Over the last few years we've seen several new semi-automatic 9 mm pistol-caliber carbines (PCCs) reach the market place. This gun and caliber combination costs less to shoot and generates less recoil than most center-fire rifle cartridge long guns while providing a significant boost in performance when compared to similarly sized .22 LR carbines. This said, some 9 mm PCCs can be relatively expensive to purchase and can weigh just as much as their rifle-caliber counterparts.
The new Extar EP9 Carbine (top) is based on the company’s lightweight EP9 9 mm large-format pistol.
Near the end of 2023, the American gun maker Extar Firearms launched its first 9 mm PCC, which is a member of the company’s EP9 series. With a listed price of $499 and an unloaded weight of 5 lbs. 4 oz. (with an empty magazine), I was intrigued. A carbine was requested for a test drive and, based on the results of the evaluation, here are a few reasons the EP9 carbine deserves a closer look.
This carbine is based on the company's large-format EP9 pistol which was designed from the ground up to be as light weight as possible. The company founder has decades of experience in working with high-performance polymers, which are used for most of the components. Much like typical polymer-framed pistols, steel and aluminum are incorporated as needed.
This 9 mm PCC tips the scales at just 5 lbs. 10.3 oz. with the Riton optic and an empty EMP magazine installed.
The 6.5" barrel EP9 pistol I had on hand, with an empty magazine but without a stabilizing brace, tipped the digital postal scale at 4 lbs. 3.1-oz. The modifications to the EP9 platform required to convert it into a carbine include a polymer buffer tube which supports an adjustable shoulder stock, a 16.25" long thin profile barrel with a 1/2x28 TPI threaded muzzle and an 8" long handguard topped with an aluminum sight rail. This increases the unloaded weight of the carbine version to 5 lbs. 4 oz. By comparison, a typical 9 mm AR-15 weighs around 6 lbs. 8 oz., before attaching any accessories, with prices starting at around $600 and going up from there.
Despite the EP9 carbine's obvious AR-15 form factor, it is not an AR. In addition to its unique polymer construction, the company developed its own Mass Delayed Blowback action. Its Dynamic Mass Bolt assembly is fitted with a spring-loaded weight located above the bolt's face. This weight fits into the upper receiver's raised sight rail. By adding this weight at the front of the bolt the designers were able to tune it to noticeably reduce felt recoil and to cancel out bolt bounce.
The controls follow Mil-Spec AR-15 design except for the bolt-mounted charging handle located to the left side of the upper receiver.
I was surprised, and still am, at how soft shooting this lightweight carbine can be with standard pressure ammunition. It's the closest to rimfire-level recoil I've experienced with a center-fire long gun. In short, anyone who is physically fit enough to shoot a typical .22 LR semi-automatic should find this gun comfortable to work with.
Glock Magazine Compatible
What some folks may not know about Extar is that almost every component, other than a few small springs and such, is made in house by their team. This plays a big role in keeping costs down and maintaining quality control. And so, instead of relying on another company to make reliable magazines for their guns, they offer their own EMP polymer magazines. They hold up to 18 rounds instead of 17 shots like the G17 magazines. The EMPs sell for $11.95 each or you can order three for $30 or five for $45. Although this gun will run with extended 33-round stick magazines the company does not recommend the use of drums.
The affordably priced Riton Optics X1 TACTIX ARD rifle-style red dot proved to be a good fit for this carbine.
At the shooting range, I used a total of 15 magazines for testing to see how they might affect the gun’s reliablity. A half dozen was the 18-round EMP magazines along with a few Glock magazines, both of which are specifically recommended by Extar for use with this carbine. The rest consisted of 15-round Magpul PMAGs and a couple of 17-round KCI USA aftermarket options. All the magazines locked in, fed and ejected properly without any hitches or hang-ups.
AR-15 Component Compatibility
The AR-15, or Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR), is among the most popular semi-automatic rifles in the United States. This is due in no small part to the gun's modularity. Every single part of a Mil-Spec AR-15 is a drop in component, meaning, it can be traded out for another without the assistance of a professional gunsmith. The available selection of aftermarket components is expansive making the AR one of the most easily customized guns available.
The Mission First Tactical Battlelink Minimalist stock is adjustable and light weight.
This is why Extar saw no reason to re-invent the wheel when it came to the EP9's control configuration and furniture. Essentially, the upper receiver assembly is proprietary, including the left-side charging handle which is mounted directly to the bolt assembly. The polymer lower is also proprietary. However, the magazine release, bolt release, trigger group, removable pistol grip and adjustable shoulder stock will all be utterly familiar to those who use Mil-Spec pattern ARs.
