A few years back, pistol caliber carbines seemed to come into vogue as the home defense and just-plain-fun weapon du jour, and understandably so. There are real advantages to using a carbine for home defense over a handgun and possibly also over a shotgun. It’s also a great range toy.
However most people aren’t in the market for a $1,700 SIG SAUER MPX. Especially if you’re a beginner just venturing into the carbine market, we’d steer you toward these three exquisitely budget-friendly 9mm carbines, all of which we’ve reviewed in detail.
Findings are summarized with links to full reviews below. All three are made right here in the USA by American companies, if that matters to you.
1. Kel-Tec Sub-2000 Gen 2
Price: $450 via Sportsman’s Guide, sometimes in stock at Brownells for under $400
TTAG Rating: 5 out of 5
TTAG Review Highlights (Full Review Here):
This is a great little gun that earns praise for its accuracy and reliability. The ergos aren’t bad by any stretch (four stars), but in this price range, luxury isn’t really expected.
A big point in favor of the Sub-2000 is the fact that the most popular version is compatible with 9mm GLOCK magazines – almost everyone shopping for a 9mm carbine has at least three of those lying around somewhere. You can also get one that will take Smith & Wesson, SIG or Beretta mags, too.
And then there’s that handy folding stock that lets you easily slip one into a backpack or small bag. At that price and at just 4.25 lbs unloaded, it’s hard to find fault with this one.
2. Ruger PC Carbine
Price: $480 via Brownells
TTAG Rating: 4 out of 5
TTAG Review Highlights (Full Review Here):
Ruger’s history of semiautomatic pistol caliber carbines goes back more than 60 years. The PC Carbine features an easy takedown design for portability, and compatibility with Ruger as well as GLOCK mags (with the included adapter).
Besides excellent accuracy and reliability that’s essential for inclusion here, its superb trigger is a standout feature. The PC Carbine comes suppressor-ready and is readily customizable in other ways. A great gun at a very competitive price.
3. Hi Point 995TS
Price: $280-$300 via Cabela’s
TTAG Rating: 4 out of 5
TTAG Review Highlights (Full Review Here and Here)
People love to hate on Hi Point – however, the snobbery isn’t always justified. Case in point: their carbines which are now available in a range of calibers. They’re a reliable, utilitarian option, and many find them pretty damn fun to shoot, too.
At that price you don’t have to worry about damaging, scratching, or beating up this gun. Keep one on a boat, in a truck, wherever. It’s an effective tool that goes bang every time the trigger is pulled and lives up to Hi-Point’s mission of delivering great value at a (nearly) painless price.
The Next Step Up in Price: TNW Firearms Aero Survival Rifle ($625)
In the $500 to $1,000 range, there’s a whole lot of nothing when it comes to pistol caliber carbines. But it doesn’t seem right to leave the Aero Survival Rifle off this list. It can be found at street prices just a little over $500 and at Brownells for $675.
For not quite $200 more, you get an easily-removable barrel for no-sweat caliber changes (those available calibers are 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 10mm and .357 SIG). It takes the basic design concept of a German MP-18 or the British Sten (i.e. a tubular receiver, blowback-operated pistol-caliber carbine) and modernizes it to include quick-change barrels, multi-caliber options, Picatinny rails, and AR-15 collapsible stocks.
The thing is intended to go a little further than the others and delivers that value in its customizability. That said, if you’re not interested in those features, the Kel-Tec or the Ruger are probably better for your use case. Our full review of the Aero Survival Rifle can be found here.
I see a lot of good reviews on the Extar 9mm AR style all poymer at 4# pounds and $400.
I’d buy it if it was under an established name and a lifetime warranty.
Thanks for the mention of the Extar pistol. Looks like a great product. I bought the TNW Aero pistol a few years ago. Put a KAK brace on it. The Extar is a better value, as it comes with the brace, and the fore-end looks more comfortable to hold.
