Firearms

Top 10 Pistol Caliber Carbines

selective focus of man holding and fire sub machine gun to target in gun shooting competition

Pistol caliber carbines (PCC) are a popular option for home defense and a blast for plinking at the range. PCCs utilize the stabilizing stock and design of a rifle, but are chambered for a handgun round. They are more accurate and have less recoil than handguns. They also handle well and are (most often) cheaper to shoot than traditional rifle calibers. 

When looking at pistol caliber carbines, there are many options. Most shooters go with a semi-auto carbine for the higher capacity and faster rate of fire. Reliability has come a long way and any of the firearms listed are top-notch. Here are the top pistol caliber carbines on the market today. 

1. S&W FPC

One of the most popular pistol caliber carbines is also one of the newest. The Smith and Wesson Folding Pistol Carbine features a 16-inch barrel, and folds in half for convenient storage and transport. The 9mm carbine utilizes a grip akin to the M&P 2.0 pistol line and accepts both full-size and compact M&P9 magazines. The adjustable stock incorporates storage for two spare magazines, while the M-Lok rail is ready to mount accessories. The FPC is optics ready with plenty of rail space. 

S&W also offers the Victory carbine. The Victory is based on its popular AR line, for those looking for similar operation and handling to their preferred MSR. 

S&W FPC
Smith and Wesson FPC

2. SIG MPX

The SIG MPX is based on the dependable AR-15 rifle, with a number of improvements to make it one helluva pistol caliber carbine. The 9mm carbine is built on a fully-ambidextrous lower and incorporates an enhanced charging handle for easy manipulation. It utilizes a gas piston system for improved reliability and ease of maintenance.

35-round magazines mean there’s plenty of ammunition on hand. The premium trigger makes for some incredible accuracy. The MPX carries over expected AR features, such as an M-Lok forend and adjustable stock. Further, the MPX incorporates a specialized muzzle brake for recoil mitigation and flat shooting. 

SIG MPX Rifle
SIG Sauer MPX

3. HK USC

HK makes some of the most trusted firearms for some of the most demanding operators. Derived from the legendary UMP submachine gun, the HK USC is a semi-automatic carbine variation that’s easier to obtain for the average person. The 16-inch barrel and stock/grip assembly makes it legal for import and classified as a rifle for ownership.

The USC utilizes a simple blowback operating system and lightweight, durable polymer construction. The .45 ACP carbine ships with 10-round magazines. However, 15- and 20-round stick magazines are available, as well as 50-round drums. 

HK USC
HK USC

4. Springfield Saint Victor

Springfield’s Saint line of AR-15 rifles has been a breakout hit in all iterations. The PCC Saint Victor is no different. The 9mm pistol caliber carbine accepts 32-round Colt-pattern magazines and utilizes a direct blowback action. Built on forged upper and lower receivers, the Victor is made to last. It’s equipped with an adjustable B5 Systems stock, pistol grip, and trigger guard, as well as an extended M-Lok free-float handguard. Additionally, the rifle features an enhanced single-stage trigger that’s nickel-boron coated for smooth function and reliability. 

Springfield Victor PCC
Springfield Armory Saint Victor

5. Ruger PC Carbine Takedown

The Ruger PC Carbine Takedown model is a good blend of traditional and tactical. The more conventional stock design is slim, lightweight, and points quickly, while the takedown mechanism makes for easy storage and transport. With two pull tabs and a twist, the receiver separates from the barrel and forend, which can fit in a standard size backpack. The dead blow action of the Ruger PC Carbine features a custom tungsten dead blow weight that shortens the bolt travel and reduces the felt recoil and muzzle rise. A reversible mag release and reversible charging handle make it truly ambidextrous, and three half-inch spacers allow for custom length-of-pull. 

