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Pistol Caliber Carbine Considerations for Home Defense

One of the biggest things to hit the competition circuit in the last 10 years, the pistol caliber carbine also has lot to offer when it comes to home defense.

Pistol Caliber Carbine Considerations for Home Defense

First off, let’s be clear. Just because you put a pistol round into a rifle doesn’t mean that it will perform like a rifle round. The 9mm won’t magically start punching through body armor because you juiced it up. That said, the platform does have some very specific advantages in a home-defense scenario.

Let’s first talk about the increased accuracy and consistency that a pistol caliber carbine (PCC) offers over a standard pistol. The PCC offers a far more stable platform to the shooter. Like any long gun, it is anchored in the front by the front hand, the middle by the shooters rear hand and the rear by the shoulder. What many fail to realize, though, is that the shooter’s cheekweld also helps anchor the stock into place, providing even more stability and consistency.

As far as accuracy is concerned, it’s not that the PCC is inherently more accurate than a pistol, it’s simply that with so much additional stability, it’s far easier to control. Recoil is also negligible with a PCC, and muzzle flash is easily dealt with via flash hiders. While compensators are not a necessity for a home-defense PCC, if your competition PCC is pressed into home-defense service, the comp won’t deafen and possibly disorient you like a comp used on a rifle-caliber carbine. Another consideration is ballistics. Added velocity definitely maximizes the effectiveness of your projectiles.

Pistol Caliber Carbines for Home Defense
Depending on the PCC purchased, learn how to store it. In the case of the Ruger PC-9, it breaks apart for easy storage and securing with a cable lock. (Photo by Alfredo Rico)

The downsides to the PCC for home defense are the same downsides to using any long gun. They are longer and heavier than pistols and require two hands to effectively operate. They also require a little bit of practice when it comes to maneuvering about cramped spaces like apartment buildings. From a home-defense perspective, they can also be more difficult to secure in a manner that still allows rapid deployment, which is something to consider.


Pistol Caliber Carbines for Home Defense
Different operating systems require additional practice. So train hard with your home-defense gun. It’s more than just a plinker. (Photo by Alfredo Rico)

Another thing to consider with a PCC is the style and operating system. There are multiple companies producing high-quality PCCs, and the styles run the gamut from modern sporting rifle (MSR) platforms to traditional-looking offerings. If you have experience with the MSR and are comfortable with that platform, then the SIG MPX is a great option. I’ve run several of them really hard. The CMMG Banshee is also a solid performer that won’t break the bank and uses the ubiquitous 9mm Glock magazine.


Moving on to a more traditional option, the Ruger PC Carbine has been an enormous success for the company and a tremendous boon to shooters in ban states. Midwest Industries manufactures a whole line of upgrades for the PC Carbine, giving it many of the same upgrades as its peers while maintaining a traditional buttstock. Even with the upgrades, the Ruger’s price still comes in well under its MSR-styled peers, making it especially attractive to shooters on a budget.

Pistol Caliber Carbines for Home Defense
A threaded muzzle is a great thing to have if you live in a suppressor-friendly state. (Photo by Alfredo Rico)

The last options to discuss are more esoteric offerings like the CZ Scorpion and the Zenith Z-5RS (an HK MP5 clone). Both of these guns were designed as subguns, but in their modern form, they can be upgraded to perform very well in a home-defense scenario. The CZ is getting serious attention from the aftermarket, including new upgrades by Magpul, so if you’re looking for a more compact option or maybe even a host for a suppressor, that is a solid choice.

You’ve made your choice and purchased your PCC and are now getting it set up. Like the other long-gun options, the first order of business should be a white light. Threat identification is a vital element of any home-defense scenario. It is your moral, ethical and legal obligation to ensure that you have identified your suspect and verified that they are indeed a threat before you take the safety off and pull the trigger. There are many great light manufacturers out there, and while I have used SureFire products for well over 20 years and continue to recommend them, there are great and affordable options available now by companies like Streamlight. The bottom line is that you want a purpose-built, quality option, not some Home Depot special with pipe clamps. The light should be mounted as far forward as you can get it, and the switch should be accessible by the support hand without moving your hand.

Pistol Caliber Carbines for Home Defense
Mount a white light like this SureFire M300 Scout as far forward as possible. A light is a must-have on a home-defense gun. (Photo by Alfredo Rico)

The next thing you need is a high-quality sling. There are many great options out there, so don’t waste your time or your money on cheap straps. Much like the government, they’ll let you down when you need them the most. You’re not going to be rucking with this gun, so avoid heavy, padded versions. Keep it light and fast.


Let’s look at optics. You want something light and fast that will last a long time and require minimal upkeep. You also want long battery life, because you can’t be searching for power buttons when things go bump in the night. The gold standard is Aimpoint, and the T1 and T2 series of optics go well on anything. In keeping with the light and tough theme, I’ve also seen Trijicon RMRs on PCCs, and those look very promising.

Pistol Caliber Carbines for Home Defense
When buying a PCC, make sure it comes with enough accessory rail and M-LOK attachment points to install quality hardware like a red-dot sight, co-witnessed iron sights for backup use and a light. (Photo by Alfredo Rico)

But here’s the thing with optics: you get what you pay for. If you go with a solid brand, you’ll probably be just fine. I have a Vortex Crossfire that refuses to die no matter what I do to it. If you insist on using the cheapest piece of gunshow crap you can find, you’re going to be disappointed. In the long run, you’ll spend less money buying quality once than low quality two or three times.

The modern PCC really does fit the home-defense niche well. Light, fast, accurate and inexpensive to train with, the PCC is up to the task.


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