Top 5 Budget Pistol Caliber Carbines of 2019

A pistol caliber carbine can be the perfect budget rifle. When you chamber these guns in a common caliber and have them feed from a common magazine, the price of long-term ownership budgets out. What is the best budget carbine? What is the best 9mm carbine? Good questions. These PCCs would all make dependable and reliable home defense weapons, are perfect for plinking, and are a great option for training new shooters. Best of all? They are affordable.

You’ll note this lineup dates back to 2019. So why are we running it? Well, ‘cuz it’s still relevant. And cuz we’re about to do a 2020 version!

Hi Point Carbine

The Hi-Point Carbine is the ugly workhorse of the pistol caliber carbines. It’s a simple gun available in a variety of calibers, including the newest 10mm model. The Hi-Point Carbine feeds from relatively low capacity magazines but in my experience, it always goes bang. It’s also surprisingly accurate, even with its substandard trigger. This ugly little gun is popular enough that a good aftermarket exists for it and you can make it a lot less ugly with a new stock.

Hi Point carbine - best budget carbine?

Kel-Tec SUB 2000

One of my personal favorites in the budget pistol caliber carbines is the Kel-Tec SUB 2K. Not only is the gun affordable, but it utilizes common pistol magazines which lowers the price even more. The SUB 2K also folds in half, making it easy to store and easy to transport. It’s a blowback gun that’s super lightweight and a lot of fun to shoot. The trigger does kind of suck, but the Gen 2 model is full of new and modern features that help it keep up to the newer, younger generation of guns. The Kel-Tec SUB 2K is an awesome gun and is quite unique in design. For some, this might be the best 9mm carbine (or .40 S&W) choice.

KelTec Sub 2K best 9mm carbine

Ruger PC9

The Ruger PC9 is the newest of the pistol caliber carbines and premiered at SHOT Show 2018. Ruger essentially up-sized the Ruger 10/22 into a 9mm Luger carbine. Best of all, the gun comes with interchangeable mag wells that allow it to utilize both Ruger Security 9 magazines and Glock magazines. The future may bring even more magazine conversion kits. This rifle is also a takedown model that basically breaks in half for easier and more convenient concealment and storage. It comes suppressor-ready, has proven reliable, and the design makes it legal in most states so maybe this is the best 9mm carbine (or .40 S&W) choice.

Looking for the best 9mm carbine. Check out the Ruger PC Carbine.

Which One of These is the Best Budget Carbine for Bugout?

FYI, the Ruger PC9 and KelTec Sub 2K are specifically designed for survival, even if they aren’t marketed as such. And despite their aesthetic differences, the two firearms share a tremendous amount of operational, and thematic design elements. Head over to Grant’s article Ultimate Bugout Showdown: Ruger PC9 vs KelTeck Sub 2k for a full rundown of the similarities and differences between these two carbines.

Which is the best Budget carbine - Ruger PC9 and KelTec Sub 2k
KelTec Sub 2k and Ruger PC9 – which is the best budget carbine for your bugout?

AR Pattern Anything

How can I choose just one AR-pattern when there are likely dozens of AR-pattern pistol caliber carbines? Is company A so much better than Company B that they deserve this top spot? Maybe, but with the different options and ability to build your own it gets hard to pick one. AR-pattern pistol caliber carbines feature all the same ergonomic controls of a AR 15 as well as the ability to use the massive AR aftermarket. You can even make one yourself with an unfinished lower and an 80 lower jig. The designs will commonly use Glock magazines, which makes them even more affordable. The second most popular uses the COLT SMG mags. These guns are blowback and perfect for new shooters or AR aficionados.

Sol Invictus 45 ACP PCC budget carbine
The Sol Invictus 45 ACP PCC.

Scorpion Evo 3 S1

How dare I declare the Scorpion an affordable option? It’s hardly the cheapest of the pistol caliber carbines. The Scorpion Evo S1 is a little pricier than the models above, but it is the cheapest of the guns actually used by military and police. The CZ Scorpion is a popular weapon with police forces and the Czech military in Europe. It’s also easy to upgrade at an affordable rate and the magazines may be proprietary but they are super affordable and easy to find as well. It’s not a traditional budget pistol caliber carbine, but it is the most affordable professional grade model on the market.

Scorpion Evo 3 S1
The Scorpion Evo 3 S1 is an old favorite.

Budget Pistol Caliber Carbines

Living inside a budget is tough, especially when you have firearms as a hobby. Luckily, the gun industry finds ways to make it work. The five 5 guns above are certainly excellent examples of the industry working to provide budget carbines to the users who want them. Pistol caliber carbines are fantastic little guns and perfect for a wide variety of purposes. Best of all is the fact they are cheap to shoot, and often quite fun to do so. What’s your reason for owning a PCC?

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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5 thoughts on “Top 5 Budget Pistol Caliber Carbines of 2019

  1. This is a Ruger Police Carbine 9 (PC9):

    This is a Ruger Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC) chambered in 9x19mm:

    They are *not* the same, just as a “clip” is not the same thing as a “magazine”.

  2. I have found nothing better than a Mech Tech carbine upper on a Glock frame. This is a $150 Glock 23 lower with a $350 Mech Tech 9mm collapsible upper adapted for a G23. Collapses down to 25 inches and for discreet carry fits into a Wilson racquetball bag. It runs just like a Glock and
    takes Glock 32 round magazines. With stock extended and high velocity 93 grain solid copper rounds easy hits out to about 100 yards. In a pinch you can hold shoot as a pistol with the stock collapsed. All for $500.

