The Pistol Caliber Carbine

So much focus has been placed on the AR platform. It’s a fantastic system. It’s reliable, compact, powerful and plentiful. I think however that there is another choice in the defensive carbine game.


Beretta CX4 Storm

Pistol caliber carbines (PCC) seem to be overlooked a fair amount for one reason or another, I’m not really sure why frankly. The value of putting a pistol caliber round through a 16″ barrel with a long sight radius is extremely high. Terminal ballistics are improved, accuracy is greatly improved and ease of shooting is outstanding. A great resource to check is Ballistics By The Inch, they have painstakingly gone through a huge swath of pistol ammunition and testing its performance in various barrel lengths. On the average for a 9mm cartridge, the velocity is increased by 200fps and muzzle energy is increased by at least 100ft-lb. That’s an incredible increase in power from a pistol round! Straight walled cartridges feed very reliably in the available carbines as well. While these handy carbines are very useful, they are limited on range. The AR platform is easily effective out to 500yds or more depending on the operator. The PCC is good for 100yds in my humble opinion. The round will most certainly travel further and will travel with more than enough energy to do damage at great distances but I’m talking about effective range. The range at which the round is still going to do what it was designed to do.


Hi-Point 995TS

There are quite a few more available options for PCC’s than there were a few years ago. There are AR platform PCC’s which (depending on maker) can be spotty with reliability  depending on brand and use a myriad of different stick style magazines and tend to be on the heavy side, the JRC carbine is a nice and well thought out option that uses Glock magazines and has been reviewed here. It is offered in 9mm, .40S&W and .45 ACP. Hi-Point has produced a PCC for years and is reliable and incredibly affordable though it has a face only a mother could love, their customer service and warranty is second to none though. Beretta has a very nice and expensive carbine.  Hi-Point’s carbine is also available in the big 3 pistol calibers and uses proprietary 9-10rnd magazines. The futuristic CX4  uses a few different Beretta pistol magazines as options and with the aid of an adapter can be swapped out at will. Lone Wolf is now producing a PCC and components to manufacture your own that utilizes Glock magazines like the JRC Carbine but is all AR platform. I haven’t had the opportunity to get my hands on one but it looks incredibly promising with it’s only detractor being cost. The Kel-Tec Sub2000 is an incredible choice as well. The carbine sports a polymer receiver and the ability to fold in half for easy storage makes it really stand out. The lightweight Kel-Tec has models that accept Glock, Beretta and Smith & Wesson model 59 magazines. (The Model 59 mags work in their P-11 handgun as well) and is available in 9mm or .40 S&W.


JRC Carbine

There are more models coming to market these days as the awareness of how useful a PCC can be is increasing. The ability to share ammunition and possibly magazines is really excellent. These abilities simplify ammunition purchasing and storage and gear choices such as magazine pouches. These carbines allow for so much more accuracy than the pistols that shoot the same round and are easier to shoot than a handgun as well. Those looking for a home defense option would be well served with a pistol caliber carbine. With the right ammunition, these are more than adequate as woods guns and can be used to take small to medium game to put food on the table. For those of you that are reloaders, the straight walled pistol cartridges are easier to reload as well. Brass and projectiles are plentiful for handgun ammunition. These useful little carbines are absolutely worth purchasing and integrating into your systems.

My First (and possibly last) AR-15 Build


Today’s post is brought to you by Patrick Shipp, Patrick has served his country down range in Iraq and on the front lines of the energy war in Washington, DC.

Roaming the aisles of The Nation’s Gun Show in Chantilly, VA, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of today’s small arms industry. Nearly every make and model of rifle, shotgun, and hand cannon in the world is there, and eager buyers are salivating at the thought of owning that which the liberal media has made taboo. Among the tables of Colt 1911s, Remington 700s, and Winchester Repeaters, there are a few vendors who are targeting a more discriminating customer; the AR-15 armorer.

Merriam-Webster defines an armorer as “one that repairs, assembles, and tests firearms.”

