It is imperative that firearms instructors engaging in personal-defense training are familiar with the various types of long guns, as well as handguns, to serve their clients’ needs. Every situation has its own series of intricacies, which makes having a broad-based knowledge of the tools used in training important.

With the overall state of unrest in the country, a long gun has become an attractive tool to provide a higher element of security and overall utility than a handgun for many homeowners. For many people, the long gun is easier to handle safely than the handgun. In addition, long guns, by way of ammunition selection alone, can be more versatile than handguns by serving multiple purposes.

Long guns are generally broken down into two categories: rifles and shotguns. Rifles tend to follow a narrower path of specificity as opposed to shotguns, primarily due to which cartridges are suitable for home-defense purposes. And without delving into comprehensive detail about what a homeowner may or may not need in the way of accuracy, penetration and terminal performance for his or her individual application, pistol calibers in long guns have found wide acceptance and utility.

Classifying a Pistol-Caliber Carbine

The term “pistol-caliber carbine” deserves defining simply because there are two other classifications of firearms that fill a similar niche in application but are legally different. Practically, all three categories can be used in a similar manner but must be recognized as different types of firearms.

A pistol-caliber carbine (PCC) is a rifle chambered for a pistol cartridge with a barrel length of at least 16 inches and an overall length of 26 inches.

If a rifle, regardless of caliber, has a barrel length shorter than 16 inches of its overall length and is less than 26 inches, it is classified as a “short-barreled rifle” by the ATF and must be registered with that agency as such.

Within the last decade, a firearm classification has arrived on the scene that is legal but has and continues to be controversial in interpretation with the ATF and other areas of government. It started with the AR-15 platform manufactured as a pistol but without a conventional buttstock and with a barrel shorter than 16 inches. The fact that the gun was manufactured as a pistol — even though it was an AR-type platform that was shorter than 26 inches and had a barrel length shorter than 16 inches — gave it the classification of a “handgun” by the ATF. This concept has expanded to other designs similar to the AR-15-style pistol but remains most popular in its original form (as seen at left).

Why They’re Favored

Recoil is significantly reduced with pistol-caliber carbines when compared to those chambered in rifle cartridges, making overall controllability for target acquisition, accuracy and multiple shots on multiple targets much easier to accomplish. Another major advantage of the pistol-caliber carbine is compatibility of ammunition with that used in an EDC sidearm or other defensive tools in the inventory. Many pistol-caliber carbines offer flexibility in which magazines can be used in the guns by simply changing the inserts in the magazine wells. The benefit here is the ability to use the same magazines in both carbines and EDC pistols. Extended, high-capacity magazinesDefinitions vary, but several states identify magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, 15 rounds or 20 rounds of ammunition as “high capacity,” while other states do not regulate magazine sizes. in either case maximize available ammunition and minimize the need to reload during a shooting-level confrontation.

Maneuverability and safe handling techniques are enhanced because the gun is controlled by up to three points of body contact directing the gun. Depending on the user, the balance and dimensions of the gun can be custom-tailored to achieve optimum fit to the primary operator. However, the default may be to the smallest user to ensure maximum utility.

Accessorizing the pistol-caliber carbine to enhance its usefulness has a near-infinite number of options. Lights, lasers, sights, slings and other attachments abound. One should be careful in the selection of options, however, making sure to choose what is needed and leaving what is not necessary on the shelf. Weight and dimensions can be detriments, particularly over extended periods of use. Along those lines, it is a good idea for a PCC to have a sling, which will enable the user to secure the firearm without losing contact with it. The sling for a long gun often serves as a holster does for a handgun in that the sling is an essential item when it is necessary to go hands-free.

Cartridge Advantages

Although the short-barreled rifle and the AR-style pistol can be purchased in rifle calibers such as the 5.56 or .223 Remington, the pistol-caliber cartridges tend to be more compatible for home defense. A major reason for this is what happens at the muzzle when the gun is fired, especially in an enclosed space such as a hallway or bedroom. Rifle cartridges are designed to be fired in longer barrels, which will maximize the energy potential of the propellant charge. They are also loaded to higher pressures than pistol cartridges.

In a short barrel, much of the propellant is burned outside of the muzzle, which generates large amounts of both flash and blast. This can be deafening and disorientating in a confined area. Added to that phenomenon is the sound that is created by the bullet traveling at supersonic speeds. Even with the addition of a sound suppressor, the report from the muzzle of just one round fired is enough to distract and disorient anyone close by.

Conversely, pistol calibers such as the 9mm Parabellum, .40 S&W, 10mm Automatic and .45 ACP can all be purchased in subsonic loadings for defensive purposes, which will significantly attenuate the noise, flash and blast at the muzzle. With the addition of a quality suppressor, the noise generated by the pistol-caliber carbine or similar firearm is negligible for one or multiple shots.

A Solid Selection for any Home

The pistol-caliber carbine is a good all-around choice for anyone who needs a firearm for home- and personal-defense purposes. It is a viable option for the one-gun family and has the benefits of both a handgun and a rifle. Atop that, having the knowledge and ability to effectively teach the concepts and techniques of the pistol-caliber carbine adds a useful dimension to any firearms instructor’s curriculum. And aside from that, boy is it ever fun to shoot!

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Shotguns, Handguns and Carbines: The Trifecta of Firearms Training
AR-15 Pistols vs. Short-Barreled Rifles