As the market changes, technology upgrades are made, and new advances in the field take hold, the firearms market is a constantly fluid sea of options, and it can definitely be overwhelming when you are shopping for a new gun. In addition to all of that, fads come and go, and it can be difficult to tell if the next best thing is actually an improvement over the past or will have staying power in the market. In this article, I’ll take you through what a pistol calibre carbine is and show you the best 9mm carbine available on the market in 2021.
What Is The Best 9mm Pistol Caliber Carbine?
If I had to go out right now, I would choose the following carbines:
- Best Value – Beretta CX4 Storm
- Best Overall – CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1
What Is a Pistol Caliber Carbine?
The pistol caliber carbine is a relatively simple concept that is wildly increasing in popularity at the present time. It is a long gun with a shorter barrel length than a rifle that is chambered in a traditional pistol caliber as opposed to a dedicated rifle caliber such as .223/5.56, .308, or 7.62 NATO. This offers several distinct advantages and disadvantages which I’ll cover in just a moment.
While the range of options and the current popularity are new, the concept has been around for over a century. The Marlin model 1894 has been in production consistently since 1894, and it even saw military service in the Spanish American War. Most of the models out there have barrel lengths between 16 and 18 inches, and you can find everything from clones of popular long guns to unique designs.
I can hear the elitists already, “If you’re going to buy a rifle, just buy a rifle.” Well, yes, but also no. Here’s why.
Criteria For Choosing A 9mm Carbine
Are you hunting big game, an aspiring marksman taking 1,000 yard shots, or engaged in a large scale ground war? If the answer is yes to any of those questions, then a shoulder-fired long gun chambered in a dedicated rifle caliber is the answer for you. Outside of those considerations, it doesn’t mean that a pistol caliber carbine is necessarily the right choice for you, but you have options and should weigh them carefully.
Cost and Availability
While the carbines themselves aren’t markedly cheaper than their rifle chambered equivalents, ammunition price and availability are typically substantially different. Even carbines chambered in .45 or .40 are prone to ammo shortages due to the prevalence of police and military using those calibers. Generally speaking, 9mm ammunition is much more readily available. Even though it is also a favorite of law enforcement, civilian, and military shooters, it always seems to be one of the last calibers to suffer from extreme shortages.
Comparing the two calibers on a popular ammo website, only 368 models of .223 ammo were available out of 1,537 while 69 models of 9mm out of 193 were in stock. Many of the mid-grade and above 9mm ammo was in stock, but the .223 ammo that was available was limited to primarily lower end and off brand products. Price differences for equivalent ammo were in the range of 50 cents up to $1 per round difference. I would much rather have a weapon platform with quality ammo readily available at a price that won’t break the bank. Proficiency is a direct result of practice, and that means I need ammo that I can find and afford to shoot.
A large number of pistol caliber carbines accept handgun magazines from major manufactures like Glock and Ruger. Off-brand magazines may also potentially work, but that isn’t guaranteed and should be subject to your own testing and due diligence. If you already own a Ruger or Glock 9mm pistol and really hate the idea of having to purchase additional magazines or a different caliber of ammo, then a 9mm carbine may be right up your alley. That’s not a deal breaker for me, but I’m sure there are people that would greatly enjoy the added convenience of the interchangeability.
This right here is the major selling point for me, and that’s why I left it for right before I compare the top 10 brands out there today. If you are primarily shopping for a home-defense weapon like many people are, then that is where the 9mm carbine really shines.
Pistol carbines are effective only out to about 200 yards. I can’t think of many home defense situations where you would need a longer effective range than that. If you’ve never fired an unsuppressed .223 or larger rifle in an enclosed environment like a hallway and without ear protection, then I don’t recommend it. It can be both deafening and disorienting if it’s something that you haven’t trained for, and that is the exact opposite of what you want if you’re defending your home and family.
The argument can be made that .223 rounds pose less of an over penetration risk due to their tumbling, but with 9mm hollow point ammunition, the difference should be slight. The shorter operational length and decreased muzzle blast compared to a rifle and increased accuracy and power when compared to a pistol make a carbine an ideal setup for home defense. Let’s take a look at the top 10 on the market right now.
The Top 10 9mm Carbines
Ok so let’s get to the meaty bit! Which 9mm carbine is the top choice? To answer that, I will cover 10 awesome choices and tell you which one I would choose.
The biggest draw of this carbine is its ability to literally fold in half and its weight of under 5 pounds. You can store it along with plenty of magazines inside of a backpack when folded down. Now for the negative; multiple product recalls and manufacturing errors have haunted this gun over the years. Poor quality control and material selection make for a headache with this platform. It is definitely a fun range gun and a good addition to your collection, but because of the quality control, it is not a weapon I would trust with my life. There have also been numerous complaints over the heavier than usual trigger pull at 9-10 pounds, but with a price tag of under $500, it’s not a bad investment.
