The idea of a pistol-caliber carbine is hardly a new concept. Many in the Old West had both handguns and long guns chambered for the same cartridge. This allowed them to carry one type of ammo and one set of reloading tools. Of course, back then, repeating rifles were usually chambered for pistol caliber cartridges anyway, and shooters typically needed to get a single-shot rifle in order to attain more power.
Still, the idea of a rifle in a pistol caliber makes a lot of sense for today’s shooters, but for different reasons. It may have been a necessity for the cowboys, but when it comes to choices for shooters, these are the glory days. We have never had more options in all categories—yet it still makes sense to use a carbine chambered for a handgun cartridge.
First, if you match your handgun and carbine’s requirements, you need only one set of magazines. Pistol caliber carbines are less expensive to shoot, as the ammo is typically priced much lower than rifle ammo. Recoil and muzzle blast are low, compared to rifle calibers. This makes them a great choice for a new or younger shooter. Of course, these traits make them easy to shoot, and a good choice for home defense as well. Low recoil means faster follow-up shots, and low blast makes them a better choice for home protection when you may be forced to fire inside a dwelling, where the blast will cause permanent hearing loss.
Finally, when used in a rifle, the pistol cartridge will usually attain a higher level of performance will be more effective than when fired out of a handgun. Still, the bullets do not have all the over-penetration issues you might find with a rifle bullet, so they are safer to use than most rifles for situations in which you must protect what lies beyond.
However, the single most important reason to have a pistol caliber carbine is that it’s a lot of fun to shoot. Plinking, running drills, and hardcore training are always a lot more fun with these firearms. Less noise, less recoil, and less expense adds up to more shooting.
I am a hardcore AR shooter, and participate in a lot of serious competition. I like shooting AR-type guns and I am well tuned to the controls and the feel of these rifles. Some of the AR-15 type rifles I have used that were designed for rifle calibers but chambered for 9mm have been compromises that frankly didn’t work very well. But a rifle that I’ve been shooting recently, the Tresna Defense JAG9G BU Tactical Rifle, has been an exception. It retains the look, feel, and control placement of an AR-15 style rifle, but it’s specifically engineered to handle the 9mm cartridge. The name may be long and a bit awkward to say, but the gun runs like a champ.
Interchangeable Ammo and Magazines
This 9mm uses a dedicated milled-billet lower receiver that is designed to use Glock magazines. The gun comes with a 33-round magazine, and any Gen 4 Glock magazine will fit. That gives you a wide range of options of magazines from Glock and a host of aftermarket magazine manufacturers. There are likely no more popular handguns on the market than the Glock 17 and 19, and while you may have lots of worries in this complicated world, finding magazines for this carbine is not going to be one of them.
The gun is designed around the magazine, not “reengineered” to fit, as are other AR carbines chambered in 9mm. That means it works. The action is a straight blowback design rather than the gas impingement type most AR-15 style rifles use. This design works much better with the low pressure and low gas volume of the 9X19 cartridge.
The gun is more or less the M-4 design, with a 16-inch barrel that even has a cut for a grenade launcher. I once asked a gun maker why they added such a cut, since 99 percent of the civilian guns will never see a grenade launcher mounted on them. “Simple,” he replied. “If we don’t add that cut, sales fall through the floor.” So, this gun, like most of the others, has the cut in the barrel, and if you ever want to add a grenade launcher, you can!
The barrel also has a birdcage flash hider for the same reason. There is no need for a civilian gun to have a flash hider, but they won’t sell without it. They do look cool, I’ll give you that.
The gun has pretty much all the same controls as any AR-15. The forend is a four-rail that is a little short for my forward-reach, 3-gun style of shooting, but is easily replaced. The stock is standard six-position adjustable. The gun has a standard AR-style trigger. Mine breaks at 5 pounds 2 ounces. It’s just slightly mushy, but is a much better trigger than the “mil-spec” garbage found on most entry-level M-4 guns shipping these days. It will easily accept any of the aftermarket drop-in triggers.
I’ve put several hundred rounds of mixed ammo through the gun, and so far it’s digested every cartridge I have fed it without any issues. I have tried multiple factory loads and a few hand loads, and the gun just runs them without drama. I like that in a rifle.
While it’s a bit difficult to shoot precision groups with a red dot sight, the gun is clearly accurate. At 6.5 pounds, it is relatively lightweight as AR-15s go. It carries and handles like any M-4 with a collapsible stock.
I have a Vortex Strike Fire red dot sight mounted on the gun, and it’s very fast for multiple target drills. I can rip through speed drills like the 2x2x2 drill or run my 6 target MGM plate rack probably as fast as with any rifle I have. The recoil of the 9mm cartridge is so minuscule that split times for aimed fire are small.
This is a gun that a serious shooter would do well to consider as a stand-alone carbine or as a companion to a 9mm Glock handgun.
Tresna JAG9G BU Tactical Rifle – Specifications
Operating System: Semi-auto, blowback
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Capacity: Varies by magazine; ships with one, 33-round 9MM GLOCK GEN4 magazine
Barrel Length: 16-inch, Melonite finished
Rifling: WA 1/10-inch RH
Hand-Guard: 7-inch quad rail
Stock: 6-Position adjustable
Pistol Grip: Standard A-2 grip
Muzzle Device: A2 flash hider
Overall Length: 33 inches
Weight: 6.5 pounds
Trigger Pull: 5 pounds, 2 ounces (as measured)