Sunday, February 3, 2013
Another Option for Home Defense – the Pistol Caliber Carbine
There is a sub-class of firearms that I didn't mention in my earlier series on guns for home defense (HD), and this is the pistol caliber carbine (PCC).
A PCC is, as its name implies, a short lightweight rifle (carbine) that is chambered in a caliber commonly used for pistols (9mm, .40S&W, .45ACP, etc.). A couple of common examples are the Kel-Tec sub2000, the Beretta CX4 Storm, or any of a number of AR15 platforms that have been modified to use a pistol caliber.
The short answer is that I do not like PCCs for HD very much, but they do have one very specific important niche.
It's important to understand that any choice you make regarding a firearm for HD consists of some compromises. For example, handguns provide the greatest flexibility and maneuverability, but this comes at the cost of much less effective terminal ballistics. A normal rifle caliber carbine gives up flexibility and maneuverability, but provides much greater terminal ballistics. There is no free lunch.
How does a PCC fit in with this analysis? Starting from the perspective of a handgun, the PCC gives up flexibility and maneuverability the same way a regular carbine does, but it provides only slightly better ballistics than a handgun. The ballistics of most handgun cartridges does improve from a 16 inch barrel, but not dramatically. Rifle cartridges are still in a whole different category.
Starting from the perspective of a carbine, the PCC gives up terminal ballistics, but doesn't gain anything with respect to maneuverability.
Additionally, most PCCs are not made to robust “combat” standards. Now, I don't want to get into all the vagaries of what this means, but Glocks, AR15s, and AK47s are well known for being able to take a great deal of harsh use and punishment and continue to run reliably. Many PCCs are made much more cheaply and lack the type of reliability that I'd want in a weapon that I'd be betting my life on.
If all you want/need is the terminal ballistics of a handgun, then as long as you train enough, the handgun will be a superior HD gun to a PCC. If you want/need the terminal ballistics of a rifle-caliber carbine, then as long as you train enough, this is what you should choose.
Notice my emphasis on training. The one and only niche where I see PCCs as being superior to any other choice is if some emergency occurred and you needed to arm someone who has little or no experience with guns. Handguns require a great deal of skill to use beyond short distances, and the muzzle blast of a rifle-caliber carbine is more than a lot of non-gun people can handle. For example, after Hurricane Katrina wiped out much of the Gulf Coast, there were many examples of neighborhoods forming armed perimeters to prevent looters from further ravaging their homes. In this case, I would rather give a non-gun person a PCC and some basic instruction than try to get them to be able to handle a handgun or a rifle-caliber carbine.
Lastly – the whole PCC thing came from (as far as I can tell) trying to make a civilian legal version of a submachine gun (SMG). For many years the preferred weapon for many forces involved with clearing buildings (military and police) was the H&K MP5 submachine gun. Now, a submachine gun like the MP5 can be a very good HD weapon as it has a few very good features – a short barrel of ~9 inches and a rate of fire of ~800 rpm. The short barrel makes it significantly more maneuverable than a full sized carbine, and the high rate of fire increases its terminal effectiveness against unarmored targets significantly.
If I could start from the ground up and design the “ideal HD gun”, it would be some sort of suppressed, short barreled, select-fire SMG. The barrel length would be ~9 inches, the select-fire (probably a 3-shot burst) rate would be ~900 rpm, and it would be chambered in something like the 10mm using ammo with a penetrator designed to defeat level IIIA body armor...
… however - in this land where my right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed - possession of the ideal HD gun I just described by me or any other private citizen would result in decades in a cage.
Interesting how that works.