Pistol Carbine Goes Mainstream

By Oleg Volk

The Israeli-designed Command Arms Accessories (CAA) RONI kit has been around for about six years. It’s a mostly plastic shell designed to snap around a handgun to provide a shoulder stock for greater control. While shoulder stocks for pistols go back at least to the 18th century flintlocks, it was the Mauser C1896 that popularized the concept. This same approach has been tried with long-barreled Lugers, the C712 machine pistol and its Spanish Astra clones, the Browning Hi-Power and the Soviet APS machine pistol. All those suffered from a relatively short sight radius, flimsy holsters and the lack of a forend. RONI kits fix all of those problems, yielding very handy pistol carbines that fill the gap between handguns and compact rifles.

More recently, the concept was revived in Israel. As with many weapon-related inventions, it came from the restrictive laws that severely limited the ability of Israeli citizens to own firearms.

While it is possible to get a pistol license, almost no one in Israel, including retired army snipers and senior officers, is permitted to own a rifle. The weapons we see in the news are owned by the state and lent out to army reservists. The RONI adapter was a legal way to have an almost-rifle in Israel. Facing terrorists armed with rifles, some Israelis use RONI kits to improve the practical accuracy of their carry pistols. In 2015, such a kit made the news in connection with the Mayor of Jerusalem carrying a .40 caliber Glock in a RONI stock when detaining a knife-wielding attacker. Originally offered only for Glocks, RONI kits are now available for many brands and models of pistol.

In the US, ATF considers the resulting firearm to be a short-barreled rifle and requires a $200 tax stamp and registration, so it’s been less popular here. Before obtaining both the RONI and handgun for it, a Form 1 with $200 tax stamp must be approved for an individual. Until recently, its unique benefits remained largely unknown to the American public. With numerous pistol caliber carbines available, why bother with a heavily regulated conversion that costs as much as a mid-range complete weapon like the Keltec Sub-2000?

It turns out that there are two compelling reasons: First, a RONI conversion results in a lightweight weapon with negligible recoil. Second, it allows the manual of arms already familiar to pistol users to be retained.

Three types of RONI are currently available: the compact original, the diminutive Micro RONI and the carbine designed around a 16-inch Glock barrel. All three models provide a great improvement in stability.

Neither of the short models placed the front sight far enough forward to provide a good sight picture, but the 21st century has a fix for that problem: red dot sights. Using the excellent Hartman MH-1 red dot, I could easily hit silhouette targets at 150 yards. Without the conversion kit, 100 yards would have been my realistic limit and at much slower speed. With a shoulder stock and an optic not attached to a moving slide, I could ring steel as fast as I could point. Micro RONI weighs exactly as much as an unloaded Glock 17: 710 grams. Put together and loaded with a 33-round magazine, they add up to 1.8 kilograms—less than half the weight of an R15 carbine in 9mm. The larger RONI adapter is twice the weight, which still only adds up to 2.3 kilograms loaded.

RONI may be fired safely from the left shoulder. The stock length is adjustable for different arm length and body armor. The safety and the charging handles are ambidextrous. It has plenty of rail space for lasers, lights and other accessories. The two short models come with compensators that are very effective without undue concussion. Although the carbine shroud also appears to be ported as a compensator, the actual muzzle goes all the way to the front. A hand placed by the slanted cuts would not be in any danger, and the overhand grip greatly improves control during rapid fire.

The 16-inch Glock 17-based model provides much improved ballistics, reduces already negligible recoil to near zero and offers an extended forend for steady holding. It weighs a little less than a 9mm AR while kicking a great deal less, thanks to the locked breech design of the pistols used. Relative to the handgun, it is noticeably quieter. With the slightly flatter trajectory and much improved ergonomics, the carbine RONI made 150-yard, A-zone torso shots a viable proposition.

While few defensive situations call for such a feat, it does mean a greater confidence in making the same shot at ten yards than with a conventional pistol.

What impressed me the most—enough to give this conversion a solid vote of approval for serious purposes—was just how controllable it makes the gun during rapid fire. The standard RONI shell around a Glock 18 machine pistol that runs at 20 rounds per second is shown in the photo—the smiling girl just fired an 8 to 10 shot burst, with five empties visible and several more behind her. She remains in control of the gun, and her group at ten yards was about the size of the A zone on an IPSC silhouette target. Mechanically, RONI is about as accurate as the base pistol, somewhere around 6MOA. Thanks to the ergonomic design, that mechanical accuracy can be applied almost without a loss to the target. 6MOA, while it sounds inaccurate, is plenty good for 150-yard, A-zone torso hits or 50-yard head shots. Try that with a handgun! RONI fills the same niche as the 16″ Uzi closed bolt carbine, but at less than half the weight!

