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Pistol-caliber carbines - both magnum and non-magnum

Discussion in 'Survival/Preparedness Forum' started by quake, Feb 27, 2012.

  1. quake

    quake Millennium Member

    Aug 4, 1999
    Arkansas, USA
    A comment in the "what have you done" thread about hating pistol-caliber carbines spurred this. Admittedly one of my soapbox subjects; I'm a much bigger fan of handgun-caliber carbines than a lot of folks are.

    First, disclaimers and admissions. I'll probably use the terms "pistol" and "handgun" interchangeably - yes I do know the difference. I also understand and agree that a pistol-caliber carbine isn't an MBR and won't do everything an M14 or an SSG can do.

    Yes, I do know that there are "cons" to the pistol-caliber carbine; chiefly that they can sometimes be as big as a much more powerful "real-caliber" carbine.

    But there are also (imo, huge) "pros" to them, pros that a lot of people don't seem aware of; hence this thread.

    First, is power increase of the bullet over their pistol-launched siblings. In a non-magnum pistol caliber such as 9mm, .40, etc, you "only" gain 30-60% power-wise over a handgun. But that "only" means that a 9mm from a carbine is more powerful than a whole lot of full-house .357 magnum loads from a handgun. My primary 9mm carry load (federal 9bple) runs 1305 fps from a g19, for 435 or so ft/lbs, which is pretty good for a 9mm handgun. The same load runs 1540 from the camp-9 carbine, or 610 ft/lbs or so; more than most full-house .357 handgun loads, even from a full-size 6” revolver.

    Another advantage is useability (if that’s a word) by smaller, weaker users. That 9mm example above is putting out more power than a full-house .357, but it’s a WHOLE lot easier for kids & small women to shoot than a .357 revolver at the same power level. Just the nature of recoil from a carbine vs. from a handgun.

    Going to the magnum-handgun-caliber carbines, we see a monstrous gain in power over their handgun counterparts. You can basically figure “one magnum-caliber up” when using magnum-handgun caliber carbines. What I mean by that is that a .357 carbine will roughly equal a .44 magnum handgun power-wise; and a .44 magnum carbine will (yes, really) roughly equal a .454 Casull handgun power-wise. And anyone who’s used both a .44 levergun and a .454 handgun will admit that the .44 levergun is HUGELY less traumatic to shoot. Yet it can take any game that the .454 handgun can, out to even further ranges due to the increased sight radius and better controllability. Now when we get to the .454 Casull carbine, I don’t know a handgun to compare it to frankly. Power-wise, it’s between the .30-06 and .300WM rifle rounds; believe it or not. My simple 20” puma .454 launches a 240-grain bullet at 2430fps, for more than 3,100 ft/lbs of energy. There’s not a thing on the North American continent that that gun can’t kill out to a couple hundred yards; and believe it or not, will stay within ¾” of zero, from muzzle out to 110-120 yards, which is pretty good for a .45-caliber “handgun” bullet from a carbine. Beyond 150 or so, it does drop fast; no denying that, but I already agreed that it can’t do “everything” an MBR can.

    Another serious advantage the magnum-caliber carbines have over the autopistol-caliber carbines is versatility and wide choices in power level. Those examples above are for full loads, but there’s no rule that says you have to always use full loads. (Again, sticking with the .454 carbine as the most-extreme example) Even if using strictly factory loads, you can get rounds loaded from the maximums above, down to .44 magnum levels (Winchester’s .454 250-grain JHP is a nice, mildish .44magnum-level load), down more to the .45LC+P such as the Corbon and buffalo bore, all the way down to the ridiculously mild .45LC ‘cowboy’ loads that feel about like shooting a .22 rifle. So in that one carbine, you’ve got a gun that’s got a logical, factory-available ammo choice for any animal on the continent – from rabbit to polar bear – out to as far as most folks can hunt with an iron-sighted gun anyway. All with no adapters, no conversion kits, no gas-system adjustments, no barrel inserts, etc. You just simply decide which round to load it with, and go on about your day. If you handload, you not only have multiple power options between those power levels, we have infinite options between those power levels. Try that with an M14, AK, etc; as good as they are, they can’t do that.