Ruger PC Carbine Takedown
Ruger PC Carbine Takedown

6. Henry Homesteader 

The Henry Homesteader is a classic design, based around a rugged direct blowback action. Chambered in 9mm, the carbine comes with 10-round magazines. However, it can be converted to accept Glock, SIG, or other popular handgun magazines. The anodized aluminum receiver is lightweight for easy handling, but durable enough for serious use. The Homesteader is drilled and tapped for Weaver mounts and the barrel is threaded for muzzle devices. Further, the carbine is fully ambidextrous — from the charging handle to the tang safety. 

Henry Homesteader
Henry Homesteader

7. Kel-Tec SUB2000

Similar to the S&W FPC, the Kel-Tec SUB2000 is a 9mm carbine that folds in half for transport and storage. However, the SUB2000 takes Glock magazines and features Kel-Tec’s Gator Grip texturing on the pistol grip and forend for improved control. The SUB2000 is also available in different variations that accept various Beretta, SIG, and S&W magazines, so you can get the version that corresponds to your preferred defensive sidearm. Additionally, the carbine has a 3-position adjustable stock, M-Lok attachment points, and a Picatinny top rail for mounting optics. For a lightweight and portable option to throw in your car or backpack, the SUB2000 is hard to beat. 

Kel-Tec SUB-2000
Kel-Tec SUB2000

8. Hi-Point 10mm

The Hi-Point Carbine is the most affordable PCC on the list. It’s simple and a bit unpolished, but the direct blowback action runs like a top. The Hi-Point Carbine is available in a number of different calibers, but I believe one of the best choices is the hard-hitting 10mm. There are fewer options for 10mm PCCs on the market, and the Hi-Point is accurate and reliable.

The 17.5-inch barrel provides good ballistics with full-power ammunition. The internal recoil buffer (in the stock) helps reduce unnecessary wear and tear. Further, the Hi-Point features fully-adjustable sights, so you can really dial the rifle into your preferred load. 

Hi Point Carbine 10mm
Hi-Point 10mm Carbine

9. Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine

Although a bit less conventional, the Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine is an incredible PCC. Based on the legendary 1911 handgun, the carbine features a 16-inch barrel and removable stock. All other parts are traditional .45 ACP 1911. The standard military-style iron sights and spurred hammer of the A1 give the firearm a classic look that will turn some heads at the range. The steel frame provides lasting durability and added weight for improved recoil control. The Iver Johnson is the perfect pistol caliber carbine for the 1911 enthusiast. 

Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine
Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine

10. Kriss Vector 

The Kriss Vector utilizes a unique Super V Recoil Mitigation System that makes the firearm incredibly soft shooting and fun. This innovative, nonlinear operating system re-vectors energy down and away from the shooter’s shoulder in order to reduce felt recoil and muzzle climb. The Vector is available in 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and 10mm — all are built on a closed-bolt, delayed-blowback action that is robust and reliable. Further, the Vector Gen II supports toolless caliber interchangeability and Glock magazine compatibility in order to provide you with maximum modularity and flexibility. 

Kriss Vector Rifle
Kriss Vector

Bonus: Marlin 1894

Up until this point I’ve only covered semi-automatic options, but I believe there’s an alternate option to consider. A lever-action rifle chambered in .357 Magnum allows the versatility of .38 Special use and the reliability of a lever gun. Of the current options on the market, I believe the Marlin 1894 to be of the best quality and value.

Marlin 1894 Lever Action
Marlin 1894

The magazine tube holds 9 rounds of .357 Magnum or 10 rounds of .38 Special. The side loading gate allows you to top off from behind cover. Buckhorn sights make for a precise and accurate sight picture that is also durable enough for field use. Additionally, the rifle is drilled and tapped for scope mounting, and features beautifully-checkered wooden furniture and blued steel. These newer Ruger-produced Marlins are hand-fit for exceptional accuracy and ultimate reliability. 

What do you think of PCCs? What’s your favorite pistol caliber carbine? Share your answers in the Comment section.

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a younger firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting since he was a kid. He loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding, and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related and he tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills.

