The Pistol Caliber Carbine an overview

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Somewhere in that murky middle ground between your trusted handgun, and your favorite assault rifle is the PCC, or pistol-caliber carbine.

PCC History

The first PCCs were the old lever-action carbines of the Wild West. Many Winchester 1873 models were chambered in the same revolver caliber cartridges that were popular in the day such as 32-20 and 44-40, enabling those who possessed such a shorty rifle to use the same box of bullets in both his wheel gun and his long arm.

The Pistol Caliber Carbine an overview - notdku - photo-1894-262.jpg
- The Marlin 1894 is a popular modern version of the Old West lever action PCC in hard hitting 44Magnum. (photo from Marlin Firearms)

Starting in the last years of WWI with the Bergman M18 submachine gun (SMG )and continuing into the roaring 1920s with the Auto Ordnance "Tommy gun," boxed magazine automatic carbines were chambered in short rimless pistol rounds such as 9mm and .45ACP. This continued through the 1980s when most militaries replaced their SMGs with larger caliber short-barreled carbines, better able to defeat modern body armor encountered on the battlefield.

Today both the legacy lever guns and military-style semi-automatic replica SMGs still exist alongside the new generation of modern PCCs.

Modern PCCs

Today a number of manufactures carry very modern little carbines in mild-recoiling pistol loadings. These include the Keltec, Hi-Point, and Beretta. While some would consider putting these three manufacturers together in one sentence to be sacrilege, in the world of PCCs, these are the Three Kings. If you are looking for a reliable room-broom to clear your hallway with, odds are it will come from one of these.
Hi-Point, long a victim of deserved bad press on their handguns, has attained in recent years niche acceptance of their carbines. Priced to move (used versions can be had for as low as $150), and functional if somewhat ugly, they are very popular.

The Pistol Caliber Carbine an overview - notdku - pix1159703859-260.jpg
- The HiPoint 995, often found for $150 used its hard to beat for the price, even if its not very snazzy looking.

Keltec has staked its territory with modular Sub2000 series guns that use common Glock and SIG magazines with the added bonus of being highly compact and lightweight. Their new RMR30 offering provides 30 rounds of often-overlooked .22WMR at your fingertips. From a 16-inch barrel, the rimfire magnum compares ballistically to the vaunted .30 carbine round of WWII fame.

Beretta has provided the upper tier of PCC's with their groundbreaking and very smooth CX4-series of carbines. A case of imitation is the best flattery is seen by those who often purchase a Hi-Point and then fit it with an aftermarket stock to make it a CX4 clone. The only drawback of the Beretta PCC is its price.
The Pistol Caliber Carbine an overview - notdku - cx4-storm-rig-261.jpg
- The Beretta CX4, chambered in 9/40/45 is very high-tech with beautiful lines and great ergonomics. It is often seen in sci-fi flicks such as Battlestar Gallactica and Stargate (So Say We All!)(photo from Beretta USA)

Various popular PCCs Compared

Let's compare some of the most popular current production PCCs out there: the economical Hi-Point series, the old school Marlin 1894 as a control, Keltec's revolutionary Sub2000 and RMR30, and Beretta's science-fiction friendly CX4.

(Ruger seems to have discontinued their exceptional Deerfield and PC-9 carbines, as has Marlin stopped production of their neat little Camp Carbine, so they will not be included in this study)

What is the advantage of the PCC

The short length and of the carbine when compared to a full sized assault rifle or home defense shotgun makes it more maneuverable in tight spaces such as hallways. The size also beings it into the realm of keeping stowed away as a "car-gun" in a trunk emergency kit. The lightweight characteristics of the type (as little as 4-pounds) allow one-handed use if the other hand is needed to manipulate cell phones, flashlights, doorknobs et al while moving through a structure.

The combination of a long barrel adds power to even mild-mannered pistol caliber loads, producing harder hitting impacts. The lower cost of handgun rounds vs. assault rifle rounds enables more training sessions per the dollar. The long action and buttstock also mute the recoil considerably. Many people equate felt recoil firing a 9mm carbine to the same as a .22LR target rifle.

The Pistol Caliber Carbine an overview - notdku - glenn-rmr30-0481-263.jpg
- Keltec's new RMR30 carbine is the latest entry into the evolutionary chain of the PCC. Here is a couple of different views courtesy of gun photographer guru Oleg Volk.

What is the disadvantage of the PCC

"If you are shooting a pistol round, just use a pistol," says NRA LE instructor and tactical trainer Warren Breckenridge. "There is no way you are putting a CX4 in your nightstand."

Warren has a point. Even being much smaller than an M4 or your favorite Mossberg 500, even the most compact PCCs are still very much longer than pistols. When price is considered, some PCCs are also more expensive than comparable pistols without the benefit of being carried as a CCW weapon if needed.

The specter of over penetration is also mentioned around the discussion table, especially if using very hot rounds in a drywall-rich environment. This of course can be mitigated with different loads and experimentation.


The PCC is not a new concept, maturing like a fine wine over the course of the past 150-years. While not for everyone, it is definitely an option for affordable home defense, especially for those who shy away from full sized assault rifles and shotguns.