I don’t “get” 9mm carbines even though I had a KelTec Sub 2000 gen 1(sadly sold right before Newtown). Only really interested in a cheap Hipoint 10mm. Rifle like ballistics…
Have the Hi-Point 9mm. Fun to shoot, a little hard to maintain, most excellent warranty. The iron sights need to go away, but room for almost any optic and other gadgets. The bolt cocking knob needs loc-tite. The vibration of a truck will loosen it enough to fall off (replaced at no cost to me) 15 round mags available. Out of box accuracy w/iron sights is about 50 yds. Best recommendation I can give; My wife LOVES it!
20 round Red Ball mags are now available.
I’ve got the .45 Hi Point Carbine. Works good. Stupid bolt is on wrong side so I switched after open a hole at the end of the right side slot so as to allow pushing in a home made nylon bushing that I used to replace the original.
Works fine and doesn’t put that bolt into your face when operating. You have to learn to decock and cock using your left hand under the receiver but that allows you to reload while holding the carbine with your right which is more natural to me to maintain control for another shot after a new magazine.
Had to put in a different spring for holding the bolt back when the magazine was empty, someone had twisted the original. it worked but it bugged me so I changed it with an equal one and it works fine.
Took off the sights front and rear. You’re not really going to need them and I’m putting on a red dot sight if I decide I do.
put a combo laser sight and white light control by a switch on the fore guard. Which is what you really need for home defense.
I also own a .45 hi point pistol. Which is why I got the carbine.
I can’t understand all the nasty comments about hi point other than jealousy that the owners have purchased something just as good at what it’s for at half or more less than the fancy rigs that don’t have as good a warranty.
The carbines I think are better than a shot gun for home defense. Just as short but with a laser sight and white light you can pinpoint target what you’re aiming at with less likelihood of hitting someone or some thing you don’t want hit in the dark of night.
For hunting forget it but then you buy what you need for that and it’s better to use than a combo setup.
I have a 9mm pistol but only because of the weight and price. For something for defense the .45 is the ideal (to me) short range caliber for making an impression on criminals or nuts.
I still liked Joe’s review of the Aero.
I picked one up in 10mm and love it. Even with the creepy trigger.
Does it speak in tongues or wear a mask or something?
Saving up to get the Hi-Point in 10mm. It just makes too much sense to pass up.
Saw 10mm on Kygunco under $300. They sell out quick…one of my LGS’s had one for $420(!). But THAT’S where MAC got his to review…Westforth/Gary,IN.
Ruger PC Carbine,for price,reliability and takes Glock magazines for the win.
I own both the Kel-Tec and Ruger.
Ruger is by far the winner. The PPC w/ my friend’s suppressor runs all ammo like a sewing machine. American Eagle 147gr subsonic are especially quite. Like airgun quite; w/ zero cycling issues. My Sub has been back to factory for warranty work 3x; two of them have been barrel replacements.
I am putting so much hope that Ruger will come out w/ different caliber barrels for the PPC. Especially in 10mm and .45.
Both the Sub and PPC are POA accurate; I run both w/ Glock mags.
PLEASE Ruger… drop a .45 PPC front end on us.
Yes please .45 (for Ruger or M&P magazines).
As a lefty the ergos on the Kel Tec suck, the action proximity to the stock for use of the iron sites causes a ton of gunpowder, gases, and residue to spray into the shooters face. Using a optic, in my case a cheap red dot, relieves the problem somewhat however that kills the fold ability of the run and the rail puts the optic too far forward increasing paralex.
The keltec is always out of stock everywhere. It’s a vapor product. They probably aren’t making much money on them.so they slow walk them out the door.
Maybe if they raised the price 100 bucks and made more on them they would find a way to produce more.
Gun-deals history shows that it’s been commonly available especially over the last year.
$311 right now.
“B.S.” is a bit harsh. The Sub-2000 emphasized in the article is the Glock mag-compatible version, which sure can be difficult to find, unless you want to pay a 100% markup. The version you linking to is the S&W mag version. Those are less popular, more available, and lower priced….for a reason.
Nevertheless, even the Glock versions aren’t as vaporware scarce as they used to be, but they’re not necessarily on every shelf everywhere for three bills. Grabagun.com has some in stock as of this writing for $399. They have S&W and Beretta versions in stock, too, for less than that.
