There are few guns that I enjoy shooting more than my AR-15’s. There is something about the ability to insert a 30 round magazine and quickly engage targets from 0-250 yards with relative ease. It is fun and since my AR-15 is my home defense gun, shooting it can be practical from a training standpoint as well. The AR-15 doesn’t come without some disadvantages, though.
That is where a fun gun like a 9mm AR-15 can slide in to fill a void in your enjoyment and in your training regimen. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages that a 9mm carbine can provide over your trusty AR-15.
Those that spend a lot of time on the range quickly find out that buying guns isn’t the expensive part of shooting—it’s the ammo. A serviceable AR-15 off the shelf can be expected to retail for less than $900. That is less than the cost of 3000 rounds of .223/5.56 ammunition at late 2016 prices.
3000 rounds of ammo sounds like a boat load, but in fact, it is pretty common to shoot 1000 rounds in a two-day defensive training course.
When we consider the cost of 9mm ammunition in comparison to the typical caliber of the AR, the price tends to be around 30 percent less. That amounts to a savings of around $0.10 per round. If you are shooting a decent volume of rounds, this can add up to enough savings to purchase an additional rifle. With the 31 round GLOCK mags from ETS, the cost of magazines is pretty much a wash.
That sounds like a win to me!
Speaking of shooting in high volume, the barrel on your AR-15 has a life expectancy that might not be quite as long as you think. When it comes to barrels chambered in .223/5.56 life expectancy varies widely depending on the ammo that you shoot. If you prefer the cheap stuff you can begin to see a drop off in accuracy in as little as 5000 rounds. Ammunition from reputable manufacturers (think U.S. based big names) can extend the life of your barrel to as much as 10,000-25,000 rounds depending on the barrel itself and your style of shooting.
With 9mm, it seems the sky is the limit. Because the 9×19 is a much lower pressure round, erosion at the throat of the barrel (this is where your 5.56 AR is going to wear out first) is minimal and your 9mm barrel will just be breaking in when you are replacing your typical AR barrel chambered in an intermediate cartridge.
Pistol Caliber Positives
The intermediate cartridges that AR-15’s are typically chambered in like the 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington are certainly good calibers, but there are situations where a pistol caliber has some advantages, especially when it comes to recreation.
I like to shoot steel. A lot. When it comes to rifles and steel, however, distance is required. Most steel targets are rated for rifle calibers at 100 yards or greater. This is for the safety of the steel and the shooter.
For me, this is a problem. In addition to shooting steel a lot, I like to shoot it fast. Shooting rapidly at close range provides for more realistic defensive training and it’s more fun.
The standard safe distance from steel targets with 9mm is generally accepted at 10 yards. That is a world of difference and the close range fits much more into what I am looking for when it comes to training and recreation.
Final Thoughts about the 9mm Carbine
A pistol caliber carbine like a 9mm AR-15 isn’t for everyone. The additional cost might not be worth it when it comes to ammo and barrel life if you aren’t shooting a high volume of rounds. If you simply enjoy punching paper at your local range, the ability to safely shoot steel in close might not factor in. For me however, a 9mm carbine makes complete sense because it is practical, economical and fun. What about you?
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