Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Year of the Pistol Caliber Carbine

[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.

While we're talking about modularity, I shot video with 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

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.


NJ Larry said...

Most excellent data dump MB....

Great minds think alike as they say. I would love to hear of a "retro" 3 gun match. BUT not just yet WWII. The 100th anniversary of American involvement in WWI is this year. What about a WWI match? Dang I can see vintage 03's, Enfields, 455 Webleys, 1911s and 97 shotguns !

BTW I believe the venerable 45ACP will see a resurgence in the PCCs. Along with your 9mm thoughts, I have a copy of Cartridges of the World by my bedside. It is very interesting to see how so called superior designs just never get traction. How rounds like the 10mm meet moderate halting success. This while 100 year old cartridges just keep going strong - 30-30, 45acp, 22lr etc. I use to kindof gauge this success. When I go to order 350Rem Mag for instance there is next to nothing available. 30-30 gets HUNDREDS of hits. Have we really run the course in terms of cartridges ?

Finally, I would like to just remind everyone that TODAY Jan 22 is the anniversary of the battle at Rorke's Drift in 1879 of the Brits and Zulu nation. Now that was a heck of fight. BTW this came the day after the Zulu's had slaughtered 1200 Brits the day before at Isandlwana.

James said...

What is best in life? Glock or Colt mag platform for PCC?

I poll friends and they seem almost indifferent. Both work. Seems like huge stocks of Colt surplus mags remain in the wild. On the other hand, tons of inexpensive Glock mags are out there with even Magpul making new offerings.

Michael Bane said...

RE: Colt vs Glock, pretty much six of one and half a dozen of the other. I would say the only advantage to the Glocks was that sometimes the shorter mags are easier to insert in competition context, but now that there are so many rifle conversion units using the Colt pattern mags there are shorter mags available for that as well. The Colts are more of a pain in the butt to load, but I have Maglulas for both platforms.

Larry…yeah, vintage 3-Gun sounds WAY COOL! Webley, Enfield and Model 97 pump!

The whole universe of which cartridge makes it and which does not is fascinating. The 9 X 23 is a clearly superior round to the .38 Super, but it tanked hard. 6.5 x 55 (a .264 inch diameter 140-gr bullet @ 2700 fps) is an afterthought in the U.S., while the 6.5 Creedmoor (a .264 inch 140-gr bullet at 2700 fps) is a gigantic hit. The 45/70 is forever; the .41 Magnum is gone. The .327, an excellent small game and defensive cartridge, struggles to survive…and on and on…

Go figure…


Unknown said...

Sorry to see you didn't review the Thureon Defense PCC. I bought one 3-4 years ago and plan on using it for Steel Challenge PCC. Light weight, high quality manufacturing and uses Uzi or Glock mags.

Anonymous said...

I'll second the motion on 10MM for PCCs, but.....we want more. Case length on the .30 carbine is 1.290", case length on 10MM is .992. Add that .298 to the 10MM. IIRC, someone a number of years back was making a 10MM magnum with a case length of 1.242, and Starline still has the brass in their catalog.

And, if suppressors and SBRs become 4473 items instead of NFA, buy stock in any outfit making quality PCCs; an 8 to10-inch-barreled 10MM with a 6 to 8-inch suppressor and 25-round magazine? I'm sure 9MM versions will outsell it, but not by a lot, I'd wager.

Unknown said...

WW 2 3 gun hell Yea service hand gun with no More than 6 rounds at any shooting box postion since there were a lot of revolvers used in WW2 carbines m-1,carbines or 45 Thomson 2 rounds from the 45 or 3 rounds from the M1 to netrlize a target battle rifles of the period no M-14s/M1As no modern sights on the 45s or Hi Powers how about a bayonet couse ?

Anonymous said...

How about a California 3-gun? Bolt rifle, pump shotgun, revolver.

Anonymous said...

This past weekend, I was in one of Michigan's premier shooting range-gun shops and we were surveying availability of various ammunition. We also looked at the gigantic gun inventory for long and "short" guns. Guns came in many calibers, including new ones. Looking at the ammo' however, there was a shortfall. What we did find was a plethora of the old "stand-by" rounds. 30-'06, 30-30, 7mm and .300 Mag'.45 LC and ACP, 9mm, etc. What was missing were the "SSM", "RUM", etc. rounds. We went to a major chain outfitter and found all of the stand-by and slightly less in the "special" category. Then on to our local chain department store and we found ALL of the stand-by and NONE of the "special".

Moral of my story? Guns that have available ammo' sell well. Ammo' availability is fueled by demand. Repeat.

Occasionally, a round like the 10mm "sticks". Ammo' is now becoming widely available for it.

Life Member

Michael Bane said...

Bruce: Thureon was on my list, but I simply ran out of time. I had some heavyweight negotiations for SHOOTING GALLERY, and they took far more time than I had anticipated. Second year in a row I didn't "walk the floor" except on the way to and from appointments.