Usually under $400 unless you get one of the special run color Sub2ks. Regularly available in glock flavor-flavs.
I bought mine at Classic. Most people don’t know that Kel-Tec sells pretty much every part for it at reasonable prices. You can buy the grip area for around $50 for either the Glock and Multimag versions and essentially convert one to the other. The only difference between all of the non-Glock models is the mag release button. I purchased a “S&W” version for about $310 and spent a whole $5 buying the mag release for Canik TP9 magazines to go with the TP9SF Elite I carry. I believe they sell S&W (MP or 59), SIG226, CZ75, Beretta, and TP9 magazine catches. Great and versatile carbine!
PC Carbine, convert to Glock mags. Add TACCom’s PCC package that includes a good break, extended bolt handle and improved mag release.
Couple with 147gr sub ammo and a quality red dot.
Ruger got this one right!
I have the original Ruger Carbine. Fun to shoot. Don’t much like the sights and I wish I had obtained it with the optional ghost ring sights. Uses the old P-85 (I think) mags so it’s a 15 + 1.
Take a look at the Just Right carbine. I have the takedown version that takes 9mms glock mags and topped it with Sig red dot sight really enjoy shooting it. Have shot about 600 rounds thru it and pretty accurate.
I have a JRC,the downside is it’s a bit heavy,time consuming to takedown for cleaning which it needs to be 100% reliable and damn is it accurate out to 150′,if they could only shave some of the weight.
I have the original Ruger PC 40 since the mid 90s. Fun gun out to say 75 yards max.
Id replace it if Ruger came out with a 10mm of todays version in a heartbeat.
Cant force myself to buy a Hi Point anything. Guess Im prejudiced??
I paid $269 for my Hi-Point at Rural King at their regular price. I ordered 2 Red Ball 20 round mags from Hi-Point. It is dead reliable and accurate with no problems of any kind. I don’t know how you could buy a better rifle for under $300 with a lifetime warranty. My first handgun was a used Hi-Point C9 that was also reliable and accurate. I traded it off when I got a “good” gun and I hate that I got rid of the heavy, ugly but reliable first gun.
I’ve had a Hi-Point in .40 for a long time. It has always served me well and never jammed.
Looks like a POS and cheek-slaps the crap out of ya but it puts rounds down range accurately and reliably.
Hi-Point carbines and pistols will eat just about anything. In this way they’re similar to your mom.
If I could +1 you I would. Like I did your mom.
I love pistol caliber carbines for home defense.
— long barrels boost muzzle velocity
— long barrels significantly reduce blast sound level
— increased sight radius increases accuracy
— rifle-like ergonomics increases accuracy
— overall short length is incredibly maneuverable
— added weight of long barrel and butt stock tames recoil
— reduced recoil increases shot speed and accuracy
— none that I can think of
Nearly the size and weight of a rifle with a fraction of the power.
theyre a gimmick
For inside the house, I don’t want a rifle. Talking about over penetration. I have rifles for outside home defense and I don’t need my pistol cal carbine for that. Each ones have their own specific duties.
At across-the-room distances, the carbine’s muzzle energy is more than sufficient. You have to look at this option in the context of its actual use. For serious uses, it’s intended as a self-defense firearm. In that role, it provides more energy, more precise targeting, and more rapid follow up shots than the counterpart pistol.
It is itself cheaper than a decent quality AR, as is its ammunition, which means more range time for less money. Speaking of which, where are you going to practice with your AR or other rifle? Many, if not most, indoor ranges won’t allow rifles in .223, but will accept PCCs. So go to the outdoor range? Great, if there’s one within a three hour drive of you.
Anyway, nobody is saying that PCCs are perfect for every application, just that they are a legitimate and viable option for home-defense. It’s just silly, however, to criticize the design for flaws that are only faults outside of the purpose for which they were intended. Yes, I do own three PCCs: a Sub2K, the Ruger PCC, and a Henry lever .357.