Ruger PC Carbine
The Ruger PC 9mm carbine is a fantastic gun for new shooters. It looks and feels just like a classic .22LR rimfire rifle but with the added benefit of shooting a much more powerful 9mm round from a 16.12 inch barrel. It is equipped with a Picatinny rail for optics, but that’s pretty much the only accessory you will easily be able to add to this weapon. While customization is lacking, this gun conveniently breaks into two pieces for compact storage and still has a solid design that is lacking in some of the other weapons on our list. With a price point between $700-$1,000 dollars, this is a quality carbine at a moderate price point.
Here come the groans, but I have some very serious reasons for including a Hi-Point product here. First of all, good luck finding another 9mm carbine under $300 in this market. Despite Hi-Points questionable record for reliability and production, this gun actually performs rather well. It has some of Hi-Point’s trademark bulkiness but without looking like something that belongs in a science fiction movie. It is virtually covered in Picatinny rail systems allowing a very high level of customization with regard to accessories, and it is by far the most reliable of any of Hi-Point’s products.
Beretta CX4 Storm
I’ll be the first to admit that the appearance of this carbine put me off at first glance; however, the design has a purpose. I shouldn’t have doubted a manufacturer with the legacy of Beretta, and the injection-molded polymer frame gives it a solid feel that is missing in many of the other plastic offerings. The CX4 is offered in many handgun calibers, and the 9mm carbine accepts M92 magazines with ease. The magazine well located within the pistol grip allows flawless reloading in low light conditions, and anyone who has ever fired a Beretta pistol will feel right at home handling and firing this impressive carbine.
It’s also one of the shorter platforms with a total length under 30 inches even with a barrel length of 16.6 inches. With an MSRP under $900, you can find it in the neighborhood of $550 depending on your location.
CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1
The CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1 carbine is loosely based on the machine pistol of the same name, but it doesn’t bear much of a resemblance to my eye. This carbine is absolutely covered in M-LOK attachment points which allow for Magpul’s rail system to let you customize to your heart’s content. The ergonomic design eats up recoil, and the ambidextrous safety and adjustable trigger allow for comfortable operation for right and left handed shooters of all sizes. Leave your pistols mags at home though as this carbine has proprietary magazines. Third party magazines should function, but be sure to test them first. A price tag of around $1,000 is the starting point and can increase steeply depending on the accessories you outfit it with.
Wilson Combat AR9
Do you like the look and feel of an AR-15? If so, you will be right at home with Wilson Combat’s AR9 carbine. The near-infinite customizability of an AR platform is carried over to this weapon, and it is an absolute beauty right off of the production line. It has probably the best iron sights of any of the carbines I’ll talk about in this list, but that comes with a steep price tag too. This guy is going to run you over $2,000, and that’s just to start.
This gun almost didn’t make the cut. It is as close to a real MP5 as anyone without an exorbitant amount of cash can come, but it is out of production and no longer offered for sale by Zenith. A little digging and you can locate a fair amount still for sale but with a rapidly climbing price tag. This carbine is everything that the MP5 is but in a semiautomatic format. It will run you $2,200-$3,000 depending on custom options.
KRISS Vector CRB Gen II
Another clone finds its way here. This 9mm carbine is a copy of the fully automatic Vector using the exact same patented recoil system. Since KRISS designed the weapon to handle full auto, it can easily turn single shots into something akin to plinking with a .22LR. At prices around $1,300, this carbine is a moderately priced attention getter at the range.
This classic-looking carbine hearkens back to the World War II military issued rifle that it’s named after. The M1 Garand was the workhorse of numerous campaigns, and this clone has all the appearance with a fraction of the weight. With a longer barrel than many of the other carbines at 18 inches and an overall length of 39.5 inches, it loses a bit of the maneuverability you would look for in a home defense weapon.
Freedom Ordnance FX-9 Carbine
Freedom Ordnance offers numerous options from pistols up to carbines in the FX-9 line. They look sharp, and the attention to detail with a good mag release, actually having a bolt release, and an AR platform lower is impressive. Unfortunately, they are prone to a whole host of malfunctions that effectively relegate the carbine to a range gun and not one that you can trust your life on. That being said, this is a fun gun to shoot and has a fair amount of customization.
I promised you that I will pick my top choice – well I actually picked two! I pick which carbine I think is the best value for money when money is a huge factor, as well which carbine is the best carbine when something like cost is not a factor.
Best Value: Beretta CX4 Storm
The CX4 Storm gives you the most for the lowest price tag. A reliable gun for just over $500 that offers unique features, maneuverability, and a fair level of customization.
Best Overall: CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1
The Scorpion EVO 3 S1 provides the full package with no expense spared. It is not the most expensive carbine listed here by a long shot, but that is exactly the point. You can easily pay more, but in the 9mm carbine market, a price tag higher than the $1,000 it will take to get this Scorpion EVO 3 is only buying you looks and not functionality.