11 Great Pistol Caliber Carbines
August 03, 2015
The most obvious reason to own a carbine and a rifle in the same caliber is practicality. If your rifle and your handgun use the same cartridge, that means you'll only have to track down one type of ammunition to shoot both guns. This is one of the primary reason that famed nineteenth century rifles, like the Winchester 1873
, were chambered for cartridges that would also function in the wheelguns of the day. If you're traveling across the trackless wilderness of the American West on horseback, there's not a lot of space for additional ammo.
By the early twentieth century, both the American landscape and American firearms had changed. Powerful smokeless cartridges, like the .30-06 Springfield, largely displaced the older, lighter pistol cartridges, which couldn't match the ballistics of more modern cartridges. Likewise, the pioneering cowboys who rode across the country searching for new grazing land and who spent months at a time on the trail were largely gone, so the value of the dual-purpose cartridge faded in the face of modern weapons and a more sedentary lifestyle.
But that doesn't mean that pistol-caliber carbines are a thing of the past. In fact, there are a lot of reasons why owning a pistol-caliber carbine makes as much sense today as it did in 1875. For starters, some areas of the country (including my home state of Ohio) limit the number of rifle cartridges that are legal for big game hunting, and many of the legal centerfire rifle cartridges are also common handgun cartridges (the .45 Colt, .44 Magnum and .454 Casull, for example). In addition, there are plenty of hunts that don't require long-range shooting. If you're stalking whitetail in dense cover, hunting bears over bait, following hounds up a steep mountain after a mountain lion or chasing hogs in bayou, then you don't need a high-powered magnum with a great big scope. Lastly, pistol-caliber carbines are lightweight and don't generally produce much recoil, which is great for young shooters and for delivering fast follow-ups in hunting and self-defense situations. The kick you'll experience from a .44 Magnum rifle weighing eight pounds is roughly the equivalent of a .243 rifle of the same weight. A .357 Magnum rifle recoils with about the same force as a .22-250.
No matter whether you're looking for a .44-40 to pair with your vintage single action cowboy gun or a sleek 9mm to compliment your striker-fire semiauto, we have what you need right here. This is a list of eleven of the best pistol-caliber rifles available today.
These slick bolt action rifles are lightweight (5.5 pounds or less) and compact (38.5 inches), and they're ideal for close-range hunting and self-defense. Both the .44 Magnum and the .357 Magnum models come with integral scope bases, so it's easy to mount the optic of your choice, but the standard adjustable sights, which these rifles share with the 10/22, are precise and easy-to-use. Both of these rifles come with Ruger's patented rotary magazines, which fit flush in the synthetic stock and feed smoothly. The three-position safety is a nice bonus, and the stainless finish on the metalwork makes this rifle impervious to the elements. These guns are accurate enough for serious hunting, and their longer barrels improve accuracy and velocity. Although they are not as portable as wheelguns, they are also great choices for personal protection and home defense. Today's modern .44 Magnum loads are capable of taking very large game at moderate ranges, so the 77/44 is a very versatile big game gun. The 77/357 in .357 Magnum produces very little recoil and it is a great training gun for introducing new hunters to the sport. MSRP: $999-$1,060.
Perfect Partner Handgun: Ruger's own GP100 complements the 77/357, and the 77/44 pairs well with the Ruger Redhawk in the same caliber.
The SUB-2000 is a compact autoloading rifle chambered in either 9mm Luger or .40 S&W, and it is a great addition for anyone who owns a handgun in these calibers. One of the most innovative features of the SUB-2000 is that it accepts a variety of handgun magazines of the same caliber, so if you own a Glock 17 or 19, for example, those magazines will work in the SUB-2000 9mm. It comes with a push-bolt safety and an aperture sight that is windage and elevation adjustable, making it easy to dial in for extended-range shooting with your favorite pistol cartridge. It weighs just four pounds, but recoil is very manageable and even new shooters will quickly become comfortable with this platform. Another great feature of this gun is that the 16 inch barrel can be eaily folded back to cut the gun's overall length to just 16 inches for secure storage and easy transport. MSRP: $500.
Perfect Partner Handgun: The SUB-2000 in either 9mm or .40 S&W accepts magazines from Glock, Smith & Wesson, Beretta, and SIG Sauer, so if you own one of these guns, you've already got the ideal carbine/sidearm duo.
