The Top 5 Pistol Caliber Carbines – According to this Guy


Pistol Caliber Carbines, or PCCs, have become one of the largest growing subsets of firearms. With so many out there I want to sit down and outline of my Top 5 Pistol caliber carbines. I’m a big fan of the concept and owner of many PCCs, and will likely own several more shortly. I’m including some guns that are legally considered pistols, but in reality are SMG-lites. So here are my Top 5 Pistol Caliber Carbines.

CZ Scorpion

Of course, the CZ Scorpion made the list This gun was one of the guns that catapulted PCC popularity. This 9mm blowback gun comes as both an SMG lite style pistol and a full-sized carbine. I reviewed the carbine here recently, and I’m a big fan.

The CZ Scorpion is a 9mm, blowback operated gun that feeds from 10, 20, and 30 round magazines. The CZ Scorpion is decently affordable, very accurate, and comes with an impressive set of iron sights.

The gun is a blast at the range and looks like it stepped out of the future. It’s easy shooting, and the modding community is significant. The aftermarket has grown significantly, and CZ has been great about listening to customer feedback and designing new and exciting models of the Scorpion.

Kel-Tec Sub 2000

The Kel Tec Sub 2000 is a very simple gun. It’s a few tubes that happen to fold in half. That’s right this gun folds in half and gives users a very compact and easy to carry package. Kel-Tec designed a very reasonably priced but relatively innovative gun.

It’s predictably a blowback operated gun, which isn’t innovative, but it is useful. The gun has a wide variety of options for magazines, including Glock magazines, Beretta Magazines, CZ 75 magazines, S&W M&P magazines, and some I’m surely forgetting.

A remarkable feature is the ability to swap mag catches out with the Gen 2 model. This lets you change the magazines you use with the gun very easily. The Gen 1 is a simple rifle, but the Gen 2 made several improvements to the design and incorporated both Picatinny rails and M-LOK slots.

While it’s not the most refined gun, in my experience its been quite reliable, easy to handle, and fun. When it comes to pistol caliber carbines, I don’t think there is a better option for a trunk gun than the Kel Tec Sub 2K.

Any AR9

The most popular weapons platform in the United States is the AR 15, so it’s a natural extension to chamber them in pistol caliber rounds. The most popular is, of course, the 9mm round. Often known as AR9s these guns are usually blowback operated and often either use Glock or Colt magazines.

The most significant benefit would be parts commonality and the ability to radically upgrade every little thing. It’s straightforward to build an AR9 as well. You don’t need a special lower either when you consider conversion blocks from companies like Torkmag and Promag. These convert a standard AR 15 magwell into a Glock or Colt SMG magwell.

You can even start with something like an 80 percent lower and turn into an AR9. The AR9 is an excellent beginning platform for both a rifle or pistol build and one of the most affordable options for a modern PCC. AR-based pistol caliber carbines have certainly earned their place on this list.


The SIG MPX is likely the most modern and most robust PCC out there. It’s a gas operated design that is best described as modern. It utilizes some standard AR controls like the charging handle, the magazine release, and safety. It lacks a buffer, so side folding and PDW stocks are quite common.

The gun is also extremely modular with easy switch uppers and quick change stock options. It’s not as modular as an AR, but very well could be. Both rifle and pistol versions of this gun exist, and they are popular SBR hosts. The modern design includes KeyMod rails, easy suppressor compatibility, and the ability to use barrels that go from 4 to 16 inches.

The MPX also uses a fantastic magazine that quite reliable, although they are a tad expensive. The SIG MPX and the CZ Scorpion are two big reasons we have so many PCCs today. As far as pistol caliber carbines go this would likely be my go-to choice for home defense.

Ruger PCC

Why is the Ruger PCC number one on this list? It’s not the fanciest, the sexiest, or even the most technologically advanced. The Ruger PCC happens to be a well made, brilliantly designed, and affordable gun made from the roundup as a PCC.

