Pistol Carbines for Home Defense

James explores the idea of using a carbine chambered in a pistol cartridge for home defense (emphasis mine):

The fact that carbines are larger than handguns, and that they are fired while braced against the shoulder, means that the perceived recoil is almost unnoticeable even if you are using Magnum ammunition. A few of my students who were suffering from disabilities painful enough to keep them from using handguns, rifles, or shotguns for their defense had great success when they used carbines. Accurate, light, relatively inexpensive, easy to use. They were literally the answer to a few prayers.

I had not considered before the benefits they would offer to a person with certain disabilities.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Thank you kindly for the link.

  • I question the wisdom of using a pistol caliber carbine for home defense, mostly from the “over penetration” stance. An AR in 5.55/.223 penetrates fewer layers of dry wall than a 9mm or .45 ACP fired from a handgun, and is still very light recoiling. If that’s the case, what sense does it make to add a longer barrel, and increase the velocity and penetrative nature of those rounds? I’m not a huge believer in over penetration, being more of a believer in hitting my target, but I fail to see any advantage of a pistol caliber carbine, and a less-lethal caliber (handgun shot survival rate is approx. 85%), aside from possibly initial cost of the firearm, in which case I would buy a Kel-Tec SU-16.

    Less lethal AND more liability? I think I’ll pass.

  • subby

    I agree for the elderly or disabled, its the way to go.

  • Burner

    After dealing with my wife’s recoil sensitivity, I have checked into the Beretta CX4 9mm carbine. The design on the CX4 means there is very little rifle sticking out past the user, hence it is very easy to maneuver in close quarters. .223 carbines are not as agile indoors and .223 based pistols have more recoil. Also, pistol carbines do offer the advantage of putting more lead into the bad guy then the 50 grain .223 rounds.

    The CX4 is deadly accurate, very simple to use and eats up any ammo fed. Either in 9mm or .45 format the ammo choices are tremendous. I have come to recommend this carbine to some of my students, many of which choose to get the PX4 handgun and the CX4 rifle to keep down the number of different magazines needed.

    I personally think CX4 is one of the best home defense options.

  • Don

    My latest go-to gun is a marlin 1894 with 240 gr jhp’s with a load equivalent to a heavy .44 special. Big hole, heavy, slow bullet, and 10 of them. I don’t think it’s overpowered, especially when you consider a comparison to a shotgun, which against conventional wisdom, doesn’t spread all that much in the short distances you’d be shooting inside or immediately around your house. (provided you don’t live in a mansion)


  • You may want to check out Thureon Defense. It’s a custom made carbine that uses the 9mm round. http://www.thureondefense.com/

  • “An AR in 5.55/.223 penetrates fewer layers of dry wall than a 9mm or .45 ACP fired from a handgun”

    Really? Surely not.

  • Roadkill

    Yeah, pistol carbines are perfect for those members of your family that are smaller or weaker or sicker than the norm. It’ll give a little better umph to the pistol rounds, and a massive boost in accuracy. That alone makes one superior than a pistol in most situations where convenience isn’t an issue.

  • Burner- More lead does not equal more effective. Still an 85% average survival rate. Also, not all .223 carbines are ARs, so the agility argument is a wash. Just depends on what you grab.

    Jay.Mac- Surely so. Check out the Box o’ Truth, and listen to Michael Bane’s Down Range Radio podcast. Also, consider how many law enforcement agencies have dropped the 9mm sub gun in favor of an AR, or perhaps a short barreled AR. In today’s litigious society, I flat promise you that no gov’t agency would make that choice for “training/familiarization” issues if the caliber/gun presented a greater liability to people beyond the intended target.

  • dan

    I saw on “Personal Defense” a segment about using model 73s and 92s chambered in 357, and 45 colt for home defense. One of the things they mentioned at the school doing the instruction was the fact that many people can not legally own black rifles or pistols due to local laws. NYC would be a good example. A model 92 carbine in 357 or 45 colt would be a serious defensive firearm without all the legal headaches involved in many localities.

  • Okay from the Box Of Truth- http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/bot1.htm

    As I thought.

    “Twelve pine boards will not stop a .223 round.”

    “9MM JHP (Federal) – 8 boards, bounced off 9th.”

    A high velocity rifle round will penetrate deeper than a pistol round.

  • Overload in CO

    The Best Defense segment on home wall penetration:

  • Jay.Mac, are your interior walls made of pine board? You realize different materials will have different ballistic effects, right?

    Watch the Best Defense segment. It’s good stuff.

  • I understand the difference between the substances- and the switch was made to pine board because all of the rounds fired at the sheet rock exited all 12 boards.

    See also- http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/bot2.htm

    Two pairs of sheet rock set up with a space between them, followed by a water jug, pine board and then brick.

    The result for the first round fired from the AR-15 was as follows-

    “The round entered the box and shattered the brick.”

    It penetrated two walls, burst apart a water jug, penetrated a pine board and then broke a brick in two.

    Both the 9mm and .45ACP hit the brick but didn’t damage it.

