Best PCC: Top 9 Pistol-caliber Carbines in 2024

by Travis Pike

September 25, 2023

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(37)

Weird and unexpected things sometimes happen in the gun world. An example of unexpected is how the P36, Hellcat, and other handguns changed the concealed carry world by increasing sub-compact mag capacity. An example of weird, and in my mind the weirdest, development lately is how the popularity of pistol caliber carbines (PCCs) took off over the last couple of years. And not just the 9mm carbine, but all manner of pistol caliber long gun (well, long~ish) models and calibers.

PCCs have been around for a long time, but they were typically a small category of guns that people enjoyed, but they were niche – including PCCs that were designed as Personal Defense Weapons (PDWs) like the M1 Carbine of 1942.

From 2010 to now, though, the PCC category has absolutely exploded in popularity, and not just in the 9mm carbine/AR9 group either.

We’ve created a comprehensive guide for those with more than a passing interest in the PCC. After reading this, you should be more prepared to pick and choose your first (or tenth) long gun chambered in a pistol caliber. However, if you have unanswered questions, hit us in the comments!

What is a PCC?

PCC stands for pistol caliber carbine. It’s a long gun designed to fire a pistol cartridge, i.e. a handgun caliber round. That round can be anything from a 32 ACP to a 500 S&W. Today the term PCC also alludes to SMG-based pistols.

We here at Gun University usually restrict the PCC title to something in a common production ammunition caliber; 5.7 and 4.6, for instance, we usually call a PDW (a personal defense weapon). More on that later – and we’ll talk about subguns, too.

Here’s an example. Size is often an advantage but isn’t always a determining factor. An MPX Copperhead is relatively tiny (albeit not next to a Glock 17). It’s a foot long without a brace or stock, but some call it PCCs. A Ruger PC charger is 34″ long with a 16″ barrel, in 9mm. It’s definitely a PCC. The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is 30.5” and is a 9mm; it’s a PCC, right?

But the CMMG Dissent, by contrast, averages around two feet long – and is chambered in 9mm, 10mm, 5.7, 4.6, and all sorts of other calibers. All PCCs? Some are PDWs? Going back to the Copperhead, when does it become a subgun?

Another question to consider: is a PCC a rifle? Not really; PCCs are different from rifles in that they are smaller and allow for easier maneuvering than a rifle, and rifles are good at long-range accuracy when PCCs do well at close-range. 

As for the handguns vs. PCC topic, I’d say the PCCs give better stability making it easier to shoot than your handgun. Small sidearms are a bit tough to get used to, and with a PCC you don’t have that challenge since they’re larger. That’s why recreational shooters and newbies tend to go for PCCs. 

Appearances to the contrary, I’m not bringing these up to confuse or distract you. I just want you to know there is no hard and fast definition of “pistol caliber carbine.”

For simplicity’s sake, when we say PCC below, we mean one of two things: Either a long gun (carbine or SBR, for instance) that is chambered in a common, traditional handgun cartridge or a subgun/SMG-type weapon that is larger than a handgun.

I’ll warn you up front – this list will probably change over the next few months as pistol brace laws change and drive weapon evolution. So check back when you can and definitely let us know what you think (or find out) in the comments below.

Best PCCs

Our Top PCCs

Author’s choice

Ruger PC Carbine

Ruger PC Carbine
  • Ambi charging handle
  • Magazine module allows Ruger 9 or Glock mags
  • Excellent (protected and adjustable) iron sights
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Top for competition

SIG MPX PCC

SIG MPX PCC
  • Modern replacement for guns like the MP5
  • AR-like safety-selector
  • Steeply beveled mag well
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Better for competition? $$$

JP GMR-15

JP GMR-15
  • Silent captured spring
  • JP Supermatch (cryogenically treated) barrel
  • Extremely popular with competitive shooters
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Best AR9

CMMG Banshee

CMMG Banshee
  • Radial Delayed Blowback operating system
  • 6o-90 reversible center barrel safety
  • Uses standard AR mags with a 9mm insert
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Most portable

Kel Tec SUB

Kel Tec SUB
  • Simple as a modern Sten gun
  • Folds up stupid small
  • Clunker of a trigger
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Best lever action

Henry Big Boy X

Henry Big Boy X
  • 21st century tech in a 19th century design
  • Buckhorns replaced by fiber-optics
  • Side-gate load but retained removable mag liner
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Top budget choice

Hi-Point Carbine

Hi-Point Carbine
  • Extremely budget-friendly
  • Functional but fugly
  • By no means the choice of Tier One units
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Most unique (and coolest)

Kriss Vector CRB

Kriss Vector CRB
  • Among the least felt recoil EVER
  • KRISS Super V System
  • Benefits more obvious in full-auto
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Editor’s Choice

Stribog SP9A3

Stribog SP9A3
  • What the first Stribog should have been
  • Glock-mad fed side-charger
  • Folds up extremely small
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Spec Comparison of the Best Pistol Caliber Carbines

Here is a breakdown of the specs on each PCC:

PCCCaliberCapacityOveral Length (in)Weight (lbs)
Ruger PC Carbine9mm1734.376.8
Sig MPX PCC9mm3035.256.63
JP GMR-15 9mm Carbine9mm9 / 21356.63
CMMG Banshee9mm2118.94.625
Kel-Tec Sub 20009mm10 / 3330.54.25
Henry Big Boy X44 Magnum / 45 Colt / 38 Special / 357 Magnum736.37.3
Hi-Point Carbine9mm / 40 S&W / 10mm / 45 ACP / 3801031 / 346.25
Kriss Vector CRB9mm1735.258
Stribog SP9A3G9mm3316.74.54

List of the Best Pistol Caliber Carbines

The Best PCCs are:

  1. Ruger PC Carbine
  2. SIG MPX PCC
  3. JP GMR-15
  4. CMMG Banshee
  5. KelTec Sub 2000
  6. Henry Big Boy X
  7. Hi-Point Carbine
  8. Kriss Vector CRB
  9. Stribog SPA3G

Pistol Caliber Carbine Reviews

#1 Ruger PC Carbine : Author’s Choice

Ruger-PC-Carbine-Featured

Ruger PC Carbine

A direct blowback styled PCC from Ruger that’s available in many different models including a takedown version.

