Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC) Guide: Ballistics, Best Calibers, and More

Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC) Guide: Ballistics, Best Calibers, and More
October 18, 2022 Edited June 14, 2023 4779 view(s)
Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC) Guide: Ballistics, Best Calibers, and More

Every shooter since 1989 has wanted a submachine gun. Why?

Die Hard, that’s why. Bruce Willis ruined every single one of us (along with Hans Gruber). He also made the Model 92 super cool, but that’s a different article for a different time. We all wanted a 9mm sub-gun because that MP-5 was so sweet. Light, nimble, compact, and styling, the MP-5 has it all. Unfortunately, it also has a hefty H&K price tag attached.

Thankfully, the AR-15 is the most adaptable personal weapon platform in the history of mankind and is easily adapted to dozens of different calibers. One of the more popular variants is the AR-9, a 9x19 carbine that shares all common fire control group components but has a smaller lower receiver for 9mm magazines.


Early Varients of the 9mm AR-15

Contrary to popular belief, the 9mm AR-pattern carbine is nothing new; it has been around for decades. It was just never all that accessible or affordable until now.

The first widely available model was the Colt 6951. It used a stick magazine with a capacity of 32, and the lower receiver was a standard AR-15 with a magazine adapter. The upper receiver operated as a standard blowback rather than using the direct impingement standard for AR-15 rifles.

The 6951 was a variant of the Colt SMG, or Model 635, a select-fire SMG equipped with a 10.5” barrel. Introduced in 1982, it was a direct competitor to the MP-5. While sharing common components and being identical in operation, the Colt SMG never found the same favor as the MP-5 or the Uzi, for that matter.

AR-9 shooting on range


What is a Pistol Caliber Carbine?

Put simply; a pistol caliber carbine is a carbine that is either designed or adapted to use pistol calibers.

These have had limited popularity over the years. You could correctly surmise that they were a novelty until manufacturers started slapping Glock magazines into them.

Then they exploded.


Pistol Caliber Carbine Uses/Advantages

So, there wasn’t much advantage tactically to using a pistol caliber carbine if you had to carry magazines that weren’t compatible with your sidearm.

It’s the same caliber. Great. So what? Are you supposed to dump the mags and put the ammo in your sidearm empties?

If the mags aren’t compatible, you might as well just pack a lot more punch with a 5.56 AR-15. Glock-mag compatible lowers started showing up everywhere. Magpul started producing high-cap Glock mags for dirt cheap, and it was game. Others got in the game, like Amend2.

Suddenly shooters realized that a pistol caliber carbine is a pretty sweet setup.

9x19mm ammo is still cheaper than .223/5.56, so it makes sense for basic skills training and short-range marksmanship training. Also, it gives you a carbine option for handgun-only ranges.

Pistol caliber carbines have plenty of power to dispatch farmyard predators (coyotes, raccoons, etc.), and a 16” barrel provides lots of reach.

While a 5.56 AR-15 doesn’t have much felt recoil, pistol caliber carbines have far less. As a result, they are a great home defense option for small-statured shooters, young shooters, and anyone.

Also, let’s have some real talk for a second: if you crack off a few 5.56 rounds in an enclosed structure, i.e., a living room or bedroom, you will be deaf for a while. Good luck communicating with the police when they show up. The 9mm is much more manageable indoors, where its concussive blast is far less jarring than a rifle caliber.

Man putting 45 ACP Magazine into PCC


Best Calibers

There are pistol caliber carbines in the most popular auto-loading calibers, but we’ll focus on the most common.


9x19mm Parabellum

The 9mm Parabellum is the most popular pistol caliber carbine by a mile. The 9mm generally enjoys a significant resurgence in personal and professional use, with the big-bore calibers being largely abandoned. In addition, modern ammunition research and technologies have made the 9mm an effective caliber.

Take this with the wide availability of Glock magazines and the availability of inexpensive Glocks and Glock clones, and you have the making a dynamic duo. Like we said earlier, pistol caliber carbines never really took off. You had a handful of examples (Beretta CX4, Colt 6951, etc.), but these never took off.

You can now easily get an AR-9 carbine or pistol at un-Colt prices. 


.40 S&W

There are a few manufacturers of AR-pattern .40 S&W carbines, but the market for the once-dominating .40 has been slipping in recent years. The G17/19 and Sig P320 have taken the market over, and the .40 just isn’t what it used to be.

The good thing about a Glock-compatible lower is that it will take G22/23 mags since they are dimensionally identical to G17/19 mags. You can share a similar lower if you can find a .40 S&W upper.


.45 ACP

Carbines and SMGs are a natural fit for the .45 ACP; it’s been happening since the 1920s with the Thompson SMG. This fearsome weapon cut its teeth on the roaring streets of prohibition-era America, but it came into its own in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

The .45 ACP remains an effective caliber when size matters. However, the ballistic advantage from a longer barrel is minimal for pistol calibers; the advantage lies in rapid follow-up shots and a much more stable platform. [To learn more, check out our guides to 45 ACP and 45 ACP vs. 9mm]


Ballistics/Effective Range of Pistol Caliber Carbines

First, a caveat: ballistics vary widely depending on case pressures, bullet weight, and even brand.

Second, ballistics for pistol calibers are universally tested and marketed with pistol-length barrels.

Without specific examples, we can conclude through a little Kentucky windage that the effective range will be somewhat better in a pistol carbine than in a pistol. Still, it won’t suddenly turn a 9mm into a 500-meter caliber.