The first thing I like about the Ruger PCC was the fact it comes with an interchangeable magwell and comes with two different magwells. The first take magazines from the Ruger SR and Security guns, and the second takes Glock magazines. Glock magazine compatibility means cheap and common magazines in a wide variety of sizes, from 10 rounds to 50 round drums. I hate proprietary magazines on my pistol caliber carbines it’s nice to see Ruger be humble with Glock adaptability.

Additionally, this could mean additional magwells for different magazines in the future. Currently, the only other model is for the Ruger American pistol. An aftermarket could inevitably create new magwells for this gun. In fact, the aftermarket can make a wide variety of upgrades from integrally suppressed barrels to new stocks.

The PCC is also a takedown gun that allows secure storage and transport. It comes with a little Picatinny rail space for optics, flashlights, etc. The weapon is an amped up variant of the Ruger 10/22 Takedown, a rifle renowned for its ease of use and reliability.

Plus, it’s retailing for under 500 bucks and has received heaps of praise.

Pistol Caliber Carbines – More Is Better

The industry could not ignore the rise of pistol caliber carbines. We see more and more every year, and the Army is even lighting up a submachinegun competition features the SMG variants of some of the guns on this list. With SBRs, suppressors, and more becoming increasingly popular the time seems ripe for PCCs to keep growing.

Want more? Read every Pistol Caliber Carbine article we’ve published; be sure to watch GunMag TV too.  

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner, a lifelong firearms enthusiast, and now 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 the world’s Okayest firearm’s instructor.

  • Dexter-Bernice Luck

    Curious how many of these you have actually fired. Did you test fire the Ruger. I agree it is a great fit and it’s on my to buy list however, my real point is of all the 9mm carbines, how many are really good firearms and didn’t get consideration? I have a Freedom Ordnance FX9 and would put it up against anything you have listed. I have fired a few thousands rounds through it and have only had one malfunction, and that was a hand-load with a canalure and the case separated at the canalure. It was a cheap off brand case and missed my visual check before loading. The FX9 is extremely accurate and feeds all weights of ammunition including hollow points. It uses Glock magazines. It’s manufactured in a small facility in southern Indiana and these folk provide whatever assistance you might need. I requested a larger charging handle and , wa-la, they produced one and is on the market now. I am not saying you blew it on this report but, I am saying you need to broaden your horizons.

    • vagabond16

      Most readers probably will read the title of the article and accept that the author chose to only review what he considers the be the “Top5”, and not be offended by his choices and that the article doesn’t read like Gun Consumer Reports Annual Edition.

      • Dexter-Bernice Luck

        When you post a report claiming top 5 pistol caliber carbines, I suppose it is fair to ask if he fired all of them. Or was he just guessing and I doubt that is the answer.

        • vagabond16

          Took you two months to come up with that?

    • imachinegunstuff

      Yep I fired the Ruger quite a bit recently, suppressed too and really loved it. I fired all of these gun a lot, and own 3 of them. The FX9 looks nice, but I’ve had zero time down rage with one.

    • Brian Mooney

      I think it is insulting to ask, “how many of these have you have actually fired” simply because you differ with with the author’s conclusions. Where do you find the evidence to make such an accusation? Please let us know. It is a cheap shot, and IMO totally undeserved. What IS deserved, is an apology from YOU for a cheap shot!

      As far as I am concerned, I will never bother to examine, no less fire, a Freedom Ordinance FX9, if you are a typical example of a uproponent for such an obscure firearm! Let it die, along with your opinions, in a well-deserved obscurity.

      • David Higginbotham

        After working in the industry for almost a decade, I can safely say there are few guns I haven’t tried. Some odd C&R guns, maybe. Some writers will see more than 100 review guns a year. We all go to industry gatherings like SHOT Show, and others, and get trigger time. And we share–a lot. I would never publish a piece from a writer that claimed to have experience with a gun if I didn’t trust it implicitly.