    If you’re seriously arguing that you can use a .223/5.56mm inside a home with light walls like this without posing a serious risk to other people in the home then I fear you are mistaken. I will grant you that a handgun round is less affected by interior walls than a 5.56mm is- and another Box test shows this to be the case.


    Walls set up several feet apart with insulation in them- handgun and shotgun rounds penetrated all walls reliably, while the AR rounds were sent tumbling and spinning. I believe that the conclusions reached here are more pertinent to the argument at hand than “an AR is safe to use indoors”.

    “But this raises an important point. When you shoot a 5.56 into walls, you cannot be sure where the flight path of the bullet will go. This is an important consideration if others are in your home.”

    You might fire at a target believing that you know what’s behind him- but the deviation from the line of fire for a 5.56mm is so significant that where the bullet ends up is not where you were aiming.

    I would also refer you back to the Downrange TV video- in it you can clearly see the AR bullet penetrating THREE sets of walls, yet the hosts stop after the second and announce that you’re safer here. There’s no further discussion or examination of the third wall or beyond.

    I will admit that I’m surprised by the results of the 5.56mm in interior walls- I’ve seen rounds go right through a tree trunk for example- but I would advise that all readers here exercise extreme caution and not simply accept the “a .223 is safe to use indoors”. A high velocity round- or part of a round- flying around at angles to the line of fire poses a significant risk to family members inside your home.

    Another factor that one may want to consider is the legal one- say you are involved in a self-defence shooting. Which is going to “look better” to an uninformed jury; an evil black assault rifle or a homely old lever gun?

    This is an interesting discussion and I believe there are other pros and cons which one might need to consider when selecting a home defence carbine, thanks for bringing up the 5.56mm test results Eric and thanks Overload for the video link.

  • AB

    I have to say, this guy isn’t a slick salesman. He comes off as honest and the weapon looks like it operates damned well. He even shoots it upsidedown! hah More eye catching is the segment where he makes a salad of a great variety of ammo and then fires it all, weapon doesn’t seem to care. Might have found a new item to get.

  • “I have to say, this guy isn’t a slick salesman. He comes off as honest and the weapon looks like it operates damned well. He even shoots it upsidedown! hah More eye catching is the segment where he makes a salad of a great variety of ammo and then fires it all, weapon doesn’t seem to care. Might have found a new item to get.”

    AB, what are you talking about?

  • Jay.Mac, I think you just hit the nail on the head, sir. Potentially being safER inside the home does not mean “safe”. LOL! I also love how accounts of 5.56 ammo’s power vary so greatly- from “nothing below a .30 cal can stop a man” to “right through a tree trunk”. For the record, that last quote was not mocking you, but said out of jealousy as we don’t really have trees here in Tucson- just shrubs. 😉

    I thought the host of the video segment stopped after the 3rd wall and said they were safer…

    You’re absolutely correct that a lever gun will look much less evil to a jury. So will a 5 round magazine, or a bright purple CavArms based AR… lol. I’ll take the 5.56, with a small SureFire and red dot to help ensure a good hit, and not worry about overpenetration (assuming the hit is good) nearly as much as I would the sheer amount of noise from firing indoors.

  • Kenneth

    I know high point doesn’t have a very good reputation with semi auto pistols,but their semi carbine can be had for about 200.(9mm,abit more for 40S&W)My buddy, I went through the police acedemy with, still uses 45long colt lever gun for his back up rifle.I totaly agree with that option,and it’s malfunction rate is virtual nil.As far as penatration goes, go with knock down power reguardless of wall penetration.Large bore=knock down=dropping their weapon.Isn’t surviving the fight 1st and formost?Build another wall! I’m personally still hoping the manufactures build a semi-carbine in S&W 500.If I got to shoot, how about sending the unwelcome fellow through the wall?The ar-15 is a long range, barly bigger than a 22 that might do good in home defense if you stand on the trigger untill the threat is gone.US ARMY 300 meter qual. made strictly for longer ranges.

  • I agree with Eric on his comments about .223 vs pistol caliber carbine. Any thoughts on the newest style Ruger Mini 14’s? They shoot the .223, they’re on sale for $599 now and seem like they would sure beat a pistol caliber carbine. I can’t afford the $1,000 price tags on AR’s right now.

  • For those in the U.S. A. who wish to protect their hearing, or be able to communicate with family of team members while shooting, we now offer integral suppressor barrels for the Thureon carbines.

    Excellent for pest control, without disturbing livestock or waking the house.

    Very quiet, once we begin installing our optional bolt lock system they will even better!



  • John

    I Canada you can only legally have rifle mags with 5 rounds in it. Pistol mags we can have 10. Also all the AR type rifles are restricted. Couple that with cheaper ammo, a gun the wife could use and that is is quite to shoot in the house makes it a good option for home defence here. Imagine middle of the night firing off multiple shotgun shells in your house with no hearing protection. Also would make a good bug out gun if you needed a survival gun to eat small game etc in a zombie apocalypse.

    • John

      Also suppressors are prohibited here in Canada.