Anon: Perceptive view on ammunition! The trick to "breaking" an ammunition is to make sure you can buy it at the local hardware store. I can get Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor at said hardware store. None of the other 6.5s are on those shelves (that includes modern rounds like the Grendel and "legacy" cartridges like 6.5 x 55).


Unknown said...

I think the "success" of the 6.5 Creedmoor can be linked to the Ruger Precision Rifle. While the 6.5 preceded the RPR, Ruger's decision to offer that chambering gave the round a boost. While several hunting rifles are now being offered in 6.5 Creedmoor, I can't wait to see Remington bring out a wooden stocked Model 700 in that caliber. (Yes, synthetic may be better from an accuracy consistency perspective, but I just like the look and feel of classic wooden stocks.) Is a Winchester Model 70 in 6.5 Creedmoor too much to ask for? It looks like Ruger is now championing the 6mm Creedmoor in lieu of the .243 Winchester in the RPR.

Michael Bane said...

Gary: Definitely some truth there, out the 6.5 Creedmoor also got a big boost from the ammunition companies, especially Hornady, who brought long range shooting to people who did not want to, or couldn't, reload. If you want that beautiful walnut stocked, classic blue 6.5 Creedmoor, let me refer you to my good friend Jeff Sipe at Montana Rifle:

Jeff does wonderful work…he's currently cooking up his first Scout Rifle…hmmmmm…wonder how that happened!


DMD said...

Ha--remember the old Interdynamics KG-9 ?? Banned and re-born many times under different brands and names?? One of George Kellgren's first designs--then finally the AB-10? Time to now bring it back with a "pistol brace" at under $500 to compete in PCC !! DMD

Michael Bane said...

DMD: Odd story about a KG-9. Back with I was evaluating guns for mostly cops, my testing partner and I got sent a KG-9. We had a big ole laugh about that...garbage in a box! So we took it out to the range, and it shot not match accuracy, but 2+ inches at 25 yards (better than most out of the box 1911s at that time). So then we got the bright idea to destroy it. We ran over it with a car, took it canoeing and used it as an anchor, killed it along down the street, filled it with mud and grit...the damn thing kept on running. After a month of this nonsense, we finally decided it was was indestructible (it only had about 5 moving parts). My friend tpayed for it and used it as his car gun for years.


Anonymous said...

I'll add this to the individual cartridge/caliber success vs. failure discussion:

A while back, when the infamous "Miami Shootout" took place and experts agreed that law enforcement officers needed more powerful weapons, especially handguns, the 10mm, Jeff Cooper's pet cartridge, was determined to be the caliber and cartridge. Popular gun "literature" pounced on it all and convinced us that the "10" was THE cartridge of choice. The FBI was quick to adopt it sand a fine gun to shoot it out of. But when it was announced a short time later that the FBI would no longer be using their 10mm "standard" guns, S&W 1076s; due to the firmer recoil, it was postulated that the 10mm would die because of that. Gun literatiure also justified it's demise.

As one observer wrote, "When it comes to guns and cartridges, gun-writers giveth and gun-writers taketh away."

Life Member

Michael Bane said...

Anon: I think cartridges sort of live forever, although they may wax and wan in popularity. I have friends who swear by the 10mm as their self-defense EDC gun. I am of the "put a lot of holes in them real quick" school of thought — 5 or 6 9mms should do it.

One of the great things about our present firearms industry is that if you want to shoot you can find ammo or components for it.I know this for a fact because of GUN STORIES! Just scroll through the list of brass available from Starline.


Rastus said...

WWII in Tulsa would be great. I'm just sayin'...

You have a huge group of owners of WWII gear here and a decent range as well.

I'm a 10 MM believer but...I carry the 9MM with modern ammo because I don't want to shoot the Bren 10 which I like ergonomically more than the 1911 with an exception or two.

Anonymous said...

You seemed to have missed out on one of the best 9mm pistol carbines. The D3-9SD from D3LLC / Desert Design & Development. They're in Scottsdale, AZ.

Unknown said...

I don't like the canted angle glock mag wells use in AR platform carbines, so I built a Colt patterned 9mm AR carbine on a QC10 receiver set (8" barrel). I love it, and Brownells manufactures flawless 32rd Colt pattern mags that IMHO are better than OEM Colt mags.

This is one of the funnest, quietest (suppressed), and practical for home defense guns I own. It's a tie with my suppressed 8" 300BLK AR.

Unknown said...

The D3-9SD carbine by Desert Design and Development is a great 9mm carbine. They also build suppressors for that rifle that are super quiet. This rifle was on the cover of Gun World back in August of 2016. Their website is They offer this rifle in 45 acp and 10mm as well. Next time you are in Arizona, you might check them out.

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