They are easy to carry, easy to manage and easy to fall in love with – it’s partially for these reasons that the 9mm carbine is such an interesting topic of discussion. But what are the best 9mm carbines on the market?
The following list attempts to segregate the different use cases of the 9mm carbine and from those options, then narrow down a field of best in class firearms that most fully embrace the feature set and characteristics that the buyers of 9mm carbines feel, make the market. Read on, to see if you agree.
Here are our choices for the 9mm carbines available now.
Best 9mm Carbines
Sig Sauer MPX
Similar to how the Camp9 for civilians and the MP5 for Law Enforcement and military became the standard bearer for the market in 9mm carbines in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Sig MPX has become the obvious choice for the 9mm carbine space in 2018 until now. It has overcome very iconic carbines like the Colt AR style 9mm; the CZ scorpion and the IWI Tavor to become the most known and easily approachable 9mm carbine available to the masses.
It’s a very well made and highly customizable platform that gives consumers a little something more than just a carbine. Now it’s able to be outfitted to your unique style thanks to incorporating trends and styles that the market has already been favoring over the past 6-10 years. Admittedly a bit ambiguous (because of it’s obvious styling – similar to the AR group) and a little bit pricey (not unlike the MP5 from H&K), this is still the clear choice for those who want reliability, military looks and a good track record.
Utilizing a gas piston driven action, this is a clean and durable carbine that allows better handling in fast pace environments while still keeping accuracy and reliability. Instead of a gas impingement system which tends to foul up the bolt and other internal components, the gas piston helps to localize fouling to an easier to clean area that presents less challenge during sustained fire with lots of ammunition being expended. This isn’t an excuse to not clean your gun, but it does add to reliability and functionality.
Furthermore, the SIG has a very good reputation for cycling just about any ammunition and thrives where other systems can’t with cheaper, dirtier ammunition.
It’s an interesting choice for home defense that doubles as a very exciting gun for range uses. The 9mm projectile is fast, but it’s not centerfire rifle cartridge fast, and therefore has less of an opportunity in a home defense setting to penetrate interior walls and cause friendly fire concerns. It’s still got good lethality in close quarters use and the gun is a purpose-built carbine for use in this type of CQB environment.
A 30 round magazine (proprietary design) and a free floating handguard with M-LOK capabilities and a full top rail with included flip up BUIS (back up iron sights) round out features, but the design is intuitive thanks to the homage to the AR platform and the smart compact carbine design. Every feature is ambidextrous and the 16 inch barrel combines with a multi-position stock that may not be legal in your area due to a smaller overall length (check your local and state laws first).
It’s not exactly an AR, but if you know the AR, you’ll easily understand and be able to use the MPX effectively.
- Can customize the gun extremely well, and there are many options
- Simple and intuitive for AR users
- No Cons to speak of
Ruger PC Carbine
What used to be the de-facto standard option in the 1980’s and 1990’s for a 9mm carbine, has now been reintroduced as a mass market gun again with some improvements. Back then the gun was called the Camp-9 by Ruger. Now their entry into the world of the 9mm carbine is the PC Carbine. It’s meant to be an approachable and fun to shoot gun that isn’t tactically driven but has some cool “tactical” enhancements for those that want to go down that road.
It’s a simple, semi-auto gun with a (just over) 16-inch barrel and a proprietary magazine that has been proven to feed and work reliably over the long-term. The magazine is the same as in the SR series of guns by Ruger and it’s legitimately proven to work in all types of conditions. Interestingly, however, the gun is somewhat modular too, allowing for magazine changes to favor other readily available magazines.
An obvious choice is the option to choose the mag well that fits for the Glock 9mm magazines, one of the most proven magazine designs of all time, and one which is available nearly everywhere for a low price relative to most metal-based magazines.
This carbine is also made for the whole family, with length of pull spacers and easy to adjust iron sights as well as a simple recoil profile that any shooter can handle thanks to the full stock and the centered action. The recoil is low, and the trigger is a fine-tuned concept relying heavily on the proven 10-22 trigger fire control group.
Rail attachment areas offer good placement of accessories and help by opening the gun up to a bevy of optics that some guns in a similar format have a hard time mounting.
A heavy barrel contour pairs with a fluted design to dissipate heat better than a single contour and the stock is built and arranged to keep balance as a priority.
While it does aim to be mostly a fun shooter, the threaded barrel, magazine options and the rails make this a solid option as a tactically-driven carbine if you want it to be. All the while it stays stealthily under the radar, thanks to the standard looks and the lack or protruding pistol grips and other options typically associated with mainstream tactical devices.