Realistically, pistol caliber carbines will operate best in 100 yards and under distances. It is a close-range caliber, which is why it was so popular in the MP-5 with special forces military and police response teams; their fighting was largely urban.

If you know your shooting will regularly reach to and past 100 yards, grab yourself a standard AR-15. We’ve cracked the code on manufacturing ridiculously accurate rifles at low prices, so you should add one (or several) to your arsenal.

45 ACP PCC bring aimed down range


Should You Buy One?

In a word, yes. Especially if you own a Glock 9mm or one of the clones on the market, what’s the downside?

A 9mm AR uses common mags while preserving all of the operational elements of your AR-15 or AR-10. From the perspective of personal defense, it gives you all of the benefits of a pistol caliber in a more accurate and stable platform. In addition, you can mount any full-size optics on an AR-9 and full-size tactical flashlights.

Be sure to check out our BC-9 series of bufferless rifles and pistols. They are Glock-magazine compatible and give you an easy option for folding stocks or no stock if you want.

We believe a pistol caliber carbine is an excellent tool in your toolbox. It is cheaper for training while providing better range and power than a rimfire, but it still has plenty of power for self-defense and predator control on the farm and ranch. So pick one up today and find out for yourself!


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October 21, 2022
I love BCA products but I wish they would put out a .45acp upper for Ar15
Tyler McIntosh
October 22, 2022
I am waiting for a 45 ACP upper for an A.R. 15 I was watching the advertisement for 45 ACP for BCA saying it was coming soon but it didn’t say in what platform so that has me guessing? And hoping that it might be in the AR 15 platform.
Tyler McIntosh
October 22, 2022
Can you use the 9 mm upper on an AR 15 lower without going buffer less?
David Harmon
October 24, 2022
Wish they would have a Giveaway contest for us poor guys and galls it would be a great promotion Ideal but ether way I love these guys and their great products and prices
October 25, 2022
We offer giveaways 1-2 times a month! Check them out here: https://www.bearcreekarsenal.com/bcagiveaway
Cody Michael Ward
October 25, 2022
I just read your post…spot on. Very informative for any level of shooter. I was hoping that you would have more about the 40 s&w. More specifically where I could get an upper for my AR 9 pistol. All due respect for the 9mm, I want more for my home defense weapon of choice. I see Bear Creek Arsenal offers many other calibers for the rifles, but the 40 s&w can only die off if it’s allowed to. If it’s something you guys could offer it would be greatly appreciated. I’m still going to be a fan of your products and your prices. Thank you, Cody
Hector E Soto
October 27, 2022
I, purchased a PCC and love my Kel Tech Sub 2000. Zeroing the firearm was a breeze and in no time zero was achieved using the iron sight provided. Another positive aspect is I can used my Glock magazine.
Rhett Burch
November 16, 2022
We are ready for the AR .45 ACP. When's it going to happen?!
John Painter
November 20, 2022
I have been looking at carbines in pistol calibers for some time, more challenging still - something in 40SW. Options are few and not within a pice point for performance. Somewhat ironically, though to BCA’s credit, the reason I recently chose to step into the AR platform in 556 through BCA, was in part due a combination of your; quality, price point, comprehensive product line and American manufacturing. That and the reality that as much as I like the idea of a single caliber across hand gun and long gun, there are just some things a long gun well paired long gun ammo just do better. Thank you for walking though this in the blog, and your product line.
Brad Dykema
December 3, 2022
I have a PSA px-9 pistol lower, I am looking at the BCA complete bufferless 9mm upper to put on this lower. my question is...with that bufferless adaptor, can I still install a folding brace? Thanking you in advance Brad
stanley vanhooser
December 30, 2022
How about a 10mm AR Seem to be a lot of talk at the last shot show about this round. A lot of use for this caliber .
Kevin Florey
January 4, 2023
What kind of accuracy should I expect with my 16 inch BC9 carbine upper. So far I'm getting 3-4 inch groups at 50 yards and I have two other carbines that get 1-2 inch groups at the same distance. I had to tighten, and lock tite the guide on top of the bufferless bolt along with the fore end after one range session. I will try again but not very happy so far.
January 5, 2023
Sorry to hear that! Please reach out to customerservice@bearcreekarsenal.com if you are unhappy with the accuracy and they will assist you
Jack Langley
January 13, 2023
Waiting on 45 acp upper......
Randall Cogar
January 13, 2023
Is the 22 nosler coming back any time? It would be great to see a 10mm upper from BCA.
Ed Kennedy
March 21, 2023
I’m wondering if your .45 acp carbine is rated for .45 Super loads? My CMMG guard is rated for both. If it’s rated for the .45 super you can just take my money. :)
Ken Cotton
December 1, 2023
Is the 10mm upper you sell not considered a PCC? I was surprised you did not include the caliber in your article.
Jack Crannell
December 1, 2023
The blast from a rifle round in a short barrel under 16 inches is nasty. Will without any doubt damage your hearing. Can we say tinnitus for life. Oh yea, that bad. I snapped up a 10 1/2 inch 10mm from BCA. The 10 mm is not a puny pistol round. In fact, it's just about at the power limit for a blow-back action. The extra length barrel on a pistol adds to the rounds velocity. The same barrel on a rifle round dramatically hurts velocity and range. You use a heavy round in the 10mm you come out with a subsonic velocity, very heavy hitter, that will be off the chart cool with a sound suppressor.
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