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The 9mm Carbine: Part SMG, Part Pistol, Pure Utility

LONG GUN ERGONOMICS WITH A PISTOL CALIBER, 9MM CARBINES ARE HERE TO STAY

In essence, the 9mm carbine is not exactly new. On the one hand, pistol caliber carbines call back to the frontier days when one's revolver and lever action could accept the same shells. And just as revolvers gave way to semi-automatics, so carbines have changed in form and in some case, function.

On the other hand, they have evolved through a continual strain of iconic firearms such as the MP 40, MP5, and beyond. From competitive shooting to years of use across conflicts and crises, and firmly planted as a home defense tool, these firearms share the benefits of being both old and new again. 

But what is it that sets 9mm carbines apart in 2021? Now, most can be purchased in three different configurations: full-length carbine, SBR, or pistol.

If it doesn't come from the manufacturer with a brace, chances are someone makes an adapter so that short pistol suddenly becomes a much more viable home defense or trunk gun. Having the ability to share ammunition and sometimes magazines between a concealed pistol and a compact carbine means one less thing on the grocery list for the gun store. 

THE BEST 9MM CARBINE

B&T APC9 & APC9K

The challenger to the throne deserves a mention, as the B&T APC9 and its shorter self, the APC9K have brought more than just AR aspects to the playground of the MP5.

BT APC9

As a straight blowback-operated 9mm carbine or pistol, it continues to win contract after government contract as both a reliable and, you guessed it, modular tool.

From the first touch, the APC9K feels balanced, with ambidextrous safeties, mag releases, bolt catches, and charging handles as a default. If the APC9K was your first 9mm carbine to try out, these features will spoil you.

The B&T APC9K and Toor Jank Shank combine for a small, but lethal pairing.

All is not AR about the APC9. The forward set charging handles fold into the handguard, which must be considered when attaching lasers, lights, and foregrips.

On the shorter variant, the minuscule rail space can be intimidating and requires a strict economy if going full tilt with attachments, but the intimidation can be overcome with deliberate hand placement and equipment choice.

Since both the H&K MP5 and the B&T APC9 demand a respectable price tag, it might sound odd that the roller delayed action of the MP5 that so many praise was replaced by a direct blowback when the U.S. Army and more chose the Swiss submachinegun.

The blowback design of the B&T APC9 doesn't suffer nearly as much as other firearms with actions following the same principle, resulting in a considerably more controllable recoil impulse.

Vortex UH-1 Gen II B&T APC9K JK Armament Inforce WML
Vortex UH-1 B&T APC9K

Make no mistake, B&T demands a price tag that puts it out of reach for some, but the value of the juice that comes from the squeeze required justifies the cost of entry.

Out of the box, there's very little to change on the firearm, except for swapping out or deleting the safety on the non-dominant side, as the OEM paddles can begin to dig into the shooter's hand during extensive aggressive use. 

The magwell takes a little getting used to, and just like the GHM9, though flared, has an unusually thick front end, which takes some getting used to. B&T has done the legwork with the APC series, offering 6 different folding and telescoping stock and brace options, integrally suppressed barrels, and lowers that take either Glock or SIG 320 mags. 

SPECS:

  • Caliber: 9×19
  • Barrel Length: 5.5 inches
  • Overall Length: 14.75 inches 
  • Weight Unloaded: 5 pounds, 7.7 ounces
  • Magazine Capacity: 30 rounds
  • MSRP: $2,475
  • URLbt-arms.com

B&T GHM9 GEN 2

The B&T GHM9, in some cases, comes across as a response to other firearms in the catagory, and in others, holds true to an original identity.

B&T GHM9

While it may come across as the less expensive brother of the APC9, this 9mm carbine serves a better purpose as a patrol or vehicle carbine for a slightly different use. Both the APC9 and the GHM9 take the new B&T Pro lowers, opening up magazine variety, and isolating the difference in the upper. 

The extension of the receiver over the pistol grip separates the two in appearance and opens up the GHM9 to be shot, brace collapsed, against a plate carrier for extremely tight quarters.

The GHM9 was also designed as a 9mm carbine with aftermarket options in mind. While the first generation of GHM9s didn't like to feed hollow point projectiles, the Gen 2 models have fixed this alongside additional changes. 

The new generation added more forend options, as the integrally suppressed 4.3-inch barrel effectively vents the gas quick enough to turn supersonic 9mm rounds into subsonic, further utilizing the 10-inch can.

B&T GHM9
B&T GHM9

This opens up the GHM9 up for a multitude of uses and configurations, whether for super-short GHM9 compact, or a full-length barrel and rail for competitions, or the in-between for the tactical aesthetic. 