- Simple and stealthy, but offers very good features for a tactically minded shooter
- Proven as a platform
- Takes pieces from previously successful carbines and incorporates them well
- Great magazine options
- Proprietary Ruger mags may not be as good as the option of the Glock Mags – it really depends on if you use an SR already, or if you can benefit from the Glock Mag added-value
Kalashnikov USA – KR-9
Clearly this is the world-beater on paper. For those who understand the impact that the AK has had on history, the reliability, functionality, and overall feature set of the platform makes just about any caliber more attractive when paired with the design. That’s interesting , even for what is already the most popular cartridge in the world (though, you could argue it’s the 22LR by volume) – the 9mm.
Here’s the single caveat to this firearm, and in full transparency, it may prove to not be a problem after several years and dependent on market reception of the gun. That is: the gun is unproven with the 9mm cartridge. The magazines, a central design feature to the reliability of the AK-47 and AK-74 and subsequent variants or copies, are also unproven. We just don’t know how well they will hold up to the types of workloads that users of a 9mm carbine will have.
The gun is also a blowback operated (not a piston-centric) gas design. This is not in harmony with the original design of the AK, though with the 9mm there exist thousands of blowback operated gas based firearms that have proven reliability.
Generally, you could take that use case and peg it into a tactical setting with duty and law enforcement/military action as a key contributor to the buying pool of a gun like this (a 9mm carbine), so there is that concept that the chance for failure is higher than some random gun range usage. So far, the jury is out.
What is clear however, is that the design of the AK and the subsequent design of the Vityaz-SN, a SMG (sub machine gun), are proven entities. Neither gun has a lot of bad press, or realistic problems associated with it is operation. Both guns have been fielded all over the world by hundreds of elite police and military units, hundreds of thousands of civilians and have proven it to be durable above all, and reliable, provided you understand how they work. They are also among the easiest, most intuitive guns to use on all the world market.
A side folding stock and a 16.25″ barrel caters to the American market and the overall weight of 6.58 lbs., makes this a breeze to carry for most use cases. What would seem to be the best specifications, actually take a backseat to the fact that it’s based on the AK/Vityaz. For most, that’s enough to make it a top tier performance carbine. We tend to agree.
- Obvious heritage and operational platform
- Proven design, if not proven through actual use cases (as it’s a relatively new design)
- Made with a feature set that is very carbine specific and tactically forward
- Durable – perhaps the most durable in the world of 9mm carbines
- Proprietary Magazine may or may not prove to be as reliable as it’s AK predecessors
B&T USA – GHM9 GEN 2
When you imagine the complexity of most of the designs that come out of Switzerland, you might find that design methodology unappealing for a firearm line. But B&T is not your average firearm line. Firstly, it’s always been law enforcement and military centered and has kept the design heritage as a core feature of the guns it produces. The lineage is not in doubt here.
What may be interesting, is that while many who shop for guns as a consumer may not be very familiar with (formerly) Brugger and Thomet, (now) B&T AG (imported by B&T USA for this market), just about any military or law enforcement buyer knows the brand well. And they have really only been in the gun game for just over 15 years. That said, they have used some impeccable design and buildout philosophies to create excellent firearms for different battlefields.
They have built guns based on the Steyr TMP; and long-range tactical precision rifles utilizing the .338 Lapua, but they have deep roots in the suppressor/silencer market. They are not a one-trick pony.
The B&T is actually the sleeper here, it’s the gun that may be a shocker that it’s here on this list, thanks to less widespread appeal, and such good 9mm carbine alternatives, but we think it has earned a place.
In the case of the B&T USA GHM9, this place is usually considered to be close quarters combat scenarios, where the 9mm shines and the compact footprints of their entire 9mm line can be used to the extreme ends of their feature set.
The core ideal of the design in the GEN 2 GHM is that the upper receiver can be replaced to change capabilities on the fly. If you have a need for a longer barrel and a stock, it can be done. If you need a pistol configuration it can be done. The focused design offers a full breadth of scenarios as use cases from pistol to carbine to rifle.
The design has been proven to be reliable in law enforcement uses and the gun consistently gets awarded contracts and is purchased in numbers by law enforcement all over the world.
This particular variant is a nearly 7 inch barrel with an elongated pistol design that functions will with a three point sling – especially since it weighs in at 4.5 lbs. and has options to make it into a longer firearm as needed.
- Easy to be mobile with this firearm
- Large capacity magazines
- High quality build
- Very robust top end configuration options allow for a single gun for multiple purposes
- Still a niche piece, without a huge mainstream adoption rate, despite excellent quality and reasonable price points considering the attention to detail
- Magazines aren’t proven like some other competitor’s mag choices are
PTR – 9R Carbine
Based on the very famous G3 architecture (and subsequent variants out of H&K), this is an excellent homage to the gun, in a much more manageable caliber. It’s actually more akin to an MP5 or an SP89, than a G3, but the internals hearken back to first generation designs that never died away, thanks to impossibly good engineering and proven performance.
