November 04, 2019
Pistol-caliber carbines (PCCs) are one of the two hottest segments in the AR industry right now (the other being pistols), and their popularity extends across several different platforms, not just rifles and pistols based on the AR-15. There are now so many PCCs on the market that you should just assume that anybody who makes an AR makes a pistol-caliber version of it, and you’ll probably be right.
Since we physically don’t have space to cover every PPC in one article, consider this a highlight reel or the CliffsNotes version of the models currently shining bright in this crowded market.
Colt — It All Started Here
The first pistol-caliber AR was the Colt 9mm, originally designed as an open-bolt submachine gun (SMG) meant to compete with the vaunted HK MP5. Shortly thereafter, Colt offered a longer-barreled semiautomatic version of their 9mm AR, which is still sold today as the Colt AR6951. Although most people probably aren’t aware that it’s still available since Colt doesn’t seem to advertise it. Manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) on the Colt is $1,099.
Colt’s engineers had enough of a headache trying to figure out how to get an envelope (the AR-15) designed for the longer, more powerful .223 cartridge to run 9mm that they didn’t want to reinvent the wheel when they didn’t have to, so the magazine used by the Colt 9mm and all the Colt-pattern 9mm PCCs on the market is simply a very slightly modified UZI magazine.
Yankee Hill Machine
Yankee Hill Machine (YHM) was well known for making great AR accessories before they began making complete firearms. Several years ago, they introduced their KR7 carbine, which is a 9mm AR based on the Colt pattern. This is a 16-inch-barreled carbine with a collapsible stock that retails for $1,375.
Seeing as they still make just about every part there is for the AR platform, the KR7 features a lot of YHM bits and pieces, including a stainless steel hammer and pins, their flash hider and a midlength aluminum KeyMod handguard.
Rock River Arms
Next to Colt, I believe the manufacturer that has been making 9mm ARs the longest (that is still in business) is Rock River Arms (RRA). Their LAR-9 is a Colt-pattern rifle, and they offer several different variations of it, including a pistol version and a version meant for PCC competition — the R9 Competition Rifle.
Most recently, RRA introduced a new model, the BT-9, with similar model offerings to the LAR-9 (including an R9 Competition version), except the BT-9 is fed by Glock-pattern magazines.
This seems to be the direction the market is going. While you can still find many companies making PCCs fed by Colt-pattern magazines, in the past five years, almost no company has introduced a new one. Any new guns are almost all working off Glock-pattern magazines. This has as much to do with the vaunted reliability of Glock magazines as their availability — almost everyone already has Glock magazines on hand, and if not, you can find them everywhere for affordable prices.
CMMG is another company that has been making Colt-pattern 9mm ARs for quite some time. They recently changed their product nomenclature and offer three types of long guns and pistols (Banshee, Resolute and Endeavor), each with three levels of features. Their 9mm platform fed by Colt magazines is the Mk9, offered in carbine and pistol form.
Like RRA, CMMG has now begun offering PCCs fed by Glock magazines in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. For instance, their Guard series (the MkG), which uses a proprietary radial delayed blowback operating system, comes in 10mm (Mk10) and is sold with extended Glock-pattern 30-round magazines.
After putting out custom 1911s for years, Wilson Combat moved into high-end AR-15s over a decade ago, and about two years ago, they introduced their AR9, which is a 9mm AR-pattern rifle fed by Glock magazines. This was the first rifle of its type that I ever tested that offered a last-round bolt hold-open on a Glock magazine. While its starting price of $1,995 is more than a little pricey, the samples I’ve fired have been unfailingly reliable.
Now that Wilson Combat has been doing so much custom work with Beretta pistols, they’ve recently introduced a version of their AR9 that feeds from Beretta 92 magazines. While the standard Beretta 92 pistol magazine holds 15 rounds, you can find 18-, 20- and 30-round Beretta 92 magazines now.
If you feel bad because you’ve never heard of Jones Arms before, don’t. I didn’t know about them until I spotted their Kronos 9mm at the SHOT Show.
The Kronos is a blowback 9mm fed by Glock magazines and features standard AR controls. Their ejector/bolt-hold-open design has a patent pending on it. Two carbine versions of the Kronos are available starting at $1,100.
Angstadt Arms is another one of those small companies you probably haven’t heard of before, but in the past year or so, they’ve really been getting a lot of attention at competitions. Their UDP-9 is a straight blowback-operated AR-15-pattern carbine fed by Glock magazines and features a last-round bolt hold-open.
JP Enterprises has been making high-end competition AR-15 rifles for over 20 years and have jumped into the pistol-caliber craze with their GMR-15. Fed by Glock-pattern magazines, this competition 9mm carbine features straight blowback operation and is available with every competition tweak and upgrade you could possibly imagine. The base rifle comes with a backpack soft case and retails for $1,700.
Lone Wolf Distributors
Lone Wolf Distributors has seen great success over the past decade first selling all sorts of Glock pistol accessories, then Glock-pattern pistols, then PCCs. Their latest carbine is the AlphaWolf chambered in .45 ACP.
The AlphaWolf is fed by Glock mags and uses a short-stroke gas-piston operating system, complete with a rotating locking bolt. Lone Wolf went all out with the AlphaWolf, and it comes with a side-charging handle, last-round bolt hold-open and a proprietary freefloating aluminum handguard. Available in rifle and pistol form, prices start at $1,175.
Another new company to add to your list is Trojan Firearms. They make everything on their carbines except the barrel.
The Trojan Raze 9mm carbines and pistols are offered in two flavors — those fed by Glock magazines or those accepting STI 2011 mags. The Raze is a straight blowback rifle with billet-aluminum receivers, KeyMod handguards and many custom options to choose from. The Glock-magazine variation (base model) sells for $1,500, with options adding to the cost.