    Also, don’t forget that the handgun-caliber carbines (magnum or not) also offer ammo commonality between handgun and long gun. Perhaps not a tier-one consideration, but still a valid consideration, especially if travelling on foot.

    Lastly, linked to versatility and ammo options but rarely thought of concerning leverguns, is suppressability. I’ve more than once posted a pic of my suppressed .357 carbine here, With just-subsonic 158-grain JSP or JHP loads, it’s still putting out more muzzle energy than a mil-spec .45acp load. Yet the suppressor, the sealed breech of the levergun, and the 16” barrel length, all combine to make it literally quieter than my gamo .177 pellet rifle, and will throw those rounds near silently, as fast and often as you can work the lever (which with a red-dot and zero recoil is pretty fast with practice). That makes it not only a phenomenal nuisance-critter gun, but in a shtf situation has all kinds of potential as well. For non-defensive use, the suppressed .357 single-shot is even lighter and handier for dispatching nuisance critters.

    If (as is often discussed here) I “could have only one” carbine, one of the magnum-pistol leverguns would definitely be in the “top five” options. If I knew ahead of time that I was facing a Walking Dead situation, then sure, it’d be one of the CAR-15’s; but if I knew it was a Castaway, Daniel Boone, or “The Road” situation, I’d actually rather have the levergun.

    JMO; but it's based on years of actually using them, rather than just reading about them.
  2. garyo

    garyo Millennium Member

    Dec 29, 1998
    NC USA
    I have three pairs, .22LR, .40S&W, and .357 Mag. Yes they do serve a good purpose. Besides all the positives just mentioned, the one important one for me, is that my wife shoots them very well without being afraid of kick or a loud report. Also, inexperienced shooters and kids do well with them. Good post.

  3. Texanmile


    Mar 28, 2011
    Excellent post!!!

    What silencer do you use on your levergun and how did you have the barrel threaded? Do they make .357 silencers or do you just use a 9mm one?
  4. Syclone538


    Jan 8, 2006
    I was planning on getting a 597 .22 mag., for a fun, cheap to shoot gun that has more punch then a .22 LR. After seeing the price of the gun, I decided on 9mm. Adding a home defense gun, not adding a caliber, while not doing too much worse on the price of the gun (I hope) or the ammo.

    Now just to decide on the gun.

    Hi Point is, well, Hi Point.

    Kel Tec is ugly.

    Ruger is what I'd really prefer, but I can't find one local and don't want to buy a used gun without actually looking at it first.

    Beretta is surprisingly hard to find, and probably more then I want to spend, though I don't really know what a good price would be.

    Taurus though it's been "out" for a year, as far as I can tell isn't really out yet. Also probably more then I want to spend.

    Am I missing any?

    I might just get a Hi Point, with the plan of replacing it with something better if I ever come across a deal on a ruger, beretta, or taurus.


    Opps, I didn't know a camp 9 existed, had only ever heard about the camp .45, and somehow missed it in the op.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  5. I actually ended up selling my DPMS AR15 and buying a hi point. I've got a G17 and I really wanted to buy a Keltec Sub2k but I just couldn't force myself to. They are just too short and small for me to get on top of comfortably. Also, at $350 these days, you're getting near AK pricing. Beretta Storms are also in the $500-$600 range. Thats inside AK price and nearing AR pricing.

    Hi Points are ugly as hell, and a bit heavy, but
    a. I've yet to hear of a mechanical failture with one
    b. I got mine under $160 (which is getting hard, but should be around $200)
    c. accurate out to 75, maybe 100 yards. (I've seen a 100 yard iron site bullseye with it. I was there)

    I sold my AR because I live in the city. I don't need an $800 gun with $300 a case ammo sitting in the closet. I'll never have to take a 200+ yard shot with it, even if the zombies come. Probably not even 100 yards.

