Pistol Caliber Carbines (PCC) grow more popular every year. They are generally very handy, making them perfect for home defense or for vehicle carry. The smaller calibers also make for lighter recoil while the added barrel length imparts improved performance to those cartridges. SHOT Show 2023 unveiled several interesting new variants on the PCC, and not all of them in the tactical realm. In fact, only two of our admittedly subjective choices fall into that category. So, let’s take a look at the PCCs that grabbed our attention in Vegas.
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1. B&T KH9 Covert
B&T is known for top-quality firearms and the 9mm KH9 line is no different. The newest model, known as the KH9 Covert, is aptly named. The gun is specifically designed to be deployed from a pouch or carrying bag with a folding pistol grip and mag well. The mag well can even be folded with a mag inserted. The minimalist stock telescopes. B&T helpfully includes a green messenger bag with every KH9 Covert.
The KH9 Covert is available exclusively in flat dark earth, is fully ambidextrous, and includes a decocker that makes the first trigger pull double action. The gun features three rail sections, with front and rear sections up top and another under the barrel. The KH9 Covert includes a tri-lug barrel mount for suppressors.
As with previous KH9 incarnations, the Covert will have limited availability, with an initial run of 555 units planned for the US market. Further availability will be based on the gun’s initial sales.
2. Marlin 1894
Ruger continues to resurrect the storied Marlin lever action line, including the Model 1894 Carbine later this spring. The new 1894 is true to the classic Marlin design, with the square bolt and 20-inch barrel. Complete details on the gun are not yet available, but Ruger CEO Chris Killoy has said that the Marlin line will be made right or not made at all. That’s an encouraging prospect given the quality of older Marlin firearms.
The example we handled was lightweight, probably about six pounds, with a slick action and a nice walnut straight stock and enlarged handguard with classic checkering. The hooded front sight negates any glare, and the sight picture was clean.
The Model 1894 Carbine will initially be offered in the .44 Remington Magnum and .357 Magnum cartridges. .45 Long Colt will be available down the road. Ruger has indicated that different options, such as a shorter barrel, octagonal barrel, and threaded barrel, will be rolled out as the Marlin line develops.
3. POF-USA Tombstone
POF-USA has introduced a thoroughly modern take on the lever action carbine with the new Tombstone. This radical new design centers on the oversized short-throw lever and the detachable 9mm 20-round POF-USA Phoenix magazine. 10 round mags are also available. The comfortable grip angle adds to the action’s quickness, even though it took a little getting used to compared to traditional lever guns thanks to the short throw.
The Tombstone features a Magpul SGA stock, upper and lower Picatinny rail sections, a 10.5-inch modular rail, a free-floated 16.5-inch fluted barrel, and a 1/2×28 threaded muzzle with a double port brake. The 3.5 lb. trigger was very crisp, and the hammer has half cock capability. The XS Ghost Ring sights were very nice, though the rails make adding an optic a breeze. The gun is available in black and flat dark earth.
The Tombstone is quite handy, with an overall length of just 36 inches and weighing in at a svelte 5.75 pounds. If you like lever guns but also want the added versatility of a detachable magazine and 9mm ammo availability, the Tombstone might just be your thing.
4. Henry Homesteader
After two lever guns, it may seem surprising that we go to a semi-automatic 9mm carbine from, of all companies, Henry. We were a bit taken aback too. But this was a sweet shooter. The walnut stock and handguard are simple but attractive, but the Homesteader really shines when you shoot it.
The blowback action cycled smoothly, and the recoil seemed almost nonexistent. The Homesteader was extremely pleasant to shoot. The front ghost ring sight acquired the target quickly and the gun was dead accurate. The Homesteader is fully ambidextrous, with a center-mounted tang safety, a bolt release in front of the trigger, and a mag release in front of the mag well. The 16-inch barrel is threaded for easy suppression. The receiver top is drilled and tapped for optics mounts.
The only control we had trouble with was the mag release with our gloved fingers. The Henry rep told us that others had similar issues and that he expected an extended mag release to pop up soon. But that’s really a minor concern. The Homesteader takes 9mm Glock mags, with attachments available for Smith & Wesson M&P and Sig P320 mags. We applaud Henry for not requiring their customers to buy yet another proprietary mag.
The Henry Homesteader is probably the PCC we are most excited about this year.
5. Matador Arms MAT-9
The MAT-9 isn’t exactly a PCC, but it serves the same purpose. It’s an AR-9 upper that fits any standard AR-9 lower. The beauty of the MAT-9 system is that the upper houses the entire operating system. Buffer tubes are unnecessary, providing more flexibility for stocks or (depending on how the ATF’s pistol brace rule challenges go), braces.
The MAT-9 upper features an integrated M-LOK handguard with a full-length Picatinny rail. The threaded barrel is 7.825 inches long. Another strong point is the ability to use whatever 9mm magazines that are already compatible with your chosen lower. You will still use your lower’s controls, but the MAT-9’s charging handle is over the barrel as found in HK guns.
If you want simplicity, modularity, and versatility, the MAT-9 deserves a look.
What Would You Add?
Lists like these are always subjective, based on the likes and preferences of the author. Plus, SHOT Show is so unbelievably huge that we undoubtedly missed some PCCs that would otherwise make the cut. What would you add? Which gun, or guns, would they replace? Hit us up in the comment section.