This is a ’roundup’ of all the pistol-caliber-carbines that use Glock magazines.
Why? Because Glock magazines are lightweight, affordable, common, and reliable. They’re also single-feed, unlike the typical Uzi, MP-5, or Colt 9mm carbine magazines. In case you don’t know, some double-feed magazines will spew out ammunition if bumped or dropped the wrong way. Also, unlike an Uzi magazine, Glock magazines work in Glock pistols, so it is possible to have a carbine and a pistol that share not only ammunition, but also magazines!
Also, I have wanted a Glock-magazine pistol-caliber carbine for years! Hopefully this post will help me organize my own thoughts and feelings, so I can finally choose a carbine. I’m going to start with the least expensive carbine and work up to the most expensive. Not coincidentally, the most expensive gun on this list is a fully-custom AR-15. Hey, custom AR-15s are expensive! But they’re great for people who like to tinker.
Note: I intentionally excluded the Thureon Defense carbine because it is even more blocky & angular than the Glock it takes magazines from. The Thureon Defense carbine makes the JR Carbine and Sub-2000 look graceful by comparison. The only apparent advantage is the fact that it is available in 357 Sig and 10mm, for fans of those niche cartridges.
Kel-Tec Sub 2000 – $410 MSRP
The Kel-Tec Sub-2000 might be one of the most important carbines on this list. Different versions are capable of accepting many different magazines, including Glock 17, Glock 19, S&W 59, Beretta 92, and Sig Sauer P226. It is also extremely lightweight at only 4 pounds unloaded, due to the extensive use of polymer parts.
Aside from being light weight, it is also compact. It is capable of folding in half at the middle, fitting in a bag only 16 inches long. The Sub-2000 has been in production for about 10 years, so there is a huge amount of knowledge and aftermarket parts for the little carbine. For example, Red Lion Precision makes a rotating handguard that allows the Sub-2000 to have a red-dot sight or scope, but still fold in half for storage (the red-dot sight would normally prevent the carbine from folding in half all the way). Perhaps the most important, the Sub-2000 is an inexpensive carbine. Put all together, it looks like the perfect little pistol-caliber-carbine … on paper.
In reality, it has a reputation for being mediocre. A lot of people say they’ve had good experiences with the Sub2000, but a fair number of people call them junk. It is available in 40S&W, but it’s not possible to do a caliber-conversion on one that you already own. The standard sights are crude. Heck, there’s not even a good way to attach a red-dot sight or flashlight unless you buy aftermarket accessories, like the Red Lion rotating handguard that I mentioned.
I think the Sub-2000 is a gamble. They generally work, but the quality is mediocre. Even if you get a “perfect” one, it’s still a big pile of plastic. It’s like a carbine-version of a stripped down Ford Focus. But hey, who cares as long as it does the job, right?
The JR carbine is quite similar to an AR-15, and in fact some people have mistakenly called it an AR-15. It does, however, use the same grip, shoulder stock, and trigger mechanism as the AR-15. I think it also uses an AR-15 barrel nut, because I have seen pictures of JR Carbines modified with AR-15 handguards that attach to the barrel nut.
Like the TNW Aero, the JR Carbine can be converted to 9mm, 40S&W, or 45ACP. If using 45ACP, it is possible to modify the JR Carbine to use 1911 magazines. It is also easy to convert the JR Carbine to a left-handed mode just by adjusting a few parts. The JR Carbine comes equipped with a free-floating quadrail that is approximately 7 inches long in front of the receiver. A longer rail is better for traditional “iron” sights. It also gives more places to mount accessories like grips, lights, lasers, knives, sling mounts, etc. However, it also adds weight to the carbine. If desired, the JR Carbine can become a “takedown” carbine like the TNW Aero by replacing the quadrail with a special $70 handguard. Of course, this reduces the length of the rail and the ability to mount accessories. It should be noted that the JR Carbine is made by a small company in New York state, but it has been sold by several large companies like ATI and EMF, so you may find some confusing information.
One of the biggest downsides is the way the carbine disassembles. It doesn’t really “field strip” because you wouldn’t want to attempt it in the field. It requires a special tool and a screwdriver to disassemble for basic cleaning. You must remove the handguard to remove the barrel, you must remove the entire shoulder stock to remove the bolt, and you must remove 3 very small screws to separate the upper and lower pieces of the body. In the end, that’s a LOT of disassembly work just to clean the carbine. A lot of people have expressed concern that the 3 small screws may wear out or break after disassembling the carbine for cleaning after every trip to the shooting range.
I used to want a JR Carbine, but after researching & writing this blog post, I’m strongly leaning away from a carbine requires 3 different tools just to take it apart for cleaning.