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  • Shootability A
  • Ergonomics B
  • Reliability A+
  • Value A
  • Accuracy B

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

A

Based on 28 Reviews

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Specs

  • Capacity 17
  • Caliber 9mm
  • Sights Protected Blade (Front Sight), Adjustable Ghost Ring (Rear)
  • Overall length 34.37″
  • Length (barrel) 16.12’’
  • Weight 6.8 lbs

Ruger PC Carbine Review

I took this 9mm carbine (and later the Charger variant) as an interesting development from a company that rarely strays from its “standard” firearm catalog. I’ve never thought of Ruger as edgy…probably nobody has. And I don’t mean that as a bad thing.

Actually, Ruger actually has a history with PCCs. Their last shot at a PCC was the Police but they discontinued it in 2007, which is really unfortunate as it was a dead-ringer for the PC Carbine.

The current version is not too different from the older-school predecessor.

The Ruger Police Carbine was first introduced in 1996— the same year Theodore Kaczynski was arrested (and that Braveheart took five Academy Awards.

But this 9mm carbine uses what Ruger refers to as a Dead Blow blowback system. The Dead blow system uses a tungsten weight attached to the bolt to limit bolt travel and reduce recoil. It’s weird, yeah, but it works to soften recoil significantly. My issue with it? The fluting of the barrel is meant to give you a lightweight carry, but the Dead Blow system renders that feature pointless and makes the gun pretty bulky.

The Carbine and Charger series are outfitted with simple controls that are all easily accessible, and the reversible charging handle is genius. The former sports a pretty great trigger, a threaded barrel, and optic’s ready compatibility. The latter variant is the same, except it’s a pistol variant that lacks a stock.

And we all know the current issue s with braces vs. stocks.

The Ruger PC comes in a standard and chassis version, and the standard one is my personal favorite. The main reason being that it’s got great accuracy because of the short sight and rear sight that align with wherever the barrel is pointing. Two other features that really make it stand out are the takedown design and magwell. The takedown design lets me remove the barrel and the front handguard pretty easily and cut the weapon’s length in half. Reinstalling is a piece of cake, and its magwell is compatible with the same ammo and mags as a Ruger SR9 and a Glock. I hope Ruger really embraces this and gives users more options for magazine compatibility.

Personally, I think that the chassis version of the Ruger PC isn’t really a good investment. The only thing it’s got going for itself is the Picatinny Rail section at the front of the stock that can support a light, but not if the optic mount extends more than .275″ below the top of the rail. It also has an AR-like handguard that feels like a misfit, and a pistol grip that doesn’t support cross-block safety. You’d have to move your hand anyway to operate the bolt catch, so these features don’t add much value ergonomically.

The simplicity of the standard Ruger PC is what makes it shine. It’s affordable, familiar and above all, it’s versatile; the soft rubber buttpad lets me adjust it according to shooter size, which means both my wife and I can take it out for a spin, and its threaded barrel lets me swap out standard muzzle accessories. 

Check out our full review here on the Ruger PC Carbine!

Pros and Cons

  • Ambidextrous charging handle
  • Great sights
  • Bolt hold open feature
  • Threaded barrel
  • Mag release is clunky
  • Heavier than other platforms

#2 Sig MPX PCC : Top for Competition

Sig-MPX-PCC-Featured-Image

Sig MPX PCC

The latest SIG Sauer foray into the PCC arena redesigned with performance enhancements to cater to competition shooters.

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  • Shootability A
  • Ergonomics A
  • Reliability A+
  • Value B
  • Accuracy A+

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

B

Based on 8 Reviews

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SIG MPX Specs

  • Capacity 30 Rounds
  • Caliber 9mm Luger
  • Sights Picatinny Rail for optics mounting
  • Overall length 35.25″
  • Length (barrel) 16’’
  • Weight 6.63 lbs

Sig MPX Review

The SIG Sauer MPX is a runner for HK MP5 replacement among the civilized world. (Cue a hope they remake the 1990’s Navy SEALs movie with Dale Hawkins running a suppressed MPX.) It’s a really well-designed platform; the biggest thing it has going for it, IMHO, is that it uses a short-stroke gas piston system over a blowback design. Controllability for the win.

The MPX utilizes AR 15-like controls with a lot of focus on ambidextrous design. Anyone who’s used a AR 15 will be at home with the MPX. The trigger is fantastic for a PCC, and SIG makes the gun in various configurations, including rifles, SBRs, and pistol variants.

The MPX is designed to blow its competition out of the water and performs exceptionally well without any modifications; it’s got a slim M-LOK handguard that gives it an M4-like feel, and a 3-chamber compensator that cuts down on recoil. I also love the trigger and I think it outperforms most PCC triggers.

Unfortunately, the MPX magazine is a proprietary one, and while high quality, they carry a high price tag. Up to 50 bucks a pop for each 30-round mag. As of this writing, no one – that I am aware of – is producing aftermarket alternatives either.

It’s got a folding telescoping stock that is adjustable to five positions and can be tucked away to the left in a detent. A nice perk is that you can even shoot the MPX from the folded position because the stock doesn’t have a buffer tube.

The SIG MPX is no budget blaster, but it is one of the few PCCs to use a short-stroke gas system over some type of blowback design. That’ll go a long way toward making it worth the money.

