Pistol vs Carbine and differences in ammunition performance, updated.


Pistol vs Carbine differences ammunition performance, and it is enough to really matter?

It is not feasible to always carry a carbine or rifle as a defensive weapon. Many prefer a pistol for day to day carry and understandably so. Is it worth the extra investment to have a carbine chambered in a handgun caliber for home defense or a “truck gun”?

I have received, as test samples, a Hi Point 916 C9 pistol chambered in 9mm Luger as well as a Hi Point 995TS carbine chambered in 9mm Luger. So I figured I would take some of the better performing rounds from the 9mm Luger ballistic test and make the comparison. Adding in the CZ 75B Omega as another 9mm pistol with a somewhat longer barrel than the C9. You can read more on the 9mm Luger ballistic test in this link.


Of course we all know the benefits of a handgun, relatively small and easy to carry/conceal but with that size comes the drawback of lessened energy even when comparing a pistol to a carbine in the same caliber. With the longer barrel the bullet has more time in the bore allowing the propellent, as it detonates and produces gas, to provide continued acceleration of the bullet.

This is a pretty straight forward experiment using a selection of factory defensive rounds with known performance shot over the chronograph to track the feet per second difference and into ballistic gel to illustrate what that change in velocity equates to. Since this is primarily a defensive experiment I opted to shoot the ballistic gel with the 3 layers of cloth over the end. The cloth is similar to khaki work pants.


Please click on the chart for a larger version.

As expected there was a small velocity gain from the Hi Point C9 to the CZ 75B but also there was a substantial velocity gain when fired from the Hi Point 995TS carbine.  That velocity gain equated to additional expansion and a little less penetration.



Here are the rounds dug from the gel as well as one unfired for comparison. The expanded bullet on the left is from the C9 and the one on the right is from the 996TS. I did not include the expanded round from the CZ as it was the basically the same as from the C9

As you can see a given round does gain velocity and expansion from the longer barrel (as expected). This may or may not be a good thing depending on what you are looking for. Due to the increased expansion, penetration was lessened a bit due to the bullet offering a larger surface area and thus more resistance through the medium. However, with full metal jackets there is a bit of a different story as the velocity is also increased but I was not able to measure penetration as the rounds penetrated both gel blocks. I believe this is a good enough reason to have a carbine for home defense but does not show such a gain to discount a handgun. Now I realize there are many more quality defensive rounds in 9mm Luger but these three represent a great cross section from the Critical Defense, to the jacketed hollow point, to the Guard Dog.


Hi Point Firearms



 Clear Ballistics


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17 Responses to Pistol vs Carbine and differences in ammunition performance, updated.

  1. Diamondback August 12, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

    This was just the info I was looking for.

    Thanks a billion.

    Just bought a cheap HP 995TS Carbine and a CZ P-01 handgun and was wondering what the velocity difference was. I’ve already put about 150 rounds through the High Point without any issues other than adjusting the sights left a couple of inches.

    I understand from other sources that you also gain 35-40% energy on target from the longer barrel of the carbine in addition to the 20-25% gain in velocity. I think that’s important too but maybe it’s not true. ??

    With its better accuracy potential in times of stress and increased velocity/energy on target, it will become my wife’s go to home defense gun and also act as an “under the back seat” gun for me in case I run into any mobs, nutcases or isis jihadists at a gun free zone somewhere.

    Plus, I figure I can use it to fight my way – usu 7 to 10 miles – to my DDM4v7 and CQB gear.

    I will still carry an EDC handgun (currently a SIG938 with backup mag) but wouldn’t worry near as much about the carbine getting stolen as i would my DD or Bushmaster with optics/gear etc. etc. from my truck.


    • Hunter Elliott August 12, 2015 at 8:07 pm #

      The Hi-Point carbine is a fine carbine, you did well with that and all of your points are valid. i think your numbers are good on velocity and energy.
      I like your “gun free zone” reference. Do you mind if I borrow that?
      I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know what you think and your opinions. Nice choice on EDC as well, from what I can tell I believe you have it together.

      • Brett June 18, 2016 at 10:32 pm #

        I am trying to figure out what ammo will perform the best at longer distances in the carbine. I also have the hi point carbine. Can you give me some pointers? Is penetration more important or is expansion more important? I shot the 115 gr remington jhp into 1/2″ plywood from 100 yards and it did penetrate. I couldn’t find the bullet so I have no idea on how it expanded.

        • Hunter Elliott June 18, 2016 at 11:49 pm #

          Truthfully, penetration and expansion are both important. You want to get at least 12″ ballistic gel penetration and the more expansion the better. If you don’t have any gel you can use water jugs and that will give you a very rough idea.
          Hornady Critical Duty and Defense is very tough to beat and they new Gorilla Silverback I have been testing on is also an excellent performer.
          Let me know if any of that helps.

  2. alan caldwell January 28, 2017 at 7:26 am #

    I have a Highpoint 995TS and have noticed little difference in factory ammo in 115 weight rounds. I bought an inexpensive ZOS 10-40X50mm scope with a cheap red dot mounted on top of the scope. I have a 12 inch steel target and at 100 and 155 yards I ding that target almost every shot. At 100 yards it is 100%. At 155 yards it is probably 90%. This is using cheap TulAmo 115 rounds. In want to start reloading because the gun is a blast to shoot .I do not know what diameter 9mm round to choose. 355,356,357, . I don’t care about expansion nor penetration. A well placed bullet is way more important than either. Any suggestions ?

    • Hunter Elliott January 28, 2017 at 10:59 am #

      For reloading the 9mm you want .355″ bullets

  3. Jeff Juelson February 19, 2019 at 12:12 am #

    Just a note, the powder doesn’t “detonate” it burns!

    • Hunter Elliott February 19, 2019 at 12:32 am #

      The technical definition of detonation is combustion of a substance which is initiated suddenly and propagates at or above the speed of sound, giving rise to a shock wave. While burning is a much slower process. Powder encased in a chamber detonates while it will burn if out in the open uncontained.


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