    The highpoint lets me stock one type of ammo and lets me reach to 50-75 yards. In an urban environment, I"m ok with that. I wish that the mags were larger than 10 rounds (my one complaint) but I've got a couple spares. If youl can get over the short feel of the sub2k and you've got a glock, the mag interchangability and low cost of glock high caps make it amazingly appealing. I just couldn't get comfy on it. I"m pretty sure they also make a hipoint in .45, which could be a lot of fun. I don't own any other .45 guns so it didn't make any sense. If you're at a gun show and you see a hipoint for under $200, I'd seriously stop and have a look at it.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  6. i see the utility of matching ammo, and i will admit i didnt know the power levels went up that much, but i just dont think they make decent modern pistol caliber carbine. i tried to like the sub2k but mine wouldnt shoot well unless very clean and oiled. not something i would trust for long.

    i guess im in the camp that would rather carry a rifle caliber rifle.
  7. quake

    quake Millennium Member

    Aug 4, 1999
    Arkansas, USA
    I use my 9mm abraxas titanium. The barrel threading was the only complicated part since the magazine tube came out flush to the end of the barrel, and had to be shortened a half-inch or so. IIRC, the gunsmith charged me $130 or so for the work. It looks like the threaded area angles upward, but that's just a quirk of the picture - they're in line with the bore - never had a baffle strike with it:

    With Lone Wolf thread protector in place:

    End result, with scout mount and bushnell red dot:

    Another advantage to this kind of little carbine is compactness. Even with the suppressor attached, it's still only the same size as a standard 10-22. (This was before installing the scout mount):
  8. quake

    quake Millennium Member

    Aug 4, 1999
    Arkansas, USA
    Definitely wish the Camp-9 was still in production. I've made a point of stocking up on extra springs, parts, mags, etc, because I like the silly thing so much.

    This pic is old - the red dot (same bushnell model as on the .357 levergun above) has since been moved to the rear of the 12" picatinny rail, allowing the mounting of a dbal clone (infrared illuminator with infrared laser) on the front end of the rail. Using NV headgear, the IR setup gives you basically a spotlight/laser combo, that's only visible to NV-wearers.

    This pic is even older, before I switched to red-dot use on it. The scope worked fine, but the ranges this gun is used at, the red dot does fine; plus is smaller and lighter. (Need to get a new pic taken I guess):
  9. quake

    quake Millennium Member

    Aug 4, 1999
    Arkansas, USA
    I've been intrigued by the beretta, especially since its barrel contour would lend itself so well to threading, but never tried one as it would mean a whole new type of magazine to stock up on. If I didn't have the camp-9, I'd be sorely tempted to try one out.

    +1 completely. Some guys claim good luck with theirs, but mine was junk. I tried all kinds of ammo, from normal 112 & 124 fmj, to heavy-bullet stuff, to +P and +P+ stuff; never found a single load that it would be reliable with. Major shame, as it shared not only ammo but magazines as well with my glocks. Ended up selling it to a friend (who knew it wasn't reliable) who just wanted it as a play toy.

    Understand completely. There are definitely things that a full rifle can do that a pistol-caliber carbine can't. Just hoping to open folks' minds to the idea that there are a lot of things that a pistol-caliber carbine CAN do; typically a whole lot more than people realize unless they've actually spent the time to try them. One thing I like to point out is regarding the old saddle carbines that a lot of our dads used for utility use and deer hunting alike; things like the .32-20, .25-20, etc. Even "just" a 9mm carbine is more powerful than both of those. We just tend to mentally relegate it to "wimp" status; an "after all, it's just a 9mm" kind of automatic, reflexive mindset.

    Now if somebody would come out with a semi-auto carbine in .357 magnum (tube- or box-fed either one), I genuinely believe that setup could well handle 99% of carbine needs for 99% of anyone who wasn't active-duty military.