Read our full length review on the Sig MPX Copperhead, the short barrel version of the MPX PCC

Sig MPX PCC Pros and Cons

  • Great trigger
  • Short-stroke gas piston-operated
  • Extremely reliable 
  • Very small aftermarket
  • Expensive gun and magazines

#3 JP GMR-15 9mm Carbine : Better for competition? $$$

JP GMR-15 9mm Carbine

JP GMR-15 9mm Carbine

The GMR-15 9mm carbine is among the most popular PCCs in competition shooting.

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy A
  • Value B+

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

F

Based on 1 Reviews

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GMR-15 9mm Carbine specs

  • Barrel JP Supermatch
  • Caliber 9mm Luger (or 9×21)
  • Operating system Blowback + JP 9mm captured silent spring
  • Overall length 35″
  • Length (barrel) 14.5″
  • Weight 6.63 pounds

GMR-15 9mm Carbine Review

JP’s GMR-15 9mm carbine is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, pistol caliber long guns among competitive shooters. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be a great home defense gun, or that it’s only good for recreational shooting, but its single stage trigger with rapid reset is a favorite in competitive shooting. You can also adjust the trigger pull weight from between 4-3.5 lbs so it’s entirely possible to change it up according to the circumstances, whether it’s home defense or competitive shooting. 

The GMR-15 accepts 9mm Glock 17/19 magazines, which is awesome because I can use the same rounds on both guns with no issues. The accuracy on this thing goes up to around 100 yards and once you fix up a good sight on the Picatinny Rail, you can do even better on the accuracy department. Mounting the sight makes it heavier though–the GMR-15 is already somewhat heavy at 6.8 lbs so you might want to keep an eye on the weight of the accessories you add. 

I like how the GMR-15 is perfect for quick sight recovery because it’s recoil is minimal. You can also adjust the buttstock to get the right length of pull for your fit which allows for fast transitions and accurate hits–ideal for competitive shooters. The JP 9mm Silent Captured Spring makes the whole operation super quiet and helps mitigate (if not eliminate) the already light recoil generated by 9mm rounds which adds to its quick sight recovery. 

The GMR-15 utilizes the JP Supermatch (cryogenically treated) barrel, the “Enhanced Reliability” fire control package and it also has a multi-finned dissipater to stop the barrel from overheating, plus a slew of high end accessories. 

Oh, and let’s not forget that dual-charging system. That’s a unique feature that a lot of people like.

GMR-15 9mm Carbine: Pros and Cons

  • Dual charging- Uses a standard or side charging handle
  • Buffer system- It’s designed and built specifically for 9mm
  • Competition-proven- Lots of people shooting for their livelihood prefer it
  • High brow- This thing ain’t cheap
  • Hard to find- There are times you can’t find one available

#4 CMMG Banshee : Best AR9

CMMG Banshee

A premium option for those looking for tons of features and a fun gun to shoot.

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  • Shootability A
  • Ergonomics A
  • Reliability A
  • Value C
  • Accuracy B

Our Grade

B+

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 3 Reviews

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CMMG Banshee Specs

  • Capacity 21 Rounds
  • Caliber 9mm
  • Sights Picatinny Rail
  • Overall length 18.9″
  • Length (barrel) 5’’
  • Weight 4 lbs 10 oz

CMMG Banshee Review

The Banshee line by CMMG is a massive line of long guns available in both rifle and pistol calibers. We are focusing on the PCC line, and it’s still a broad one.

It includes your everyday 9mm Luger round, but also .45, 10mm, and even 5.7x28mm. Different series have varying features.

The 300 Series is the top of the line and implements lots of cool upgrades, including an M-LOK rail, ambidextrous safety, and charging handle, as well as cerakote options to die for.

The Banshee is blowback operated, but it uses a radial delayed system so there’s no need for heavy bolts, buffers, or springs. The tech reduces some of the issues blowback PCCs run into like uncomfortable recoil and tough ergonomics, making the Banshee a really comfortable gun to shoot with.  

In fact, I had so much fun testing out the CMMG Banshee that I ended up shooting over 500 rounds at different distances. I tested with a 9mm variant from the 300 Series that weighs as little as 4 lbs 10 oz. and is as short as 18.9 inches. My go-to ammo choices were FMJ rounds and some JHPs and the gun accepted both with no issue. I was impressed with how well it shot because 9mms are not known for exceptional accuracy–they are not even designed for it. But the Banshee shot 2-inch groupings with the JHPs at 50 yards with a red dot sight and made sub-1-inch groupings under 25 yards, which is to say it’s an impressively accurate PCC. 

The Banshee series makes use of established pistol magazines from Glock, SIG, and FN to provide commonality between pistols and easy to find magazine options. It’s pretty convenient to have a few kinds of mags to go with, especially because the price tag of the CMMG Banshee is high and already eats up a bit of cash. 

The Banshee is a robust and capable AR-type gun that offers you many options you don’t see with other PCCs regarding features, calibers, and magazine types.

Check out our full review on the CMMG Banshee here!

CMMG Banshee Pros and Cons

  • Low recoil
  • Lightweight, compact designc
  • Accurate
  • Fun to shoot
  • Expensive

CMMG Banshee Gun Deals

#5 KelTec Sub 2000 : Most portable

KelTec Sub 2000

Reminiscent of a modernized Sten gun, the Sub 2000 is a one-in-a-million 9mm carbine designed to be light, handy, and compact.

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  • Shootability C
  • Ergonomics B
  • Reliability A+
  • Value A+
  • Accuracy C

Our Grade

B

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 20 Reviews

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SUB 2000 Specs

  • Capacity 10-33
  • Caliber 9mm Luger
  • Sights Adjustable iron sights
  • Overall length 30.5″
  • Length (barrel) 16.25’’
  • Weight 4.25 lbs

Kel Tec SUB 2000 Review

The Gen 2 Kel Tec Sub 2000 was one of the first big boys in the PCC world and set a hard-to-beat standard.

The Sub 2000 is far from fancy and features a simple blowback action and tube-style design.

