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Aero Precision EPC-9 PCC: Full Review

Some Assembly Required: A deep dive into Aero Precision's EPC-9 (Enhanced Pistol Caliber in 9mm)

Aero Precision EPC-9 PCC:  Full Review

(Guns & Ammo photo)

Pistol-caliber carbines (PCC) fill a niche in any firearms library. They offer the handling characteristics of a rifle, but are chambered in the same cartridge as many popular sidearms. There are a number of circumstances where using a PCC makes sense. For example, in situations where recoil and muzzle blast can be problematic for new shooters or during home defense scenarios, and when a lower-cost training tool is preferred, PCCs and their (typically) affordable ammunition become appealing options. PCCs also make better hosts for suppressors than other semiautomatic rifles, so those circumstances where a shooter desires maximum noise suppression may also favor the use of pistol cartridges.


The subject of this evaluation is the Enhanced Pistol Caliber (EPC), a PCC from Aero Precision. The company is well-known to AR enthusiasts for the high-quality parts and receiver groups it manufactures. Unique among AR manufacturers is Aero Precision’s manufacturing methodology. They invested heavily in hydraulic tooling up front, which is expensive, and then focused on incorporating as many efficiencies as possible into their production process. Their final step was to pass those cost savings from the efficiencies to the consumer. While many of Guns & Ammo’s readers would first identify “low price” as the dominant Aero Precision feature, it’s their manufacturing approach that created their reputation for high value.


Aero’s EPC-9 is a direct-blowback, semi­automatic carbine chambered in 9mm. It has a 16-inch barrel, a 15-inch handguard, and accepts common Glock 9mm magazines. From the box, it weighed 6 pounds, 10 ounces, with no magazine or optic. The handguard has M-Lok slots running its length at the 3-, 6-, and 9-o’clock positions. It includes a Magpul MOE grip and Magpul MOE SL stock on a standard six-position receiver extension, i.e., “buffer tube.”

aero-precision-epc-9mm-pistol-caliber-carbine
The upper and lower receivers of the EPC-9 are not machined from billet aluminum, but are specific to pistol-caliber cartridges such as the 9mm. The blowback-operated action features an ejector and patented bolt-hold-open designs.

The magic happens in the EPC-9’s upper and lower receivers. Though they look to be machined from billet, the receivers are actually aluminum forgings. Forgings are incredibly durable and require less machine time to manufacture than receivers made from square blocks of aluminum. The forging process required Aero to first invest in the molds that allow molten aluminum to be hammered into the receiver’s rough shape. Once cool, the machining begins, but the forgings gave Aero a great start toward the final product. The downside, as mentioned, is the up-front costs for hydraulic tooling and molds, but that investment allows Aero Precision to turn out functional and aesthetically pleasing receivers without the price tag often associated with billet products.

aero-precision-epc-9mm-pistol-caliber-carbine
Machined from forged aluminum receivers, the EPC-9 doesn’t require the usual adapter block for the lower to accept Glock magazines. The winter-style triggerguard is also integral, a credit to Aero Precision’s design efficiencies.

The upper receiver is unique among those we’ve seen on AR-pattern PCCs because it has a bolt hold-open mechanism built into it. The bolt actually locks to the rear after the last round fires, which is a feature not as common as you might think on PCC platforms. However, this detail is important to have on any firearm that could see potential use for self-defense. Firearms without a bolt catch gives the shooter no indication that a gun is empty until it is pointed at a target, and a horrifying click is the only sound resulting from a trigger pull. The EPC-9 locks the bolt to the rear when the magazine is empty and the last round is fired. The bolt’s abrupt stop can be felt by the shooter and is a cue to begin the reloading process immediately.

The patented bolt catch feature is simple, and Aero is the only company licensed to use it. Looking at the left side of the upper receiver, there are two screws holding a small rectangular plate in place. Under that plate is a piece of heavy-gauge wire that runs from the front of the magazine well, under the plate, and ends right behind the bolt release. When the magazine follower gets to the top of the magazine, it hits the wire and the wire pushes the bolt stop away from the receiver, activating it, and locking the bolt back during the next firing cycle.

aero-precision-epc-9mm-pistol-caliber-carbine
The magazine release lever engages the factory notch at the front of Glock magazines. Despite the mag, the button is familiarly located.
aero-precision-epc-9mm-pistol-caliber-carbine
The Aero Taper Lock Attachment System (ATLAS) features two mirrored tapered locking nuts and a ratcheting detent for even pressure.