His primary focus is on handguns, but he loves all types of firearms. He enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn. He’s not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (38)

  1. I have a Ruger PC9 to go along with Mech Tech Carbine Conversion Units in 45ACP and 10mm Auto. I recently purchased a Kel Tek Sub 2000 in 40 S&W which gave me a pistol magazine carbine in every chambering I owned Glock pistols for. They are all nice guns-reliable , accurate , etc. I really like the Kel Tek but I ended up buying just about every option that MCCARBO offered for it. I installed them myself and did some custom polishing. The result was a trigger pull force reduction from around 8 lbs. to a little less than 3 lbs. I also installed a bunch of custom parts in my PC9. Of the firearms on the list I think I would pick my Sub 2000 as modified. As an old codger, I really appreciate how light it is and I think 40 S&W is a great cartridge for this type of firearm. However, it does kick pretty hard in such a light gun. Unfortunately, it seems like all of my rifles/carbines end up costing $1500 or more by the time I added sights, lights, and custom parts!

  2. While the 10mm application may have gotten the much loved and hated (mostly hated) Hi-Point on the list, I believe that the Extar EP45 (or EP9mm) would have been a better choice, given it’s reliability and Glock mag utilization.

  3. @CHRISTIAN D. ORR. LOL!

    Unfortunately as I have used all of my permission, and forgiveness, slips, if the Glommy Gun ever becomes a reality, I would have to use my “Get Out Of Jail Free” card to get one. LOL

  4. A Semi Auto, Carbine Length M3A1 would be a formidable PDW and quite the attention getter but I fear that the reverse engineering necessary to alter it to “Closed Bolt” operation would negate any feasibility or profitability.
    A Carbine version of the Ingram M10 would doubtless face the same hurdles.
    One can dream….

  5. @GRUMPY 49 “Still, wish RUGER would bring back their 44 Carbine. After ~40years,” ABSOLUTELY! Albeit one small improvement: Use their trouble free Rotary Magazine design.

    Not like Glock will ever get around to making a “Glommy Gun”, but even if they did, just because it has a similar “look” wouldn’t necessarily infringe on any patients rights. If that were the case there would be a whole lot fewer Glock look alike. Actually the inside of a Ruger PCC has a lot of resemblance to ole Tommy, as in massive heavy bolt design.

  6. As KAHR (Auto Ordinance) owns the “Tommy Gun” rights, any look alike clone could have legal issues.
    If there are any potential “new clone/updated version” PCCs that should be examined, either the H&R model 50/55 early WWII Marine 45 auto, or the Marlin ill-fated model 62 in 30 Carbine, would make more sense. The H&R 50/55 guns suffered from poorly designed magazines, and sloppy workmanship/poor quality parts that were not interchangeable. Note – Reviews by Post War use Police departments were always positive. Even worse, the short lever stroke action Marlin 62 used an unique magazine and had a price that was higher than the surplus M1 Carbines available at that time. RUGER should re introduce the model 62 in 5.7 x 28 and use their existing 5.7 magazines. Still, wish RUGER would bring back their 44 Carbine. After ~40years, still one of my favorite rifles.

  7. @CHRISTIAN D. ORR. I still think Glock should introduce a PCC modeled after the “Tommy Gun”, with ambidextrous slide stop, like the Gen 5’s, then maybe your dream could be real ized. LOL

    Just look at the Tommy, and look at a Glock. Such an obvious path for Glock. :-). Slanted pistol grip, slanted fore grip, slanted Glock 33 magazine? Of course Glock should offer it in other manufactures magazine designs just to be fair. LOL

