Home defense is an important topic on prepping and survival blogs and websites. Handguns are of course useful for self-defense in the home. They are easy to maneuver with in the tight confines of hallways and rooms. And it is harder for an attacker to take the gun away from you in a hand-to-hand struggle. However, pistol-caliber carbines have some significant advantages, especially from a prepping and survival point of view.
A pistol-caliber carbine is a rifle, with a barrel length typically about 16 to 18 inches, which fires pistol ammunition, not rifle ammunition. For this article, I’m going to use the Hi-Point Carbine and the Beretta CX4 Storm Carbine as examples.
Compared to a handgun, a carbine has much greater accuracy. I don’t care how tight a group you can shoot at a range on paper, when you are faced with an attacker who is threatening your life, accuracy will suffer. The long barrel and shoulder stock of a carbine greatly increases accuracy under duress. And even at the range, accuracy with a handgun requires much more skill than with a long gun, especially at the modest ranges of most self-defense shootings.
A pistol-caliber carbine allows you to hit the attacker and avoid hitting any innocent bystanders. If you are using a firearm inside your home, you have to consider the danger of a missed shot, and the danger of an extended shoot-out. With the carbine, you will probably expend less ammunition for the same self-defense task. And the conflict will be over much more quickly — that is safer for everyone (except the home invader).
Accuracy is even more of an issue outside the home. If you are defending yourself or your family on your property, during a time of civil unrest, you might be facing multiple threats. The difficulty of hitting a target increases sharply with distance for a handgun. Unless you are an avid shooter, you probably have limited practice time at the range. The carbine allows you to hit a target at 100 yards (perhaps a little more) without much skill and practice. This distance gives you a zone around your home in which you could possibly use force against a grave and immediate threat.
In terms of power, a 9mm carbine will shoot the same ammo as a 9mm handgun, but at higher velocity. The result is greater terminal effects, and perhaps fewer shots needed to disable an attacker.
Why not use a full-powered rifle then? The pistol-caliber carbine has the advantage of less recoil, which improves accuracy, less noise and less muzzle blast, which is preferable if you are shooting inside the home. A .308 rifle is over-powered for defense inside the home. Over-penetration is a concern. The bullet could exit the attacker and hit someone else. Even a .223 rifle might over-penetrate at close ranges. And for home defense, you might not be able to put on hearing protection before shooting. There is a danger to the hearing of you and your family. Outdoors, a rifle does have greater range and power for home defense than a pistol-caliber carbine. But a pistol-caliber carbine would suffice in many circumstances.
Now for a brief political rant. Should the pistol-caliber carbine be banned as a type of military assault weapon? Not at all. My point of view is that a 9mm Hi-Point with a 10-round magazine would not be acceptable for military use. Beretta does offer a military version of its Cx4, called the Mx4. It is full auto with high capacity magazines and a 12 inch barrel. But even in that configuration, the gun has only limited military use. As long as you are only shooting pistol-caliber ammo from a semi-automatic gun, it isn’t specifically a military weapon. It is essentially a 9mm handgun with greater accuracy and somewhat increased velocity. Beretta does have high-capacity magazines for its Cx4 for civilian use, which are restricted in some localities. But I could find no magazines of more than 10 rounds for the Hi-Point carbine from any source. So then why were both these carbines added to the list of specifically banned guns in the Feinstein gun control bill?
For home defense, my top pick would be a pistol-caliber carbine in 9mm. The Hi-Point has had good reviews (here and here), and is inexpensive. The Beretta is more costly, and shares the same magazines as the Px4 pistol or the 92FS pistol, depending on which version of the Cx4 you get.