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Nordic Components 9mm Carbine

From the archives: RECOIL Magazine Issue 33, November/December 2017
Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

RELIABILITY AND ACCURACY IN A FINELY WROUGHT PACKAGE

Last year, the USPSA approved a provisional division that allowed owners of pistol-caliber carbines (PCCs) to shoot them in sanctioned competitions. While there’s still grumbling from people who don’t think that rifles should be shot in a pistol match, the switch has been enormously popular, as it allows users to train with the same types of firearms they use in other events, such as three-gun, albeit with a slightly modified feel. Furthermore, it increases opportunities for shooters to run their rifles, since more ranges can accommodate them in pistol bays. Anyone using a carbine for either home defense or work now has additional opportunities to hone their long gun skills in a CQB environment with the added pressure that comes from a timer and the steely gaze of their peers.

nordic components 9mm

From a safety perspective, it’s also proven to be a great way to introduce newbies to the competitive environment. It’s a lot easier to control a long gun in stages involving movement, so range officers are happy, the novice is less likely to get a trip to Dairy Queen for a 180 violation, and there’s a whole lot less cringing from the rest of the squad. Win. This being America, the market has responded with new and shiny ways to separate the consumer from their paycheck, in order to gain a competitive advantage.

For a long time, AR-pattern 9mm conversions were janky and unreliable at best. A decade ago, my local club at the time ran their own version of three-gun matches on its pistol bays, so PCCs were mandatory. Usually the difference between first and fifth place was determined by the number of stoppages encountered, so I built my own gas-operated 7.62×25 AR as a means of climbing the ladder. These days, there’s no need to bust out the lathe and milling machine, as there are plenty of ready-made options, and the bugs are largely resolved.

NORDIC OPTIONS

Nordic Components has long dabbled in the competition world, making some of the best shotgun magazine extensions, as well as barrels and compensators for ARs. They’ve recently jumped into the PCC game with a complete carbine offering a number of unique features. Do they add up to a winning package? Well, there’s only one way to find out …

Nordic PCC 4

On picking up the Nordic 9mm, the first thing that strikes you is the quality of design and machining that went into it. Sharp edges are minimized, the handguard flows into the upper without the usual Pic rail stutter step, and there’s an overall feeling of superior manufacturing to it. Although it’s unmistakably AR-ish, the parts commonality between this and a 5.56 carbine is less than you might think. The lower is dedicated to the pistol caliber cause — there’s no kludgy mag block, half-assed bolt hold open, or clothespin spring ejector that you might find on older PCCs.

It’s also light, pointing like Harry Potter’s magic wand due to its minimalist barrel profile. While it might look like there’s some meat on its bones from the outside, there’s a big ol’ tunnel bored through it, shedding a lot of ounces. Covering most of the 16-inch, 1-10 twist barrel is a 15-inch M-LOK handguard, which betrays its gas gun origins by means of a couple of cutouts where the adjustable gas block on a rifle or mid-length gas system would lie. Finishing off the business end is a three-port compensator; given the negligible gas pressure and volume generated by a 9mm in a 16-inch tube, it’s about as useful as tits on a fish. Looks cool, though.

The lower receiver is outfitted with a Magpul MOE pistol grip and Battlelink Minimalist buttstock mated to a six-position buffer tube, whose castle nut was lightly staked in one of the available slots. A regular, GI safety blocks an equally vanilla fire control group, which for once, didn’t have that anvil-down-a-driveway trigger feel. We’d eventually replace it, but it’s usable for the time being.

What sets this billet lower apart, besides its better than average machining, is its ability to accept magazines other than the usual Glock 33 rounders everyone else uses. What sorcery is this? In front of the trigger guard lies an extra takedown pin, which has nothing to do with separating the upper and lower receivers from each other. Instead, a barely perceptible joint hints at a replaceable magazine well.

Nordic PCC 3

By pushing the pin, the magwell separates, along with its ejector and mag catch. The user can then swap in a different option — Glock and M&P are available at the time of writing, with STI on the way. There’s no reason why Uzi/Colt, Beretta, and MPX mags shouldn’t fit, should demand manifest itself and Nordic decide to fire up the CNC machines. Once the magwell is removed, you’re left with an L-shaped upper receiver stub that accommodates a last round bolt hold open lever, activated by the magazine follower and held in place by the front takedown pin. This sits in a pocket, under a conventional AR BHO, and cams it into the bolt’s path when you can pew no more. Once the takedown pin is pulled, the lever is free as a bird and can be swapped out for another one, should the magazine you’ve chosen require it. We used the same one for both Smith and Glock mags, so at the moment it’s moot, but it’s good to see a company taking steps to future-proof its designs.

