A bit more than 25 years ago I invented an “alternative division” in IPSC competition. Well, “I” in that I was the club president. We had the gear, and we all wanted to shoot more. But back then we were still deep in the “run what you brung” ethos (and high-cap pistols had not yet made serious inroads). The new division was simple — carbines chambered in pistol calibers. We called it (no points for originality here) “Pistol Caliber Carbine.” It was pretty straightforward: rifles chambered in pistol cartridges, fired on IPSC handgun stages (in the same match as the handguns were). What we found was simple and startling. No one shot worse using a PCC, and many shot a lot better. Depending on the stage design, it wasn’t unusual for an average competitor to match a top shooter’s times and scores.
A year and a half ago, I visited Taurus in Brazil. There I got to see and handle many new models, models that had to wait on import approval before they could see the light of an American day. That day is now here for a couple of the more interesting specimens.
A Carbine and a Pistol
The CT9 is a straight blowback 9mm carbine with an ambidextrous safety, bolt release and magazine catch. The top of the receiver features a full-length rail, with Taurus-made sights front and rear. The forearm has a rail built in on the bottom and attachment points to put sections of rail on both sides. The charging handle is on the left side, and the action locks open when the magazine is empty.
The construction is modern, basic and appears indestructible. The upper receiver? A one-piece aluminum extrusion with the top rail machined into it. The various slots and ejection port are machined out of the upper. The lower is a steel pressing holding the firing mechanism, bolt hold-open, selector and magazine catch. (The centrally located magazine catch is right behind the magazine well.) Of the two, the lower is the actual “firearm,” so it carries the serial number.
The forearm is a synthetic sleeve over the barrel and upper receiver. It’s hand-filling without being portly. On both sides of the forearm there are threaded inserts so you can bolt on a section of rail, if you want rail there. And if not, you leave them alone. On the bottom, on the forward end of the forearm, is a molded-in section of rail.
On the back end is a swoopy thumbhole stock. Interestingly, the stock is plenty long enough for me. Unlike a lot of thumbhole stocks, the pistol grip is actually comfortable and provides a good reach to the trigger. I swear, a lot of thumbhole stocks appear to have been designed by and for octopi, and reaching anything is an “either/or” proposition. On the CT9 I can easily reach both trigger and selector without shifting my hand.
The CT9 is chambered in 9mm (with a .40 S&W model reportedly hot on its heels) and sports a 16-inch barrel. In talking with the folks at Taurus, I found out some very interesting — and rather complicated — details.
The CT9 and CT40 carbines for U.S. distribution will bear 10-round magazines. OK, no big deal, The Powers That Be can be picky about this, and when you ship products across the border you have to play by the rules. But what is really a puzzlement is that Taurus itself can’t make magazines here in the U.S. that’ll hold more than 10 rounds for the CT9. Even more puzzling, the company can’t be directly involved with another company that does make such magazines. I know there are a bunch of imported firearms you can get that will not only accept, but come with, high-cap magazines. So why are the Feds picking on Taurus? I don’t know, and neither does Taurus.
But I have faith in the marketplace. The fabrication of pistol-caliber carbine magazines is not a secret, and I’m sure that more than one magazine company is working on making the magazines that Taurus owners will want, because you are going to want high-cap magazines for this carbine, once you’ve had a chance to test-fire it. Unlike some 9mm carbines, in which recoil is all out of proportion to the performance they deliver, the CT9 is soft to shoot. To add to the fun, I bolted on a Laserlyte K-15 green laser and spent some time smacking down falling steel plates from the hip.
Along with the CT9, Taurus had an additional item in the shipment sent to me — a 1911 in 9mm, an all-stainless, Government-size pistol with an ambidextrous thumb safety. It’s not just a plain-Jane 1911. The PT1911 9mm has a thumb and grip safety that appears to be modeled on the Ed Brown pattern (a very good one to be patterning, by the way) and genuine Novak sights. With a checkered frontstrap and lowered and scalloped ejection port, the PT1911 is — out of the box— as well spec’d as high-end custom guns of the pre-Open Gun days of IPSC.
The one part about it I don’t like are the forward cocking serrations, but that’s just me.
The first chance I had to test fire the PT1911 9mm was on steel rifle plates at 65 yards. Once I had the hold figured, getting regular hits on the plates (each less than a foot square) was easy. With the factory magazines holding nine rounds (plus one in the chamber), plinking was a lot of fun. Taurus also offers extended magazines for the PT1911 9mm, bringing capacity up to 11 plus one.
Why the CT9?
Why would you want a bigger, heavier, less portable 9mm when you could have the same capacity in a handgun? First, “same capacity” isn’t always going to be the case. Magazine makers will address the restrictions Taurus faces and produce 30- or 32-round magazines for the CT9. Then there is the matter of performance. Even with ammo manufacturers tuning their powders to perform best in handgun barrels, you’re going to get a velocity boost putting 9mm ammo down a 16-inch barrel. Plus, with a longer barrel to work in, you’ll get less bore pressure at the muzzle, thus less blast (not to mention the fact that the muzzle will be farther from your ears).
In this era of expensive ammo, having a carbine that fires less expensive stuff is a good thing. Having it match the chambering of your handgun is a plus. And as easy as the 9mm is to reload now, you can really get ammo costs under control while getting in lots of practice.
Finally, there’s the performance bonus. Even if you limit yourself to 10-round mags, you’ll get 10 hits faster and more accurately out of a carbine than you will from a handgun. And mounting a red dot sight and light on a carbine doesn’t make it all that much bulkier, while doing the same thing to a handgun definitely does.
If you are going to be stalking through your house, looking for the source of the mysterious noise that awakened you, the PT1911 in 9mm would be a good choice. If your wife is bunkered in behind the bed, covering the doorway awaiting your return, the CT9, with light and laser mounted, would be an excellent choice.
Then there’s the matter of long shots. I engage in friendly competitions with my shooting buddies, using handguns at interesting to absurd distances. I am under no illusion that I can make those shots better with a handgun than I could with a carbine. If an emergency may involve shots at a greater distance than across the largest room in your house, you’d be better off with the CT9 than with any handgun.
Does that mean the CT9 is perfect? No; nothing is. But some of the details that I’d like to see improved on the CT9 are limitations not of engineering but importation. I’d like to see the muzzle threaded for a flash hider. Not because any 9mm load in a 16-inch barrel will produce flash, but because it will offer a convenient mounting point for muzzlebrakes or suppressors. The stock will probably need to be shorter for some shooters (and an adjustable or folding unit would be perfect).
But the accuracy and reliability of the CT9 can’t be faulted. Neither it, nor the PT1911, failed at any time in testing. Both shot well.
When my club began the PCC experiment long ago, we didn’t realize what we’d end up with. We had competitors arriving at each stage with a holstered handgun, a carbine in the case and a beltful of magazines. Some were for the handgun, some for the carbine, and often all of them were in 9mm. Having begun 3-Gun competition at our club in 1981, we had no idea that in implementing Pistol Caliber Carbine competition in 1987, we were one short step away from multi-gun matches. We just knew it was effective, efficient and fun. And shooting a 9mm carbine remains fun to this day.