The Best PCCs for Beginners

The world of pistol-caliber carbines is huge these days. The concept took off about a decade ago and has yet to slow down. Along the way, the benefits and downsides of PCCs have been written about extensively. It’s easy to see why PCCs offer so much appeal to new shooters. These guns have low recoil and muzzle rise. They tend to be quieter than most rifles and are very easy to suppress. 

Pistol calibers like 9mm are cheap to shoot and very common. Plus, most of these rifles can use some form of handgun magazine, making them a dual-purpose tool. Package all that with affordability, and you get a platform that draws beginners in. With that in mind, there have to be some PCCs that are better for beginners than others, right? 

Of course, we’ve gathered the five best PCCs for beginners.

The Best PCCs for Beginners 

Smith & Wesson Response Carbine 

The S&W Response Carbine offers shooters a standard straight blowback AR design mixed with a modular magwell design. It’s really something new and quite impressive. Smith & Wesson makes great guns, and the S&W Response allows the end user to choose between S&W Magazines and Glock magazines by swapping the magwell. 

The Response is an AR-based carbine, but is unlike other AR-based guns. The S&W Response uses polymer upper and lower, which creates a very lightweight design overall. Besides being lightweight, it’s also affordable and quite handy. The gun comes with an adjustable stock and M-LOK rail. It’s optics-ready, and all you need is a red dot to get started. 

smith & wesson response pcc
The Smith & Wesson Response is a PCC chambered in 9mm. (Photo credit: Smith & Wesson)

Why It’s Perfect For Beginners – If you want a 9mm carbine, it’s tough to stray away from the AR platform; the Response gives you a very affordable, well-built, and modular package. Being able to change which magazines you can use is huge. While the Response uses M&P and Glock mags as of now, the future holds all sorts of possibilities in mind. 

Beginners get a very reliable weapon that’s easy to control and accessorize. Plus, the price point makes it impossible to deny. While it’s new, it’s already received an exceptional response, which is fitting for a gun called the Response. 

Ruger PC Carbine 

Ruger has quite a history with PCCs. They made a few neat designs, but they never caught on. That is until the Ruger PC Carbine. The Ruger PC Carbine took the Ruger 10/22 design and beefed it up for the 9mm cartridge. Ruger makes numerous variants, from versions with standard stocks to tactical models with M-LOK rails and adjustable stocks. Ruger also went the modular magwell route. 

The Ruger PC Carbine comes with a Ruger Security 9 magwell installed, but they also include a Glock magwell to make compatibility with the world’s most popular pistol mag an option. Ruger also made these take-down weapons, meaning they split in half for easy storage and transport. It’s a brilliant weapon design that doesn’t break the bank, either. 

Ruger PC Carbine
The Ruger PC Carbine with Woodshop Wednesday Classic stock. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
Why It’s Perfect For Beginners – The Ruger PC Carbine uses a direct blowback design but integrates a tungsten weight to create something called a dead blow action. The weight reduces the speed and violence of the bolt and limits recoil to a very low level. Any beginner would greatly appreciate the low recoil. 

The PC Carbine also comes out of the box, ready to shoot. At least, the stock model does. It’s got a set of basic iron sights, but basic is often enough for most shooters. The ability to mix and match mag wells is nice, and while most shooters are fine with Glock mags, the aftermarket has provided additional options, including CZ mags. 

CMMG Resolute MkGs 

Admittedly, most new shooters are likely not going to hawk over the money for the CMMG Resolute MkGs. It’s an expensive PCC but one of the best on the market. If you are a by once, cry once type, then the MkGs is for you. The Resolute MkGs is a premium-grade rifle that combines a full-sized rifle with Glock magazine usage and the CMMG-patented radial delayed blowback system. 

The end result is an uber-lightweight and low-recoiling rifle. It beats the bricks off of any blowback-operated PCC in the recoil department. Each shot is seemingly nothing more than a loud noise compared to other blowback-operated options. The MkGs takes the AR format and runs with premium-grade controls, furniture, and ergonomics. If you want something absurdly accurate, easy to shoot, and fun, then the MkGs have your back. 

CMMG resolute
Oh, and it comes in a multitude of colors.

Why It’s Perfect For Beginners – The MkGs is one of my go-to rifles for new shooters. When a shooter moves beyond a rimfire and into the centerfire rifle world, the MkGs work perfectly. The lightweight and low recoil make it easy to teach new shooters without overwhelming them. Plus, the excellent accuracy and controls make it a more fun experience for new shooters.

The fact it’s an AR can’t be ignored. The AR platform is supremely ergonomic, and new shooters tend to flock to easy-to-use weapons. While the price point can be a bit high, you are definitely getting what you pay for with the CMMG series of PCCs. 

KelTec Sub 2000 

The KelTec Sub 2000 is an OG of the pistol caliber carbine world. Before pistol caliber carbines were popular, the Sub 2000 soldiered on and gave shooters a lightweight, affordable, and fun platform. The main draw to the Sub 2000 is the fact it folds in half and becomes super short and easy to store, but it’s no one-trick pony. 

KelTec produces the Sub 2000 in a few different models, which use different popular pistol mags. Yep, Glock mags are an option, but so are S&W, SIG, and CZ Mags. You have a ton of options that allow you to use your handgun mags as rifle mags. The Sub 2000 comes with iron sights, and right out of the box, it’s ready to shoot. 

Kel-Tec 2000
Love it or hate it, the Kel-Tec 2000 is still a fun and affordable gun.

Why It’s Perfect For Beginners – The Sub 2000 is lightweight, cheap, and fun to shoot. The direct blowback action does create some issues with recoil, but ultimately, it’s not going to hurt you. It might feel a little more intense than other options, but it’s still only a 9mm…or maybe a 40 S&W since both are options. 

The affordability of the Carbine is a huge draw. They regularly retail for less than four hundred dollars, and that’s a big deal for a lot of shooters. The folding action makes them easy to store, and the novelty of the design makes it easy to embrace. The big downside is adding optics is tough, but the aftermarket has a few solutions. 

Aero Precision EPC 

Aero Precision is an AR company that’s well-known for being the gun builder’s best friend. The AR platform is endlessly modular and really easy to assemble compared to other similar platforms. Aero Precision got into the PCC market with the EPC, which opened the doors for builders looking to build the PCC of their dreams. 

Aero Precision’s EPC makes it easy to build the PCC of your dreams in the AR footprint. What Aero does a little differently is institute a last-round bolt-hold open device that works with standard Glock mags. That’s not common in PCCs and was a major innovation that the EPC pioneered. Other than that, the receiver sets provide excellent ergonomics and a blank canvas for you to build the PCC of your dreams. 

Aero EPC profile
The EPC is the perfect builder’s gun

Why It’s Perfect For Beginners – This particular option is perfect if you want to build a PCC rather than buy one. If you are looking at the AR PCC world and can’t find what exactly you want, the Aero EPC receiver sets allow you to build it from the ground up. 

You can make the PCC of your dreams without breaking the bank, but you also need to realize you’re getting high-quality parts and pieces without going broke. Beginners are well served by building their own guns. It helps you learn the ins and outs of your rifle and isn’t difficult to accomplish. 

The PCC World 

Pistol caliber carbines rule. They offer several benefits and tend to be on the fun and affordable side of the gun world. Sure, they have their limitations, but what don’t they have? If you are just getting into the world of firearms, a PCC can be a great place to start! 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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