When it comes to versatile self-defense and recreational firearms, few options rival the compact 9mm Pistol Caliber Carbines (PCCs). Among the top contenders in this category is the Smith & Wesson 9mm Response Carbine1, a dynamic AR-15-based PCC designed to meet the needs of a wide range of users.

About the Response Carbine

S&W set out to make an easy-to-run, lightweight 9mm PCC that was adaptable for multiple purposes. This carbine earns its Response name as a great defensive arm for responding to urgent situations. However, the Response is not just for self-defense; it is also a great sporting or competition carbine. Its 9mm cartridge can be used on pistol-grade steel plates without restriction and without damage.

In designing the Response, Smith & Wesson aimed to achieve several key objectives:

  1. Lightweight Construction: Built on a polymer frame, the Response maintains a manageable weight of 5.9 pounds.
  2. Versatility: Designed to cater to diverse end-users, the Response offers multi-use capabilities.
  3. Magazine Flexibility: Compatible with a wide array of pistol magazines, the Response provides unparalleled flexibility.
  4. Affordability: With an MSRP of $799, the Response offers exceptional value without compromising performance.
  5. User-Friendly Design: Engineered for ease of use, the Response ensures shooters of all levels can operate it effectively.
  6. Easily Accessorized: The Response seamlessly integrates with accessories designed for Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs).

The Response boasts a host of features designed to enhance performance and user experience. Smith & Wesson based the 9mm carbine on a polymer frame rather than aluminum, which kept the weight manageable and the cost low. Its round handguard has multiple M-Lok slots to accommodate all MSR accessories. The 16.5-inch 4140 CM steel barrel is threaded for accessory attachments, and the top rail extends the full length of the handguard and upper receiver. No backup sights are included.


Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 23 rounds
Weight: 94.4 ounces
Length: 32.13 inches
Barrel length: 16.5 inches

9mm Carbine Operation

The safety positioned on the left side and bolt release are strictly standard AR in operation, as is the adjustable Magpul collapsible stock. Even though I don’t like flat triggers all that much, this one is nice. There is a bit of creep before the trigger starts to break crisply at 4 pounds, 6 ounces.

The blowback bolt is hard-chromed, and the charging handle is the standard “T” style. There is no ejection port cover. Blowback operating systems are simpler, cleaner shooting and less expensive than direct gas impingement operating systems, contributing to the recent popularity of PCCs.

The right side of the Response varies from the traditional AR pattern due to the FLEXMAG interchangeable magazine well system. The magazine release lever is on the right side and extends almost to the front of the FLEXMAG well, which accepts the magazines at an angle. Like a standard AR mag release button, it is meant to be operated by the index finger of the right hand. The lever is grooved for positive control. While placing your finger in the traditional position on the frame will inadvertently pop the magazine out, S&W wisely indented the area just ahead of the triggerguard. Placing your trigger finger in the indentation keeps it below the magazine release lever.

The Response’s M&P Pistol FLEXMAG can handle full size M&P and M&P Compact magazines. Two 23-round extended M&P magazines are included along with a FLEXMAG magazine well for Glock 17/19 magazines.

The pistol grip itself is essentially the same as the grip used on other M&P ARs though narrower in diameter. Three M&P backstrap adaptors are included to tailor the Response grip to your hand. The process for changing the backstrap is the same as the process for changing an M&P pistol backstrap.

Shooting the S&W Response 9mm

While firing the 9mm carbine, I used my Aimpoint Comp II red-dot optic due to its wide field of view and twist/snap mounting base. Blowback operated PCCs accept a accept a wide range of ammo and keep functioning since they don’t get nearly as dirty. Wanting to put that to the test, I chose Wilson Combat Pinnacle 115-grain TAC-XP +P for Solid Copper HP load, with a velocity of 1,050 feet per second (282 foot-pounds of energy), Winchester’s Ranger 147-grain 9mm Bonded HP at 995 feet per second (323 foot-pounds of energy), and at the top of the heap was Buffalo Bore 9mm +P 147-grain Hard Cast Lead Outdoorsman load that screams out at 1,100 feet per second (395 foot-pounds of energy). All velocities were from 4- to 5-inch pistol barrels.

Firing the Wilson Compact load first, we started at 15 yards. As expected, recoil was non-existent, and the rounds ran through without a hitch, grouping well slightly low and to the left. Next up was the Winchester Ranger load with the orange X-Ring as the point of aim. The marvelous trigger and Aimpoint sight allowed me to chew up the center. While some 147-grain ammo has been inconsistently reliable, the Ranger ammo glided through, again without felt recoil.

Last up were the powerhouse Buffalo Bore Outdoorsman loads. The muzzle blast and flash were more pronounced, as is expected with a 9mm round generating approximately 400 foot-pounds of energy. Lighting those off in this gun was — literally — a blast. Headshot accuracy was excellent too. Again there were no malfunctions.

Who Should Buy a Smith & Wesson Response 9mm Carbine?

The Smith and Wesson Response is a fine example of a PCC carbine that is fed from pistol magazines. It is accurate, fun to shoot and seems capable of gobbling up any 9mm ammo you can dump into it. It should serve civilian needs well with its light weight, flexibility, ease of maintenance, reliability and an MSRP of $799.


1 Smith & Wesson has issued a safety alert for all Response rifles manufactured before February 12, 2024. The company has identified a condition where an out-of-battery discharge may occur on certain Response rifles if the bolt fails to fully close and the trigger is pulled. An out-of-battery discharge could potentially rupture an unsupported case, venting gas through the magazine well and upper receiver. This condition could possibly fracture a portion of the receiver. Although this potential condition has only been observed in a very small number of products, out of an abundance of caution, Smith & Wesson is asking consumers to immediately stop using their rifle and return it to S&W for inspection and repair, if necessary.
If your Response rifle is included in this Consumer Safety Alert, Smith & Wesson will arrange for the return of your rifle for inspection and repair. Your rifle will be repaired at no cost to you and will be returned as quickly and efficiently as possible. All shipping and repair costs will be covered by Smith & Wesson.


Smith & Wesson: Smith-Wesson.com
Wilson Combat: WilsonCombat.com
Winchester: Winchester.com
Buffalo Bore: BuffaloBore.com
Aimpoint: Aimpoint.us