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Range Report: The Just Right Carbine — Pistol Caliber Carbines

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Article first appeared at Cheaper than Dirt.

The pistol-caliber carbine enjoys a long and storied history. The Winchester lever action and Colt Single Action Army combination started the ball rolling. Today, the modern self-loading carbine is the popular option.

JRC rifle with scope right profile

The Just Right Carbine is well designed and offers a formidable home protection firearm.

There are three types of pistol caliber carbines. The first are civilian versions of military sub-machineguns. They are heavy for the cartridge, and they had to be to remain controllable in fully automatic fire. The second type is a conversion of the AR-15 rifle to pistol caliber cartridges.

Third, and in my opinion the most useful, are the purpose-designed pistol-caliber carbines. The Just Right Carbine—the JR in the rest of this story—has the appearance of the AR-15 in some ways, but it is a purpose-designed pistol caliber carbine. For those wishing to own a relatively light, handy, fun carbine, the JR is a good choice.

Hornady XTP bullets from pristine to fully upset.

Performance of a quality jacketed bullet such as the Hornady XTP is enhanced by the high velocity of a carbine barrel versus a handgun barrel.

The Just Right Carbine (JRC) is available in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP calibers. I chose the .45 ACP because I have ammo and plenty of brass for handloading. It is interesting that the JR may be changed from one caliber to the other relatively easily.

The JR uses a simple blowback action. The bolt is held forward by spring pressure until the bullet exits the barrel. Pressure abates and the bolt flies to the rear. A heavy buffer takes the shock out of firing. The spent cartridge case is ejected, and as the bolt flies forward, another cartridge is stripped from the magazine and into the chamber.

The JR will accept AR-15 type stocks and forends, an important consideration. There is also a Mil-Spec rail for mounting weapons lights and lasers. While the carbine was serviceable as issued, it is easy to accessorize. It isn’t supplied with any type of sights. The test gun was fitted with a Tasco Red Dot for evaluation purposes.

Close up of the bolt assembly on the JRC rifle

In this illustration the bolt has been manually locked to the rear, an option for a carbine that does not lock open on the last shot.

The JR carbine uses Glock Model 21 .45 caliber magazines. The JR features a magazine release on the left side of the receiver, rather than the right hand release of the Colt AR-15. This is fine in practice and easy enough to get used to. I do not choose to compare the JR carbine to a full-power service rifle but rather choose to let it stand on its own merits as a service-grade pistol caliber carbine.

To make the JR carbine ready to fire, insert a loaded magazine and rack the bolt to load a cartridge. The safety is moved to the fire position. On my example, the trigger broke at a relatively clean 7 pounds. The bolt carries the extractor; however, the ejector is part of the dust cover. This dust cover may be changed to the right or left side in order to facilitate a change for left handed shooters.

The bolt handle may also be switched for left hand operation. The bolt doesn’t have a hold open device on the last shot but may be manually locked in place by placing the handle into a slot in the receiver. At this point I have test fired the JR carbine to a good extent. I have fired the JR carbine with a variety of loads, including handloads, factory ball ammunition, hollow points and a single +P load.

3 Hornady .45 ACP shells

Note excess pressure signs on +P cartridge case primer, above. Blowback actions are not the place to be hot rodding the .45 ACP!

A caution, although the rifle performed well with the Hornady +P 220-grain Flex Lock, there were excess pressure signs with some loads. It is a rule of thumb that we do not use +P loads in blow back operated firearms. Just the same, there was no danger; it simply seems such loads would batter the rifle. This load breaks about 1050 fps from a 5-inch barrel Colt Government Model. The carbine exhibited well over 1150 fps. This is a useful amount of increase.

The majority of the loads fired were 230-grain full metal jacketed—the traditional .45 ACP ‘hardball’ loading. With all loads, including the Hornady 200-grain XTP, accuracy was good and the powder burn was complete. I also fired mostly standard pressure 230-grain JHP loads, all with good to excellent results. The Just Right carbine feeds good quality handloads as well. I had on hand a quantity using the Hornady 185-grain XTP. Loaded over Winchester 231 powder, these loads exhibited a velocity of over 1,300 fps from the Just Right Carbine.

As for accuracy, the Just Right carbine is more accurate than the majority of handguns. And that accuracy is much easier for an occasional shooter to demonstrate with the carbine than a handgun. An average of five-shot groups, at 25 yards, from a solid bench rest position, gave good carbine-style groups. It wasn’t unusual to break 1.5 inches for five shots. A few went into even smaller groups, including the handload. The Hornady FTX Critical Defense load also proved reliable and accurate.

Bob Campbell holding the JR carbine

The Just Right carbine handles quickly.

It is a simple matter to adjust the red dot to zero-in the rifle. For short-range use, the fast 185-grain load is ideal. For longer range, the heavier pistol bullet holds its velocity better, and I would go with the 200-grain XTP or the 230-grain XTP. Remember, standard pressure loads become +P or great in velocity compared to pistol ballistics. Accuracy was consistent from load to load.

The JR carbine is a friendly rifle to fire. The adjustable stock seems to lend itself well to all shooters. I think that the rifle is a great choice for moving young shooters from the .22 to a centerfire without the muzzle blast, kick and expense of a centerfire rifle. All in all, this is an enjoyable rifle that seems well made of good material.

Author’s Note

During the course of a long-term evaluation of several rifles, we suffered a problem with a JRC that demanded a return to the factory- and service was good and thorough. It happens sometimes and JRC stands by its product.

JRC rifle left profile black

The JRC .45 is a compact rifle for field use.


Caliber: .45 ACP
Action type: Blowback-operated, semi-automatic carbine
Receiver: Anodized aluminum
Finish: Black oxide
Barrel: 16″ 4140 Steel
Rifling: Six-groove, 1:16″ RH twist
Sights: None
Trigger: Single-stage 7 -lb., 1-oz. pull
Handguard: Aluminum quad-rail
Stock: AR-type collapsible
Magazine: Glock detachable-box
Overall Length: Buttstock extended 34 1⁄2″; collapsed, 311⁄4″
Weight: 7 pounds
Manufacturer: Just Right Carbines, P.O. Box 430, Canandaigua, NY 14424; (585) 396-1551

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