By Paul Helinski, Editor
Taurus CT9/CT40 Carbines
For urban combat and self defense, many would argue that there is no better choice in a firearm than a pistol-caliber carbine. It has almost no recoil or muzzle rise, little muzzle flash and plenty of punch to get the job done in close quarters. The H&K MP5 is legend when it comes to SWAT and SPEC-OPS deployment, and it has achieved that status firing the 9mm cartridge, despite concerns of many that the 9mm is underpowered. The Taurus CT9 and CT40 are new entrants into the pistol-caliber carbine market, and they look and work a lot like H&K’s follow up to the MP5, called the UMP. The civilian version was called the USC, and is no longer produced (it was too expensive). The Taurus CT9 is a more full-featured gun than the USC, and with an MSRP of $879 and street prices under $750, this new carbine should fly off the shelves. As this article is coming out, the .40 S&W version was released, but we were able to test the 9mm gun. Our results showed the CT9 to be extremely reliable and tolerant of different types of ammo. The accuracy is at least as good as other pistol caliber carbines we have tested, and the features on the gun are all you could want for home and personal defense. This year is going to see a new emergence from Taurus since Mark Kresser took over the company. With the new focus on quality control and great customer service, the
affordability of Taurus products will finally be backed up by a company that puts customers as #1. The CT9 is the first truly new product from Taurus for a while, and minus a couple peeves, it seems to be everything you could want in a pistol caliber carbine.
Why a pistol caliber carbine to begin with?
If you are reading this, there is a fair chance that you are considered the “gun expert” among your circle of friends. So let me ask you a question. What is the best overall gun I should buy for home defense, plinking, and, oh, I want my 110 lb. wife to learn to shoot it and enjoy shooting it?
There are very few actual wrong answers to that question because everyone has an individual list of priorities and everyone’s priorities are different. If you answered a semi-auto pistol or revolver, in theory you could be right, because you want something that is
handy and maneuverable in close quarters. The problem with handguns is that they are hard to shoot accurately at distances of over 20 yards or so. This is due to the short distance between the front and rear sights, called the “sight radius.” The farther apart your sights, the more finely you can attune your aiming point, and pistols are just too short for most people to shoot accurately even to the end of the driveway.
If you said “an AR-15,” congratulations. It’s a great answer. The .223/5.56 cartridge actually stops quicker in wall materials than most handgun rounds, so an AR-15 is a really good choice if you are worried about missing and potentially harming a neighbor or family member in a confrontation with bad guys inside your home. Outside, at distance even, most ARs are capable of great accuracy, and the ergonomics of the gun make it a proven performer. You can also trick your AR-15 out with lights, lasers, optics, even thermal imaging if you want to, and it is probably the best battle-tested option you can buy.
The problem with ARs is that in close quarters, indoors, at night, the muzzle flash and sonic concussion are intense. Your wife may shoot the AR really comfortably during the day outside with hearing protection, but in a genuine firefight both you and the wife will most likely find that the muzzle flash temporarily blinds you and that the crack from the shot is deafening, and certainly not what you prepared yourself for with all that trigger time.
Shotguns, according to VP Joe, are great advice, but unless there are no small potential shooters involved, and unless you are prepared for a hefty recoil, hefty muzzle rise and hefty boom, shotguns aren’t a great choice. What makes the shotgun so desirable is that people have been convinced that the pellets “scatter.” It is, after all, called a scattergun. But that works mostly for only very small pellets, BB-sized shot or smaller. And while I have seen some internet “experts” expound the use of birdshot for home defense, knowing that I may only get off one shot before potential return fire from an attacker, I’d rather have something that can shoot through a Lazy Boy at 10 feet, and birdshot cannot. Most experienced SWAT guys and will tell you that nothing short of 00 buckshot is acceptable to truly end a gunfight, but if you have seen any of our combat shotgun articles, buckshot doesn’t scatter into bigger than a 4″ hole until you get out well past bedroom distances. So much for the scattergun theory. Shotguns with buckshot are great weapons for the right shooter, but they are not an across the board good choice for home defense.
That leaves, surprisingly, the pistol caliber carbine. If you ask any experienced SWAT cop, they will invariably tell you that they favor the MP5, in 9mm, because anything more is overkill and just adds muzzle flash and rise that they would rather not have to deal with. But remember, SWAT cops have a specific task of short-distance room clearing. Generally a guy that is assigned to enter and clear a building is going to have snipers outside to take the long shot if needed. He also will have a doorbuster, and guy standing right next to him with a 12-gauge to bang through whatever obstacles get in the way. You won’t have any of that, and long shots, as well as busting through stuff, are where pistol calibers fail miserably. Even the lightest .223/5.56 bullet will have three times more energy at 100 yards than any pistol caliber pushes at the muzzle. Up close, you generally don’t need the extra energy. Downrange you sometimes do.