This modern replica of Colt's 1884 Lightning Pump is available with either a short (20 inch) or long (24.25 inch) barrel in .45 Colt and .357 Magnum. The slide-action design with top ejection makes this one of the sleekest historical firearms ever, and modern machining and advances in metallurgy allow the Lightning to shoot high-powered defensive and hunting loads. Other features include a case-hardened receiver and trigger guard, an octagonal barrel, dovetailed front sight and full-length tubular magazine. The Lightning was reputed as offering the fastest follow-up shots of any rifle of its time, and the compact 20-inch version is great for hunting hogs and deer in dense cover. The Uberti replica features excellent wood with a checkered forearm for secure grip and a crescent metal buttplate. Whether you're looking for a short-barreled hunting rifle, a cowboy action gun or simply want a vintage rifle for target shooting in the backyard, the Lightning from Uberti is an excellent addition to your gun rack. MSRP: $1,319.
Perfect Partner Handgun: The Uberti 1875 Army Outlaw and 1875 Frontier are period guns chambered in .45 Colt that look great alongside the Uberti Lightning.
Rossi's Circuit Judge is versatile and unique, a full-length rifle based on the popular .45/.410 revolvers from companies like Taurus. The Circuit Judge makes this revolving rifle even more versatile with an 18.5 inch barrel for added velocity and better accuracy, a set of adjustable open sights and a top-mounted rail for adding an optic. Plus, you'll have the option of firing either .45 Colt ammo or .410 shotshells. There are a number of practical applications for this gun- it's great for hunting deer and hogs at close range, and if you live in snake country, it will quickly dispatch venomous vipers around your homestead. It's also an excellent home-defense gun, and because it produces very little recoil, it's great for shooters of all ages and sizes. It comes with a five-shot cylinder and weighs just over 5 pounds, making this a handy rifle/shotgun combo that serves a variety of purposes. MSRP: $668.61.
Perfect Partner Handgun: This is the perfect long gun for any of the millions of shooters who currently own a Taurus Judge.
Winchester is once again building their classic short-barreled lever gun, and thanks to modern machining, it's better than ever. This John Browning-designed rifle is a scaled-down version of the popular 1886 rifle, the perfect platform for shooting modern handgun cartridges. The oiled-finished walnut stock and gloss-blued finish give the gun a classic look, and the straight-grip design with tang-mounted safety make the 1892 one of the handiest hunting rifles for small to medium game at moderate ranges, especially when the shooting is likely to be quick. Adding to the 1892's charm is a Marble gold bead front sight and buckhorn rear, and the crescent metal buttplate looks great and fits comfortably on the shoulder. With an overall length of just 37.5 inches, this gun defines handy pistol-caliber carbines, and at 6 pounds, it's portable yet produces very low recoil, even with hunting loads. Whether you're into cowboy action shooting, hunt javelina and deer up close or simply love the look and feel of the great lever guns of the nineteenth century, the 1892 is a great option. It's available in a Short version and a Large Loop carbine version in .357 Magnum, .44 magnum, .44-40 and .45 Colt with 10 round tubular magazines. MSRP: $1,069.99-$1,259.99.
Perfect Partner Handgun: A compact lever gun needs to be mated with a smooth-cycling revolver in the same caliber. The Ruger Blackhawk and Super Blackhawk are obvious choices.
Not all ARs are chambered in 5.56, and the CMMG Mk9 T is a versatile MSR that mates perfectly with your modern 9mm semiauto. This rifle comes with a KeyMod free-floated handguard and a nitrided 4140 Chrome-Moly M4 profile barrel, giving it a collapsed length of just 32 inches with its 16.1 inch 1:10 twist barrel. The upper is made from forged 7075-T6 aluminum and the Mk9-T has a single-stage mil-spec trigger. If you love the look and feel of an AR but don't want to buy a 5.56 rifle and ammo for target practice and defensive shooting, then the Mk9-T is ideal for you, making it a perfect complement to the 9mm autoloading pistol already in your gun case. The flattop design is ready-made for mounting optics, and this rifle is virtually begging to be mated with a high-quality red dot sight. At 6.3 pounds, it's easy to transport, and recoil is nil. The 6-position stock allows you to fit length of pull to any situation or shooter. MSRP is $1,149.95.
Perfect Partner Handgun: pair this rifle with a CZ P-09 9mm and you've got a perfect tactical carbine/pistol setup.
