Yesterday was shotguns. Continuing the series on defensive firearms, we explore carbines. I’m going to use this definition for carbines as opposed to rifles: A carbine is a a compact, short-barreled rifle that has a barrel length of less than 20 inches.

It’s my opinion that rifles are not effective as self defense weapons because they are too long to be wielded in close quarters. However, if you were to tell me that I could only pick one firearm to own for all purposes for the remainder of my life, I would go with a carbine. They are the Swiss Army knives of firearms.

Carbines have rifle-level muzzle energy, good accuracy out to hundreds of meters, and can effectively used inside of a building, or from inside of a vehicle. The most popular of all of these in the US today (by a fair margin) is the AR patterned carbine- the M4gery. Parts and accessories are widely available. You can still even roll your own with an 80 percent lower, and they are relatively easy to repair and maintain. Lightweight, low recoil versions in .223 or 5.56mm are handled well by both women and children. Ammunition is light enough that a large amount can be carried.

I build my ARs with a 1:8 twist rate. That way, the rifling is optimized for bullet weights of 55, 62, or 77 grains, giving me a fair amount of latitude on ammunition selection. If I am planning on using the AR mostly in close quarters, I mount a holographic sight on it, like an EOTech. Those are good sights out to 100 yards or so and are fast to use. If I am anticipating medium to long range work, then there are other options like an LPVO or ACOGs.

Another mention is what I referred to as my “skirmish rifle.” Using the definition of carbine from above, the rifle that I built to this spec is a carbine. It’s on an AR10 receiver and chambered for .308 with an 18 inch barrel. Weighing in at only 7.65 pounds without a scope, it is lighter than many of my AR15’s. It shoots like a dream with a LPVO scope on it, I am getting 3 inch groups at 100 yards. Not bad from an 18 inch barrel. The bonus is that, being .308, it will defeat most body armor, especially at close range.

I once owned an M-1 carbine. I am sorry I got rid of it, because it was fun to shoot.

I am going to also include my Scorpion EVO in this category, even though the ATF says it’s a pistol. Mostly because it shares with carbines the disadvantage of being too large to conceal. Pistol caliber carbines, even though they are less powerful than their rifle caliber brethren, share many of the attributes of other carbines. I regularly mount a suppressor on mine, and when firing it with subsonic ammunition like 147grain hollowpoints, it’s report is about as loud as dropping a large book on the floor. Sure, there is less power at those muzzle velocities, but I have the 32 round magazines for it, so I plan on making up for that with fast, accurate follow on hits. Three or four headshots with 147grain 9mm hollowpoints will do a number on a home invader.

Of course, the disadvantage to any long gun in a self defense situation is that it cannot be concealed and is difficult to carry everywhere. Still, if I had to be in a gunfight, I would not feel undergunned with a carbine and a couple of magazines.

These posts are not intended to be a complete discussion of all of the merits, but are intended to be food for thought. There aren’t enough pixels on the Internet to completely discuss every facet of every type of defensive firearm.

Categories: Firearms


Bad Dancer · November 14, 2022 at 2:35 pm

A great deal of the advancement in firearms tech has been dedicated to carbines and I am extremely grateful. A 14.5 barreled AR with a mid-length gas system is pretty dawgone handy for most urban needs.

Between advancements in bullet construction and pretty much any weight you could want you’re able to tailor it away to your hearts content.

An aside: have you considered a binary trigger in your EVO? A friend runs one and can absolutely hammer out controlled pairs with no real point of impact shift after he got used to the one two tempo.

    Divemedic · November 14, 2022 at 2:50 pm

    Binary triggers would be illegal in Florida. So no, I don’t have one.

Steve S6 · November 14, 2022 at 3:27 pm

As always the first two rules of gun safety apply. Not those two but
1. Have a gun.
2. Don’t let the government take it.

Preceding discussions on caliber and platform then follow.

BTDT fellow I know prefers subguns for building clearance.

AR pistols (pick a caliber) offer a nice balance for handiness and effectiveness. Painfully loud indoors which if you’re wearing earpro and the bad guys aren’t can be a force multiplier.

Jonesy · November 14, 2022 at 7:07 pm

An AR15 in 5.56/2.23 with a red dot on top is the 80% solution for just about any social situation from target shooting through WROL.
Furniture, gas system, any and all other considerations are just personal preference. Get a quality brand or use quality parts in your build and you have as DM said – the Swiss Army knife of firearms.
You can extend/enhance performance with an optic (magnified or not) with a good reticle (maybe a bullet drop compensator – BDC), and ammo selection. And you can do it for a reasonable price.

Very few downsides to an AR. Want more power? Get an AR10 in .308. Want something lighter and faster? Go pistol caliber carbine.

Alan T. · November 15, 2022 at 10:33 am

Any thoughts on a Henry Lever Action Carbine in 357 Mag? I am thinking about one, given how awful any AR platform is here in California.

    Jonesy · November 15, 2022 at 12:51 pm

    A lever action would be just fine as a substitute for an AR IMO. Train with .38spl, learn to quickly operate and reload. Operation would be very similar to a pump shotgun in that regard. You have some caliber options too…44mag/special, etc.

Elrod · November 15, 2022 at 11:20 am

“Of course, the disadvantage to any long gun in a self defense situation is that it cannot be concealed and is difficult to carry everywhere.”

Law Tactical has their folding stock adapter for ARs, and just announced their “internal spring bolt carrier group” (aka, a modern version of the double spring AR-180 internals) that eliminates the need for a buffer tube and allows the rifle (AR pistol? SBR?) to be fired with the stock folded. Spendy ($350), no reviews on it yet, and “sold out” is the default setting, but it may show quite a bit of promise for “use in certain situations.”

LT does a pretty good job with their engineering and that they have two versions, one for suppressed and one for not, bodes well for the amount of work they put into getting it right.

    Divemedic · November 15, 2022 at 2:19 pm

    The law still requires a 16″ barrel and an OAL of 26 inches, so unless you want to make an AR pistol…

      Jonesy · November 16, 2022 at 12:49 pm

      An AR pistol makes sense, especially in vehicles. Covered by your state CCW law (should be), you can conceal it legally. As for carry, I don’t think it’s very practical.

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