So, as you can see, the pistol-caliber carbine is as much of a conundrum as the rest of the firearms world (along with everything else in life), and your best answer to our original question, “What is the best…?” is “well that depends.” For plinking, pistol-caliber carbines are much more fun to shoot at distance than pistols, and you can shoot them cheaper and reload them easier than the necked case of the AR-15. And you thought that this was going to be a simple gun review!
Testing the Taurus CT9
These days, the real measure of a new self-defense gun in the market is how well it meets the needs of today’s consumer. That means options. The Taurus CT9 is completely ambidextrous, with a left-hander-swappable charging handle and double-sided safety and bolt release. The magazine catch is up inside the handle, so both hands can access it equally. The charging handle is non-reciprocating, which means that it doesn’t follow the bolt back and forth. You pull it back to cock the gun and it returns forward, where it stays during firing.
The upper receiver on the gun is aluminum and the lower is polymer. This means that the top Picatinny rail is metal, and the one you see on the bottom of the forend is plastic. If you look at the pictures, you will see that the magazine well is shaped into a front grip, similar to the profile that you see on some aftermarket Magpul front grips. The balance point of the gun is on the magazine well, which ergonomically gives you a tight and comfortable shooting profile without the need for an attached front grip. This leaves the forend rail free for a light and/or laser combo. And if you want something else on the front of the gun, like a camera or something, there are two metal screw sleeves molded into the grip at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions meant for attaching standard rail sections.
The aluminum top rail is long enough for a regular optic and night vision attachment, or a holographic sight and magnifier, and night vision. The CT9 comes with a decent set of open sights with a hooded front post and an elevation-adjustable rear with a choice of slot or ghost ring. Both sights can be moved to anywhere on the rail via a spring catch, but they do not fold down. Neither are they windage-adjustable. To remove the sights, you break the gun down to field-strip level, which is the removal of one pin, then just slide the sights off the back of the receiver.
Reliability is something that you cannot take for granted in a semi-automatic rifle, or any semi-automatic for that matter. This gun is “blowback” operated, which means that the recoil of the cartridge is all that pushes the bolt back to re-cock the hammer and strip a round from the magazine for the next shot. An AR-15, for example, uses the expanding gases in the barrel to push on the bolt, but blowback guns rely only on the initial recoil of the cartridge. This means that these guns can be extremely ammo sensitive when it comes to cycling reliably. We tested the Taurus CT9 with eight different types of 9mm ammo, ranging from high-end carry rounds to military surplus to steel-cased Tula. All of them functioned perfectly, with no failures to cycle or fire, and all of them showed increased velocity over the box values because of the longer 16″ barrel of the CT9. Longer barrel equals more powder burning before the bullet exits, which equals more velocity and more energy. We used the open sights for our accuracy testing at 30 yards with four types of 9mm, and they all grouped into between 1.5″ and 3″ over a 10-shot group. Why this distance? Because it is pretty close to “the end of the driveway” for most of suburbia. Why a 10-shot group? Because in a gunfight, if you need to fire 3 shots, you probably ought to fire 10. As an “end of the driveway” gun, the Taurus CT9 performed really well, and probably at least as well as any pistol-caliber carbine in its class.
My peeves with the gun are two. One is that it only comes with 10-round magazines. After what we have been through over the past year with gun bans and magazine bans, Taurus really should have shipped this baby with a 30-rounder, or at least a 17-round “standard capacity” doublestack 9mm mag. The magazine appears to be a proprietary design, and doesn’t match Taurus pistol mags. Oh well for now on this point. The customers will yell loudly enough to at least get some aftermarket companies cooking.
The other problem with the gun is the safety release lever. Unless you have a freakishly long thumb that is comfortable bending backwards, you won’t be able to release the safety with your firing hand without difficulty. The answer to this is either to control the safety with your non-firing hand, or to ride your thumb on the lever located on your firing hand side of the gun. See the pictures, because this is a lot less complicated that it sounds. This gives you a comfortable shooting method with the CT9 that you can train for and practice. Is it ideal? No. This is a design flaw in the gun. But is it a deal killer? You be the judge.
The Taurus CT9 comes with a hard case, two 10-round magazines and a really nice sling with finish protectors over the end clips, as well as the cleaning brush, manual and a lock. It weighs 7.54 lbs. on my scale with an empty mag. After over 300 rounds with this gun, we found that it works reliably, ejects the same ammo to the same small pile all the time (a great sign), and that it doesn’t beat up your brass if you are a reloader. Like pretty much all blowback operated guns, you get a face-full of smoke when you shoot the gun rapid-fire (the MP5 is the worst for this), and it does get dirty, so you’ll want to clean it after a healthy range session. The good news is that 9mm ammo is finally available at close to normal prices again these days, so we can all go back to actually shooting our guns for fun instead of just planning for Armageddon.
Taurus is going to be the company to watch in the coming years, now that they are being led in the right direction. This CT9/CT40 is a great start. Everyone should have at least one pistol-caliber carbine in his gun accumulation (which is different than a collection, but we’ll get to that some other time). I think you will love the Taurus CT9.