What sets the Sub 2000 apart is that it can fold completely in half. Well, that’s one of the things that sets it apart.

This thing is perfect for easy storage and transportation needs, especially if you don’t have the budget of an Upper Class or Upper Middle-Class gray man. You can simply fold it and throw it into a backpack when traveling. The ergonomics are somewhat odd, and the trigger is nothing to write home about, but the weapon works.

Listen, there are people who rank Kel-Tec as being just barely above Hi-Point on the food chain. You can think what you want, but I love this gun. And so do a lot of other people.

As a pure blowback gun, you get a heavy bolt and spring that make cocking and racking the weapon a challenge, so be aware of that. Plus, the 9.5 lbs of trigger pull weight isn’t a joke either, so it does take some work to get a good shot out of the Sub 2000. Something worth noting about the trigger is that it has a bit of pre-travel and the reset isn’t clearly noticeable, both of which can throw off your timing and aim. The sights are a bit too low and the charging handle is weirdly placed beneath my face, but I get that some alignments had to be made for the foldability to work.

Once you get around the ergonomics though, you can land impressively accurate shots up to around 100 yards. It’s also pretty quiet for an unsuppressed gun and has a very mild muzzle jump that you can reduce more with a muzzle brake if you want.  

The Sub 2000 makes use of common pistol magazines, and you can choose between various options to include Glock, SIG, S&W, and more. Caliber-wise, you get a choice between 9mm and 40 S&W. The Sub 2000 is remarkably affordable but can be tricky to find at times. Kel-Tec doesn’t produce a lot of guns at a time also so the price can go up if there’s a lack of availability. 

One thing you need to look out for on the Sub 2000 is accessorizing it. There’s an M-Lok and Picatinny Rail handguard that you can use to fasten anything you want, but when you do, folding the gun is out of the question. My suggestion is to go for accessories that still allow you to fold the gun, but you’ll have some work cut out for you to find them. 

Even then, I got mine at around $350 (it could be pricier now) and I don’t have to get special mags because the standard pistol magazines work, so in my eyes this is a super value portable PCC that gets the job done. 

Check out our full review on the KelTec SUB 2000!

KelTec SUB 2000 Pros and Cons

  • Affordable design
  • Uses common magazine platforms
  • Modular handguard and Picatinny Rail for easy accessorizing
  • Heavy trigger
  • Stiff recoil spring
  • Odd ergonomics

#6 Henry Big Boy X : Best Lever Action

Henry-Big-Boy-X-Featured-Image

Henry Big Boy X

A lever action-styled PCC that provides plenty of opportunity for customization and accessories.

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  • Shootability A-
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy B
  • Value B

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 5 Reviews

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Henry Big Boy X Model Review

  • Capacity 7+1
  • Caliber 44 Magnum, 45 Colt, 38 Special/357 Magnum
  • Sights Factory Red/Green Fiber Optics
  • Overall length 36.3″
  • Length (barrel) 17.4’’
  • Weight 7.3 lbs

HENRY BIG BOY X MODEL REVIEW

The term tactical lever gun might sound terrible. I mean, Mossberg proved with their Zombie series years ago, so yeah, the concept of a tactical lever gun can be a steamer.

Modernized lever guns are getting more and more popular all the time, though, and Henry is putting in some good work to help make that happen.

They’re mostly doing that with the Henry X series. This line of guns takes a more refined approach to the (lever) tactical carbine and aims at folks in restrictive states looking for a competent home defense gun.

The Big Boy X is a pistol-caliber variant in the easy series.

It comes in 38 Special/357 Magnum, 45 Colt, and 44 Magnum. Regardless of caliber, each gun can hold 7 rounds and is tapped for a variety of modern tactical features.

This includes a rail for lights, an optics rail for red dots, high visibility sights, and a threaded barrel. I fastened a silencer and muzzle brake to the threading, and the rail slots are designed for both Picatinny and M-Lok, so you have a lot of options with the accessories. The barrel has a factory-built knurled thread protector to prevent damage to the threading from mishandling, if it ever comes to that. 

The furniture is polymer for durability and weight-saving design, and at 7.3 lbs I’d say the Big Boy X is considerably lightweight for a lever tactical carbine. The lever is larger than the usual lever you’d come across, so it’s easy to action the gun even with gloves on. This is a very modern lever gun with a slim and compact build and so handling it is a piece of cake. 

The Big Boy X is super accurate right out of the box; the first time I tried it, I landed dead-on shots at 50 yards. I consistently get excellent groupings at 100 yards as well, so the accuracy is definitely above par on this PCC. There’s no discernible recoil and the lever action gets smoother every time, making the gun a joy to shoot. 

The side-loading gate allows you to top off your lever gun as you fire and gives you the ability to keep the gun going well beyond the initial seven rounds. One thing about the side-loading gate: the receiver can get scratched when you load rounds through it, so keep an eye out for that.  

The X series presents a PCC in an old-school-cool approach. It’s not for everyone, but we’d be remiss not to include something as cool as a lever gun on this list. If you like a more classic looking lever action, read our full review on the Henry Big Boy X and a Henry in brass with a side gate.

Henry Big Boy Pros and Cons

  • Cool lever gun
  • Comes in multiple calibers
  • Very customizable
  • Heavy trigger
  • Odd ergonomics

#7 Hi-Point Carbine : Best Budget Choice

Hi-Point-Carbine-Featured-Image

Hi-Point Carbine

A surprise contender on our list that shows great reliability and value for those shopping for their first PCC.

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  • Shootability C
  • Ergonomics B
  • Reliability A+
  • Value A+
  • Accuracy C

Our Grade

B

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 12 Reviews

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Hi-Point Carbine Specs

  • Capacity 10
  • Caliber 9mm, .40 S&W, 10mm Auto, .45, .380
  • Sights Fully adjustable
  • Overall length 31″ / 34″
  • Length (barrel) 16.5” / 17.5”
  • Weight 6.25 lbs

Hi-Point Carbine Review

Yep, a Hi-Point made this list. I know it’s tough to digest on a list full of excellent weapons.