With a Trijicon MRO red dot sight and a full 33-round SGM magazine, the resulting carbine weighs around 6 pounds. For comparison, the excellent JP Enterprises 9mm GMR13 weighs 7.25 pounds empty and unsighted, and it feels heavier due to the hefty forend. The light weight and good balance are especially significant to shooters with limited upper body strength. To lighten the clamshell further and to make its sides slicker, I removed the side rails. I also took the spare magazine holder off the stock, mainly because it got in the way and my training assumed spare magazines on the waist. The kit came with a folding foregrip, which was likewise removed. Instead of holding the carbine by the low-placed grip, I found it easier to hold it around the forend for better control.

Unlike the other RONI kits, “Civilian” requires partial disassembly of the pistol to install the longer barrel. The pistol may be fired with the 16″ barrel installed, but it’s awkward and fairly pointless. The user then must slip the plastic cocking piece over the back of the pistol slide. At first, I tried that with a KE Arms slide only to discover that the shape of the cocking piece is specific to the straight grooves of the original Glock. Once the pistol is ready for insertion, two pins are pushed out of the clamshell to open it and place the weapon inside. With experience, the entire conversion process can be done in about 30 seconds.

The operation of the pistol is unchanged, save for the charging handles on each side replacing direct grasping of the slide. After the initial loading, the next magazine can be started with the slide release lever. The barrel, as is typical of Browning-type short recoil designs, moves to unlock the action. The length of it is such that the muzzle reached almost the top of the shroud when in full recoil. The longer barrel weighing 3.5 times more than the stock 4 inches and the friction added by the cocking piece soaks up most of the recoil. In practice, that means low-powered, cheap 9mm ammunition might not cycle the action at all, while full power loads work perfectly and +P ammunition produces only a minimal kick and, helpfully, almost no visible muzzle flash.

Being a locked breech design, G17/RONI runs clean. I’ve had no malfunctions in over 1000 rounds without cleaning, so long as full strength ammunition is used. Steel, aluminum, brass and hybrid cases all cycled fine.?

RONI Civilian proved 100% reliable with all standard spec 9x19 ball, as well as +P defensive ammo (124gr Golden Saber) and two specialty carbine loads. One of them, Z-Shock by Velocity Munitions, is a 90gr zinc alloy load rated for 1400 fps from pistols. It shot 1650 fps from the 16-inch barrel, giving a flat trajectory out to the limit of the practical aimed fire distance around 150 yards. Another carbine-specific load made with slower powder, 77gr copper HP from Maker Bullets, developed 1850 fps at the muzzle. Other 9mm loads gain useful velocity as well; typically lighter bullets speed up more than the heavier projectiles. With these kinds of speeds, hold-over estimates got much easier. With the red dot zeroed at 25 yards and my elbows on a bench, I was able to hit steel (sized no larger than 12 inches square) out to 125 yards. Aimee Williams, a competition shooter, was able to do the same thing but out to 150 yards and standing! Standing only 5’2 inches, she was an excellent illustration of the kind of user RONI would serve well. Length of pull may be adjusted from 10.2 inches, suitable for petite adults and kids, to 14 inches for taller shooters, and the stock has an integral adjustable cheek piece to accommodate different sights.

Since the RONI kit isn’t a firearm, it’s available in all states except California. Between the base G17 and the conversion kit, the overall price will be closer to $1K. Is the resulting weapon worth it? In my opinion, very much so. Its ease of use and excellent ergonomics put the RONI-enhanced G17 on a par with the best of the dedicated 9mm carbines. While less accurate than most fixed barrel designs, RONI is much handier and doesn’t require learning a new manual of arms from the familiar pistol. It can be used effectively by pre-teens and petite women who would be hard put to lift or cycle a more conventional blowback 9mm rifle. To me, it was a very surprising and happy discovery. Along with Keltec CMR30, I recommend RONI especially to the smaller shooters and aged shooters. Strong men in their prime have just as much fun running the pistol carbine, but they have rifle-strength solutions available, while the less mainstream users have few effective centerfire options besides the RONI Civilian.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N6 (July 2017)
and was posted online on May 19, 2017


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