The dual roller delayed blow back design is about as proven a tech for a battle rifle as has ever been implemented. H&K, and since then, many others, including PTR have utilized this design to improve overall functionality.
It’s a full-sized carbine, meaning that it shoots like a rifle, but handles like a carbine. The design is blatantly copied from the MP5, et al., and it is therefore a solid gun in its own right. The design and parts engineering of the gun this one is based off of has not been upgraded in over 35 years, even then it was a tiny set of adjustments. This is due to its timeless functional design. It’s simply as good now among the field of competitors as it was when it was designed.
It’s been rumored that H&K will be releasing a newer model based on the same design this year to the public. Stay tuned for inclusion of that carbine on this list.
That all said, what the HK cannot offer, and the PTR can, is “right-now” availability, a more approachable mentality and the price point that is about half or less of what it costs to get into a similarly built HK variant. The value is in the design, the value for you, is in the fact that you can get one for under $1700. You read that right – even at that high a price point, the value delivery is high.
- One of the most durable guns on the market in the space
- Proven over decades of use (the original design)
- A value-added copy of the HK MP5
- As good today as the day it was designed
- Still a bit on the pricey side
- It’s not an original design by PTR, so it can’t truly be lauded as a hero under this brand name, necessarily
Some Honorable mentions
This is a hard market segment to only choose a few guns. With such a wide range of possible use cases, it’s hard to only peg the guns into the duty/CQB corner. Even then, there are plenty of very good contenders for this list. The following options are very solid, and offer some excellent feature sets, but we felt they couldn’t quite be added to the list above. They are excellent firearms, but we felt they didn’t quite make the best in class list.
That said here is a brief synopsis of what each one does very well, as it may help you narrow the field for your own choices and give you a catalyst for further research.
Kriss Vector 9mm
Kriss Vectors are very reliable and accurate, low in recoil and interesting. They are a fantastic CQB gun and offer great alternatives to pistols and rifles, both, for home defense users. However, this one just didn’t come together as well as we had thought it might comparative to the others on this list. It’s a great gun, but it’s not a best in class. Solid option for those who want a dedicated home defense carbine, but make sure you are sold on the overall platform, as this one is beginning to age without sufficient updates to meet the overall carbine market, in our opinion.
Hi Point 995 Carbine
Cheap ugly and durable. These are typically words that have been used, alone, and in conjunction, to describe the Hi-Point line of firearms in a vast majority of conversations. And, while many would not expect that a high point would make a “best of” list, this is a surprisingly durable and very customizable, reliable firearm that is priced right.
It’s hard to knock the gun when it seems every bit as reliable as most of the guns that made our best of list, but it’s priced at around $300-$350 USD. It isn’t a best in class, but it’s a legitimate option for those who want to tip-toe into the market for a 9mm carbine.
Kel-Tec SUB-2000 M&P
A durable and straightforward firearm that will not be winning any beauty contests any time soon, this is the choice you make when the price is important and the durability is second to none. Unfortunately, it’s outclassed by the Ruger PC9 above, which made our list, and therefore doesn’t make sense to have inclusion. It’s also kind of ugly – so if you don’t mind aesthetics and want simple durability this one is a solid option.
IWI TAVOR Flattop
The obvious bullpup design winner, this platform is the Israeli military weapon of choice and the 9mm gives further interesting potential to the series. As a gun lineup, the TAVOR has seemingly proven itself to be durable and feature rich, while helping to minimize recoil thanks to the bullpup design and the careful engineering. Unfortunately, the lack of widespread availability makes this one hard to rank at the highest levels.
CZ Scorpion EVO3 S1
The wild child of the 9mm carbine segment, this is a gun that historically has been plagued with “bad accuracy” (though you can still group at 2″ per the critics at 50 yards with any shooting skill, generally). This carbine all but negates tired reviews of the past pistol variants.
However, this one still didn’t make it to the top of the list, mostly because of too little market presence and too low an overall timeline in the configuration to be considered an obvious best in class. It is also less innovative than others on the list. It’s the best of the honorable mention guns, however, and an exceptionally solid choice if you don’t agree with our top tier picks.
This list, including the honorable mentions is a testament to the ongoing importance of the 9mm carbine market. It reads as a “who’s-who” of historic gun makers, with a splash of some newcomers with innovative ideas, or better price points.
That said, we feel quite confident in our original picks, and despite the market segment being inundated with new options every year at SHOT SHOW, this list is a definitive and comprehensive display of the best 9mm carbines on the market currently.