M*CARBO Brotherhood

Optics and Effective range

What would you consider the effective range of a 9mm PCC? I bought my Ruger PC9 thinking of primarily short range and home defense. I’m running a Holosun red dot. But, probably because I was seduced by a SpewTube video (I’m so easy) I dropped a 2X magnifier behind it. After a few hundred rounds the setup seems clunky and unnecessary. I can put it on a bipod and probably reach out with some regularity to 200 yards, which was my idea of a do most things gun (CCB and something of a battle rifle) but I’m probably deluding myself.

Realistically where do you think it should be setup and perform best… irons or a red dot and inside 50 yards?


I have use the hell out of mine and I feel super comfortable to about 120 yards at that point the drop is minimal and the power is close to what a handgun is at 20 yards with a 124 NATO or +p hollow

I have killed about 30 coyotes with it to date. I love it as a 100 yard gun with a tad extra range.

I have an Aimpoint Pro with the 2 MOA dot but had to mod the mount to make that work


Self-Defense Ammo for Pistol Caliber Carbines

Post author photo By Chris Baker

Oct, 21, 2019 33 Comments

You’ve probably put serious thought and research into what self-defense ammo to carry in your pistols. Can you count on that same ammo being the ideal choice for a pistol caliber carbine? What’s the best self defense ammo for pistol caliber carbines? To find out, we tested six popular 9mm jacketed hollow points looking at the effect a longer barrel has on their velocity as well as their performance in ballistic gelatin.

See the details in the video below, or keep scrolling to read the full transcript.

Choosing 9mm Self-Defense Ammo for Pistol Caliber Carbines

Semi-automatic pistol caliber carbines have been taking off the last few years, especially models chambered in 9mm. In addition to the Kel-Tec Sub2000 and the Beretta CX4 that have been around for several years, we now have the Sig MPX, the CZ Scorpion. There is also the Ruger PC Carbine, not to mention a host of AR-based models.

So, it’s no surprise that one of the most common questions I’ve been asked lately is what kind of self-defense ammo to use in a pistol caliber carbine.

It’s usually pretty safe to assume that a load that works well out of a short handgun barrel will also work well out of a full size handgun. But that’s not always the case when you step up to a 16-inch barrel, or even an 10 or 11-inch barrel if you’ve got an SBR-type carbine.

Chris shooting the Ruger PC Carbine

Our ballistic gel testing database contains more than 200 self-defense handgun loads that we’ve tested so far. Most of those tests were done with compact pistols with barrels around 3.5 inches. Due to the insane volume of ammo, we are not going to be repeating all of those tests with carbines any time soon. But since many of our readers seem interested in this topic, I thought I would run a few quick informal tests. We wanted to see if there were any obvious trends that might help give us some basic guidelines for carbine ammo selection.

Since the majority of pistol caliber carbines are chambered for 9mm, I decided to stick with that caliber for the tests. I started with three popular loads that all have proven reputations from both gel testing and real world use with law enforcement: 124-grain Speer Gold Dot, 124-grain Federal HST, and 147-grain Federal HST. Because this experiment is really all about velocity, I also included the +P versions of each of those loads.

Pistol Caliber Carbine Velocity Comparison

I tested all six in Clear Ballistics gel with a Ruger PC Carbine with a 16.1-inch barrel. Before we get to those results, there’s a lot we can learn just from looking at velocity. Along with the Ruger carbine, I also measured the velocity of these six loads with a Beretta 92. It has a 4.7-inch barrel. We also used a customized short-barrel Beretta CX4 carbine with a 12.5-inch barrel. We also pulled the velocity data from the Smith & Wesson M&P9c test gun that we used in our original gel tests a few years back.

Here’s a chart with all the raw data for you spreadsheet enthusiasts. I took the average velocity of five rounds from each gun and ammo combo measured with a LabRadar brand chronograph.

Table with 9mm JHP pistol and carbine velocity measurements

It’s a little easier to identify some trends if we look at these in a more visual format.

9mm velocity line graph

Starting with the 147 grain loads, it’s apparent that there’s very little change from one gun to the next. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. These heavier HST bullets are not as dependent on barrel length and velocity as a lot of other bullets. They tend to work just as well out of a short barrel as they do out of a long barrel.

