype at the show and think the MSRP is going to land in the $1600 range. A 9mm from a 16-inch barrel is already quiet, and an integrated suppressor should get it down into the "Pufft" range.
Everything about the Angstadt Arms pistols and carbines scream quality. I've only shot my pistol out to 25 yards with ARSCOR ball, but it grouped very well. Once I get it SBR'ed and have a proper stock, I'll run it out to 50 and 100 with match ammo and see what we get. I think this is a company at the right place at the right time!
As you know, my last build (for this season's SHOOTING GALLERY) was built off Quarter Circle 10 components (including an upper with a 5.5-inch barrel) along with the Dead Foot Arms folding system, shown above with my IWI X95 in 9mm for comparison. This one is going to stay a pistol, and I've been happy with the results. On SG, you'll see how the folded package fits easily in a 5.11 Covert Messenger Bag with room left over for a G26.
(Photo from AR15.com)
Obviously, if you're doing a PCC build, QC10 is the place to go for quality components. When I stopped by the boot they showed me the newest project, a 9mm lower for MP-5 magazines. You have to admit that the MP-5 lower looks darn cool, although the MP-5 magazines will put a dent in your wallet for sure!
I also got by TNW, largely by accident to se their Aero Survival pistols and carbines. As I mentioned before SHOT, these little pistol caliber carbines have garnered some excellent reviews (and here), and I wanted to see and handle them myself.
One thing that caught my attention is that the Aero Survival guns are available immediately in powerful 10mm…although there are many announced 10mm carbines/pistols, there are only a few on the market. I believe Olympic Arms has had 10mm as an option pretty much forever. A 10mm carbine makes an outstanding home defense carbine.
The Aero Survival carbine easily changes calibers by switching barrels, bolt heads and magazines. In fact, TNW offers multi-caliber packs in both the pistol and the rifle. From a prepper standpoint, the Aero Survival rifle (especially in the muti-caliber packs) would make an excellent secondary rifle — your primary being an AR platform gun, natch. Keep it it in your EDC pistol caliber with caliber change kits in the other common calibers. BTW, the backpack for the breakdown rifles is designed to carry plate armor sold separately, of course.
I'm thinking I may get one of these in 10mm and put it through its paces for SHOOTING GALLERY ONLINE.
That only scratches the surface, of course. Some things haven't changed — the Sig MPX absolutely rules the roost. The venerable Kel-Tec SUB-2000, available in 9mm or .40 S&W with magazines for multiple platforms and a low-ball price of $500, remains the first choice for a first pistol caliber carbine — if you can find one! GunBroker is your best bet. MP-5 clones are coming on hard…I did an earlier post that covered MP-5 clones, including the HK SP5K. I'll cover the RONI instant-SBR concepts in a different post (and I've talked about them on the podcast).
Here's the link on my parts list for my QC-10 build.
Here's my post on the advantages of a pistol caliber carbine for self-defense.
Couple of additional points, sort of related. I can't remember who I was talking to (sorry!), but he postulated that part of the rise of the 9mm carbine was that Gun Culture Ver. 2.0 essentially "came of age" in a period when .22 LR simply wasn't available. The vast majority of the new shooters came in through concealed carry, then purchased ARs during the Obama Nightmare Years. Sooner or later those shooters were looking to get more our of their carbines. If it had been a few years earlier, they might have gone to .22 ARs and near ARs (for example, the Ruger SR-22 that runs off 10/22 magazines). But with .22 not on the shelves (and the carbines being hellishly finicky on ammunition…the SPIKE'S/JP carbine we built up for SHOOTING GALLERY will run on one, count em, one type of ammo, CCI Tactical), the obvious choice was the 9mm carbines since Eastern European 9mm ammo never fully vanished from the market. As the price of .22 rose, 9mm became even more attractive. Makes sense to me.
Also sorta related, with M1 Carbines from both Auto Ordnance/Kahr and Inland Manufacturing now coming on line in big numbers, the fun-to-shoot M1 Carbine could be called a pistol caliber carbine. The .30 Carbine cartridge was aways a better cartridge than people gave it credit for, with a 110-gr bullet approaching 2000 fps, which easily tops the pistol caliber ballistics even out of the longer barrel of a carbine (Cor-Bon 115-gr +P is running a little more than 1500 fps from a 16-inch barrel, for instance; .357 Sig 110-gr @ 1768). The late Jim Cirillo and I talked a lot about the .30 Carbine, as he used a cut-down version while he was in the NYPD stake-out squad. It worked for him. I shot the new Inland "sniper" T-30 M1 Carbine at Media Day, and with the "vintage" 2.5X Hilux scope I was happily ringing 50 and 100 yard steel as fast as I could pull the trigger. Shooting an M1 Carbine is like eating popcorn…it's hard to stop!
I would love to shoot an M1 Carbine in USPSA's PCC division, but that's not to be (yet). I talked to USPSA President Mike Foley about this very issue the last day of SHOT, and he told me the .30 Carbine had been considered as a pistol caliber cartridge for the division (there have been .30 Carbine revolvers and semiauto pistols, after all), but the issue was that many USPSA clubs have what, by modern standards, less than optimal steel targets. Modern steel (AR-500 and above) targets like those from MGM and Action should handle .30 Carbine with no problem, but on some older steel targets the 200fps extra velocity of a .30 Carbine over a .357 Sig is enough to dimple.
BTW, SHOOTING GALLERY is thinking of sponsoring a WW2 3-Gun match to film for the show! What do you think?
Wow! I'm sure I forgot something! But I'll be writing more about SHOT 2017 over the next few days.