The Top Five Subguns — Why The Little Guys Rule

Pistol caliber carbines have existed forever, but as we’ve seen, they’ve become quite popular. The last ten years have been good to the PCC, and the popularity of PCCs combined with the popularity of braces has mixed to make the subgun. Today we will be specifically looking at what I feel are the best five subguns currently on the market.

What’s a Subgun?

Subgun is a title that parts of the industry have thrown on submachine gun wannabes. They took the machine part out, so we are left with the sub and the gun parts. A subgun is a pistol-caliber weapon that’s also legally a really big pistol. These guns are massive for handguns but short when compared to rifles. They are often the semi-auto variants of SMGs and often wear braces. (Not the braces your 13-year-old has, but pistol braces.)

These guns have likely become more popular than PCCs these days. Who wouldn’t like their pistol-caliber weapon to be shorter and lighter? I call these weapons subguns, but others call them large-format pistols. However, I think a large-format pistol encompasses AK and AR pistols in rifle calibers as well. Subguns could be a derivative of large-format pistols, but you’re already likely tired of this debate.

So let’s get to the guns.

5. CZ Scorpion

The CZ Scorpion takes the number 5 spot on our subgun list. It’s one of the OG subguns compatible with braces. It’s extremely popular, and CZ has released what seems like a dozen different models. The reason it makes the list is not only its relative affordability but its degree of modularity. Lots of parts and pieces exist to make your Scorpion truly yours. This includes Magpul, Manticore Arms, Strike Industries, and small shops like Yeti Works.

CZ Scorpion PCC with Magpil D-50 drum magazine
The Scorpion can be both large and small and even a bullpup

The CZ Scorpion’s magazines are proprietary but also affordable and common. Again, multiple people produce Scorpion magazines, including PSA, Magpul, Manticore Arms, and ProMag. Heck, we even have a D-50 drum from Magpul for it. The weapon comes with a ton of awesome features, excellent ergonomics, and a unique appearance. It’s reliable, easy to use, and fun to shoot.

CZ Scorpion subgun with Magpul D-50 drum magazine
Who can’t love this guy?

It takes the number five spot because it is very simple and uses a straight blowback system. This requires a massive bolt which increases weight, and blowback subguns have excessive recoil. It’s still just a 9mm subgun, so it’s not like a 12 gauge but akin to a 5.56 rifle.

4. Sig MPX

The SIG MPX seemingly came out alongside the Scorpion, and in the 2010s, they were a hot ticket item. The MPX presented a rather refined subgun with a short-stroke gas piston system. This resulted in lighter recoil and easy controllability. Sig also produced numerous models, including a PCC version, various subguns, and even my favorite, the Copperhead.

Sig Copperfield subgun
Copperhead.. in the wild.

Sig stuck to AR 15 like controls but ensured everything was ambidextrous. The 1913 rail at the rear ensures you can use folding or collapsing braces of various designs. It’s also a modular gun compatible with a number of AR 15 parts and pieces. It’s extremely modern and very well refined. It might have the best trigger of any gun on this list.

SHOT Show 2020 Sig Sauer MPX Copperhead
It’s a sub-gun with in-field adaptability and familiar AR handling.

With all these great features, you might wonder why it’s number 4 on the list. The big reason why it’s number 4 is the high cost of entry. Not only are the guns expensive, but the magazines can go for 50 bucks a pop. Plus, the various generations make it a pain to ensure you have the right mag for the right gun.

3. Ruger PC Charger

Ruger’s PC Carbine was a fun and surprising weapon to see Ruger release. The Charger variant was an even bigger surprise. Ruger gave the subgun treatment to the Charger and shrunk it into a relatively compact package. They retained the take-down feature and utilized the ‘tactical’ chassis to make a big, modern TEC-9 looking gun when it loses the brace. Speaking of, the rear of the gun uses a 1913 rail, so all the various braces fit without issue.

The Ruger PC Charger rocks.

The dead blow blowback system reduces the recoil of a traditional blowback system and makes the gun quite nice to handle. It’s a smart but simple design that works. Ruger wisely included both a Ruger compatible magwell and a Glock compatible magwell to open up your magazine options. We also get an M-LOK rail, an optics-ready platform, and ergonomics that accommodate both lefties and righties.

Ruger 9mm pistol: the PC Charger subgun
Glock magwells provide options.

It takes the number 3 spot because it balances both design and affordability. It’s a very affordable subgun, and Glock magazines are also affordable. It makes it an easy gun to get into and enjoy. Plus, it’s one of the few that was never an SMG.

2. CMMG Banshee

There are approximately 8 million different AR-15 type subguns on the market. That might be an exaggeration, but there are a ton of them. The CMMG Banshee does things differently, though. Instead of a straight blowback system, we see a radial delayed design. This reduces recoil and keeps the weapon extremely light. The Banshee perfectly mimics the AR 15 design and is compatible with both AR 15 parts and pieces.

CMMG Banshee subgun
If you want an AR Subgun the Banshee rules.

The Banshee comes in a ton of different calibers and magazine configurations. You can get it in 10mm, 45 ACP, 9mm, 5.7 x 28mm, and quite a few more. Magazine configurations include options from FN, Sig, and Glock. The wide variety of calibers and options make it easy to pair your subgun to your pistol.

The CMMG Banshee also provides different options at different price points. The 300 series provides the most Gucci model with a wide variety of high-end and ambidextrous pieces as well as a custom finish and more. The 200 series is the mid-tier package, and the 100 series provides the most affordable model. The Banshee provides options, and options are good.

1. B&T APC9K

Finally, we get to the number 1 spot, and it’s the B&T APC9K. The APC9K is a fantastic subgun. The K model means it’s quite small and relatively lightweight. B&T built a fantastic firearm that’s insanely reliable, absurdly accurate, and even bizarrely modular. Even though it uses a blowback-operated system, the recoil is surprisingly low. I took it out to 100 yards and had better accuracy than some PCCs I’ve handled.

best subguns: B&T APC9K
This is one of many brace options available for the APC9K.

The B&T APC9K also maximizes the ergonomics of the platform with ambidextrous controls that are all easy to engage and utilize. It’s a sweet setup. Modularity includes the ability to change out lowers with ease. The Pro models come with Glock or P320 magazines, and they are a fair bit cheaper than B&Ts mags. Also, a Scorpion magazine lower even exists!

B&T APC9K subgun
Accuracy is spooky good with this thing.

The biggest downside to the B&T is the over 2K MSRP. That made it hard to put at the top of this list. Especially if you get the standard APC9k with the expensive magazines. However, if you asked me which of these subguns I’d take into battle, it would be the APC9K. Heck, the Army and Air Force said the same thing and adopted the gun for special roles.

The Subgun World

Subguns are so much fun. They are relatively cheaper to shoot, allow me to pretend to be John McClane, and provide short, light, and practical weapons. I love a good subgun, and you might have strong feelings as well.

Did I leave your favorite off? If so, tell me in the comments which gun you’d add to the list and why.

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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