I wasn’t looking to build the best AR, but wanted to gain a better understanding of how the rifle operates. I began my build with some internet research. There are over 150 individual parts in an AR-15, and all of them must function together in order to effectively send 62 grains of lead towards the intended target. All of the parts can be purchased online and shipped directly to your home, with the exception of the stripped lower receiver. This is the serial number component, and must be transferred to the customer through a Federal Firearms Licensee. I bought my Smith and Wesson M&P stripped lower at the gun show for $130. At the show, I also purchased several Magpul components, including flip-up front and rear sites, a pistol grip, trigger guard, and adjustable buttstock. The remaining components I purchased online from Del-ton (flattop upper receiver), Midway USA (buffer tube, buffer spring, buffer, lower receiver parts kit, and bolt carrier group), and Ebay (replacement buffer tube for the one I over torqued). Where there was an option to, I bought mil-spec components. I switched out the 18” barrel on another AR platform for a 20”, and used the 18” barrel on this build. I found a handguard left over from deployment and got to work.

I went to my local range, Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, VA, and had the armorer there put the barrel on my upper receiver. There’s a lot that can go wrong, including miss alignment which could affect gas tube alignment, so I went to the pro. He switched out the short barrel, and installed the longer one for fifty bucks. That was money well spent. I did the rest of the assembly in my basement, using Cheaper Than Dirt’s YouTube videos on building a lower receiver and the Army’s TM9-1005-319-23. It’s important to know that all of the components fit together in a specific order. Anyone who has ever tried to repair their car knows what I’m talking about. Step-by-step instructions are essential to success. Watch the video and read the instructions a couple of times for real success. With the lower complete, I replaced the fixed front site post with a gas block with picatinny rails and attached the front and rear sites. I snapped top and bottom together, performed a functions check, and took it to the range. This was the most nerve wracking part. I knew everything had been done correctly, but in the back of my mind, I thought, “what if this damn thing blows up in my face. I’m going to look like an idiot.” One hundred rounds later, and I was satisfied with my work.

No after action review is complete without the obligatory what went wrong, and for me, those are the most important lessons learned. My buttstock has a little bit of wobble when fully extended. Though the buffer tube and buttstock are mil-spec, I can’t help but think that the replacement tube I bought after busting the one from Midway USA was not the correct diameter. The upper and lower aren’t as tight as the pros prefer, though you can purchase a small plastic block that will make the fit snug. I would recommend always buying a matched upper and lower to avoid any wiggle. The bolt carrier group from AR Stoner is snug, and did cause the rifle to fail to cycle completely. I have tried sanding, and will take the Dremel to it sometime soon. After the fact, I read some disparaging reviews on Midway USA, regarding the AR Stoner bolt carrier group. I’d say this is one of the components where you want to spend a little bit more, especially if you’ve incurred some savings elsewhere by catching Magpul and CMMG lower reciever components on sale.

All in all, I’m pleased with the outcome. The final cost to complete, I’d estimate at about $900. You can purchase a complete stock AR-15 for this much, and add the Magpul components for another $150 or so. The bolt carrier group is an easily replaceable part if the Dremel doesn’t work, and the wobble reminds me that I need to look into getting another buffer tube. The feeling, though, of firing the weapon you built, well, that’s just priceless.

See you at the range.

Just Right Carbine

jrc2I’m in love with pistol caliber carbines. They are a very special product in my book. They fit the role of home defense and general defense firearm better, for some people, than a centerfire rifle caliber carbine does but for some reason are overlooked by many. You gain a lot of positives when you run one as a defensive firearm. Commonality of magazines and ammunition is a pretty huge plus to me. You also gain a fair amount of velocity and energy increase from the longer barrel on a pistol caliber carbine, well into the 1100FPS territory for the .45 ACP model I tested. There are a few options on the market for those looking for a pistol caliber carbine (PCC). Kel-Tec and Hi-Point make a couple of the most popular and highest selling PCC’s out there, both are also about as ugly as original sin. There are also a few makers of AR patterned carbines that make pistol caliber versions which will run you a few bucks for sure. Today however, we are going to focus on the Just Right Carbine.