My pistol caliber carbine is NOT nearly the size and weight of a common rifle. My carbine’s overall length is 26.5 inches and it weighs just over four pounds.
And the best part: my carbine is way, WAY quieter than a rifle. You shoot your rifle indoors 10 times and I’ll shoot my carbine indoors 10 times and then we will talk 5 minutes later. Oh wait, no we will not because YOU will not be able to hear me.
And if you want to talk about a rifle with a suppressor to match (or slightly better) the quietness of a pistol caliber carbine, your rifle will still be loud, much longer, and even heavier yet than my carbine.
Best pro is that you can shoot at any indoor range. Unlike the tricked out shotgun people never practice with. As for carbines, I’ll pay a few more bucks and get a Berretta CX4 Storm.
I like the idea of 9mm carbines. Four years ago, the best value I found was the TNW Aero. I got the pistol version for about 500 and put a KAK brace on it. After that, I found a Sub 2000 for sale and picked it up. I like the cool design and light weight.
I own both the Kel Tec and the TNW Aero pistol. I like the design of each. Surprised by the light weight of the Sub 2000. I can’t yet speak about reliability.
Owned both, still have my Aero… the sub 2000 needed polishing out of the box to get it to run reliably… then needed more polishing, then more, then a new spring… in other words, never ran to the point I would trust it… the aero needed a sight… oh and I occasionally clean it.
I will say the aero is more open so you will get more carbon dust than Han Solo visiting Bespin.
+1 for the unlikely aero/han solo reference.
What advantages do any of these offer over an AR pistol with a 10.5 or 11.5 barrel?
Maybe less loud?
But a 5.56 would be more effective at all ranges.
theyre a gimmick
I wonder the same thing. Or even a Glock G17 with an extended magazine (the new 24 round OEM one seems just right) for home defense use. I’d consider an HK SP5k though and SBR it. However I know that is waaaay out of the price point here.
However is Gaston would ever come out with PCC, I’d be curious to take a look and see, but I understand the odds of that happening is nada at this point.
I’ll stick with my DD MK18 SBR for now, thanks.
| Or even a Glock G17 with an extended magazine
Because 3 points of contact with a rifle are better than 2 points of contact with a handgun.
Sure can’t argue with that logic.😀
Less loud is a woefully inadequate understatement. An AR-15 chambered in 5.56 x 45 mm NATO with an 11-inch barrel and no suppressor WILL quite literally be deafening compared to a pistol caliber carbine.
Think of the difference in sound levels standing close behind a muscle car with straight pipes (basically no muffler) versus a family sedan with a good factory muffler when revving both engines. Even that may not convey how much louder a short-barreled AR-15 (chambered in 5.56 x 45 mm NATO) would be compared a pistol caliber carbine.
I don’t know, I’ve shot 5.56 in buildings with a bunch of team mates shooting m4, with no ear pro and it wasn’t that bad. I could still communicate.
I hope you realize that shooting without hearing protection causes cumulative damage (What honey? I can’t hear you?) Especially when others are shooting along side of you. (What was that dear?) I would suggest you wearing at least some sort of plugs (What dear?) I gotta go, I think my wife is calling me…. or maybe it’s the TV in the next room…. might be the neighbor’s yippee dog.
I know its not good for you, but this was in my younger military days. Essentially no infantrymen wore ear pro, and good electronic muffs that could feasibly be worn under a helmet had not yet become common.
I wouldn’t do it again if I could help it. My hearing is still pretty normal for my age, my employer makes us do hearing tests every year.
But, if it was a situation where i was defending my family, so be it. My point is that shooting a carbine indoors will not immediatley make your head explode.
You can shoot at any indoor pistol range. Far more numerous than outdoor rifle clubs. So want to buy the $500 gun you can actually practice with or the AR that sits in the safe?
In my area there arent indoor ranges. All the ranges are rifle orientated. It’s pretty much my favourite part about living in the rural Midwest. I’m not arguing that one shouldn’t get a pistol calibre carbine, but for me it’s pointless.
I am kind of in the market for one of these but i am leaning towards the beretta cx4. If i can just find one.
