Top AR and AK Pistol Caliber Carbines

Boy, do I love PCCs and subguns. Since 9mm is cheaper than most rifle ammo right now, I’m more prone to be shooting a 9mm rifle versus an AR or AK. The good news is that there are plenty of AR and AK pistol caliber carbine options chambered in the venerable 9mm. But which is better: AR or AK PCCs? I’ve shot a lot of PCCs and subguns, and I appreciate every one of them. That doesn’t mean one isn’t better than the other.

Like most things involving the AK and AR, it goes back to the classic America versus Russia argument.

East vs. West

The American side comes from the Colt SMG, a 9mm submachine gun based on the M16/M4 family of rifles. The Colt SMG used a standard AR lower with a magazine block to house the smaller modified Uzi SMG magazine. This SMG was a blowback-operated submachine gun that fired from a closed bolt. The gun was first produced in 1982 and saw success with police forces, including the DEA and the Marine Security Guards of the United States Marine Corps.

On the Russian side, we have two submachine guns. The first is the PP-19 Bizon. Any gamer will recognize this unique-looking SMG due to its 64-round helical magazine that sits below the gun. The second is the more traditional PP-19-01 Vityaz, which used a standard 30-round box magazine. Both of these guns are standard blowback-operated submachine guns. The Bizon fired the classic 9mm Makarov and a few other rounds for foreign sales, whereas the Vityaz fired the 9mm Luger cartridge.

Ever since then, the two have been competing in the American arms market in the form of full-size rifles and large-format pistols. I think the best way to establish which is better is to look at three examples of each platform.

The Best AR and AK PCCs

Palmetto State Armory AK-V

My personal favorite AK PCC/sub-gun is the AK-V from Palmetto State Armory. It’s a pretty standard PCC with blowback operation. It’s not fancy, but it works. The AK-V manages to combine affordability with style and even modernization. Several models of the AK-V are optics and accessory-ready with quality furniture from companies like Magpul.

PSA AK V rifle variant
The PSA AK-V comes in rifle variants.

PSA makes an absolute ton of different AK-Vs with rifle and large-format pistol variants. Tons of furniture combinations are exceedingly nice. The wise folks at PSA used standard CZ Scorpion magazines, which allows the AK-V to maintain its curved magazine profile and the natural AK-47 appearance.

The AK-V is affordable and doesn’t kill your wallet. The Scorpion mags aren’t expensive, and PSA makes one for everybody. The AK-V provides plenty of options, and options are nice to have.

Aero EPC

There are a ton of blowback-operated AR-15-style 9mm rifles and subguns that feed from Glock magazines, but the Aero EPC is easily one of the best. The Aero EPC not only provides an affordable rifle and large format subgun option, but it’s a very modular platform with tons of modern features.

aero epc
The Aero EPC comes in a wide variety of sizes, including the full-sized variant you see before you.

One of the most interesting is Aero’s incorporation of a last-round bolt hold-open device for Glock magazines. This is rare in a rifle platform that found a smooth and easy way to incorporate this feature. Aero Precision also provides tough-to-beat ergonomics with a massive magazine release and a massive magwell.

Like most Aero Precision guns, you can build it the way you want. You have plenty of barrel length options, plenty of rails, and oh so much more. Aero Precision guns are always affordably priced. This is my favorite of the affordable AR-9s.

Draco NAK9

The term Draco has become hip-hop’s favorite gun, and the name recognition is something that Century Arms takes full advantage of. With that in mind, when they released the NAK-9, people weren’t too surprised it was named Draco. Century Arms had one of the first 9mm AKs, and the weapon is a testament to early adoption.

draco 9mm glock mags
The Draco NAK 9 kept things simple with the Glock mags. (Century Arms)

The use of Glock mags was plenty controversial. People love Glock magazines; they come in tons of capacities and are affordable. You can find them anywhere. People appreciated that, but AK purists were big fans of the straight magazine look versus the stock standard curve design of most AKs.

The NAK9 series comes with factory-installed optic rails and standard AK wood furniture. It won’t break the bank. The NAK9 only comes as a pistol, but the WASR-M in 9mm is basically the same gun but in a rifle format.

CMMG Resolute and Banshee

My personal favorite 9mm AR-9 is the Banshee and Resolute series from CMMG. The Banshee is the large-format pistol variant, and the Reoslute is the full-sized rifle model. There aren’t a lot of differences between the two outside of barrel length and the presence of a stock or just a buffer tube.

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

These guns use CMMG’s patented radial delayed system to break away from the classic blowback action. A radial delayed system results in considerably lower recoil, and there isn’t a need for a heavy bolt or buffer. It’s a lighter, lower recoiling rifle with excellent controls and features.

CMMG uses all the modern goodness you can’t help but love. This includes nice M-LOK rails, excellent triggers, and the patented RipStock rapid deploying stock design. The guns have excellent controls and brilliant ergonomics. Overall, it’s an excellent rifle and pistol design.

Kalashnikov USA KR9/KP9 Series

Kalashnikov USA looked to fill the gap left by the cut-off of Russian import weapons. This includes providing rifles, shotguns, PCCs, and large-format pistols. The KR9 and KP9 series are rifle and pistol variants of the same gun. One has a long barrel and a stock, and one has a shorter barrel and no stock.

K-9 pistol
This is the premium-grade option at a premium-grade price. (Kalashnikov USA)

These guns are based directly on the Vityaz submachine guns and are as authentic as we’ll ever get in North America. They are very well-made guns but very expensive. The magazines are also fairly expensive and not always easy to find.

However, if you have a hankering for an authentic Russian 9mm SMG, this is as close as you’ll get. The Saiga 9 isn’t going to make it across the pond anytime soon, so the KP9 or KR9 is your best bet.

JP Rifles JP5

The absolute best AR-9 is going to be the uber-expensive JP-5. This 9mm carbine comes from a company well known for its high-end competition rifles, and the JP5 is no different. If you’re shooting in PCC divisions, the JP5 is for you. It’s a roller-delayed AR-9 that’s built from the ground up to be a high-performance tool.

jp5 rifle
The JP5 is a PCC sports car.

The toller delayed design keeps recoil to an absolute minimum. The massive compensator makes the muzzle rise a non-starter. The gun barely moves between shots, making it natural for pinging small targets in PCC divisions. Glock mags are standard, and the gun comes with a ton of nice, high-end features for the end user.

The JP5’s accuracy is brilliant, and it’s one of the only 1 MOA PCCs I’ve ever shot. It really makes the most of the 9mm cartridge. The JP5 is probably the best AR-9 on the market, although the price will certainly scare some away.

Which is Better?

While the appeal of the AK is understandable, I think the AR has it whipped. The ARs are naturally more ergonomic and modern, with a wider selection of aftermarket parts and pieces. Plus, so far, all of our AK options are limited to blowback-only designs, but the AR has a wider variety of lower recoil operating systems.

The AK PCCs are cool, but the ARs are better!

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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