Just Right Carbines is an American manufacturer located in New York. They are producing a pretty exciting and innovative product, the JR Carbine. The JRC is a totally ambidextrous and modular firearm that allows for a fair amount of customizing. The ejection of the shell casings can be changed from left to right as well as the bolt handle. You can change caliber and magazine used with very minimal effort as well. Calibers offered are 9mm .40S&W and .45 ACP (there are no plans for them to make any other calibers) All models but the .45 also exclusively use Glock magazines currently. The model I got my hands on was a .45 ACP version that fires from Glock 21 magazines. The .45 offering also is able to be converted to use GI patterned 1911 magazines.

photo 1You will notice two things when you have a JR Carbine in your hands, first thing is the very familiar controls and form factor. The manufacturer went to great lengths to make this carbine very easy to use for those that are intimately familiar with the AR platform, although the magazine release is not where you would expect it. It is located on the left side of the carbine and magazine changes are effected by depressing the mag release with your left thumb and removing the magazine. The second thing you’ll notice is the weight of the thing. The JRC is a blowback operated semi-automatic which is the standard for PCC’s. When things are blowback operated, mass of the bolt is what’s used to counteract the force of the round being fired from the carbine, as opposed to using some of the gasses and spring pressure to cycle the bolt through a gas tube that is connected to the barrel towards the muzzle, like in an AR-15. One of the things I preach constantly to anyone that will listen to me is that lightweight is key. If a firearm is simply too heavy to carry around then you won’t carry it. The 17 inch barrel is very thick on these and from my shooting, it affords very acceptable accuracy, although with it being a 17 inch barrel the velocity of rounds isn’t as spectacular as it could be if the barrel was shortened by just one inch. Powders that propel pistol rounds are very fast burning, when the powder is all burned up in the barrel and the round still has some distance to cover it will start to slow down from the friction against the rifling in the barrel. This is less than ideal.

The particular model I shot had a few aftermarket features installed on it by the owner that should be mentioned. It had Magpul MBUS sights (which I hated so much, they made me want to kick puppies) and a Lone Wolf muzzle brake as well (Which was very cool on this carbine). The model I tested was also finished in a digital desert camo. The finish was nice and well applied, I am however not a huge fan of camo patterns on firearms. The stock was also replaced with a Magpul ACS.

The owners manual tells you a couple things that you will need to know about this carbine. There is no last shot hold open, which isn’t uncommon with a PCC. The JRC is also sensitive to over insertion of magazines and resting the carbine on the magazine. There is no mechanism to stop the magazine from being over inserted other than the magazine release itself, so they specifically inform you to not slap the magazines in place like you would on an AR. The buffer tube on the JRC is going to look very familiar to those of you with AR platform rifles. Do not under any circumstance try to use AR buffers or buffer springs in this carbine, also make certain to use the rubber bumper and nylon disk in place in the buffer tube as well. You will damage the firearm if you don’t follow this instruction.

photo 4The JR Carbine was a joy to shoot. Recoil was extremely manageable (read non-existent) making controlled pair shooting and follow up shots very easy. The controls and pistol grip are straight from an AR (as is the entire trigger group from what I understand) so it was a very comfortable and familiar firearm for me to shoot. The trigger wasn’t anything special, about what you would expect from an off the rack AR. The trigger reset was very short which made follow up shots very quick. One thing to mention is that since the carbine is ambidextrous, it has a channel cut on the left side of the receiver for the reciprocating bolt handle to ride in. This channel also is fairly efficient at blowing gasses into your face. Don’t let this sour you on this great carbine though, it’s not that bad at all. The carbine is sold without sights on it which allows you to choose your own or run glass of some kind. This carbine also uses a standard AR barrel nut which allows for using aftermarket free float AR handguards. Disassembly is not very easy with this carbine, actually it’s pretty involved and requires removing screws. Pistol ammo does tend to run dirty so you will become intimately familiar with the disassembly procedure. As I said in the first paragraph, this carbine is very easy to customize. It is sturdy and runs well. I feel as though this carbine has made a very nice place for itself in the PCC category. They can be found pretty easily for sub $700 and the abundance of Glock magazines on the market makes for easy access to feeding devices(JRC recommends factory Glock magazines). Pistol ammunion is generally cheaper than rifle rounds and is easier to find than most rifle calibers are as well. If you are contemplating a purchase of  a carbine of some sort and haven’t made up your mind yet, the JR Carbine is certainly deserving of your consideration. One is definitely in the running for a spot in my gun safe.