However, the Hi-Point carbine has always been a simple but reliable multi-caliber option at a rock-bottom price.

The Hi-Point carbine series is a standard blowback design and only comes in a rifle configuration.

The gun comes complete and ready to fire with a set of fully adjustable rear sights, as well as an optic’s rail.

There are plenty of accessory rails for adding lights and lasers, plus there’s threading to fasten a muzzle brake or a silencer. The stock sports a built-in recoil buffer too.

It’s a very simple long gun that’s always kind of ugly. That being said, it works, and it costs less than 300 bucks. The low price doesn’t mean the quality is poor; Hi-Point has used hydro-dipped polymer (depending on the model) that withstand pressure and elements for the body and a low-cost alloy in some areas that don’t need to withstand high pressure. The latter helps cut down some production costs, keeping the price low and the quality good enough. 

The Hi-Point Carbine is a bit top heavy. This makes racking a bit tough because the slide is heavy and adds to the recoil, but my guess is it would be difficult to improve the setup to be lightweight and stay at the same price bracket.  

I would choose this carbine over a dirt-cheap AR 15 because I trust it to work. Besides, Hi-Point gives out a lifetime warranty even at this price, meaning you get free repairs for life, whether you’re the first or the tenth owner and that says a lot about the reliability of the gun.  

The Hi-Point series comes in various calibers, including 9mm, 40 S&W, .45, 10mm, and even 380. These weapons use the same magazines as the pistols and are plenty cheap. The Hi-Point series doesn’t excel in most categories, but at the end of the day, it’s functional, reliable, and affordable.

Hi-Point Carbine Pros and Cons

  • Excellent reliability
  • Great Value
  • Cheap Magazines
  • Not Too Accurate
  • Ugly
  • Not as Fun to Shoot as Other PCCs

#8 Kriss Vector CRB : Most unique (and coolest)

Kriss Vector Review: Vector CRB

Kriss Vector CRB

No self-respecting “Best PCC” list would leave the Kriss Vector out of things.

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  • Shootability A-
  • Reliability B-
  • Ergonomics B-
  • Accuracy A
  • Value C+

Our Grade

B

Reader’s Grade

TBD

Based on 0 Reviews

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Vector CRB Specs

  • Capacity 17 or more (state depending)
  • Caliber 9mm Luger
  • Trigger Pivoting Single Stage
  • Overall length 35.25″
  • Length (barrel) 16″
  • Weight 8 lbs

Kriss Vector Review

The Vector is definitely one of the most unique (and immediately recognizable) of all modern guns. This one has had a starring role in movies and video games like the 2012 remake of Total Recall and Call of Duty, but that’s not the reason it’s in our choices for Best PCC.

The Vector is not at all just a pretty face, and if you’ve never shot one – well, even if you’re not looking to buy, go check one out sometime. They are smooth and fun, and it feels like they “kick” less than a .22lr. Seriously. The Vector has so little recoil that it’s pure pleasure to shoot it and being able to deliver super quick follow-up shots serves you well in competitions and home defense. 

I shot tight groupings at 10 and 25 yards and managed to do so with the iron sights that come with the package. If you swap it out for better optics, chances are your accuracy will remain sharp and consistent even at 100 yards out.

The Vector’s sci-fi shape is the result of its “Super V System,” which takes the normal recoil-impulse and directs it downward. Add this to a low bore axis and you get an imminently controllable weapon. 

Looking sharp like a gun out of a movie set doesn’t mean the ergonomics on the Vector is compromised. Like I said before, the recoil is non-existent. Plus, the trigger has a clean break, the reset is considerably short, and you can shoot this gun with one hand if you ever need to; the Vector’s center is at the far back, making it possible to balance the gun and take satisfactory aim with one hand.   

The Kriss Vector CRB accepts all kinds of Glock and Glock-compatible magazines so it’s pretty easy to feed the gun. The Gen 2 Kriss Vectors can change the caliber as well; you can swap out the lower receiver to a caliber you prefer without any tool.  

This PCC can be unfamiliar territory but once you get used to it and slap on some accessories to take the performance up a notch, the Kriss Vector CRB can be a super accurate and a highly controllable gun that works just as well as it looks. 

  • Virtually effortless- Recoil is virtually imperceptible.
  • Glockivore- Takes all sorts of Glock/Glock-compatible mags
  • Super V System- A big part of why it handles so well
  • Awkward- A markedly different manual of arms
  • Super V System- Not as familiar as blowback, DI, etc.

Kriss Vector Gun Deals

#9 Stribog SPA3G : Editor’s Choice

Editor's Choice
Stribog-SP8A3G

Stribog SPA3G

Now that it’ll feed from a Glock magazine, the Stribog is one of the top PCCs out there.

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  • Shootability B+
  • Reliability B-
  • Ergonomics B
  • Accuracy B-
  • Value C+

Our Grade

B-

Reader’s Grade

A

Based on 3 Reviews

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Stribog SP9A3 Specs

  • Capacity Varies
  • Caliber 9mm
  • Sights Integral flip-up
  • Overall length 16.7″
  • Length (barrel) 8″
  • Weight 4.54 lbs.

Stribog SP9A3 Review

First off, stipulated: many people will call this a PDW, not a PCC. Many people would also describe it as a subgun. However, Many People aren’t writing this article. We’ll call what we think is appropriate.

The SP9A3 is what the original Stribog should have been – meaning it has all the good qualities of its predecessors and it takes Glock mags. The first ‘bogs used a proprietary straight magazine that had less than a sterling reputation for reputation. The next generation used curved magazines, but they were still proprietary. Now though? Now it feeds from a Glock magazine! It takes all kinds of Glock and Glock-compatible magazines so it saves you the hassle of looking for and spending on proprietary mags. Plus, the Glock mags can vastly improve the performance of the Stribog which didn’t have a lot going for it on the accuracy and convenience fronts with the proprietary mags.