SPECS:

  • Caliber: 9×19
  • Barrel Length: 6.9 inches
  • Overall Length: 17.25 inches 
  • Weight Unloaded: 4.8 pounds
  • Magazine Capacity: 30 rounds
  • MSRP: $1,649
  • URLbt-arms.com

GRAND POWER STRIBOG

The Stribog from Grand Power snuck up on the world when they released the SP9 A1.

Starting at around $700 (in pre-COVID pricing), complete with a simple but ever-reliable direct blowback action, and AR-15 like controls, the surprise of the Slovakian 9mm carbine is that it rapidly gained aftermarket support, allowing for multiple brace options and even replacement components to make the charging handle non-reciprocating.

GRAND POWER STRIBOG
GRAND POWER STRIBOG

Grand Power quickly recognized that this was a must, and included the finger-saving update in the SP A2 (sometimes referred to as the A1 Gen 2), only to tease the world with the A3 which sports a roller-delay action.

While the Grand Power Stribog was not without problems, each of them has been addressed in one fashion or another. The gen 1 magazines had trouble with the feed lips and longevity, and Grand Power quickly remedied this problem by reinforcing them.

The roller-delayed A3 model had twisted lines out of the chute with cycling, but, like earlier problems, they were quick to open up a repair and replacement program. 

Old-school TLR weaponlights gives just enough stand-off to avoid being hit by the charging handle.

GRAND POWER STRIBOG

The Stribog stands out, not only for its asking price but because it gets so many of the important components right. The crisp, clean trigger almost defines its place in the 9mm carbine ecosystem. Find out why in our original review of the Grand Power Stribog.

Thankfully, many of our early concerns were quickly corrected, either by Grand Power itself, or aftermarket parts if you acquire an early model.

SPECS:

  • Caliber: 9×19
  • Barrel Length: 8 inches
  • Overall Length: 14.7 inches 
  • Weight Unloaded: 5.1 pounds
  • Magazine Capacity: 20, 30 rounds
  • MSRP: $799
  • URLgrandpowerusa.net

CZ SCORPION EVO 3 S1

Just like that friend who could truly be great if they just got their act together, when the CZ Scorpion EVO 3 first launched, it exemplified what it meant for a 9mm carbine to have potential. 

9mm carbine scorpion
CZ SCORPION EVO 3 S1

Immediately punching well above its weight class, the new CZ Scorpion tried to play on the field with other carbines that easily cost twice as much. Small, light, reliable, accurate, and with well-priced and robustly designed magazines, it still left a few things to be desired.

The shape of the pistol grip offended American sensibilities and the somewhat mushy 8-ish-pound trigger sent a shock up the fingers of those accustomed to bougie AR options.

All is not utilitarian with the CZ Scorpion, however, as the 9mm carbine caught the eyes of so many aftermarket parts manufacturers that all the original sins could be cleansed in the fire of personal choice and preferential purchases.

Magpul, HB Industries, Timney Triggers, and more answered the call to make the CZ Scorpion Evo into a powerhouse of customization that even reached into the realm of 3d printing. 

The ergonimics of the CZ Scorpions are distinctly European with a forward set charging handle and paddle magazine release.

CZ SCORPION EVO 3 S1

However, each of the switches, releases, and handles are either surprisingly comfortable out of the box or have a multitude of replacement options. The forgiving magazine well doesn't add too much bulk, while dropping the bolt can be accomplished by either the charging handle or the massive bolt release.

In its latest evolution, the CZ Scorpion Micro is worth a look, if you can find one. 

We've put together a series of CZ Scorpion Upgrade guides. 

SPECS:

  • Caliber: 9×19
  • Barrel Length: 7.75 inches
  • Overall Length: 16 inches 
  • Weight Unloaded: 5 pounds
  • Magazine Capacity: 20, 30 rounds, (35 rounds by Magpul)
  • MSRP: $1,025
  • URLcz-usa.com

RUGER PC CHARGER

Ruger didn't try to beat the competition head-on with the PC Charger or the PCC, but outflank them with a feature that, as of the time of this writing, makes it a unique choice among many.

Ruger PC Charger
Ready for the TP apocalypse

The ability to quickly detach the front section of the gun means one can choose between either a full-length barrel or a compact option, with plenty of room for a suppressor.

Both also sport the ability to change out components to make each compatible with GLOCK or Ruger SR-series magazines.

Sharing many trigger components with the 10/22 brings a smile knowing Ruger didn't lose focus but used what has worked so well for them in the past.

Ruger PC Charger right side
The pistol version of the PC carbine features a polymer chassis that accepts AR pistol grips

While the early models of the Ruger PCC certainly gave the impression of a backpack gun rather than a pure self-defense tool or competition piece, companies like Taccom quickly recognized the foundation of Ruger's latest entry into the 9mm Carbine world as more than a larger caliber 10/22.