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January 26, 2012  •  03:27 PM
Don't forget Just Right Carbines.
January 26, 2012  •  04:03 PM
So you are going to crap on Hi Point? Instead of having a pic of their new 995TS carbine, you choose a pic of the old style 995, then you say their pistols have a "deservedly bad name" even though for over a decade the C9 pistol has become a reliable firearm. Obviously the person who wrote this article has no personal experience with this brand and just read a few "hi point sucks" articles and took them to be fact. Look online, check youtube, the Hi Point firearms may not be the prettiest firearms on the market, but they are reliable and a great firearm for people who can't go spend $400 for a glock or other "big name" gun.
January 26, 2012  •  04:58 PM
Yep they are ugly as sin and heavy as a brick of lead, but danged if they dont just keep shooting...not to mention if you ever have an issue they fix it no problem!!!! Even of you bought it used at a pawnshop. Or loan it to a buddy who puts pressure rings in it. Guess they deserve all that "bad press and name"
January 27, 2012  •  06:41 PM
The Hi-Point 995 carbine shown in this article is not the current model. The old 995 is somewhat 'planet of the apes', but the newer 995 is more modern.

If you are unable to find an image of the newer Hi-Point 995TS I'll gladly send you one.
January 28, 2012  •  04:41 AM
Hi-Point C9 9mm Pistol: Viable Option for Defensive Use

In the "Combat Test" section of the November 2006 issue of Combat Handguns magazine, titled "Hi-Point C9 9mm: A no-nonsense, no-frills sureshot you can bet your life on!" Wow. Thatís quite a title.

The article surprised us. Apparently, Mr. Markel was pretty impressed with the C9. In his testing, Mr. Markel fired Federal 124-grain Hydra-Shok, Cor-Bon 125-grain JHP, and Winchester USA roundnose/hardball through the Hi-Point C9 with zero gun-related malfunctions.
January 28, 2012  •  09:01 AM
Normally I don't post comments on my own articles, however judging from the above, i do feel he need to clarify a few points.

Numerous commentators have mentioned the picture of the "old" HI-point 995 and decried my choice of it.

The reason for my use of this picture is simple- its of my personal weapon. I bought an old used Hi-Point 995 in 1998 for $100 and since then have put in excess of three cases of ammunition into it with a pretty low failure rate. It sits behind a door secured in my hunting camp. I rather enjoy the little carbine and plainly recommended it. I also have a CX4 and a Class III NFA S&W76, but honestly have shot the Hi-Point more. I even custom-made a dual-magazine butt-stock holder for it modeled after the old mag cases on the M1 carbine. --Nobody makes clothes for their firearm unless they really like it gentlemen.

I rather like the HPC, and for the money I don't think that it can be beat.

On Hi-Point pistols, I stand behind my statement that they are "long a victim of deserved bad press on their handguns." This also came from experience. As a certified basic to LE firearms instructor for more than two decades in multiple disciplines as well as being a graduate of numerous factory armorer courses, I have seen just about every modern firearm in use on the line in realistic settings. This included several Hi-Points pistols, a few of which passed through my hands. Many of these weapons exhibited very bad ergonomics, poor construction, and numerous mechanical issues that led to abysmal range performance. It was my interaction with these examples that I based my single statement that Hi-Point pistols had a bad reputation, not that I have "just read a few "hi point sucks" articles and took them to be fact"

I never base a statement about firearms without having a personal experience to back it up. That would be unethical.

While I freely admit that the C9 version has improved Hi-Point's product line, the fact does still stand that their pistols had earned (at one time) a bad reputation. However, this article was/is about PCCs and the Hi-Point carbine is a good one, especially for the price.
January 28, 2012  •  03:25 PM
Well, at least you may be better off to do and have lots of opportunity to buy good guns. I buy good gun too. I have all the Hi-Point pistols, plus the 4595TS carbine. However, I can only afford those deservedly bad guns, but I have a deservedly good time shoot'n them.
See ya at the range...
January 29, 2012  •  08:43 AM

Thanks for the clarification.

Personally, I would have liked to have known that you were a fellow owner of a Hi-Point carbine, and had included your carbine in the article.

Lately, possibly due to the economy and their reputation, Hi-Point firearms are becoming more prevalent and popular.

Owners, like myself, are trying to debunk any previous misconceptions with our own experiences. I have personally sent over 2000 rounds downrange with my 995TS. My carbine goes bang every time with inexpensive (read:cheap) ammo.

I can't remember the last time I had this much fun, for so long, for only $250.
February 2, 2012  •  04:49 PM
This is a great article. Very informative and easy to read. My only complaint is that the term "assault rifle" was used. As Walter Sobchak would say, it's not the preferred nomenclature, Dude.
February 9, 2012  •  12:58 PM
You left out the best of the 9MM carbines. The Sterling.
February 18, 2012  •  06:56 AM
I have my eye on a Thureon Defense carbine. Maybe a .45acp.
They all look like fun...
February 27, 2012  •  08:03 PM
Dude, you totally skipped the CALICO series of PCC's...
how you can even write a paper on PCC's and forget the BEST of them is mind-boggling.