While its chameleon properties are a cool trick, we reckon the number of people who’ll take advantage of it is relatively small — most shooters will simply pick the version they already have mags for and stick with it. What it does offer from a manufacturing perspective is a means of streamlining production, as there’s only one serialized SKU to stock. Hopefully this’ll keep a lid on prices, as with a $1,600 MSRP, the Nordic PCC is already one of the most expensive options in the marketplace.

In common with most of its competitors, the Nordic PCC is a straight blowback design, meaning the bolt isn’t locked when the cartridge is fired. Spring pressure and bolt inertia are the only things resisting thrust from the bullet’s journey up the barrel, so there’s a delicate balancing act required to ensure that the bolt doesn’t open while the bore is pressurized, yet still has enough oomph to eject the case and feed a fresh one. As the possible range of bullet weights in 9mm Luger range from 90 to 165 grains, this is a big ask.

nordic components bolt

In order to address the issue, Nordic went with a heavier-than-usual bolt (note that the carrier and bolt are one and the same in a blowback AR), along with a buffer machined from a chunk of steel bar stock. The bolt itself features a two-piece body, the rear is secured by a spring-loaded detent, accessible after the firing pin has been removed. It’s here where the majority of its mass is located. By swapping out a lighter or heavier rear section, bolt mass can be tuned to different calibers, giving more flexibility than changing buffer weight alone. Combined, the reciprocating components weigh in at 23 ounces, versus 17 for a 5.56 carbine. Both sections are hard chromed, a welcome feature on a blowback, where so much carbon is spewed into the action — a quick wipe with a CLP-soaked rag and it disappears.

ROUNDS DOWNRANGE

As this was conceived as a competition carbine, it made sense to take it to a match. While its flared magwell definitely makes reloads quicker, the fastest reload of all is one you don’t need to perform, so the Glock option with its 33-round sticks was chosen, rather than the 17 rounders of the Smith. A Leupold LCO was added up top, and apart from a quick spritz of oil, that concluded our preparation. A quick zero at 25 yards with 124-grain SIG ball ammo was carried out on an empty bay, then our match fee was paid, squad card received, and it was off to the races.

Nordic PCC 2

Three hours later, we had a pretty good idea of what the gun was capable of. While conditions weren’t exactly demanding, it ran flawlessly and proved that putting a stock on a weapon is a better performance enhancer than dropping five large in custom gunsmithing to build an Open class race gun.

Later, during accuracy testing, we managed to print 2-inch, five-round groups at 50 yards with Prime Hexagon ammo.

Nordic PCC 1

Like all blowback 9mm’s, recoil is more than you’d expect from such a tiny cartridge in a large gun. The majority of the felt impulse comes not from a reaction to the bullet’s acceleration, but rather from deceleration of the bolt and buffer as they slam first into the end of the receiver extension, and then into the chamber end of the barrel. Other than adding mass to the non-reciprocating parts, there’s much you can do to mitigate it, given limitations imposed by compensator efficiency. Still, everyone else shooting one is in the same boat, and while an MP5 clone or MPX has a theoretical advantage due to their lighter working parts, as always the shooter’s ability has a greater impact on performance than any mechanical component.

As a match-winning tool, the Nordic PCC can definitely hold its own. It’ll serve as a home defense weapon too, as a 9mm from a 16-inch carbine is both faster and easier to hit with than the same round from a handgun. While it gives up lethality in comparison to a 5.56, it’s not as intimidating to other members of the household, and has the same capacity while producing much less muzzle blast, concussion, and flash. Perhaps the best part about using one, though, is that it bridges the gap between a 22LR and a centerfire rifle — ammo is 30-percent cheaper, recoil management becomes a factor, and it’s just plain fun to shoot. As with most consumer goods, there’s a wide spread of price points at the retailer. The Nordic is at the high end, but its quality is in line with the asking price.

nordic components rifle

SPECS:

Caliber: 9×19
Barrel length: 16-inches
Overall length: 32.5-inches
Weight (unloaded): 6.75 lb
Magazine capacity: 33 (Glock mags)
MSRP: $1,600
URL: https://nordiccomp.com/


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