    Wishful thinking; so for now I'll just stick with the leverguns. :dunno:
  10. lawman800

    lawman800 Juris Glocktor

    Pistol caliber long arms have their place, but it is for the most part a compromise of sorts unless you see ammo compatibility with your sidearm as the biggest selling point. If you got a shoulder weapon need, use a 5.56mm or up to serve its purpose. Use the pistol ammo for your sidearm.

    There is a reason why the militaries in the world have adopted assault rifles instead of issuing everyone a submachine gun.

    A properly set up M4gery carbine doesn't weigh that much more than a pistol caliber shoulder weapon as long as you keep all the tacticool stuff off and sometimes, it can be lighter. With all the cheap parts around and $10 magazines all day long, there's a lot to be said about having a simple AR type rifle.

    I understand if you don't go semi-auto and go with a lever gun for simplicity, then yeah, maybe the AR won't be in contention due to possibility of parts breaking, but I would still go for the 30-30 instead of 357 or 44.
  11. quake

    quake Millennium Member

    Aug 4, 1999
    Arkansas, USA
    Lawman800 - I agree with you on the tactical advantages of the AR/M4 carbine platform; no arguing that. That's part of why I put the disclaimer about military use in the OP. Fwiw, my primary defensive carbines are CAR-15's.

    As far as the .30-30 vs the .44 and .357, the .44 carbine will actually exceed the .30-30, and even a .357 will right about match the .30-30 if loaded with Buffalo Bore (158gr @ 2150fps) or similar. For application in the typical ranges/distances of .30-30 use, they're all three in the same neighborhood capability-wise. Not knocking the .30-30 at all; it's a very capable round. Fact is, one reason I like the AK round is because it's so similar to the .30-30 functionally.

    A big factor that I didn't point out earlier was the cost involved. For the price of a used AR with say 10 magazines and 300 rounds to load just those magazines, a person could have a used levergun and a thousand rounds of ammo in a lot of cases. Or two leverguns and a couple hundred rounds. Doesn't make the levergun 'better', they're just different animals with different market forces working on them.

    That combination of .30-30-like performance, handgun-ammunition commonality when trekking in the woods, much lower gun cost, simplification of logistics (stocking up), and much wider options as far as power levels, are all part of their benefits that I'm wanting to point out. Simply hoping to get people to at least give them some consideration instead of thinking they have to automatically run out & buy the newest uber-carbine that's on this month's gun magazine cover.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  12. WolfNotSheep

    WolfNotSheep Tackleberry

    Mar 1, 2008
    Central Virginia
    I'm with you, Quake. There's an awful, awful lot a good old John Wayne assault rifle can do. I have a 44mag Marlin levergun that even my girlfriend can easily shoot. And, while she does have some parts on her that aren't so petite, she is petite overall. A 44mag reeolver is out of the question for her, as are most AKs and a lot of semo-auto pistols. She just doesn't like a heavy gun or one which requires a lot of muscle to charge. A lever action works great for her, along with a semi-auto 22 pistol and an old S&W 59 series in 9mm. That set-up is light, effective, and reliable. The low recoil of all the weapons and the low cost of the 22 make shooting a lot of fun for her and she's gotten damn good with them. I would gladly have her at my side or watching my back in any situation.

    For me it's AKs all the way, but I'm still one of those young bucks with a lot of piss and vinegar left in me.
  13. Excellent post Quake.

    I agree, most that nay-say them either have never tried them or lack the imagination to see how they could be a useful tool in the tool box.

    I have a Kel-Tec Sub 9, the forerunner to their current rifle. Aluminum reciever, their factory flashlight and it weighs five pounds ten ounces loaded.

    More importantly than weight is the fact that folded, in will fit into just about any laptop/breifcase. Very handy and I've taken it places where I wanted a bit more range than a pistol would give me.

    Mine has never failed me, ever. Eaten everything I've fed it. I have chronographed quite a few rounds from it and they vary quite abit. PowerMax with the 115 grain Gold Dot does over 1720 fps, (1300 from the G19).

