Pistol Caliber Carbine Quest
During my shooting career, I shot a lot of IPSC events in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. I got away for IPSC in the mid 90’s for a bunch of reasons. I developed a great interest in long range rifles along around 2002. My credit card has never been the same since. Our 600 yard rifle range suffered serious damage during last year’s hurricane. This summer it closed for repair. I would have to satisfy my shooting cravings some other way for a while.
So I have begun shooting with some of my Club’s action pistol shooters on Steel Challenge and Action Steel courses. Way back in the 1980’s I was a proponent of using steel targets when training. Steel targets give the shooter instant recognition of a correct shot placement. It can break a shooter of “scoping” their target between shots. Bill Rogers even developed a whole instinctive shooting course around using steel targets. Wow! Now some 30 years later there are two sports for shooting steel targets. Both Steel Challenge and Action Steel matches are fired at my club. I quickly found I would need a Pistol Caliber Carbine to use as my 5.56 AR15’s will perforate the steel plates. This would not make me very popular at my Club. Thus I started the quest for a Pistol Caliber Carbine.
Where does one start? Steel shooters that I was working with had a diverse array of carbines. I saw AR15 9mm conversions, Sig Sauer MPX’s, CZ’s, and Ruger patrol rifles. Years ago when working for the Sheriff, I carried an HK94 in 9mm. This one was essentially a semi-automatic MP5 with a 16” barrel. It was incredibly accurate but the trigger was horrible. I carried it for 15 years but sold it in 2000 to use for a down payment on a new house. The new versions such as the Zenith were appealing but were very expensive and I have not been able to handle one to see if the trigger has improved.
The CZ and the Ruger were a better price. They seem to function without issue but again, I didn’t like the trigger.
The Sig Sauer MPX was very appealing to me. It was an updated AR platform. The triggers didn’t feel too bad. They seemed to function very well. The carbine and the magazines were a little pricey. The one thing that caused me to pause was that there are multiple generations of the MPX. This didn’t seem to be widely advertised. Some of the parts were not interchangeable between generations.
That brought me back to an AR15 platform. I was shooting with a couple of fellows that had actually gone to High Master with conversion carbines. Obviously conversions have their own science. There seemed to be numerous brands and styles of conversions. Some were made with billet receivers and some were made with forged receivers. Some locked the bolt after the last shot, some didn’t. Some entered the mag well from the top and some entered from the bottom. Even the original, the Colt AR15 9mm used a conversion block, although it is pinned in place. Some of the conversions use Glock magazines while others use the Colt SMG magazine. I shoot mostly 1911 and 2011 pistols so the Glock conversions didn’t interest me much. I was familiar with the AR9 style carbines as several agencies in my area bought the Colt 9mm and Colt SMG to use on patrol. They seemed capable and could handle a lot of abuse.
***War story antic dote*** One night at a local agency, an officer signed out his Colt AR9mm to carry on patrol. I never quite understood the theory behind not issuing a Carbine. One would not know where a sign out carbine shot or if it had any peculiarities. This officer, when loading his patrol car with his personal equipment (the agency also didn’t have take home cars back then), placed the carbine on the roof. He forgot it was there and as he pulled out of the driveway, it slid off the roof and onto the asphalt. Well, everyone driving in and out of the station ran over this carbine. The next day when it was spotted, it was fully imbedded into the driveway. The agency’s armorer pried it out of the asphalt. The carbine appeared unharmed with the exception of some scratches. After an inspection, he took this carbine out and fired it. There were no issues what so ever. What this tells me is that these things are bullet, or rather driveway, proof.**
During my search, I found the Rock River Arms LAR-9. The LAR-9 had a dedicated lower machined specifically for the Sten/UZI/Colt SMG magazines. The bolt locked back after the last round fired, which I preferred. The receivers were both forged. A couple of years ago Rock River came out with a competition version of the LAR-9 they named the R-9. This version has a fluted stainless barrel. It has a National Match 2 stage 4 ½ pound trigger. I use this type of trigger in several of my High Power competition rifles. It has an M-Lok free float fore end. It has the Rock River CAR Operator stock which offers a better cheek weld. It just seemed to make sense to get something that was already tricked out. I placed an order for one with a local dealer. Some five weeks later it arrived. The fit and finish was wonderful. I put an Aimpoint Comp M3 sight on it. I shot several types of ammo and had ZERO MALFUNCTIONS. The magazines I was using are the Rock River 32 round straight stick mags. The have a metal follower and yes, it locks the bolt back after the last round. These mags appear to have a Teflon or Cera-Kote type finish on them.
Wow, was I happy! I always sighted my work AR15 carbines in for 50 yards. When shooting in closer than that there was not much elevation change. With a 5.56 round, a 50 yard sight zero was also correct at 200 yards. I decided to sight my R-9 in for 50 yards just because that is what I am used to. So I went to our Club’s 50 yard bench range. I was equipped with my High Power spotting scope and rifle bench rest. I tried multiple types of ammo. Again I suffered ZERO MALFUNCTIONS. This was a reliable carbine. The accuracy however left a lot to be desired. Actually I have fired shot guns that patterned tighter. I will discuss my testing experiences in Part 2.
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