The Modern Mosin-Nagant

The Mosin Nagant series of rifles. List goes t...

The Mosin Nagant series of rifles.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So why in the world am I writing about a rifle designed in the 1890’s and why is it interesting to you? Because it’s cool!!, and after all these years it’s still a relevant and useful firearm in today’s world. I just saw an amazing report earlier this week that the Mosin-Nagant is in current use in the fighting in Syria. Who would have thought that after all this time the rifle that defended Stalingrad against the Nazis would still be in use in 2013 as a “military” arm?

When someone mentions a Mosin-Nagant, they could be talking about any one of the many variations that have existed since it was adopted by The Imperial Russian Army in 1891 as the Model 1891 interestingly enough. Most commonly encountered in the United States however, are three models: the 91/30, M44 and, The Chinese Type 53. The Type 53 and the M44 are both almost identical to each other with the major difference being the country of origin. The most common of these three models is the 91/30. The M44 and Type 53 are both carbine models which have a much shorter barrel than the 91/30 and an attached side folding bayonet. All variations are bolt-action and have a 5 round integral magazine that can either be loaded one round at a time or by stripper clip. There are so many different incarnations of Mosin-Nagant that were produced, it’s not worth me going into great detail here as there are so many great resources out there. When I refer to the rifle here, I’m talking about the three models listed above. If you’re curious about the history of this rifle your best bet is to head over to There you can find the entire documented history of the rifle and all the different models produced.

Enough with the history lesson. How is this old Russian rifle relevant to me? Well, frankly there are a few good reasons but in my opinion the most important of all is that it is a dirt cheap and accessible firearm. This rifle can be had for sub $200 all day for a 91/30, even in today’s strange gun climate. The other two models come in at a little under $300 usually. What that gives you is a completely usable and reasonably accurate rifle out of the box with decent iron sights. What’s almost as good as the rifle itself being cheap is that the ammo is also cheap. A tin of 440 rounds of surplus ammo can be had for under $100. New manufacture commercially made ammo is decently priced as well. These old rifles have proven themselves to be adequate hunting arms for quite some time now and have put literally tons of meat on the tables of families all over the world. Hunting is by far the most common use for this rifle other than being a range plinker since it can be fed so inexpensively and the cartridge is powerful enough to take down nearly anything on 4 legs in North America.

I wanted to breathe a new life into this rifle though. Now if you’re some kind of purist and you feel that the Mosin-Nagant is deserving of being a collectable firearm to be kept in it’s original form, turn back now. I do not consider myself a purist at all. This rifle is immensely common and it lends itself very well to modifying or sporterizing. The Russians took rifles that would be considered fairly valuable today and re-arsenaled them, modified them and covered them in cosmoline and stuck them in a warehouse in Siberia somewhere and they have turned into the rifles that we see being imported today. There are rare models and I feel as though they shouldn’t be touched, if you’re not sure whether or not you’ve got a rare model please head over to and double check.