Another improvement is the non-reciprocating charging handle. It not only makes a nice place to throw your support thumb, but it’s also reconfigurable. You can swap it from left- to right-handed simply and quickly.

The only issue I have with it is that there’s a lot less real estate on the side of the charging handle and I can’t add on as many accessories as I would have liked to. However, there’s a Picatinny Rail and M-Lok slots on the barrel to add a light or sights and the barrel is threaded to accept a suppressor or a muzzle brake, so I’d say that’s enough space for accessories even if I can’t easily fasten a sling.  

The Stribog is compact and lightweight so there’s no wonder people call it a PDW–a personal defense weapon. At 4.54 lbs, it is a gun anyone from beginners to experienced shooters can handle. Add to it the 6 lbs pull weight, and you get a gun that’s convenient for shooters with varying degrees of hand strength. 

The only reason the editor rated this above the Kriss Vector is the familiarity of the STribog’s manual of arms. Take out that factor, and they’re tied up in both the badass and go-buy categories.

Stribog SP9A3 Pros and Cons

  • Glockivore- Takes all sorts of Glock/Glock-compatible mags
  • Lightweight and compact- There’s a reason it’s a subgun/PCC/PDW
  • Charging handle- Reversible and non-reciprocating; good stuff
  • Times are a’changin’- Pistol brace laws may substantially mitigate its advantages
  • Inaccurate- IF you have to shoot it without a brace or stock only
  • Limited real estate- Charging handle side: could impact sling or accessories

Other PCCs

Well, not every PCC we have reviewed can make the best of list. Palmetto State Armory has two PCC style weapons that we have reviewed in the past but they did not make the list. Read our review on the PSA PX9 which is an AR style PCC and the PSA AK-V which is an AK style PCC.

Another well known PCC that did not make the list, but just barley fell short, is the CZ Scorpion.

We also have two new PCCs to the market, the Henry Homesteader and the Smith and Wesson M&P FPC. The homesteader is a traditional looking, wood stocked, PCC while the S&W FPC is a very modern looking PCC that folds in half.

PCC Buyers Guide

PCCs are some of my favorite firearms. They’re cheap and fun to shoot, and I own more than I need. They might not be for everyone, but they are an excellent option for many.

PCC Pros

Maybe you are not specifically shopping for a PCC. Perhaps you are considering all of your firearm options. Maybe you don’t know the benefits of a 9mm carbine or other PCC. Whatever the reason is, we’re going to give you the info you need to make an informed decision.

Heritage Arms Rancher
PCCs come in all shapes and sizes, which is one reason why the definition remains vague. This is the Heritage Rancher, a revolving rimfire carbine.

Cheaper Ammo and (Sometimes) Easier Logistics

Pistol ammo is almost universally cheaper than rifle ammo. Magnum calibers exceed that, but mostly the price difference is significant. A 9mm Luger can be half the price of 5.56.

Some PCCs use standard pistol magazines. Glock is the most popular, but SIG, Ruger, and S&W magazines in PCCs aren’t unheard of. This simplifies your logistics in numerous ways. First, if you own a pistol that uses the same magazines, you already have a source to draw from.

Second, the magazines are not proprietary. These are often easier to find and usually cheaper. That eases the $$$ sting of buying a new platform.

Caliber can improve performance

Which caliber to use is always a big question with a long answer full of nuance. What caliber should your PCC be chambered in? If you just want an affordable, capable, and easy-to-find caliber, 9mm is the way to go. 9mm is plenty cheap, and the defensive loadings are very capable. Subsonic 9mm is also quite common for use with cans.

If you want a caliber that can take advantage of a PCC’s longer barrel and ability to be more accurate, then the 10mm might be the pistol cartridge for you. The 10mm has good power out to 100 yards and is relatively flat shooting.

If you take a slightly different route and utilize a cowboy-style lever gun, the 357 Magnum guns can shoot the cheaper 38 Special for more affordable target practice. While the word Magnum sounds intense, in a rifle, it’s rather pleasant and soft shooting.

There are some niche calibers you could argue walk the line between PCC and rifle round like the 5.7X28. They can be pretty neat but pricey and difficult to find. If you take this route, just keep that in mind.

If your round of choice isn’t mentioned here, don’t feel left out. Most common pistol rounds will work fine in PCCs and function well for defensive shooting. Rounds like the 40 S&W and 45 ACP simply don’t do anything special worth mentioning. They are functional, potent, and capable, but more expensive than 9mm and weaker performers compared to 10mm.

If you have handguns in a particular caliber, then you may want to match your PCC caliber to your handgun caliber for simpler logistics.

Super Short and Light

PCCs have the ability to be lighter and shorter than traditional long guns like the AR15 and AR10. Even full-sized PCCs with 16-inch barrels tend to be lighter than rifle-caliber weapons. Look at subguns and you can go even shorter and even lighter.

The Banshee Mk17 weighs 4 pounds and 10 ounces and is 18.9 inches long. PCCs can have super short barrels without a loss of ballistic performance. A 9mm-chambered PCC with a 5-inch barrel is much more comfortable to handle and shoot than a 5.56 AR 15 with a 5-inch barrel.

This creates a very small and competent firearm that’s easy to handle for most shooters. Smaller shooters or shooters without a ton of strength benefit greatly from lighter and shorter weapons. PCCs are often a favorite of shooters with arthritis or limb injuries in general.

PCCs are also used as a truck gun because they are compact and lightweight; you can take them hiking or trailing for the same reasons. 

