Some of the most popular options for home defense and recreational shooting are pistol caliber carbines, or PCCs for short. Often utilizing the same form factor of popular rifle variants like the AR-15, they’ve become an incredibly versatile option that uses affordable ammunition with improved accuracy and overall control.
One of the core facets of these rifles is their compatibility with popular handguns and their magazines. For example, it’s common to see compatibility with double stack GLOCK magazines or SIG Sauer P320 magazines.
This compatibility leads many enthusiasts to choose a PCC that matches their favored handgun, since it minimizes the need for multiple magazine types. Today we’re breaking down some of the most popular PCCs and their magazine compatibilities:
Pistol Caliber Carbines (PCCs) are essentially rifles that are chambered in pistol calibers, and there are a few reasons why they are so popular nowadays.
We mentioned magazine and ammo compatibility previously, and it’s one of the key reasons people opt for them. If you already own a pistol, PCCs give you the ability to have the versatility of a modern rifle, without needing to purchase different mags or ammunition.
Despite pistol calibers being less powerful than, for example, 5.56 NATO, the longer barrels of rifle-length PCCs provide increased muzzle velocity compared to standard handguns. Pairing the additional power with the modern comforts of a rifle, PCCs are much easier to control and, in most cases, easily customizable to fit different needs.
Because of their popularity, there are now an incredible number of PCC options from different manufacturers, with each being compatible with different pistol magazines. Fortunately, that’s what we’re going to go over next:
An AR-9 is a derivative of the AR-15. Utilizing a similar upper receiver group as the AR-15, the lower receiver can accept different types of magazines depending on the manufacturer. For instance, most AR-9s, like the Foxtrot Mike FM9, accept double stack GLOCK magazines. This isn’t the case for all models though, as some AR-9s are designed to accept the Colt SMG style 9mm magazines.
GLOCK compatible AR-9s are by far the most popular, so it’s more common to see them available, but not overwhelmingly so. Both styles are incredibly popular for their customizability and versatility. Most of the parts and controls, like the safety selector, fire control group, and bolt catch, for example, are completely interchangeable with standard AR-15 ones. This gives them the same amount of versatility as a standard AR-15, and the option to customize them with accessories to fit your needs.
For this reason, AR-9s are one of the easiest PCCs to build. Like we said before, many of the parts are interchangeable with AR-15 components, and some manufacturers already produce lower parts kits and build kits for them. For example, you can find FM9 lower receivers as well as others online. If you’re experienced in building your own AR-15s, building an AR-9 can be a breeze.
Additionally, it’s incredibly easy to mount optics and other accessories to them as they often come with free floated MLOK handguards. This makes it very easy to tailor your build to specific purposes like competitions or home defense. Depending on the need, they come with a variety of different barrel lengths. It’s most common to find PCCs with shorter SBR or pistol barrel lengths like 6 or 8 inches, but there are plenty of rifle-length models as well.
Since most models are compatible with GLOCK magazines, enthusiasts will often pair them with a handgun like the GLOCK 19 or GLOCK 17. GLOCK magazines are some of the most popular and common ones on the market. Being both affordable and readily available, it’s no wonder why they’re so popular.
Ruger PC Carbine
Manufactured by Ruger, the PC Carbine has become a very popular PCC option. It’s essentially a bulked-up version of the model 10/22 takedown. Chambered in 9mm, it’s commonly used as a backpack gun for hunting since it breaks down into two halves and can be quickly reassembled. While theoretically you can do this with an AR-9, doing so would expose the internals of your rifle to dirt, dust, or other debris. Since the PC Carbine is designed for this, there’s less of a chance for debris to impede the internals of the firearm.
The PC Carbine uses Ruger SR-9/Security-9 pistol magazines. If you would rather use GLOCK magazines, Ruger produces a magazine insert that allows you to do so. It’s included with some models but can be easily purchased as an aftermarket accessory if yours doesn’t come with one.
Speaking of which, there are a few models available for the PC Carbine, with some having the standard polymer furniture and others coming with MLOK handguards. Regardless, each model comes with integrated iron sights and an upper picatinny rail for mounting optics. Also, the barrels come threaded from the factory, making it easy to install muzzle devices or suppressors on the rifle.
Kel-Tec SUB 2000
A unique design, the Kel-Tec SUB-2000 is a folding PCC that can take either Smith & Wesson M&P magazines or double stack GLOCK magazines. Like the PC Carbine from Ruger, the SUB-2000 can also break down into two halves. However, instead of breaking down into two separate pieces, the barrel and forend of the rifle fold in half and are always connected.
Gen 2 SUB-2000 rifles have the forend section fold directly overtop onto the rear section of the rifle. While effective at making the rifle as compact as possible, it prevents you from securely locking the halves together if you run optics or other accessories. On the new Gen 3 models though, the forend section folds overtop the rear portion while rotating, allowing the rifle to fully fold and lock in place regardless of whether you’re using optics or not.
This makes it another great PCC for backpacking and hunting. It has a continuous picatinny rail and threaded barrel as well as integrated iron sights. It’s one of the most unique PCC designs available, and its ability to quickly be folded and deployed has set it apart from the other PCCs on the market.
Smith & Wesson M&P FPC
The FPC is another incredibly unique PCC coming from the renowned manufacturer, Smith & Wesson. The FPC is similar to the Kel-Tec SUB-2000, in that it also utilizes a folding mechanism. However, instead of folding directly over the top of the grip and stock, the barrel and forend fold off to the side next to the grip and stock.
Utilizing M&P magazines, the grip has similar ergonomics to their M&P 9mm pistol. While it doesn’t have any integrated iron sights, it does have an upper picatinny rail, MLOK handguard, and a threaded barrel. Currently, they’re only capable of working with Smith & Wesson magazines, as the grip is nearly identical to the M&P 9mm pistol. However, the M&P series handguns are incredibly common, making their magazines incredibly easy to find. If you already have an M&P 9mm pistol, the S&W FPC could be a great PCC pairing for you if you’re looking to run the same magazines as your sidearm.
A PCC can be a great option that can be used in conjunction with your pistol, so long as the magazines are compatible. While great on their own, they are perfect for the minimalist enthusiast or for someone who doesn’t want to have to buy numerous calibers and magazines.
While there are a lot of options to choose from, those mentioned above are compatible with most of the popular handgun magazines on the market today. Each one is much easier to control than a standard handgun, and with the added points of contact, size, utilization of pistol calibers, they can be an excellent soft shooting option for a variety of endeavors.
If you’re on the fence about choosing a PCC, we recommend that you take a look at our pistol caliber guide, and our article on using guns for self-defense. Both go in depth on the different applications of pistol calibers and the different firearm variants available.