Guest Post: Commander Zero on Carbines

Pistol caliber carbine rifles fill a unique niche. Not nearly as powerful as a rifle, yet definitely more powerful and accurate than handguns chambered in the same caliber. Commander Zero is our featured guest blogger today, and in this post, he discusses carbines along with the advantages and disadvantages of having a pistol and carbine chambered for the same cartridge.

Marlin has introduced their .357 levergun in stainless steel. I’m gonna need one of those. While my blued Marlin will last me a lifetime with proper care, I would rather have something for those times when improper care will be the order of the day…snow, mud, water, dirt, blood, and all the other things that a lifetime of bumping around in the outdoors can bring will eventually turn even the best blue job into rust and freckling. Stainless steel isn’t exactly impervious to everything but it’s a better choice in terms of vulnerabilities than blued. While Im on the subject of .357s, two things I’d very much like to see are a Ruger semiauto carbine in .357, just like their .44; and a ‘convertible’ DA-revolver in 38/357/9mm. Ruger has done convertibles in their single action guns (38-40/10mm, 32 H&R/.32-20, .45 Colt/ACP, 357/9mm, and .22 LR/Mag) and even made a few in their autos (9mm/30 Luger). But a convertible DA would be nice for guys like me that want to hedge their bets on where their ammo is coming from. I suppose I could always have an extra cylinder made up and mated to a GP100 or something, but it would be nicer if it came from the factory. I like the .357 guns because of their versatility. Obviously, the biggest attraction is that they’ll shoot the common .38 Special round as well as the .357. Someone might say that since the .44 Magnum will also shoot the .44 Special round, it is equally as versatile and since the .44 Magnum is more powerful it’s a better choice than the .357. Problem with that argument though is that youre supposing that .44 Special ammo is as frequently found as .38 Special, which Im pretty certain is not the case. (And don’t get me wrong, Im a huge fan of the .44 Special.) In terms of ballistics the .357 has enough power to do what you usually ask a self-defense pistol to do, although on the big furry things with claws it will take a backseat to the .44 Mag. But, thus far, I haven’t run across much that the .357 wouldn’t kill just as dead as long as one was careful with their shooting. There was a time when I was able to buy police trade-in Smith & Wessons for about $150 each and I picked up a bunch. I figured they’d make excellent pistols for tucking away in nightstands or leaving under the seat of the truck….reliable, relatively cheap, and ultimately disposable. Of course, they also make excellent trading stock and are great candidates for loaning to friends. I remember reading somewhere about the notion that if you lived somewhere that had a ban on ‘assault weapons’ (or had to visit such a place) a combination like that would be a good one to have in case things took a turn for the apocalyptic. Its an interesting notion but I think its flawed – if the wheels fly off civilization to the point that you need a rifle and pistol I think things have degraded to a point where no one is going to care if the gun youre shooting zombies with is prohibited in that state. Any discussion like this usually starts up the “Do pistol caliber carbines have any place in your plans” thread. The argument is that pistol caliber carbines (and this includes things like Uzis, Thompson guns, HK94s, Marlin Camp Carbines, etc, etc.) are, by virtue of their pistol calibers, not as powerful as a regular carbine (AK, AR, etc) and since youre carrying a carbine-sized gun why not have it be in a more powerful cartridge? Surely carrying two different kinds of ammo isn’t that much hardship, right? A handful of AK mags and a couple Glock mags are no big deal. Im not sure how to respond to that. I’m reminded of the reason for the .30 Carbine and current crop of PDWs – for occasions where more firepower is needed than a regular pistol, but a full size carbine is not likely to be needed. As the story goes, the .30 Carbine was developed as a replacement for the handgun in use by troops that normally were not expected to be in combat. For example, document couriers, motorpool, tank mechanics, etc,…anyone who it wasn’t expected would have to do any fighting but just might get caught up in some anyway. No point in the toting around a 10# Garand that they’d almost never use, but if they did get caught they’d need something with more range and firepower than a 1911. So, the M1 Carbine came to be. Sure, it was an anemic cartridge but it wasn’t designed to replace the Garand, it was designed to replace the 1911. Nowadays though, we have carbines that aren’t much heavier than the M1 Carbine but are considerably more powerful, so is there a need for the pistol caliber carbine? I’m not sure. They’re certainly handy guns…if a guns longevity were determined solely by ballistics the .30-30 would have disappeared about seventy years ago. But because the guns chambered in it were light, handy and well-suited of for the task they have endured and kept .30-3o around when it should have been relegated to the section of Cartridges Of The World pertaining to obsolete cartridges. Pistol caliber carbines are, by and large, cheaper to shoot, cheaper to reload for, have less penetration (if that sort of thing is a concern), have less recoil, and in the case of semiautos can put out much more lead in a shorter time with more accuracy than a comparable handgun would. Other than that, there don’t seem to ba many advantages. One advantage, though, is that a pistol caliber carbine is far easier to suppress than a more powerful carbine. And a suppressed carbine will be steadier to aim and probably a little more accurate at range than a suppressed handgun. I’ve often thought of having the end of my Marlin threaded for a suppressor and shooting 200 gr. .38 Specials out of it. Subsonic but still enough weight to make an impression. So, I guess Im not sure if pistol-caliber carbines have a place. I still like my little Marlin, and I’d like very much to pick up an Uzi somewhere. But as to whether they offer any real advantage over an AK or AR carbine, Im not sure.

Commander Zero makes his home in Montana with his wife where he is an active member in the preparedness community. You can visit his blog at

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Comments (2)

  1. Magazine sharing is a huge advantage too, if you’re talking about autoloaders. The problem with that as I see it is that most autoloading cartridges are underpowered when compared to .357 mag or .44 mag. Obviously revolver / levergun combos don’t have magazines to worry about, so that point is kinda moot.

    Now if I could get my hands on a .30 carbine autoloader (something along the lines of the Automag III) and carbine rifle combo that could share magazines, THAT would be neat.

  2. For me the idea of a pistol caliber carbine was much more practical when you not only didn’t have to stock multiple caliber bullets but you also only had to have one universal set of magazines too. Combining my Glock 19 with a Kel-Tec SUB2000 allows me to stock only 9mm ammunition and because they both use the same Glock magazines I only have to ever have with me one type of magazine. Also because it’s Glock 9mm I also have the ability to have as little as 10 rounds or as much as 33 rounds that I can share instantly between both guns.

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