Pleasant to Shoot

Because they are so much bigger than a standard pistol, PCCs tend to be incredibly comfortable to shoot and handle. Recoil is minimal, as is the concussion. Plus, the accuracy is much better in a PCC compared to a handgun. 

The bigger calibers become very loud when used with short barrels, producing a massive concussion and muzzle blast that’s not present in short-barreled PCCs or subguns.

The mild impulse, noise, and concussion make them a lot less scary if you are a new shooter and much more attractive to those looking for an easy-handling and fun gun.

Easy to Suppress

PCCs are excellent candidates for noise suppression!

First, pistol calibers are very easy to make subsonic, so ammo is widely available without paying a high price or having issues hunting it down. Supersonic ammo leaves a telltale crack even when the gun is suppressed. Subsonic ammo keeps things quieter.

Second, pistol-caliber cans are often more affordable than their rifle caliber counterparts.

Lastly, if you take the subgun or the SBR route, a PCC can have a short barrel with a relatively short can. This creates a combination that can still be shorter than any standard long gun.

Allowed At Pistol Ranges

You may live in an area where the only local ranges are indoor ranges. Most indoor ranges only allow pistol calibers due to relatively short ranges, the confined space, and how much more powerful a rifle round is than a pistol.

These ranges will still allow you to use a PCC and get your training in. Another significant benefit is the fact you can use pistol-rated steel targets. These are a fair bit cheaper than most rifle-rated steel, which is nice.

PCC Cons

Like anything in the gun world, there are always compromises. With all the benefits of PCCs come a few downsides worth noting.

Not the most powerful

The biggest downside is that you are still just shooting a pistol caliber. Pistol calibers are nowhere near as powerful as rifle or shotgun rounds. Pistol-chambered long guns have all the advantages of their brawnier cousins, but their rounds lack substantial power and range – although this may be offset by the fact that sometimes you’ll be able to cross load magazines into your concealed carry magazines.

At 50 yards and in the PCC can rule. From 50 to 100 yards, you start to deal with some substantial problems with bullet drop and a loss of energy from most pistol calibers. Even the most powerful pistol rounds can’t touch a rifle round. You can’t get the same penetration from a pistol round, and all-around ballistically, they are significantly weaker. For example, a PCC can’t defeat body armor; it doesn’t have the required penetrating power. That’s why some call out the PCC for not being a serious gun, but I’d say each to his own.

Proprietary magazines

Remember that “sometimes” I mentioned when regarding easier logistics? Well, sometimes, they are harder. Some PCCs use proprietary magazines, which can be expensive. Not always, of course – the CZ has many affordable magazine options. But that isn’t always the case.

However, guns like the MPX and the various MP5 clones have magazines that cost upwards of 50 bucks a pop. Proprietary magazines also remove some of the compatibility options you might have with your concealed carry pistol.

PCC for home defense

Many may wonder, is a 9mm carbine or other PCC a good choice for home defense? Well, yeah, as with any gun, they need to be a quality gun before they are trusted as a home defense tool. However, I do believe PCCs are an excellent choice for home defense.

They are lighter and easier to handle than rifles, typically more comfortable, and produce less concussion. If you’ve never fired a 5.56 rifle inside a building, you’ll be absolutely shocked at how loud and forceful it is. The blast is brutal, as is the noise. When you’re in a fight, it doesn’t matter much, but preserving your hearing is nice.

This leads us back to cans, which can be equipped to a short PCC without making the gun overtly long. You can use easily suppressed subsonic ammo in defensive loadings that are perfect for home defense.

Pistol rounds don’t hit like rifle rounds, but with proper ammo selection, they are still capable and effective defensive rounds. For people with reduced strength, a PCC they can fire accurately and easily multiple times is better than a rifle they can fire once.

Inside a PCC – Operating Systems

Rifles, shotguns, and handguns all have various systems they operate on. These systems vary from manual action to semi-automatic, and inside, both of those are sub-categories. PCCs seem to have more operating systems than any other platform, and they are typically interesting and worth knowing about when you are considering buying a PCC because they affect how the weapon functions and how it handles.

Straight blowback 

Straight blowback is the most common type of operation of function for a PCC. It’s very simple, affordable, and reliable. The system is used in most SMGs and has been around for as long as automatic weapons have. Blowback operation is what occurs when the rapidly expanding gasses push the shell from the chamber. This is caveman-style simplicity. 

With straight blowback systems, you have to find a way to delay the bolt from opening until the pressure is at a safe level to do so, and the projectile has cleared the barrel. To do so, you need a heavy bolt or a heavy spring compressing that bolt. The downside is that straight blowback weapons often have increased recoil (often referred to as “kick” or “kickback”) compared to other systems.

Also, the heavier bolts make the weapon heavier and can create more “kick” due to increased mass moving rearward. A heavy spring makes the weapon harder to operate from an ergonomic standpoint. 

Radial-delayed blowback 

Radial-delayed systems were created by CMMG for the Banshee series of PCCs. The radial delayed system utilizes a bolt with angular lugs that lock into a chamber cut to accommodate the lugs. The angular lugs rotate to unlock, and the time it takes to rotate allows the projectile to leave the barrel and for pressure to drop in the chamber. 

This system eliminates the need for heavy springs, bolts, and buffers. This allows you to have a carbine with lower “kick” and less weight than most. CMMG is the only producer of this blowback operation, but they do sell barrel and bolt systems to allow you to create your own AR-type PCC platform with the radial delayed action. 

Dead blow blowback 

Dead blow blowback is a variation of straight blowback designed and utilized by Ruger. This system is used on both their Carbine and Charger series. The name comes from a dead blow hammer, which is a tool utilized to prevent damage to a surface and to control strike force. They do this through the addition of a tungsten weight attached to their bolts. 

This limits bolt travel and improves controllability. It retains the simplicity of straight blowback without the recoil. The downside is the heavy bolt is still very present in this system. 