SPECS:

  • Caliber: 9×19
  • Barrel Length: 6.5 inches
  • Overall Length: 16.5 inches 
  • Weight Unloaded: 5.2 pounds
  • Magazine Capacity: Various, (17 rounds for Ruger mags, 33 rounds for Glock Mags)
  • MSRP: $800
  • URLruger.com

SIG SAUER MPX

When the SIG MPX first launched, it plainly stated that it was the baddest 9mm carbine on the block.

AR-15 type controls, a gas-piston system, and clean lines drove the SIG MPX to the top of many people's want lists, and into the hands of more than one government agency.

SIG MPX K

Crossing genres with competition models, right at the moment PCC's were being demanded in USPSA, the foundation of the platform needed seconds to establish itself as a big fish in a growing pool.  

The SIG MPX has now been around long enough to go through various evolutions. As M-LOK continues to dominate the field of rails and mounting interfaces, so the MPX has adapted.

As new triggers, charging handles, and accessories continue to pop up, the viability of the platform continues to grow. Currently shipping in 3 formats: super-compact “Copperhead,” the 4.5 inch barrel “k” model, and the full-sized PCC which angles itself towards competition fields.

In RECOIL 55 we built an integrally suppressed SIG MPX, which goes to show that, like usual, there's more available than what's on the front page. 

The downside to the MPX is easy: cost. Like the APC9, you do get what you pay for when it comes to top-shelf 9mm carbines. Out of the box, the MPX needs nothing but an optic to be good to go, and all other upgrades are the sugar on top.

9mm carbine MPX

The modularity of the firearm serves its purpose as a multi-use gun, and can be tailored for different scenarios easily. From stocks to braces to integrated suppressors, to upgraded triggers, the MPX is here to stay. 

SPECS:

  • Caliber: 9×19
  • Barrel Length: 8 inches
  • Overall Length: 17 inches 
  • Weight Unloaded: 5.2 pounds
  • Magazine Capacity: 30 rounds 
  • MSRP: $1,575
  • URLsigsauer.com

KALASHNIKOV USA KP-9

In some cases, an AK-style carbine in X or Y caliber can come across as more of a novelty.

In contrast, the utility of 9mm fits with the fashion statement of Soviet Bloc furniture, bringing with it the advantages of what is normally an affordable and easy-to-find round.

Kalashnikov USA KP-9
Kalashnikov USA KP-9-

Based on the Russian Vityaz-SN, the Kalashnikov USA KP-9 doesn't break the mold, but it never needed to in the first place. 

American AK's have suffered in terms of quality control over the years, largely due to the complexity of import laws, and the combination of using both foreign and domestic parts.

The Kalashnikov USA KP-9 turns out to be one of the better ones, taking advantage of two pools of aftermarket parts to draw from. Able to use many parts made for the AK-74u, we put a binary trigger in one to see how well the direct blowback keeps up on the range.

The answer is: Amazing.

Kalashnikov USA KP-9

As for mounting optics, the KP-9 has a hinged top cover just like the Vityaz and AKSU-74 giving you a solid and repeatable platform so you won't lose zero after cleaning.

Derived from its origin, this 9mm carbine trends toward a personal defense weapon, and hits that mark squarely with a combination of reliable parts and proper construction.

A frontrunner in the field of 9mm AK's, we expect there to be more coming out for the platform in the near future. 

SPECS:

  • Cartridge:9×19
  • Overall Length: 18.25 inches
  • Action: Blowback
  • Barrel length: 9.25 inches
  • MSRP: $1,000
  • Magazine Capacity: 10, 30
  • URL: Kalashnikov-usa.com

NORDIC COMPONENTS PCC

When Pistol Caliber Carbines entered the competition scene, people were divided into two camps. There were those who considered them to be a fad at best or a nuisance at worst.

And then there were those who went full-tilt into the newest player on the field.

Nordic Components, who have for years been a staple on the competition market, started to crack the code of the 9mm carbine, at a time when many AR-9's were still cutting their teeth. 

Taking America's Carbine and chambering it in 9mm sounded easy on paper, but in reality, a world of challenges would have to be worked through before it would find its own legs and run.

Nordic Components is no stranger to the attitude of competition shooters as a whole as they'll gladly push the boundaries between performance and reliability for even the slightest advantage.

While at a match, this can mean taking a risk for the .13 second game-winning advantage, overall it results in a whole community of tinkerers willing to work through the problems with their guns, gear, and strategy. 

The Nordic Components PCC is a result of that process. What we are blessed with is a competition-ready 9mm carbine that continues to run, match after match. 

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
  • URLhttps://nordiccomp.com/

KRISS VECTOR 9MM 

Every once in a while we witness a star being born, an icon made, and since its arrival, the KRISS Vector has caught attention from movies to video games to real-world conflicts with its space-age looks and performance to match.