As I stated before, you could leave the rifle alone in it’s completely stock form and have a completely serviceable and useful rifle with only a few tweaks and adjustments to the iron sights but I’m incapable of leaving good enough alone. I suppose I’ll start by addressing the things about the Mosin-Nagant that I personally don’t like so much. The total length of the 91/30 is about 48.5″, that’s just over four feet long and the bayonet isn’t even a part of that. That’s a ludicrous length for a rifle to be useful in the woods but that can be remedied. You could either hold out and get a M44 or Type 53 which is totally a rational work around or you could have a gunsmith shorten the barrel. The Mosin-Nagant is also a heavy rifle, not ungodly so but at a little over 8lbs it’s hefty enough to be a little difficult to chuck around in a hurry, particularly at full length. To put weight into perspective though, it’s not entirely uncommon for AR-15‘s with rails and optics and various other toys to tip the scales at over the weight of a loaded Mosin-Nagant. I’m also not a huge wood stock person. Thats not to say that I can’t appreciate them, I just tend to be hard on gear and a synthetic stock just makes more sense for me. I guess that’s about it for the “dislikes”.

Each of the above listed “problems” is easily changed to more suit personal need. Since the Mosin-Nagant has established itself as a sturdy, reliable and reasonably accurate rifle, I’ve found that it lends itself well to becoming a scout rifle. Scouts are essentially lightweight rifles around 36″ in length and under 7.7lbs with a forward mounted low powered scope in .308 or equivalent. Col. Cooper specified a specific sling to be used, the ability to use iron sights, detachable magazine feeding or reloading with stripper clips. I chose to transform the Mosin-Nagant into a scout rifle because of the all around utility of the concept. It makes a handy and capable hunting rifle, a great brush and recreation tool as well as a defensive tool if necessary. To accomplish the task of turning this ancient battle rifle into a modern scout rifle isn’t a very difficult one. There are quite a few readily available aftermarket parts that allow for an easy transformation.

So here we go, the Mosin-Nagant is going to become a scout rifle. We will need a new stock, optic mount, optic, a little gunsmith work to cut down and re-crown the barrel, and a way to reattach the front sight. What follows is a list of parts that I think further suit this useful rifle to modern use.

  1. ATI Mosin-Nagant Stock.
  2. Brass Stacker Scout Scope Mount
  3. Brass Stacker Front Sight Adapter Ring
  4. Stripper Clips
  5. Ching Sling
  6. Sling Swivel Studs

This certainly isn’t an all encompassing list of what you may need for the conversion, or you may choose to use different parts to suit the rifle to your individual purpose and needs. There are a lot of nice products from Rock Solid for Mosin-Nagants that are outstanding and very high quality and trigger modifications to tame the beast so to speak as well however, if you follow the guidelines you will end up with something similar to the rifle pictured below. It is now a handy and lighter rifle with a hard hitting and fairly accurate and cheap round that is well suited for hunting and any other purpose a handy rifle like this can fill.

Credit: "Pirate" from

Credit: “Pirate” from

So if you’ve got an old Mosin-Nagant sitting in the gun safe or you don’t have one yet but are in the market for an inexpensive but versatile rifle,I hope I’ve offered you some inspiration. As for now train, stay safe and have a good un’.

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The Kel-Tec SU-16C


AR-15 (Photo credit: robscomputer)

Ok folks, today I’m going to get us started off with perhaps one of the most widely adopted weapons platforms in the U.S., the 5.56mm/.223rem semi-automatic sporting rifle/defensive carbine.  When most think of this platform, they immediately jump to the AR-15 series of rifles.  These are a battle proven design that I carried for many years in the U.S. Army and placed my life on the line with on more occasions than I would have liked.  The AR-15 today is one of the most reliable and adaptable platforms known to man.  There are pistol variations and sniper variations and everything in between.  Perhaps the most widely used is the 16″ barrel model which is the shortest legal barrel length for a rifle under the National Firearms Act, that is without paying for a $200 tax stamp and registering it as an SBR (short barreled rifle) but we will get to that another day.

This is a common work around for the “dirty” gas impingement system.