    I fire-lapped mine and it went from two to three inches at 50 yards to 33 rounds all in one ragged hole.

    I've also used my Winchester 94 in 45 Colt for lever action silhouette. Very fun! When I do my part the 200 yard rams fall right down. Plenty of power. It weighs six pounds, loaded with 10 rounds.

    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  14. Akita

    Akita gone

    Jul 22, 2002
    OK, youve convinced me that they are better than a pistol.
    Now convince me that they are better than an AR in 556 (rem: there is no recoil in that AR to amount to anything).

    I like them, fun to play with, but NO WAY NO HOW would I pick one up over an AR in any serious situation.
  15. They most definatley are not better than a pistol, nor is an AR better. They are different tools for different needs.

    My pistol goes everywhere with me, not the Sub-9, it's too big.

    But the Sub 9 will go into a small all cloth briefcase that never gets a second look and allows a much longer reach.

    At least that's my take. I must say though that I have never owned an AR, but unless it's an SBR it can't be as short or as quick into action as the Sub 9.

    "Any serious situation." covers alot of ground . . .

    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  16. Lampshade


    May 11, 2010
    Love me a Sub2k.

    Conceal a glock on the hip, have a folded Sub in the backpack.

    From just a casual observer, a Sub2k can even be concealed on your person.
  17. quake

    quake Millennium Member

    Aug 4, 1999
    Arkansas, USA
    I'd agree with Catshooter. It's not better than an AR, any more than a wrench is better than a crowbar. Different tools with different strengths.

    AR strengths = rate of fire, nil recoil, decent power, lightweight ammo, commonly-available caliber, good for things from defense to nuisance animals to even deer with careful ammo selection (I've taken deer with mine). Great platform; as I said, it's my first-line defensive choice.

    Magnum-levergun strengths = wider range of useable ammunition power levels (without adapters or kits), making it completely suitable as a one-gun solution for a much wider range of game-taking applications (from rabbit to bear), much less expensive to purchase, less bullet deflection by intermediate obstacles & barriers (branches, vehicle glass, whatever), and if we're talking about .44 leverguns, actually more power than the AR. Additionally, you never run out of handgun ammo if you still have rifle ammo, and vice-versa.

    Again, NOT knocking the AR - I've carried it for more than 30 years (in the infantry and in LE work both), and trust it more than a lot of people do. But my assessment of the levergun's strengths are open here for correction or disproval; and if they're not incorrect, then I simply maintain that they're worth considering.

    All I'm getting at is that they're more capable and versatile than they usually get credit for. It's a reality that's true of other fine choices as well; they're usually just choices that don't get a lot of magazine-article space.


    Dec 20, 2002
    I love 'em and have owned many over the years. Recently I've been moving more towards my .22 rifle (CZ Scout) as a survival gun over pistol caliber carbines, but I still keep a few around. My current favorite isn't the most practical, but I shoot it well and it has good power.
    H&R classic .45 Colt. It's surprisingly quiet.
    NEF .357 Handi. (kind of a lewd name, isn't it?)
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012


    Dec 20, 2002
    P.S. Love that suppressed Marlin, that's the good stuff.
  20. SilverCity


    Mar 9, 2007
    The Old West
    A pistol caliber carbine does not replace a full power one. It simply compliments a well-rounded arsenal and fills a specific niche.

    Ruger PC9. Rugged and reliable .Utilizes quality 20-round Mecgar mags. Easily mounts optics. Shoots eyeball-sized groups at 50 yards with Winchester 147gr sub-sonic Ranger Black Talons. QUIET. Load 115+P+ and you get ~1650fps which is approaching M1 carbine ballistics.

    Marlin 1894S 357mag. Excellent small game getter with 38 spls and full power 180 HPs ain't no slouch on deer-sized game or two-legged varmints.

    Would I grab either as my "go to" rifle? No. But these are just two that nicely fill a spot in my battery.

    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012