      • Dexter-Bernice Luck

        So you have an opinion, which is no more than any other opinion, personal feelings. It’s a legitimate question, and I would ask it again. Freedom Ordnance is working 24/7 and can’t keep up so I doubt they will even blink over loosing you sir. You remind me of so many keyboard warriors that know everything about everything.

    • Dexter-Bernice Luck

      And you found my post offensive, seriously, you call him out for not listing the “one gun” you own, so it has to be the best. You tell him his lineup isn’t fair, the Ruger is clunky, I’m still laughing.

      where is the svelte Beretta Storm, a very powerhouse of a carbine? It
      is now surprisingly affordable and it’s performance is out-and-out
      impressive! Out of the box it is ready to roll. With aftermarket
      modifications, it pretty much dominates this field in most respects.
      Compared to it -and I do like the Ruger for soooooo many reasons- the
      Ruger you rate so highly is clunky. At least you admit the Kel-Tec,
      while embarrassingly cheap, is a honestly a fine performer, for which I
      salute you!

      In any fair line up, the Beretta Storm is strong contender as a solid tactical contender!”

  • Duke Nukem

    my go to is a MechTech carbine upper on a Glock 9mm lower- with collapsible stock collapsed its 25″ long (30″ extended) and fits into a Wilson brand racquetball bag. as reliable as any glock

  • Joseph Anthony

    There are plenty of choices for PCC’s. The AR platforms are the easiest to build. Depending on caliber choices and the main ones being 9mm, .40S&W or .45ACP. You can build a 9mm for under $400.00 and the other calibers under $550.00. I’m not sure what I will build next. I’m going off the reservation and really wanting to build a .45 Winchester Mag. Yes it’s a dead cartridge but. I still love it. I was introduced to the cartridge when I bought a LAR Grizzly 15 years ago. I actually was never interested when the cartridge was popular. Find a caliber you like and will enjoy.

    • David Higginbotham

      I hope you reload. .45 win could get expensive.

  • Dan

    Add the new Draco NAK9 (AK47 chambered in 9mm)

  • downshift the beretta cx4 storm with mags from 10,15,17,20,30 rounds this should be on the list as a top 5 if not the number 1 spot it is perfectly reliable PCC and just boringly accurate

    • David Scholting

      DAMN STRAIGHT!!!! I bought the 9mm version back in the mid 90’s before the Clintons Hi-cap mag law expired. Beretta had a deal going where if you bought one before a certain date and the law was not renewed, they would send out 2, free 15rd mags as a bonus. At the time you could only get them with 2, 10 rd mags. Back then people didn’t catch on that the 92fs mags could be used in both the pistol and carbine allowing MIL/LE to only need to carry one type of ammo/mags. Today, I’m hearing some of these YouTubers saying that the ballistics of the 9mm are approaching that of the .357 Mag when shot out of the longer barrel. Not sure if you knew this but there is a company called: ((sierrapapacx4)), that makes after-market upgrades/modifications to it. I was looking at getting a new carbine and selling this one but then changed my mind. I’ll be sending mine off to have most of their mods installed. Especially since now I have a TON of OEM mags for it, AND they can be had pretty cheap IF you know where to look. Peace. D.

  • fireball1322

    who makes one chambered in .44 Remington magnum ?

  • Brian Mooney

    So where is the svelte Beretta Storm, a very powerhouse of a carbine? It is now surprisingly affordable and it’s performance is out-and-out impressive! Out of the box it is ready to roll. With aftermarket modifications, it pretty much dominates this field in most respects. Compared to it -and I do like the Ruger for soooooo many reasons- the Ruger you rate so highly is clunky. At least you admit the Kel-Tec, while embarrassingly cheap, is a honestly a fine performer, for which I salute you!

    In any fair line up, the Beretta Storm is strong contender as a solid tactical contender!

    • Dexter-Bernice Luck

      And you performed a rant over my post? What is this? Your telling the author he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And the Beretta Storm is the Cadillac of 9mm carbines. You are fickle sir. By the way, I’d be happy to give the Beretta a look, because I am objective.

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