You could say first in, best dressed in regards to some of its features, but the combination of a unique operating system and low bore axis says that the 9mm KRISS Vector is more science than fiction. 

The recoil-reducing KRISS Super V System (KSVS) gives the firearm its name by directing the momentum of the bolt downward, which they call “re-vectoring”.

The ergonomics of the 9mm carbine take some time to get used to, as using Glock mags puts the magazine release firmly out of reach from the firing hand. Experimental development has its tradeoffs. 

Photos by Weapon Outfitters and Steven Kuo
Photos by Weapon Outfitters and Steven Kuo

KRISS produces multiple versions of the 9mm Vector, from full-length carbines to SBRs, to a pistol version. A newly enhanced rail adds space for those looking to mount lights and lasers for a night-capable carbine. A hallmark of its success, there's even a training version that fires force-on-force marker rounds. 

SPECS:

  • Caliber: 9×19
  • Barrel Length: 5.5 inches
  • Overall Length: 35 to 38.5 inches/24.5 to 28 inches/16.75 inches
  • Weight Unloaded: 7.6/6.8/5.9 pounds 
  • Magazine Capacity: 17 and 33 rounds (Glock Mags)
  • MSRP: $1,399/$1,399/$1,249
  • URLwww.kriss-usa.com

MKE AP5

Few firearms are more recognizable than the MP5, and unless you're a government agency, few are harder to get your hands on, until recently.

iain shooting AP5
We, fortunately, had access to a post-sample trigger pack, so with a bit of jiggering were able to get the AP5 running in rock-’n’-roll mode.

For a firearm that has been around the better part of 5 decades, it's left big shoes to fill, both in the movie theater and the theatre of war. After acquiring some of the equipment used to make the MP5, the Turkish company MKE has finally started making a civilian-legal version, and Century Arms has announced a plan to import it. 

Bottom Line: Spendy, but decent. Buy it.

So, now that the possibility of owning an MP5 is becoming a reality, will it be worth it? For more than just style points, yes. The old workhorse of a 9mm carbine not only demands respect but earns it with the smooth roller-delay operation that it is known for.

Unlike one-offs and knock-offs, this MP5 clone has more of the original blood and DNA than it suggests, opening it up to the myriad of modifications and add-ons that are suddenly popping up left and right. 

century arms ap5 mke right
Bottom Line: Spendy, but decent, buy it.

With the clone-correct construction, the MKE AP5 represents an SMG before red dot optics were cool, and it keeps up with the younger generation.

Looking to overcome the QC problems that plagued earlier MP5 clones, we're not yet sure when they'll officially hit American shores, but with the current environment, we're hoping it's soon. 

SPECS:

  • Caliber: 9×19
  • Barrel Length: 8.9 inches
  • Overall Length: 18 inches
  • Weight Unloaded: 5.5 pounds
  • Magazine Capacity: 30 rounds standard
  • MSRP: N/A, but the current street price is $2,600
  • URLcenturyarms.com

FLUX DEFENSE MP17 GEN II “RAIDER”

The Flux Defense Raider takes advantage of a burgeoning concept: instead of starting with a carbine-style firearm and adapting it to a 9mm caliber, it takes one of the best 9mm pistols and expands on its capabilities.

The SIG P320 FCU (Fire Contol Unit) challenged the norm with polymer-handled pistols by separating the serialized component from the polymer section of the lower.

Flux Defense MP17 Gen II Raider
FLUX DEFENSE MP17 GEN II “RAIDER”

That means the trigger can be swapped out quickly between different sizes of grip modules, and even inserted into the Flux Defense MP17 “Raider.”

With a spring-loaded brace, the frame presents a much more stable platform than a standard pistol and takes advantage of a trigger that the owner is already familiar with.

Although there are versions with and without an external safety, we found out the hard way that we prefer the one without. 

Here's the Full Review of the Flux Defense MP17 Gen II “Raider.”

SPECS:

  • Weight (Naked): 18 ounces
  • Weight (Assembled): 40 ounces
  • Magazine Capacity: 17, 21, 30. Whatever is available for the SIG P320.
  • MSRP: $459
  • URLfluxdefense.com

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2 responses to “The 9mm Carbine: Part SMG, Part Pistol, Pure Utility”

  1. Dazed says:

    No love for the Beretta Cx4?

  2. Mick says:

    A CMMG pistol with the radial delayed blowback system was not mentioned.
    These radial delayed pistols/carbine rifles are soft shooting in both 9mm and 10mm. The are easy to tune for suppressor use with the addition of the tuning weight kit for the Bolt carrier group. I would recommend the Sig P320 magazine version over the Glock magazine version which does not always lock the bolt open on the last shot.

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