The AR platform is of course not without it’s drawbacks.  First and foremost is that they are generally expensive.  It’s not uncommon to see rifles on the rack at your local dealer with a base price of over $1,000.  Now I don’t know about you but  I don’t really have a grand sitting around that’s really all that disposable for a firearm purchase.  The other problem with the cost is that generally that $1,000 will only get you a base rifle with no bells and whistles that are so popular today. They also work off of a direct impingement gas system which is a fairly dirty way of doing things.  This system uses a tube from the gas block to vent hot gasses and carbon from the barrel back into the upper receiver to push the bolt carrier group back against the buffer and recoil spring.  This causes a buildup of carbon and fouling inside your upper receiver and in your trigger group in the lower receiver as well.  There are short stroke gas piston models that utilize a piston to drive the bolt carrier group instead of the hot gas along which certainly run cleaner.  I myself have zero experience with this particular system as it was not adopted by the U.S. Military and they are cost prohibitive for me to own (take that $1,000 price tag for a base model and jack it way up).  There are also conversion kits to a gas piston system for the AR-15 which seem to be well received.

English: Kel-Tec SU-16C with stock in folded p...

Kel-Tec SU-16C with stock in folded position. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enter the Kel-Tec SU-16C.  At $575(Price paid, MSRP is listed at $770) this 4.7lb firearm is a long stroke gas piston operated carbine with a 16″ threaded barrel.  It accepts the same reliable magazines that feed the AR-15 platform which range in capacity from 5rds on up to 100rds and any muzzle device that the AR platform accepts.  This firearm is constructed of a glass reinforced polymer known as Zytel where possible and steel where necessary to save weight and reduce cost.  It sports a parkerized finish on the steel and the barrel is chrome lined (earlier versions were unlined and newer versions I’m told, will be salt bath nitride treated).  It has an integral picatinny rail on the upper receiver for optics mounting and the fore end converts to a bipod to stabilize longer shots.  The “star” bolt will look familiar to those of you who know the AR platform.  This model also has the underfolder stock that permits the carbine to be fired while folded, and stored very compactly.  The front sight was borrowed from the AR platform as well.  The operating system for this rifle however, is pure AK-47.

Just last week I took my SU-16C to the local range to put it through it’s paces.  Prior to my range time I took the time to fit the carbine with an A2 flash hider.  Ammunition used was 55gr American Eagle Tactical 5.56mm.  The owners manual very clearly states that the carbine requires at least a 200 round break in and that you may experience a few malfunctions during this process.  I experienced none, although in full disclosure my buddy that went to the range with me experienced a double feed during his string of fire.  The double feed was cleared and no other malfunctions were experienced.  Being as my local range is an indoor facility, the range only goes out to 25yds, so that is the distance to which this carbine was zeroed.  Sight adjustment is simple and straight forward.  If you shoot high adjust the front sight post up.  If you’re shooting right, adjust the rear sight to the right.  I was able to get a good zero in 9 rounds.  Kel-Tec includes a tool to adjust the windage, they do not include a tool to adjust the front sight elevation, so I was left to make adjustments with a pick from my OTIS cleaning kit and a Leatherman Wave Multi-Tool.  You can buy a tool to adjust both windage and elevation from Kel-Tec for around $15.  This kinda bothered me though.  If they are going to include a tool to adjust one sight, why not include the ability to adjust all of them?  One issue I experienced was heat.  This carbine does get hot, although so does an AR when you put 200 rounds through it in fairly rapid succession.  If you intend to do a fair amount of shooting I highly suggest a good pair of shooting gloves and judicious hand placement.

My final impressions of this little lightweight carbine are quite favorable.  Accuracy is on par with any AR type rifle I have fired.  This carbine is well suited for outdoor use when you’ve got miles to cover and weight is a concern.  It also makes a pretty outstanding truck/ranch gun.  The durability remains to be truly seen as I’ve only done the initial break-in on this rifle but it’s looking promising.  Just prior to writing this review I did notice upon a teardown and cleaning that just in front of the hammer, it appears as though the hammer had impacted an area of plastic in front of the trigger housing group and has caused some stress to the plastic.  A phone call to Kel-Tec support left me with the answer that this is a common wear point on the SU-16 series of rifles and will not impact the performance of the rifle in any way.  I will however be keeping a keen eye on this and make any updates necessary.  All in all I’m satisfied with this carbine and look forward to using it for years to come.  As for now stay safe, train and, have a good ‘un.

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