  8. After researching for years for a semi-auto PCC that would accommodate a correct-handed person, unfortunately many are just deal breakers no matter what, they just aren’t correct-handed friendly. Fortunately companies like TandemKross [TK] make ambidextrous safeties, and bolt-hold open, for the Ruger PCC, and that combined with the factory ambidextrous bolt handle, and reversible magazine release, makes the Ruger PCC, with the exception of the right-hand only discharge, VERY correct-handed friendly. It is actually very friendly for either hand, when setup this way. If that weren’t enough, VISM makes a replacement rear sight mount, that maintains the iron sights, it also includes a short Picatinny rail, which allows the mounting of a red-dot sight LOW ON THE BARREL, which results in incredible accuracy improvement for the Ruger PCC. All of those updates, not counting the red-dot, total less than $100, on an already cost friendly PCC, AND coming with a Glock Magwell update, with last round hold-open, ended up putting the Ruger PCC at the #1 position for best overall value for either handed, but really nice for a correct-handed person. On top of all of that, for reloads, the receiver Picatinny rail can mount one of the many brass catchers.

  9. Mr. Cross – The M1 Carbine was the first PDW, developed in late 1941. While the modern 30 Carbine ammo is superior to the WWII ball ammo, the 30 Carbine round is not officially a “pistol” round. BUT – a .308/110 grain bullet at ~1900 fps is nothing to disregard. Also because the M1 Carbine operates with a short stroke gas piston, it only weights about 5 1/2 pounds. Too bad that new manufactured M1 Carbine are so costly, and so hard to come by. With a folding stock, I think that the little M1 Carbine is still an effective PDW. As there are “pistol” version M1 Carbine with 12″ barrels, if one could be found, it could still beat out a 9mm PCC.

  10. My #8 was a purchase worth waiting for. When I first considered the Hi-Point PCC, caliber was a quick decision for me. Then, it took @9 months (I wasn’t pregnant) for my 10mm choice to become available. At my advanced age, it scratched my black-rifle itch. Plus, I was pleased–as an Ohioan–to patronize its state-based manufacturer.

  11. @CHARLES CROSS: Well, though the M1 .30 Carbine is certainly a classic, technically the caliber was designed as a rifle caliber and not a rifle one, though there are certainly handguns that chamber it (such as the old AMT AutoMag III).

    @ALLSTAR: Eh, to each his own. I fired the Marlin Camp Carbine .45 ACP on two separate occasions after reading the late great Dean A. Grennell’s (God rest his soul) claim about it being the “ultimate fun gun”…and I was severely underwhelmed by it both times.

  12. Hi

    I like PCCs because they work really well… but more importantly, their caliber matches most of the other weapons in my inventory.

    I purchased only one .40 caliber side arm (my very first purchase for protection)… since then any purchase matches .22, .38, .30, or 9mm firearms currently in my collection. That way my ammunition on-hand serves all weapons in my inventory. I own only one M1 Garand.

  13. I like my Suomi M31 SMG in 9mm Luger. It was “bastardized” by TNW to make it fire in semi-automatic only and qualify as a rifle. My father had one of the first 4000 made in Finland before the Winter War, that Russians started at the end of November, 1939. I shot one of the originals, when I joined the Finnish Army in June, 1964.

  14. Don’t forget the 327 federal magnum lever action by Henry. Enough power plus you can tone it down with 32 magnum, 32 long, and 32 short. Good for many things .

  15. The bump stock is just an Easy way to make a semi-automatic rifle ALMOST fully-automatic. There are other ways if you know anything about weapons the sear pin can be changed to make the rifle Fully-automatic. Although this isn’t a noticeable (seeable) change, it’s just as easy.

  16. I think the Colt Model 6951 and Kalashnakov USA KR-9 should be on the list. Both are currently produced and I have fired both extensively with no issues. Both are able to accommodate numerous accessories, and magazine/spare parts are readily available.

    HK-94 or its clones are also worthy contenders

  17. You missed the Beretta CX4! I have shot about half of the carbines on your list and this thing is the best. Space-age good looks, easy field strip, class-leading ergonomics. The trigger is meh, but there are plenty of aftermarket upgrades. Surprised the CZ Scorpion didn’t make the list, too…

  18. My IMI Model B Uzi is all the PCC I’ll ever need or have. It never fails to work, or impress, for that matter. You’ve got to love the true classics!