The lower receiver’s magazine well is specifically shaped to accept Glock 9mm pistol magazines. The lower receiver shows the same clean design approach and precise machine work as the upper receiver, with several thoughtful features to note. First, the magazine well is aggressively flared at the bottom, making reloads as intuitive as it gets. Second, there is an integral triggerguard that eliminates the troublesome gap normally found between the grip’s frontstrap and the triggerguard on forged Mil-Spec receivers. Shoot a few hundred rounds through an AR during one session, and that gap will irritate the side of the middle finger’s middle knuckle.

aero-precision-epc-9mm-pistol-caliber-carbine
The upper is open and specific to pistol calibers. The handguard interlocks with the upper for alignment and to prevent twisting.
aero-precision-epc-9mm-pistol-caliber-carbine
Aero Precision’s Breach charging handle is low profile and ambidextrous. The gas-deflection shelf redirects gas away from the face, too.

Thirdly, the magazine release is a long lever that runs alongside the magazine well. Glock magazines have the catch at the front of the magazine, so the lever is necessary. However, Aero placed the pad to activate the lever in the same location as the magazine release button found on the familiar AR-15. When coupled with the position of the safety selector, the manual of arms is identical between a rifle-caliber AR-15 and the EPC-9. Nicely done, Aero.




The trigger is what some would mistakenly refer to as “mil spec,” meaning its single-stage with an average two-stage pull weight between 5 and 7 pounds. (G&A’s sample measured 6 pounds.) There was creep, as expected for this type of trigger. However, the EPC-9 will accept any standard aftermarket AR-15 trigger, so pick your favorite and have at it.

aero-precision-epc-9mm-pistol-caliber-carbine
aero-precision-epc-9mm-pistol-caliber-carbine

Based on our experience, direct blowback PCCs can be harder on a trigger than standard direct-impingement AR-15s. The reason is that the blowback PCCs begin to cycle immediately, whereas the direct-impingement guns wait until the bullet passes the gas port before they begin cycle. Hence, blowback ARs cycle when chamber pressure is at the highest and bolt movement is most violent. The counter is to make the blowback bolt carrier groups (BCG) heavy to slow their movement, but that doesn’t spare the trigger from taking a beating by the massive blowback BCG. If the owner desires a better trigger for Aero Precision’s EPC-9 9mm, or for any PCC, check to see if the aftermarket trigger manufacturer has a trigger rated for use in PCCs. Some manufacturers, including Timney Triggers and Velocity Precision, have trigger models specifically titled “PCC Trigger,” designed to endure the extra abuse.

aero-precision-epc-9mm-pistol-caliber-carbine
The EPC bolt carrier group was cleanly designed to fire pistol-caliber cartridges as a blowback-operated assembly.

The EPC is initially available in 9mm, but “10mm models aren’t far behind,” Aero told G&A. Also planned for 2021 are EPC models in .45 ACP and .40 S&W. All of these models will use Glock magazines because they are the most vetted magazines and are readily available in most gun shops. Available barrel lengths for the EPC-9 will be 5.5 in., 8.3 in., 11 in., and 16 in. (tested). Barrel lengths for other models are to be determined.


Aero Precision prides itself on passing savings to its customers, so they do not sell complete rifles. They sell upper receiver groups and lower receiver groups and all the individual parts to make either. The reason for this strategy is simple: Once a firearm is complete and ready for sale, it is subject to a special tax from the Federal government of 11 percent on rifles and 10 percent on pistols. This is independent of any sales tax, and the manufacturer has to pay it. By selling complete AR-15 uppers and complete AR-15 lowers, but not complete AR-15s, manufacturers can avoid Uncle Sugar’s 11-percent price increase. This is a clever business model that distinguishes Aero Precision from its competitors. Aero said, the savings is “passed on to the customer.” The downside is the customer has to buy the separate pieces and assemble them. Aero Precision is a self-described “parts company,” but a couple small purchases yielded the EPC-9, an eminently functional PCC for self-defense, competition or inexpensive training.

aero-precision-epc-9mm-pistol-caliber-carbine

Aero Precision EPC-9 Specs:

  • Type: Blowback, Semiautomatic
  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Capacity: 10, 15, 17, 33 Rds.
  • Barrel: 16 In.; 1:10-In Twist
  • Overall Length: 32.5 In. (Collapsed), 35.75-In. (Extended)
  • Weight: 6 Lbs., 10 Oz.
  • Stock: Magpul Moe Sl
  • Grip: Magpul Moe
  • Length Of Pull: 11 In. (Collapsed), 14.25 In. (Extended)
  • Finish: Type III, Hardcoat Anodized
  • Sights: None
  • Safety: Two-Position Selector
  • MSRP: Upper Receiver Group $350; Lower Receiver Group $350; Bolt Carrier Group $159; Charging Handle $75
  • Manufacturer: Aero Precision, aeroprecisionusa.com

Aero Precision EPC 9mm PCC

Aero Precision EPC 9mm PCC

Aero Precision EPC 9mm PCC

Aero Precision EPC 9mm PCC

Aero Precision EPC 9mm PCC

Aero Precision EPC 9mm PCC

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