It’s also interesting that both of these loads had a slight velocity reduction with the 16-inch barrel. This is not that unusual with 9mm ammo — a lot of loads have burned all their powder and hit max velocity well before they get to 16 inches and that last few inches of barrel ends up just slowing the bullet down a little bit.

Now let’s look at the 124 HSTs and Gold Dots. These saw a much sharper increase going from the Beretta 92 to the 12-inch carbine. The HSTs both gained over 100 feet per second. For the Gold Dots, that increase was closer to 150. Then there were only a couple of slight changes going to the 16-inch barrel.

The 124 +Ps out of the Ruger PC Carbine are super fast for 9mm. They’re on par with .357 Sig velocities we’ve measured out of a full size pistol. But those .357 Sig bullets are designed for the higher velocities. The 9mm bullets are not. If you look at the Gold Dots side by side, you can see a big difference in the shape of the opening at the top.

With the HSTs, the difference is not as noticeable but the opening on the .357 Sig bullet is definitely a little larger.

Comparison of 9mm and .357 Sig bullet shapes for Speer Gold Dot and Federal HST

Like we’ve discussed before, modern handgun bullets are designed to operate within a specific velocity window. If it’s too slow, it might penetrate, but it won’t expand, especially with barriers. That’s why we normally use the four-layer heavy clothing barrier when we do our gel tests.

If the bullet is too fast, there are a few things that can go wrong. The issues we really want to look out for are when they expand too much and too early. This creates drag and leads to under-penetration or the bullet might just break up into pieces.

For these 9mm bullets that are at the upper end of their velocity limit, we actually decided to test them without the fabric barrier. We did this because we don’t want anything that will slow them down or clog up the hollow points. We want to find out if they can still perform when they hit the target at their maximum velocity.

9mm Carbine Ballistic Gel Testing

So let’s look at the gel tests, starting again with the 147-grain HSTs.

I fired two rounds of each load into the gel. Remember, we’re looking for something like 12 to 18 inches of penetration along with 150% expansion. The 147-grain loads did pretty much the same thing with the carbine that we saw in our original short barrel pistol tests. This is not surprising because there was very little change in velocity. Expansion and penetration were both excellent.

9mm 147 gr Federal HST Carbine gel test results

The 124 HSTs also looked really good. Even the +P, which was moving 153 feet per second faster out of the carbine, still managed to have good performance. There was a little more expansion here than when either of these were fired out of the M&P Compact in our original tests and there was around 4 to 5 inches less penetration, but it was still within the ideal range. [M&P9c 124gr HST results. 124gr +P results]

9mm 124 gr Federal HST Carbine gel test results

Okay, now the Gold Dots, and here’s where things really get interesting.

9mm 124 gr Speer Gold Dot Carbine gel test results

The standard pressure 124-grain Gold Dots only penetrated 10 inches. The +Ps made it to 15 inches, but take a look at these bullets. This is beyond controlled expansion. This is uncontrolled deformation.

Expanded and deformed 9mm 124 gr Gold Dot ammo fired from carbine

Recovered bullets fired into Clear Ballistics bare gel from a 16.1″ Ruger PC Carbine.

For comparison, this is what Gold Dots normally look like when they expand like they’re supposed to.

9mm 124 gr Gold Dot properly expanded bullets

Recovered bullets fired into Clear Ballistics bare gel from a 4.7″ Beretta 92 Elite LTT.

So on one hand, yes, this is impressive expansion and I’m sure it would really hurt and the +Ps did have sufficient penetration. But it’s also obvious these bullets were not designed to be pushed to 1400 feet per second. Just by changing something small like shooting them out of your carbine instead of mine, they could easily under penetrate. They might also have poor accuracy, or otherwise behave unpredictably.


So what can we learn from all of this? Well, if I was choosing from among these six loads, I would pick one of the two 147-grain HSTs for a home defense 9mm carbine. I’d probably go with the standard pressure version. It tends to have better availability and it seems to have a better reputation from use in law enforcement. The velocity numbers are nothing special but that load does so well even at lower velocities that it doesn’t really matter.