Now Something Different
Not everything in the PCC world is Colt, Glock or AR based. Here are some of the other varied choices on the market:
The CZ Scorpion EVO 3 was originally designed as a SMG, but it wasn’t long before CZ realized semiauto versions might be very popular in the U.S. CZ now offers several Scorpion EVO variations, including carbines with muzzlebrakes or faux suppressors and pistols. Due to its simple polymer-shell construction, the Scorpion EVO is less expensive than many competing designs and has proven itself to be very reliable. MSRP on a base-model Scorpion EVO 3 S1 is $1,000.
Palmetto State Armory
This past year, Palmetto State Armory brought out their AK-V, a 9mm in AK form fed by Scorpion-pattern magazines. Currently, it is only available in pistol form with an SB Tactical SBA3 brace and 10.5-inch barrel. I shot the snot out of one of these at a media event, and it is soft-shooting and accurate, in addition to being inexpensive. PSA honestly can’t keep them in stock. MSRP is around $700, but you can find them for less.
One could argue that the SIG Sauer MPX is an AR-based 9mm, but between its short-stroke gas-piston operating system and proprietary Lancer mags, I’m going to put it in the “other” category.
Due to its short-stroke piston system, relatively heavy weight and big magazine well, it has almost no muzzle rise and is blazingly fast to reload. These factors make it very popular with serious PCC competitors. Unfortunately, that performance comes at a steep price. Both pistol and carbine versions of the MPX have an MSRP near or over $2,000. Spare magazines are $67 apiece.
Ruger’s PC Carbine looks a lot like their iconic 10/22 in form, only chambered in 9mm and .40 S&W. It ships with two interchangeable magazine wells — one accepts Ruger SR-pattern magazines, the other Glock mags. The PCC has a takedown barrel feature, and the technology inside the small bolt works much like a dead-blow hammer, soaking up a surprising amount of recoil. Best of all, the Ruger PCC is very inexpensive, with prices starting at $649.
Brugger & Thomet
Brugger & Thomet (B&T) pistols and subguns are made in Switzerland and are well respected. Their APC9K 9mm subgun just got adopted as the new “sub-compact weapon” for the U.S. Army. However, for a long time, their products were unicorns in the United States. While they’re still not very common, you can find them now in the U.S. in carbine and pistol form. Brownells seems to be the biggest distributor of their firearms.
You can find carbine and pistol versions of both the B&T Advanced Police Carbine (APC) and GHM. The APC is available in 5.56mm, 9mm and .45 ACP, in both pistol and carbine form. The GHM9 carbine and pistol is an entry-level product chambered in 9mm. FYI, when you combine “entry level” with “Swiss made,” you get a retail price around $1,900 for the GHM family (complete with brace) and quite a bit more for the APC.
After several years languishing as a prototype, LWRCI finally brought out a short-barreled rifle (SBR) production version of their .45 ACP SMG called the SMG .45. It even comes in semiauto pistol form. I was able to get my hands on samples of both at the NRA show and prefer the folding brace on the pistol to the aluminum stock on the SBR. At just 5.9 pounds empty, imagine a typical upscale LWRCI AR with an 8.5-inch barrel chambered in .45 ACP fed by HK USP-pattern magazines and you get pretty much the SMG.
No honest roundup of PCCs would be complete without a mention of those from Hi-Point. While the tactical types turn up their noses at these budget-priced pieces, Hi-Point continues to sell them by the truckload to people who want an inexpensive but reliable PCC.
Offered in .380 ACP, 9mm, .45 ACP and now 10mm, Hi-Point carbines are fed by pistol-type magazines in the pistol grip. The carbines start at just $315, and no matter how tricked-out the version you prefer, there isn’t a Hi-Point carbine with an MSRP over $500.
Competition shooters often used products from small/custom shops long before those companies got noticed by general consumers. I reached out to a lot of the shooters I know, curious as to which PCCs they were using in competition.
PCCs from JP Rifles and the SIG MPX seem to be the two most popular. But I’ve seen or heard about people using carbines from just about every manufacturer listed in the roundup, including pieced-together FrankenARs often with ultralight TACCOM uppers. But here are a few manufacturers making quality PCCs you might not have otherwise heard of:
Foxtrot Mike was a new one for me, but this company’s Glock-magazine-fed FM-9 carbine is getting good reviews among shooters because of its forward charging handle. Also popular is Lead Star Arms with their competition-oriented carbines that are very sexy and start at $1,500. If you want the expensive options like a carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel, expect to pay a lot more.
You might not have heard of Quarter Circle 10, but I have, as I’m running one of their purpose-built 9mm lowers on a CMMG upper. They specialize in PCCs and build AR-based carbines and pistols fed by 9mm and .45 ACP Glock magazines, Colt SMG 9mm magazines, SIG P226 magazines and even HK MP5 magazines.
At the last 2-Gun match I shot, one of the junior shooters on my squad was running a PCC from MBX. Their carbines are built specifically for competition and are very well thought of. Base guns start at $1,450.
Sources:Colt Manufacturingcolt.comYankee Hill Machineyhm.netRock River Armsrockriverarms.comCMMGcmmginc.comWilson Combat wilsoncombat.comJones Arms jonesarms.comAngstadt Armsangstadtarms.comJP Enterprises jprifles.comLone Wolf Distributors lonewolfdist.comCZ-USAcz-usa.comPalmetto State Armory palmettostatearmory.comBrugger & Thomet USA bt-arms.comRuger ruger.comLWRCIlwrci.comHi-Point hi-pointfirearms.comFoxtrot Mike fm-products.comLead Star Arms leadstararms.comQuarter Circle 10 quartercircle10.comMBX mbxextreme.com
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