While the shooting-sports market continues to grow with new carbine offerings each year, most of the time they are variations on existing platforms. It's rare to see a company invest in building something that's truly a different design from other guns in its class. I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new Trailblazer Arms Pivot pistol-caliber carbine ever since the CEO gave me a sneak peek of the 3D printed prototype a few years ago, because there’s nothing else quite like it. I thought the idea looked good but the finished product is even better. Here are five reasons why the Pivot 9 mm carbine deserves a closer look:
The Pivot is just 21” long when folded.
A New Twist on Takedown Pistol-Caliber Carbines
Lightweight pistol-caliber carbines designed to be broken down in some manner, for easier storage or transportation, have been around for quite some time. Most companies have settled on one of two methods for accomplishing this. The first is to build the gun around a hinged action. This allows the barrel to swing upwards, like the KelTec Sub2000, or sideways, like the recently released Smith & Wesson FPC, to fold the gun in half without any disassembly required. The other most common takedown option is a barrel assembly which separates from the receiver when a release button is pressed, like the Ruger PC Carbine. Technically speaking, pistol-caliber AR-15s fall into this second category since they can be separated into two parts consisting of an upper and a lower assembly.
With the Pivot part way through its rotation one can see the lower receiver’s front end release mechanism, the gold-tone trigger and the internal hammer.
The Pivot takes a different approach. Like the AR-15, it has an upper and lower receiver. But instead of the barrel folding or separating, the upper rotates 180 degrees so that the barrel is pointing in the same direction as the shoulder stock. When folded, the carbine has an overall length of just under 21". Rotating the barrel into the firing position and extending the 2-position stock brings the full length to 29.75". This 8.75" change in length may not sound like much on paper, but it makes a big difference in the field or when trying to tuck the gun into a limited gun storage space.
Here is the Pivot in it’s ready-to-fire configuration.
Slim, Tough and Portable
The balancing act between making a takedown carbine durable and portable can be a tough one to navigate. Beef it up too much and it becomes heavy to carry. But make it too light and you sacrifice strength and features. Trailblazer did a good job with the Pivot. The upper and lower receivers are constructed from aluminum, with the lower handguard, pistol grip and stock molded from polymer for an unloaded weight of 5 lbs. 6 oz. with an empty magazine. From front to back, the entire gun is only 1.15" wide, or about the same width as a typical 9 mm pistol slide. It has a smooth, snag-free profile that looks good and makes it easy to slip in and out of soft storage cases or packs. The gun is nicely balanced and swings naturally when shooting off the bench.
The 2-postion should stock has a storage compartment for the carbine’s magazine.
Loaded with Safety Features
Some folks may be wondering just how safe it is to work with a gun featuring a muzzle that can change directions. It's a reasonable question and one that the Trailblazer team was careful to address by incorporating three primary safety features into the Pivot's design.
In order to swing the barrel assembly around into the firing or folded position, the bolt must be locked open. The upper will not rotate otherwise. The bolt handle pulls back and swings up into a notch cut into the upper receiver. When the bolt is locked back its handle sticks straight up from the receiver. When the bolt is in the closed position, the handle tilts to the left and moves forward two inches into its designated slot. This makes it easy to visually or manually verify the bolt’s position.
The external controls include a thumb safety lever, flat-faced trigger and Glock-type magazine release button.
The upper will also be blocked from rotating if there's a magazine inserted in the grip. At first I thought the magazine storage compartment in the shoulder stock was there to store a second magazine. But it appears to be that its primary purpose is to hold the one Glock G19 15-round magazine the carbine ships with so that the magazine well remains empty when the gun is folded up. The gun sports an ambidextrous external thumb safety lever which swings down in to the SAFE position and up into the FIRE position. The owner's manual encourages folks to keep this lever in the SAFE position for all operations other than actually firing the gun down range. With these three safeties engaged (bolt open, magazine removed, thumb safety in SAFE position) the gun cannot be fired in its extended position, folded configuration or while transitioning between the two.
The threaded muzzle can be fitted a variety of brakes, compensators and sound suppressors.
So how does one go about deploying this gun in the field? The high-speed, low-drag tactical approach is to grasp the folded carbine by the pistol grip, extend the shoulder stock and then shoulder the gun. With the carbine in the low-ready position, press the release button at the forward end of the lower receiver to rotate the barrel to the right or to the left (depending on which hand you're shooting with) and lock it forward. Insert the magazine, release the bolt, disengage the thumb safety and you're ready to go. It's a quick process to go from folded to ready to fire once you get the hang of it.
The Pivot operated reliably with Glock (left) and Magpul (right) magazines.
But at the shooting range I opted for a different operational approach. The range master and the folks to either side of my section of the shooting bench were unlikely to appreciate seeing a muzzle swinging across their positions, even though I knew the gun was in a safe condition. Preparing to shoot started with the folded barrel pointed down range. I picked up the Pivot by the upper receiver using my support hand and used my shooting hand to spin the lower around and deploy the stock. Then the carbine was shouldered, loaded and ready to fire. This method is not as quick and slick as the tactical approach but it kept the muzzle pointed down range at all times in harmony with the range rules.
This carbine can be used with folding sights, magnified scopes or red-dot optics like the micro prism sight shown here.
The Pivot ticked right along like a metronome using a mix of 15- and 17-round magazines made by Glock and Magpul. The blowback action proved to be reliable with a variety of 9 mm ammunition ranging from practice grade to premium hollow points. Two upper optics rails will accommodate AR-15 pop-up sights, micro red dot optics or a magnified rifle scope. The carbine is set up to provide a sight alignment comparable to the AR-15 which gives it a familiar feel right off the bat for folks who use ARs.
Bullet velocity with carbine-length barrels changes significantly depending on the ammunition used.
The flat-faced trigger's pull weighs in at 5 lbs. 5-oz. with a stroke and feel that's similar to, but not quite the same as, many striker-fired pistols. The 16" barrel is threaded for popular muzzle accessories including brakes, compensators and sound suppressors. As expected, the recoil was mild and easy to control. Here are the range results using a Primary Arms SLX 1x Micro Prism ACSS Cyclops G2 green illuminated optic with ammunition from Novx, Remington and Underwood. Here are the range results:
Generally speaking, 9 mm pistol ammunition will attain higher bullet velocities when fired from longer carbine barrels. But that’s not always the case. The supersonic Novx and Underwood loads gained a significant amount of speed. But the subsonic Remington round stayed subsonic with no velocity gain.
A Family Friendly Tactical Carbine
This may seem like an oxymoron at first glance but that's not the case with the Trailblazer Pivot. Pistol-caliber carbines offer a terrific balance of low-recoil, affordably priced ammunition and performance levels that make it a flexible option useful for target shooting, small game hunting and self defense. This rifle's weight and features also make it a great fit for a variety of body shapes and experience levels. It's comfortable and enjoyable to shoot, which is not always the case with niche takedown configurations like this one. And for those who want a carbine with that ultra nifty, movie gun/sci-fi blaster look and feel, the Pivot is hard to beat! This carbine has a suggested retail price of $1,795. For more information, visit trailblazerfirearms.com.