The 1873, the "gun that won the west," is back in production from Winchester, and it's better than ever. There's a reason that so many cowboys, trappers, and outlaws carried this rifle- it shoots fast, it points naturally and it set a new standard for reliable function. Today, Winchester offers five different versions of this classic, from the 20-inch-barrled short rifle to the top-of-the-line Sporter Octagon Case Hardened model with a 24 inch octagonal barrel and grade II/III walnut. It's available in a wide variety of different handgun calibers, including .38/.357, .44-40 and .45 Colt, so there are many practical modern-day applications for the gun. But do you really need a use for this gun other than the obvious pride of ownership and sense of history that you'll get every time you run through a magazine of cartridges at high speed? We didn't think so. MSRP: $1,299.99-$1,739.99.
Perfect Partner Handgun: This should be an obvious choice- Colt SAA 1873 in matching caliber.
This carbine traces its roots to a different period of American history than the lever guns listed here. The M1 Carbine was issued during the Second World War (among others), and it played a vital role in shaping the course of history. Now, Legacy Sports is importing the Citadel M-1 9mm, a blowback replica of those original guns chambered in the ubiquitous 9mm Luger. With an 18 inch barrel, the overall length is just 35 inches, and the gun weighs 5.8 pounds, making it fun to shoot all day. There are two versions- a traditional wood-stocked model that looks more like the original and a synthetic stock version that stands up better to the elements. Both guns come with two 10-round Beretta 92FS-style magazines, and both are exceedingly fun to shoot. With the aperture-style rear sight and shielded blade front sight, it's also accurate enough for small game hunting. MSRP: $539-$699.
Perfect Partner Handgun: Check out Citadel's 1911 9mm, which is available with an OD green Cerakote finish.
The Henry was known as the assault rifle of the American Civil War, and it has made appearances in virtually every Western movie. It's also a very fun gun to shoot, with its tubular magazine, characteristic brass receiver, flip-up rear sight and bottom feed/top eject design. Today, Uberti offers a variety of different Henry variations, including brass frame models (Trapper and Standard) as well as steel receiver models with a striking case-hardened finish. The Trapper model sports a stubby 18.5 inch barrel, and the rest come with a 24.5 inch pipe. They are chambered in .44-40 and .45 Colt, the latter being a great choice for those who actually want to hunt with this gun. This is a rifle that played a vital role in American history, and aside from their timeless looks, these Uberti replicas are also a ton of fun to shoot. MSRP: $1,429-$1,459.
Perfect Partner Handgun: In sticking with the Civil War theme, why not add one of Uberti's New Army conversions in .45 Colt?
Some people may forget that Winchester was not the only company to debut a fantastic lever gun in 1894. Marlin's sleek, compact 1894 has remained a popular rifle for more than a century, and it's as good today as it ever was. These guns feature buckhorn rear sights and hooded front sights, quick-pointing straight-grip walnut stocks, and side ejection, so it's one of the few rifles designed in the 1800s that make scope mounting a simple task (the current 1894s are drilled and tapped). The marlin comes with many other modern upgrades that make it a handy hunting rifle, including a rubber recoil pad, sling studs and a tough Mar-Shield finish. At 6.5 pounds with a 20-inch barrel, these guns virtually define brush rifles. They're perfect for deer, hogs and black bear at close to moderate ranges. The 10-shot tubular magazine offers plenty of capacity and the ability to shoot .44 Special loads allows for reduced-recoil shooting practice. MSRP: $765.65.
Perfect Partner Handgun: Smith & Wesson's Model 69 is a compact .44 Magnum that doubles as a bear-stopper when you can't get to your rifle.
This handy, reliable AR is user-friendly and tons of fun to shoot. It comes with a 16 inch Chrome Moly barrel with a 1:10 twist rate, optional R4 or RRA Quad Rail. The six-position tactical CAR stock from RRA is easy to use and locks securely in place, and the gun comes with an A2 flash hider with ½-36 threads. Hogue grips offer a secure, comfortable hold, and the excellent single-stage trigger makes this one of the most accurate 9mm ARs available today. The flattop forged upper offers plenty of space for mounting any optic you'd like, and at just over seven pounds, this is a very comfortable rifle to shoot, even for extended periods at the range. RRA offers a wide variety of options and upgrades, and the CAR A4 is a very good defensive firearm. It's also loads of fun to shoot. MSRP: $1,180.
Perfect Partner Handgun: There are few things more fun than sharing a few boxes of 9mm ammo between your RRA CAR A4 and H&K's new VP9 at the range.