  3. Just when I thought I was done with Hi Points, they introduce the 1095… 😎
    Too Cool, too cheap and just right for maxxing out the Hot Rod 10mm Ammo! The extra ballistic advantage you get from a PCC makes all my 10mm rounds function at near 44 Mag handgun power. The most lukewarm 10mm round I have is the SIG ELITE which is 180gr, 1250 FPS from a 5″ barrel. HP’s 17.5″ barrel will add at least 150-200 FPS and maybe more. Looks great on paper!

  4. The newer Hi-Point 995TS’s have the muzzle threaded to 1/2″ – 28 tpi, which is a very common suppressor / flash hider / muzzle break size. Since there are probably any number of the older non-threaded 9mm Hi-Point 995TS carbines still out there, sitting in various business inventories waiting to be sold as new, I would recommend that you ask before ordering from your particular dealer, to make sure you are getting a threaded muzzle version if this is important to you. Something around $250 is a pretty good price for one of these, before shipping and taxes. Less would be better but ~$250 is okay. 🙂

    With a new purchase of any new Hi-Point firearm you get a discount code at the official Hi-Point website when you register your warranty online, so that makes it a very good time to shop there for accessories. For my particular 995TS I went with the dual mag holder kit that attaches to the stock and holds two included 20 round Redball magazines, along with an additional 20 round Redball magazine I purchased to keep inserted in the firearm, so there are 60 rounds in and on the gun, ready to go at a moment’s notice. Just rack the bolt and go. 3 additional magazines to swap places with those on the gun from time to time would be a plus, and perhaps can be purchased later on down the road if finances are tight:

    I also caught an Amazon sale on a Sig Sauer ROMEO 5 Red Dot Sight for $110-ish shipped to my door, which is a 2 MOA red dot that features “MOTEC” – Sig Sauer speak for “motion detection technology”. I.E. the thing senses motion or lack of it, to automatically turn itself off to save the batteries which already last forever and a day when it is just sitting, and automatically turns itself on and is ready to go in far less time than it takes for you to grab the firearm and get it raised up to your shoulder to aim with it. You want to use the tallest riser mount they make for this as it makes it much easier aim that rifle, mounted as far forward as you can go in front on the rear sight. Good for low cost home defense in potentially poor lighting, and still cheap enough to replace everything if you ever have to use your firearm for self/home defense, and then the police end up taking it as “evidence” and let it rust away in poorly kept conditions in police storage, until you finally get it back after some long period of time – and possibly legal fight – later. Maybe.

    “Mother’s Mag and Aluminum Polish”, a polishing cream available in small tubs for about $7 at your local Walmart and similar big box stores, a few clean polishing cloths or soft disposable shop towels, and maybe, optionally, a Dremel style rotary tool with some small felt polishing wheels, will be all you need to put a slick smooth shine on all the appropriate internal moving parts and the loading ramp, and you’ll be good to go with a smoothly operating firearm – and a noticeably improved trigger.

    Mother’s Mag and Aluminum polish is fine enough that you can manually polish a smooth shine onto paint or other protective finishes without necessarily wearing through them, if you simply use common sense and take your time. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to fire at least 100 – 150 rounds or so through it to break it in BEFORE you expect it to be all super dependable, much as is recommended for any number of other more expensive name brand firearms, and you will minimize any needless self-induced worry and stress. Number, letter, or otherwise individually mark your magazines, so that if you do have any shooting malfunction issues you will know which magazine is causing them, and can either fix or replace any offending mag as may but hopefully won’t be required. Worse case: Simply gaining a good understanding on how those magazines need to work should do ya just fine. YouTube is full of videos illustrating how to tweak those factory Hi-Point mags if required. The 20 round Redball magazines get a lot of good user reviews as well, and generally seem to suffer fewer issues than the factory 10 rounders seem to, but YMMV. In short, most people seem to do okay but finicky mags are a possibility that you can overcome in any case. Knowledge is power.

    Hi-Point carbines are good workable tools, even according to some who seriously do not like their handguns, particularly when said carbines are in the hands of those who are good with tools and who are naturally mechanically inclined anyway. People who are klutzy and clumsy tend to know who they are, and should probably go with more expensive solutions that do not require anything much in the way of finesse or understanding, in order to break them in and get them ready. I am convinced that this is a large part of the big divide between the vast majority of people who actually own and love their Hi-Point firearms, and those who stubbornly claim they are all just “junk”, just because. If polishing parts or possibly tweaking the magazine lips on a finicky magazine are beyond your ability for making things work dependably, then make friends with someone who can take care of any such issues for you, or go another route. Up to you.

    Like most of you reading this, I own several handguns and rifles, most of which cost far more than any of the Hi-Point options, and I really do enjoy my little 9mm Hi-point 995TS PCC very much. It’s fun, it’s cheap, it happily eats any kind of ammo I care to feed it without complaint, and it is easily more accurate than any 9mm handgun when you get out there much past 25 yards or so. To put it another way, I have absolutely nothing to gain from talking about my experience with mine, and for me the 1/2″ – 28 threaded muzzle was a nice feature to get for no additional cost. A detail I have seldom seen mentioned.

    Just food for thought.

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