Roller delayed blowback 

Roller delayed blowback goes all the way back to World War 2 era machine guns. The famed German design has been modified for use in one of the most popular SMG platforms in the world, the MP5. The roller delayed system typically uses two rollers installed on the bolt to delay movement of the bolt by allowing the bolt carrier to move rearward before the bolt head.

This system varies by design but is relatively simple and allows for a lightweight system. They can be used by lightweight and stamped guns like the MP5. The system does help control “kick” and limits the need for massive bolts and heavy springs. The downsides are a relatively dirty system that isn’t known for playing well with suppressors. 

Short stroke gas system 

Short-stroke gas systems are common on rifle-caliber rifles but seem to be rarer in the available PCC lineup. A short-stroke gas piston system utilizes a piston mounted to the barrel with a gas port leading from the barrel to the gas piston. 

The gas strikes the piston, and the piston is driven rearward and strikes a bolt. The bolt cycles rearward and allows the weapon to operate. Short-stroke recoil systems are more complicated and costly than regular systems, but they have softer “kickback” and a high degree of reliability. The only downside to this system is accuracy over long ranges. However, PCCs are not used at the ranges where this is an issue. 

Lever actions 

The last system is the only popular manual action long gun for PCC, and that is lever actions. Lever actions require the user to activate a lever between each shot. This lever manipulation extracts, ejects, and loads the next round into the gun. This system is 100% reliable because it’s used by hand and the only chance for a malfunction is from the user or a broken gun. 

Lever actions are simple but do require more practice and training compared to a semi-auto action. Lever action rifles are still quite fast in trained hands and can be easier to obtain in states with restrictive gun laws. Lever actions also allow for magnum caliber rounds to be safely and efficiently used.

Additional factors to consider when choosing a PCC

Whether it’s for home defense or recreational use, going for a PCC is a smart choice–smarter if you choose the best fit that works for your needs. Here are some more factors to consider when buying a PCC in addition to what we discussed. 

  • Weight – PCCs are generally lightweight and easy for newbies or shooters with small builds to handle, but you still need to look at the weight distribution. PCCs with more weight toward the barrel than the stock can be ‘top heavy’ and can cause too much muzzle jump, and on the other hand, being too lightweight can be a cause for recoil. You have to find the right balance to get the best out of your PCC. 
  • Barrel length – Long barrels can improve the power and accuracy of a PCC, so a barrel between 10-16 inches is a solid choice. If the PCC is for home defense though, you can opt for a shorter barrel because they are easy to maneuver. 
  • Trigger – A trigger with less pull weight and a clean break can make your PCC a joy to shoot with, so try out your choice before committing to a purchase. Aftermarket triggers can be quite expensive so your best bet is to go for a PCC with a good factory trigger. 
  • Accessory compatibility – Adding a few accessories like sights, suppressors, and muzzle brakes can greatly improve the performance, so consider getting a PCC with rail mounts and threading to attach the accessories you need. Keep in mind that suppressors are regulated by the National Firearms Act and require a background check to own one.  
  • Cost – The cost of PCCs start around $300 and go upward of $2,000 with varying degrees of performance and quality. Consider your familiarity with PCCs and the purpose of getting one to decide on your budget. A newbie can learn the ropes with a low-cost, serviceable PCC while experienced shooters can get feature-rich PCCs at a higher price bracket.
  • Legal restrictions – PCCs fall under the same regulations as rifles so consider checking your state’s laws before you buy. Especially, PCCs with a barrel shorter than 16 inches and an overall length shorter than 26 inches are considered a ‘short barreled rifle’ that needs some paperwork to own and use.  

It might seem like a lot to consider, but once you do have the right PCC in your hand, it can serve you well and make shooting fun.  

Conclusion

The PCC is a lightweight gun that even shooters with less hand strength can handle, and it shoots with satisfying accuracy. It’s also an easy-buy because there’s a choice in any price bracket, and once you attach a few accessories to improve its performance, you’ll know why the PCC is a favorite for recreational and competitive shooting and even home defense. 

Additional Relevant Reading

FAQ

What is the range of a PCC?

The effective range of a PCC is up to approximately 50 yards, but it can accurately shoot at targets 100 yards out. 

What is the best barrel length for a 9mm PCC?

16-inch is an ideal barrel length for a 9mm PCC because it can help reduce the recoil while still being of manageable length. Depending on your ergonomic preference, you can go for a barrel length between 10-16 inches. 

Are there any legal restrictions on pistol caliber carbines?

Yes. Some states like California and New Jersey have restrictions set up, so it’s always good to check your state’s laws about firearms ownership and carry. 

How accurate are PCC 9mm?

It’s possible to land sub-1-inch groupings under 25 yards and 2-inch groupings at 50 yards with a 9mm PCC. Keep in mind that the type of ammo and the operational skill factor count for consistent accuracy, so different shooters may see diverse results when it comes to accuracy with a PCC.  

Is a PCC better than a pistol?

This comes down to preference and circumstances. Performance-wise, PCCs and pistols are both neck and neck, but some shooters find PCCs easy to handle for home defense and some find the size of pistols convenient in certain situations like concealed carry or personal defense. 

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. GunUniversity’s “cons” on this weapon are true, however, I don’t rate highly those “cons” and do not give the same weight I would give the “pros”, which are also true. Depends on priorities…I guess. I personally have no problem with a stiff trigger or recoil spring. Weeds out the wimps!!

  2. Now in late January of 2022 I have of two of the best PCCs.

    #1. FN PS90 with aftermarket low Pic rail and Vortex SPARC II red dot)
    #2, RUGER PC chassis carbine (much upgraded with M*CARBO & MAGPUL parts and a HOLOSUN AEMS circle/dot sight)

  3. I think this article could use a second editing pass. Some things are a little odd. The CMMG Banshee is listed as having expensive mags, but most versions take Glock mags. And the Henry lever-action is listed as having a stiff recoil spring.

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