Calibers and Magazines

The field is wide open for ammunition calibers in your pistol caliber carbine. From 4.6x30mm fired from a Banshee 300 made by CMMG to 9mm and .40 caliber rounds fired in a Kel-Tec sub-2000, you have your pick of what type of ammunition works best for you. If you are specifically interested in 9mm, read more here

CMMG also offers a pistol cartridge carbine – the Resolute 300 – that performs flawlessly firing .22LR caliber rounds. If you have a Colt handgun that accommodates .45 ACP ammunition, then a High-point .45 ACP carbine will fit the bill nicely.

If you’re looking for even more compatibility, consider the pistol caliber carbine from Ruger. Not only does the Ruger PC accommodate readily available 9mm ammunition, but it handles both Ruger and Glock magazines with consistent dependability. This cross-industry application puts the Ruger PC in a class of its own.

Additionally, ammunition compatibility and even magazine compatibility prove to be a big plus with a pistol caliber carbine. One real-world example is if you own one of the more popular handguns, such as Glock or Sig Sauer firing 9mm cartridges, you can pick a PCC that handles the same caliber and often the same magazine.

One of the more noted reasons that make a pistol caliber carbine a wise choice is, of course, ammunition compatibility. For those who think managing various calibers of ammunition is not a problem, a pistol caliber carbine might not be a favorite choice.

However, if your budget is tight and you enjoy having a one-size-fits-all ammunition stock and often a one-magazine-fits-all, then a pistol cartridge carbine may be the way to go.

Niche Market

One of the first things you probably need to understand is that traditional AR platform rifles are typically chambered to accommodate a specific type of round with better trajectory and ballistics.

AR-15 carbines chambered to accept pistol rounds aren’t as powerful and won’t provide the same distance and accuracy. However, when using a pistol caliber carbine in a home defense situation, a PCC fills that niche market very well.

Although you’re firing pistol rounds, which may over-penetrate, a pistol cartridge carbine in close quarters may better suit your environment than a shoulder-mounted rifle.


Although you may sacrifice a bit of stopping power with a pistol cartridge carbine, a couple of trips to the range will be all it takes to understand these rifles offer improved accuracy and handling capabilities.

Yes, you’re firing a pistol round, but you get the advantage of doing so from a shoulder-mounted firearm which improves your aiming capacity. Also, felt recoil on a PCC is much less than a typical AR platform rifle.

If you frequent your local range often, you know how loud a muzzle blast from an AR-15 can be. With a pistol caliber carbine, the muzzle blast noise is far less because you’re firing a pistol round through an extended barrel, which considerably silences the shot, making it a bit more bearable.

When it comes to pistol caliber carbines, most gun enthusiasts will agree it’s a semi-automatic carbine that’s arguably one of the best rifles you can have in your arsenal for home defense or tactical close quarter dynamic situations.

Possible Disadvantages

Remember that you’re firing a pistol round in a pistol caliber carbine. Attempting to make a long down-range shot in most cases will be disappointing at best. Hitting your target at ranges of one hundred yards or more should be left up a more powerful bullet with a better trajectory and fired from a true long gun.

Level-set your expectations by understanding that even the most powerful handgun caliber fired from a PCC will pale in comparison to a pedestrian rifle round.

Companies such as CMMG and Kel-Tek, and Hi-Point thoroughly test their products to provide you with a quality carbine that works dependably. Whether it’s a Banshee firing 9MM or a Hi-Point shooting Colt .45 ACP, you can count on the finished product to work as advertised.

Still, the market also has pistol cartridge carbines that have inherent flaws should you choose to use your pistol magazines.

Before you whip out your cash on a pistol caliber carbine, you’ll need to vet the product carefully, especially if you intend to use it for home defense. The last thing you need is an operational failure of your pistol cartridge carbine when your safety is on the line.

One drawback of firing a pistol caliber carbine is that most pistol magazines have a limited capacity of rounds they can hold. Although for many, this means bringing more loaded magazines to the range with you.

If you’re a high-volume shooter, consider looking into a pistol cartridge carbine that accommodates higher volume magazines such as the Ruger PC. Ruger offers a thirty-round capacity magazine that equals the capacity of most AR-15 rifle magazines on the market.

Making the Right Choice

Although you can fire some of the most awesome caliber pistol rounds from a pistol caliber carbine, keep in mind that a PCC isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Many traditional AR-15 owners are happy to stock a sufficient inventory of .223 caliber or 5.56 NATO ammunition alongside magazines full of 9mm and Colt .45 ACP rounds for their Sig Sauer, Glock and Colt ACP handguns without blinking an eye.

Others may choose to simplify their ammunition and magazine requirements and pick a pistol caliber carbine that uses the same magazines and ammo on both.

Still, choosing to purchase any rifle or pistol and even pistol caliber carbines is predicated by how you intend to use the firearm and the conditions of the situation. When the long shot is necessary, shoulder your rifle chambered for that specific round and fire away, but a PCC may be the ultimate right choice for home defense or even a fun-filled day at the local range plinking targets.  

Pistol caliber carbines may have, at one time, been considered a passing novelty in the world of semi-automatic rifles, but one thing is sure. They’ve proven to demonstrate and serve an undeniable role for some applications and will only perform better as technology advances.