This is an interesting carbine (or pistol) that takes Glock magazines. The most interesting part is that they were designed to disassemble into a small backpack. The ability to easily remove the barrel means that they can change calibers (9mm, 40S&W, 45ACP) in under 3 minutes if you have the right parts. It uses an AR-15 grip and shoulder stock, but the trigger mechanism is proprietary and the “receiver extension end plate” is a specially modified copy of the AR-15 end plate. The bolt can be converted to left-hand or right-hand versions, like the JR Carbine, but the bolt-handle is right-side only. Ironically, many right-handed people prefer a left-side bolt handle. It can be field stripped without tools. The barrel is held in by a quick detach system, and the bolt slides out the front after the barrel is removed. The upper and lower halves of the body are held together with pins that slide out, similar to an AR-15.
It doesn’t have a long quadrail handguard, but it does have an upper and lower rails, which are probably enough for most owners. The lack of a longer-rail does limit the usefulness of traditional “iron” sights, but that’s ok with me since most modern red-dot sights and scopes are dependable enough that you probably will never use the iron sights, anyway.
One of the things that stands out about the TNW Aero is that it is available as a pistol with 8″ barrel. Personally, I think the carbine version looks silly with a long barrel and no handguard, but the design makes a lot more sense with an 8″ barrel. You cannot use a rifle stock on the pistol version unless you register it as a Short-Barreled-Rifle, but you can use a SB-15 arm brace to help stabilize the gun. Surprisingly, I can’t find very many pictures of the TNW Aero Survival Pistol with a Sig Sauer SB-15 arm brace.
I think the option to buy a pistol with a short-barrel makes the TNW Aero stand above the competition even more.
QC10 & LWD AR-15 lowers – Expen$ive
Lone Wolf Distributors is a major producers of aftermarket Glock parts & accessories. They sell complete lower receivers ($385 for rifle or $420 for pistol).
The QC10 receiver is the new version of the old DDLES receiver. To make a long story short, Jon Beaudry was the head of DDLES, and he destroyed the company with really shitty business practices. The QC10 receiver is arguably more graceful than the LWD, and will lock the bolt open on an empty magazine. A QC10 stripped lower costs about $280 from RifleGear, and you can expect to spend about $100 for the parts to complete it (LPK, stock kit).
For an upper, you can buy from Lone Wolf Dist, pay a gunsmith to modify a standard 9mm upper, or build your own. An upper from Lone Wolf Dist costs $690 for a rifle upper or $780 for a pistol upper. As you can see, a complete 9mm with an upper from LWD will cost about $1100 for a carbine or $1200 for a pistol version. That doesn’t even include sights, and it’s already enough to buy a TNW Aero pistol and a Sub2000 carbine.
If you buy a 9mm bolt from anyone other than Lone Wolf Dist, then you will need to send it to ADCO to be modified for Glock magazines (at least $45+S&H). If you want to go cheap, you could get a complete upper (without any parts for the lower) for $515 from Model1Sales. That means the total for a pistol would be around $900 for a very, very basic pistol of mediocre quality. In case I haven’t been clear, I do not recommend M1S, I just use them as a reference for cheap parts. Meanwhile, a complete upper from CMMG is going to cost about $750. Rock River Arms sells 9mm carbine uppers for as low as $575, but they don’t sell pistol uppers. Strangely, RRA sells pistol barrels for $245, but not complete pistol upper halves. You could pay ADCO to cut a RRA rifle barrel shorter for a pistol, but that costs $65 plus $50 for disassembly and reassembly of the complete upper. Regardless of what upper you buy, you should probably send the bolt to ADCO to ramp the back of the bolt. If you don’t have a ramped bolt, there is a high chance your gun will break the hammer pin, which can permanently damage the receiver if it isn’t fixed promptly.
Of course, if you really know what you’re doing, you could just assemble your own 9mm upper. It would still be a good idea to send the bolt to ADCO for modification, but the rest of the assembly process can be done at home. However, that’s more than I can cover in a blog post right now. The nice thing about assembling your own is you can combine parts to make something unique. It is also cheaper to build your “ultimate” gun from the start than to buy a gun, add upgraded parts, and throw away the basic parts that it started with. By the time you’re done upgrading a standard gun, you might have replaced as much as half of the gun with custom parts. All of those original, basic parts sitting in a box are basically wasted money.
Anyway you cut it, an AR-15 that uses Glock magazines requires some knowledge of firearms just to choose the parts & put it together. Oh, and it’s going to be very expensive, and that isn’t even counting all the hundreds of dollars you could spend on fancy upgrades such as nice triggers (like Geissele!), lightweight free-floating handguards (like the BCM KMR!), scopes, lights, lasers, etc.
In the end, a 9mm AR-15 can be a great little pistol if you take your time, do it right, and have the money to spare.