“In the $500 to $1,000 range, there’s a whole lot of nothing when it comes to pistol caliber carbines.” ????
The CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1 9mm Carbine (with 16″ barrel and folding stock) is also available for about $899 (e.g., in stock at Classic Firearms, DEGuns, Buds Gun Shop, etc.)
Yeah I scratched my head when I read that too. Hard to imagine the author never heard of the Scorpion….?? If he ever shot one, he’d add it to the top of the $500-1000 list.
I have a Sub 2k gen 2, and I have been quite happy with it, after a couple of tweaks. If you own one, check out Mcarbo, I put in their trigger spring kit and metal trigger and it cut the pull weight in half.
They are good guns if you can find them in the 3-400 range, but I wouldn’t pay much more than that FWIW.
The minute Ruger comes out with a PC9 with a Magpul backpacker stock I’ll be a buyer.
I’ve got a PSA 9mm AR, other than the buffer tube working itself loose (at @ 400 rounds), and the ejector plate working itself loose (at @ 700 rounds), its been fine. Got it for $550 plus FFL transfer, and put a $100 sightmark red dot on it.
Micro Roni with brace.
Years ago, I had a Marlin CAMP 9 carbine, it was not expensive, and it worked well, can’t remember why I sold the dang thing…
I still have my Marlin 9mm Camp Carbine and recently acquired a gently used S&W model 5606 that uses the same magazines. And 30 round mags are readily available for these. So I now have a carbine/handgun combo that uses the same ammo and mags. It doesn’t get much better than that. The Marlin .45 ACP Camp Carbine uses 1911 mags, offering another great combo! I’ve read somewhere that the Marlin would not stand up to the heavy pounding of regular competition like 3-gun, etc, but for my purposes of occasional plinking and self defense while camping/traveling it is a perfect set up for me.
i saw a meme one time where the guy tells his girlfriend he wants to buy a pistol caliber carbine
and then she tells him that she thinks they should both start seeing other men
So your ex girlfriend is available then?
The problem with these lists- not just TTAGs -is that the market is so tiny you’re literally left listing the creme of the crap. This top five encompasses nearly every production PPC available under $500. Seriously. What other competition is there?
I’d almost accuse them of clickbait, but I don’t think they even take this into acount when writing this list up. Oh look, there’s some low hanging fruit, lets grab it.
PCC’s have been around for years. Sadly Olympic Arms is close to shutting its doors. The PCC’s they manufactured were awesome. 9mm I have. I never bought the 45Acp model.
CNC gunsmithing dot com produces a 45 ACP lower that uses grease gun mags. Bazooka brothers dot com does as well
Macon armory has a great Gas operated 45 ACP upper.
I have a Sub2K G2 in 40S&W and went about creating my own load. 155gr Hornady XTP at 1550fps yields me over 800 foot-pounds of terminal energy. That’s 30-Carbine territory and way more than any semi-auto handgun round.
It’s all fun and games until your Kel Tec blows up on you
We need a nice, New York legal pistol caliber carbine in .45 ACP.
Preferably able to accept anything other than Glock magazines.
Marlin Camp 45 carbine…
I had a Glock mag compatible Sub2k (1st gen) for a couple of years. I’d give it a 3 out of 5 on my own review.
Positives: It was a fun concept and definitely fit in small places (suitcase for vacation, golf bag, backpack).
Negatives: 1st gen didn’t have rails and the sights sucked; the cheek weld was just straight up uncomfortable, the gun felt cheap, and it stopped on me a few times with spent cases getting stuck. No way I’d use it for home defense and the awkward cheek weld took away a lot of the range time fun.
I have the Ruger pc9 now. Sold the sub2k.
I’ll pick the Ruger PC9 for features, reported accuracy and the fact I’ve a bunch of SR9 magazines already.
Now all I need is for Cabela’s to carry the thing when there’s a sale, so I can use my Cabela’s Club points.
