Four Advantages of Pistol Caliber Carbines
When deciding on a home defense solution, many new shooters take the ill-informed, but well-meaning advice of armchair commandos, gun salesmen, and their uncle Bob. Which is to say, buying a pump-action shotgun and if confronted with an intruder, simply rack the action to scare them away. This is not only very bad advice, it’s also extremely dangerous and relies on the assumption that an attacker will be logical.
Many criminals and especially home-invaders are hopped up on some form of chemical stimulant or opiate and their brains aren’t firing on all cylinders. They’re angry, aggressive, and oftentimes so drugged up they can’t feel pain or fear. In this scenario, nothing short of a well-placed bullet will stop them.
And one of the most reliable ways to place that bullet where it needs to go is firing it from a compact, lightweight, light-recoiling carbine.
Four Benefits of Pistol Caliber Carbines for Home Defense
While the majority of home defense shootings occur inside of five yards, that doesn’t mean a shooter doesn’t need an accurate firearm. While five yards may seem too close for a shooter to miss, look at police shootouts at similar distances where dozens of rounds are exchanged, yet only a handful find their mark.
This is because most of these shootouts involve handguns. Handguns are great for home defense because they allow shooters to keep a hand free for operating lights, opening doors, or escorting loved ones out of harm’s way. The biggest problem with pistols is that they’re difficult to accurately shoot without training. Also, they often have limited ammunition reserves.
The former is because shooters only have two points of contact with their pistol at most. This makes stabilizing the pistol more difficult than with a shoulder-fired firearm, both in shot accuracy and in recoil control of subsequent shots.
By picking a pistol caliber carbine, shooters benefit from increased stability and recoil control — the latter of which makes follow-up shots a breeze compared to traditional handguns. After all, pistol caliber carbines, by definition, are chambered in rounds designed to fired one-handed. The felt recoil impulse on something in 9mm like a SIG MPX, or CZ Scorpion EVO, is much more manageable than the recoil of a standard handgun, a 12-gauge shotgun of any variety, or even a 5.56mm carbine.
Which brings me to another advantage of these soft-shooting lead-slingers: cost of proficiency.
2. Cheap Proficiency
This section’s title might raise an eyebrow or two given the high cost of ammunition, but like Einstein’s theory of time, it’s all relative.
Many people like to quote Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, where he suggests it takes 10,000 hours of practice to functionally master a skillset. While that may be true, few gun owners have the money or time to invest that much in shooting.
The good news is that it only takes a fraction of that time to become proficient at any skill set. While I personally believe deliberate practice trumps rote learning, different methods work for different people.
Regardless of whether you spend 10,000 hours of 50 practicing with your chosen home defense firearm, pistol caliber carbines reduce that cost tremendously.
For example, look at the standard 30-round magazine used by the CZ-USA Scorpion EVO (shown in the image above), the magazine itself is pretty inexpensive. More than that, filling said magazine with 9mm ammo is magnitudes less expensive than firing the same amount of ammo through a pump-action shotgun.
Also, new shooters tend to master pistol caliber carbines with fewer repetitions, since the recoil impulse is much less than centerfire rifles or 12-gauge shotguns. And don’t forget about the volume of the shot itself, which brings me to our next section.
3. Most Pistol Caliber Carbines are Suppressor-friendly
With the exception of calibers designed specifically for suppressors like .300 blackout, pistol calibers are literally, exponentially quieter than their rifle-caliber counterparts.
Our military’s standard round, 5.56x45mm, fires a very small, very light bullet at incredible speed. This high velocity is what makes the round effective against two-legged predators and enemy soldiers. The only problem is that the round’s super-sonic velocity makes even suppressed guns very loud. Not, damage-your-hearing loud, but certainly unpleasant, especially indoors.
Pistol caliber carbines, on the other hand, can be borderline movie quiet when equipped with a quality sound suppressor. This is because most common pistol calibers can be loaded in subsonic varieties without negating their effective terminal ballistics.
So if you’re running a 9mm SIG MPX carbine with its 20-round magazine filled with 147gr subsonic hollow-points, and a nice sound suppressor like the GemTech GM9 from SilencerShop, indoor gunshots won’t damage you, or your loved one’s hearing.
This may seem like the last thing on a homeowner’s mind when they hear a window shatter at 3 a.m., but it’s important because you never know if that intruder was alone or not. Firing an unsuppressed shotgun or rifle will destroy your hearing entirely for a few hours. Deaf, and possibly blind from a bright muzzle flash in a dark house, it would be very easy for another attacker to sneak up on you. Plus, who is going to take the time when they’re scared half to death, to put on a pair of earmuffs or plugs?
4. Shared Ammunition (and sometimes magazines)
Very few handguns are chambered in full-powered rifle cartridges. The only one I can think of offhand is the Ruger New Model Blackhawk in .30 carbine. But truthfully, .30 carbine is hardly considered a full-powered round, and the Blackhawk is single-action only — making this six-gun a poor choice for home defense.
That said, plenty of carbines are chambered in common pistol rounds, so shooters can swap ammunition between guns or just simplify the logistics of purchasing ammunition. Some pistol caliber carbines like the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 or Beretta’s PX-4 Storm even use pistol magazines. So a shooter could keep a backup on their hip, and a carbine at the ready. If either firearm malfunctions, they can take the magazine out of one, and insert it in the other.
This can also be handy if your spouse also has a firearm for home defense. It allows the two of you to swap magazines and ammunition. While handy, it’s likely you’ll never need this capability. Still, gun-owners don’t tend to be the sort of people to take unnecessary risks. Which might be why they own a gun in the first place.
Regardless of which caliber, firearm, or ammunition you choose — be sure to thoroughly test your chosen setup before employing it for home defense use. The best time to make sure a gun functions fine with a certain brand of ammo, isn’t during a firefight.
Jim is a freelance writer for dozens of firearm publications, the host of the YouTube channel Burst Review and the youngest author to write a cover story for Shotgun News in its 86-years of operation. Jim loves anything that goes, ‘boom’ but particularly enjoys military firearms from the Cold War and WW2. When he’s not slinging lead downrange he can be round hiking in the mountains with his wife Kim and their vicious attack dog, Peanut.