  19. My IMI Model B Uzi is all the PCC I’ll ever need. or have. It never fails to work, or impress. You’ve got to love the classics!

  20. I was disappointed that you missed the Marlin Camp 9 and Camp 45. I have a beautiful checkered wood stock Camp 9 that uses the same magazine as the older police issue S&W 5900 series which can be found in 5904 & 6906 models as well as others for reasonable prices. Not as easy to find the Camp 9/45 any more though, so I’m hanging on to mine!

  21. If that Iver Johnson came with a shorter threaded barrel someone could add their own 12 inch suppressor and it would look hugely more un-hillbilly.

  22. If that Iver Johnson came with a shorter threaded barrel someone could add their own 12 inch suppressor and it would look hugely more un-hillbilly.

  23. If that Iver Johnson came with a shorter threaded barrel someone could add their own 12 inch suppressor and it would look hugely more un-hillbilly.

  24. Reply to Karl. Th 1911 pistols had a kit to make it a carbine, when one was not assigned to a squad of troops. WWII, I believe. Look it up. It was not a joke.

  25. The 9. Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine has got to be the dumbest thing I have ever seen. That has to be a joke.

  26. As to PCCs, the 357 and 44 mag, in a lever action carbine, is a hard combination to beat. Both gain a major boost in performance in a carbine and can be used with a “sub caliber” (38 or 44 special) round for training or target shooting. As to home defense, these “old timey” carbines can be more effective than the typical 9mm PCC and have the bonus of not looking like an ‘evil black rifle”. Compare a 9mm/115 gr at ~1450 fps to the 357/125 gr at ~2000 fps to the 44/240 gr at ~1600 fps and tell me which one you would prefer! P.S. – Wish that RUGER would bring back their 44 semi auto Carbine. Best of the PCCs in my opinion.

  27. I own the Ruger Take-Down PCC. It’s a great carbine rifle and lots of fun to shoot. One thing not mentioned in the description is that it also takes Glock magazines. As far as cleaning, you can easily remove the barrel to clean. The rest of the cleaning is a bit more difficult. In order to clean the remainder of the carbine you have to completely strip down every part of the receiver (except the trigger group which still has to be removed) to clean the internal parts, which do get exceptionally dirty from gunpowder and carbon fouling.
    I also own two Marlin 1894’s in both .357 magnum and .44 magnum. Both of these carbines are fun to shoot and they both have excellent accuracy which I claim them both tack drivers.

  28. Glad to see the Marlin 1894 on the list. It seems these days of semi-auto tactical rifles the venerable lever action is often overlooked. Personally I love the old levers. High capacity, light weight, fast handling and highly accurate these guns are just a blast to shoot.

  29. @RICK: I recently helped a buddy test-fire his new Smith FPC with a Holosun attached, and the gun performed quite well

  30. I must agree with Christian D. Orr. Certain “Classics” never go out of style. Thus is the case with my IMI Model B Uzi Carbine. It’s never picky about what Ammo I feed it regardless of mfg. or bullet weight and is actually a Breeze to field strip and clean, plus it does indeed get a lot of attention at the range.

  31. I was hoping to see the FPC on this list and I am glad you didn’t disappoint! I’m not sure why, but there seems to be a lot of haters on the FPC. From personal experience, it is a FANTASTIC PCC! It is super accurate, has never had a failure yet for me and eats anything I have fed it, is lightweight yet strong, is simpl3 to disassemble and clean, is easy to stow in a vehicle or backpack or bag, comes with 3 good sized magazines that are shared with the M&P 9 pistols, comes with a threaded barrel, and has almost no recoil. S&W really got it right with this one and it has quickly become one of my favorites! Add a good red dot with some co-witnessed backup irons and you are set.

  32. Though cranky and high-maintenance, I nonetheless have a sentimental love for my M1927 Thompson carbine…not as thrilling as firing a true full-auto SMG “Tommy Gun,” but wonderfully accurate.

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