Extar makes its own Glock-compatible magazines, which hold up to 18 rounds of 9 mm ammunition.
The Mil-Spec, single-stage trigger is smooth but standard fair with a 5 lbs. 7 oz. trigger pull. The one-piece polymer grip is an in-house option with fine, aggressive texturing on either side, which matches that of the handguard. The six-position polymer buffer tube is fitted with one of my favorite lightweight adjustable stocks, the Mission First Tactical Battlelink Minimalist, which features ports for QD and strap-style slings along with a grooved rubber butt pad.
The EP9 carbine is simple to disassemble for routine cleaning.
For all informal and formal shooting, this carbine was topped off with an affordably priced Riton Optics X1 TACTIX ARD red dot using the provided quick release, AR-height scope mount ($99). A low mount is included in the box as well. The X1 is a long-gun optic with an anodized 6061-T6 aluminum housing, fully multi-coated lenses, 1 MOA height and windage adjustments, six levels of brightness and up to 40,000 hours of run time using a single CR2032 battery.
Easy to Clean with No Lubricants Required
In a previous life, I wrote owner's manuals, so I know just how dull they can be. But the useful little booklet that comes with the EP9 contains some interesting reading.
First off, this gun is quite simple to disassemble for routine cleaning. Start by removing the magazine and verifying the gun is completely unloaded. With the bolt in the closed position, press the captured takedown pin located above the grip out to the right using a pin punch or similar tool. Pull the upper receiver forward off the lower. Pull the bolt's charging handle all the way to the rear and lift it out of the upper receiver and then remove the bolt assembly. That's it. It takes less than a minute if you're not in a hurry. It goes back together just as easily.
This version of the EP9 proved to be impressively soft shooting and reliable with a variety of standard pressure loads.
But a big surprise is found in the maintenance steps of the manual, which states, "Your EP9 Carbine has been designed implementing advanced materials that eliminate the need for oil lubrication." After scrubbing the bore and wiping the bolt assembly where needed with typical cleaning products, the action should be left “dry” of any lubricants. If you simply must put something on the bolt assembly to sleep easier at night, a light coating of silicone spray will do the trick (but it’s not needed). Otherwise, oiling up the innards will just make it harder to clean in the future.
Ammunition used for formal performance testing included Federal, Hornady and Sovereign Ammo options.
Friends, I've shot a fair share of gun models over the years, and this is the first I've tested that said no lubricants, please. My skepticism meter needle was dancing a jig after I read this, but I followed the instructions despite my misgivings. The EP9 carbine was test fired bone dry, no gun oil at all for more than 300 rounds fired during a single range session. There was not a single malfunction during the test that was gun, magazine or ammunition related. Nor were there any changes in feel or operation like you sometimes see with semi-automatic .22 LR rimfire rifles when they are reaching their ammunition fouling limits.
The best 5-shot group of 1.49” at 50 yards was produced using Federal’s Hydra Shok Deep 135-gr. jacketed hollow point load.
After I got home from the range and broke down the EP9, most of the limited fouling on the bolt assembly simply wiped off with a dry clean rag. The bore needed a good scrub, as expected, but that was about it. No lubricating oils made for one of the quickest and easiest post-range cleaning sessions I’ve experienced.
As mentioned above, the EP9 proved to be utterly reliable with the mix of practice and defense-grade standard pressure, brass-cased ammunition tested (aluminum cased rounds and some steel-cased rounds are not recommended). The mild recoil and light weight make this a quick handling little carbine that's enjoyable to use. Quite frankly, it felt more like using a rimfire rifle than a PCC. This gun can comfortably fill the role of “family carbine” since it's an ideal fit for a variety of experience levels and body shapes. As for performance, here are the formal, bench-rested accuracy and velocity results generated using Federal, Hornady and Sovereign ammunition:
Heading into this evaluation I wondered how this gun's mostly polymer construction and reasonable price might impact its accuracy. The average extreme spread for the 5-shot group sizes of this particular range session was 2.38", which is comparable to other models in this class. When compared to other 9 mm PCCs I’ve worked with, the Extar Firearms EP9 carbine is about one and a half pounds lighter, costs significantly less and does so without sacrificing accuracy or reliability.
For more information, visit extarusa.com.