Also, as we saw in the 100-yard ballistic gel test I did with John Johnston a few months back, heavier for caliber bullets appear to do better at long distance than the faster, lighter bullets. If you’re using a 9mm carbine because you think you might have to take a longer shot for some reason, now you’ve got two very good reasons to consider using a heavier bullet.

If you’re wondering about a load that’s not one of the six I just tested, you can probably make some educated decisions if you have access to a chronograph and you can measure the velocity out of your gun. Most ammo manufacturers publish the velocity of their jacketed hollow point loads either on their website or on the ammo box itself. Sometimes they tell you the length of their test barrel, sometimes they don’t. In this case, you don’t really need to know that. You can probably assume that the published velocity is somewhere within the intended operating window for that bullet. If you measure the velocity out of your carbine and it’s 150 or 200 feet per second faster than that, you might want to consider a different load.

Pushing a pistol bullet faster doesn’t make it perform like a rifle bullet. Sometimes it actually hurts its performance.

I think what we really learned here is that I probably need to do some more gel testing with carbines. Based on these results, I would be very reluctant to make any assumptions about how a given hollow point is going to perform out of a carbine without at least seeing some velocity data. Even then, it would just be a rough guess. If that’s something you guys would like to see more of in the future, be sure to let me know in the comments. In the meantime, you can support us by getting all your favorite ammo with lightning fast shipping at Lucky Gunner.


Thanks Wyo. 'cuse me while I do some reading.


Now What I would like to see is the tests done at the 50 and 100 yard range and not at handgun ranges.

so yeah they are a tad too fast at 7 yards but at 50 and 100 they are right back to the handgun velocities according to my crony experiments back in 18.

Not that it can’t happen but I dont see shooting it at 7 yards and if I do it will be a very well placed shot. prolly a head shot.


Excellent information. I’ve been an HST fan for a long time, it’s my EDC ammo.


These are the only 3 projos I have recovered out of coyotes all were in the 80 to 110 yard range when shot,2 are DPX and the one is an Hornady XTP 124


Much more uniform expansion that depicted in that article.

Are you saying that the velocities posted in that article are recording at 7 yards? I read back through but could not find that.


Yes I am saying that cause that is what they do all gel tests at so it is all at 7 for consistency of results EXCEPT for the very few they did at 100 out of the pistols years back.

NOW if you Are going to home defence at 7 then the 147s ARE the good choice but I am not planning a 7 yard use case for my PCC. if it happens it happens but I plan on 25 to 120 so I will stick to 124s where they are either less or not at all over driven at impact.

I think the velocities might be muzzle and gel at 7 yards


That Hornady expanded rather nicely.


I was wrong: All shots were fired from a distance of 10 feet from the gel blocks.
Way too close for a PCC


I think 10 ft is appropriate to consider its defensive utility. I mean the farthest I expect to use it defensively is across a room or down a short hall. I won’t be shooting defensively across a “field.”

And I agree that we need more distance to evaluate potential for hunting.

If war breaks out, I won’t be armed with a PCC until after I’m out of 308, 556, 12g and 45/70.


You are prolly right…

I just don’t 100% know though, maybe it is just that I have shot my ruger so much the past couple years that I feel so confident in my ability to put rounds so damn accurately and quickly with it and had been sidelining my AR, Both are at the nearly 100% reliability stage sans operator error and it uses my carry glock ammo and mags.

If I was intentionally geared up for war and headed out, Yeah I am taking the AR. If I get caught in a random CW thug fest it my very well be I have my PCC and glock.

I am NOT going to feel under gunned or at a disadvantage if that is the case and it doesn’t range way out.

Now I may revert back to 556 as the 9mm ammo crisis has curtailed my shooting and I can reload more 556 than 9mm with defensive soft points as that is what I am geared for with 20 years of predator hunting.I’ll know in the next month or 2 as I put in trigger time on my AR.
I have just become so enamored of my ability to see it, hit it with the Ruger.


I know exactly what you mean. It really does work like that, damn good guns, they are.