I’ve been window shopping for a PCC in 9mm and have looked at most of the guns mentioned here. The Ruger looks very interesting. But right now my plan is to save up for an IWI TAVOR X95, Bullpup. Yeah … I know … a lot more money. But I only plan on buying one gun in this class and I’ll bet I don’t see another one at the range.
I really like the ruger PC carbine; the only problem with it – is it has the ugliest stock on earth.
Well I like synthetic stocks and the PC Carbine’s stock looks fine to me. Have one, it does not care what ammo you put in it, fires and feeds it all. One test i do is putting a bunch of mixed ammo in same mag: brass, aluminum, steel cased; FMJ, JHP of all different power levels and grain weight. It all goes down the barrel and hits the target. Done the same tests with my Ruger handguns, same result. Since I am 98% Ruger based, I use the SR series mags. Might tinker with modifying P series mags, but does not look promising.
I debated going cheap glock fed ar or a scorpion…and ended up circling in research for a few months, saving the whole time. I ended up waiting, spending more, and getting a PTR MP5 with brace. 4x the price? yes. 4x the reliablility, history, looks, fun? Hell Yes! Buy once cry once says I
there is a ttag review.
I credit the rise of the 9mm carbine to the explosion of “pistol braces.” A 9mm AR with a 16” barrel doesn’t make much sense next to an identical 5.56 one. But throw out the barrel length requirement and a 5” 9mm ar sounds great. Those things opened up the market and the more traditional looking rifles followed.
I own 14 Hi Point Carbines in most all calibers.
I own 1 Keltec Sub 2K in 9mm.
I own 1 Chiappa M1 in 9mm.
I own 1 Mag Tactical AR in 9mm.
I would say I like the Hi Point’s better?
I have, ummm, more than 1 Kel-Tec Sub2000. The first was a Gen1 in .40 (also known as the Kel-Tec jam-o-matic). But the Gen2 is MUCH better. Everyone who tries it gets an ear to ear grin. Without practice I can consistently nail a 6″ disc at 100 yrds, and they easily store in bugout bags.
I recently acquired the Hi-Point carbine in .40 SW and while it’s not gonna win any beauty contests, it’s a heck of a lot of fun to shoot. I chose the same caliber as my EDC. I’ve only been to an indoor range with it, so I’ve only tested it to 30 yards, but was quite accurate at that range. I’ve put 450 rounds through it so far and had no failures at all. The only downside for me is that it’s not exactly easy to break down for cleaning.
I don’t understand the urge to buy pistol caliber carbines? What’s the point? I mean really, educate me.
I have a 9mm because it is cheapest centerfireammo and it is widely available. I can use the same ammo in my handguns and rifle. I have the same options with my rimfires.
Range access and ability to practice. There are far more indoor ranges than outdoor gun clubs. These are welcomed at any indoor range year arround. But if like shooting in winter at a club 20 miles away… Enjoy.
In my case, the simple answer to your question is “fun and cheap”.
The Sub2K is less than $400 these days and it’s fun to shoot. Takes Glock mags. 9mm is now dirt cheap compared to a 3 or 4 years ago (Walmart was selling boxes of 50 rounds for $8.50 yesterday – that’s only $170 for a thousand rounds).
Just because we can.
Hello. My favorite carbine is my Marlin Camp 9. Unfortunately, Marlin dropped the ball by discontinuing the Camp 9 and the Camp 45
I have a Marlin Camp 9. Wood stock. It ‘s a good little carbine. Marlin also made another carbine called the Camp 45. They have been out of production for quite some time. It’s a shame really.
I am disabled and a bit on the poor side. I wanted something to go with my SAR pistols. (extend the range) I opted for a couple of the standard 9mm Hi Point carbines. Being cheap and wanting volume I bought Igman 124gr ammo. This turned out to be excellent ammo. Anyway, I didn’t have any optics to put on them so I tried the iron sights. At 25 yards the group was impressive, even with my old eyes. I went out to 50 yards which is the farthest I figured I would be using it. I shot off an unsteady rest and didn’t take my time and I still got sub 3″ groups. I was happy. I went home. The world is getting more bonkers by the day and I am so thankful I have these carbines.