Gun Review – Extar EP9 Carbine

by Tommy Grant

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Firearms and affordability are tricky things. Some do it well, and others, well, who else bought a USFA ZIP 22LR? More than a few times, I’ve talked about pistol caliber carbines and large-format pistols, and people have asked about Extar. I never had any experience, so I never had an opinion. I reached out to Extar, and they were very polite but simply had no loaners to ship. It took a couple of years, and they released a rifle version that I was lucky enough to snag and review, the new EP9 Carbine.

Extar has found a great way to provide a fairly cheap firearm by cutting out the middleman and selling directly to consumers. As direct as having to ship to an FFL and pay for a transfer gets anyone. Extar released the original EP9 as a large-format pistol with a brace. They followed that up with the EP45, a .45 ACP version of the gun. Finally, we got the EP9 Carbine variant with its 16-inch barrel and proper stock.

These guns are all $499 but can be cheaper or more expensive, depending on options. The EP9 Carbine you see here retails for $499.

Breaking Down the Extar EP9 Carbine

The Extar EP9 Carbine uses what Extar calls a mass-delayed blowback system. In truth, all straight blowback guns use mass to delay the bolt from opening. Straight blowback guns typically have heavy bolts and springs to prevent the action from opening until the pressure drops to safe levels. With that said, the EP9 Carbine does use a fairly interesting bolt design.

It looks a bit like a basic AR9 bolt but features a weight attached to the top of the bolt. That weight has a spring at the rear of it. When the gun fires and the bolt reciprocates, the weight on the top of the bolt can move rearward against the spring. Once pressure is relieved, it can be propelled forward. It reminds me of the Ruger dead blow blowback system with its sliding tungsten weight.

The carbine design is AR-like but has its own slight variances. The gun uses a reciprocating left-side charging handle. The gun separates into an upper and lower receiver but only uses one rear push pen to break the weapon down. The top of the receiver sits a bit higher above the stock than an AR, but it seems to work fine with AR-height sights and AR-height sight mounts.

The other controls are all AR-like. This includes the safety and bolt release. The magazine release isn’t traditional AR but is the same style of magazine release every AR9 that uses Glock or SIG magazine uses. It’s designed to work with the front relief cuts on pistol mags. The gun uses Glock magazines predictably.

The EP9 Carbine In Living Color

The carbine variant sports a threaded 16.25-inch barrel with 1/2×28 threads. Surrounding the barrel is a short 8-inch handguard that allows the barrel to free float. The handguard’s design is interesting. It’s not exactly perfectly round and quite wide. It’s also heavily textured, which is a nice touch. There are M-LOK slots on three sides for accessories.

Extar went with the Mission First Tactical Minimalist Stock. A nice touch when the uber-cheap M4 style stock would have probably worked fine. Some folks give the MFT Minimalist Stock an unfair shake, but it’s honestly a pretty nice stock that’s comfy, has lots of sling points and rotates up and to the shoulder quite nicely. If you don’t like it, it’s easy to swap, and the pistol grip is also compatible with other AR grips.

One of the price and admittedly weight savers is the heavy user of polymers. Polymer is used for the upper and lower receiver, as well as the receiver extension. The parts that have to be metal are metal, but not much else. It makes a light and cheap gun that’s surprisingly heat-resistant.

To the Range

When it comes to PCCs, I have some pretty simple accuracy standards. With a red dot, I should be able to make a group that’s one ragged hole at 25 yards. At 50 yards, I need to be able to hit a 6-inch gong with boring regularity. At 75 yards, an IPSC target with regularity but standard regularity. At 100 yards, we enter the bonus round. If my 9mm PCC can hit an IPSC target at 100 yards more than I miss, I consider that a win.

Let’s fast forward. The gun does all of the above. In fact, at 100 yards with the Bushnell TRS-25, which is the cheapest red dot I own, I can hit that metal IPSC target over and over.

I’m holding at the head, or I guess the head of the target, and letting those rounds drop right into the steel target. I hit more than I missed and the smile across my face couldn’t be wiped off.

The trigger of the gun is quite crisp and surprisingly nice for an affordable firearm. Out of the box, it had a slight plastic-on-plastic feeling, but after a few hundred rounds, it cleaned up quite nicely. It’s not a drop-in CMC trigger level of good, but it’s not bad. The pull has no pretravel and has a slightly heavy wall and a break. After that, we get a chunky reset, which is quite nice.

Going Fast

A short trigger pull is nice to have, and guns like this are made for close-range use, with speed being the primary concern. I can go fairly fast with the Extar EP9 Carbine. I shot Bill Drills, VTAC 1-5 drills, and fun ones like double taps from the low ready as fast as possible. The gun can go fast, but we do see the result of a blowback system, even a mass-delayed blowback system.

The recoil impulse isn’t violent, but it’s chunky. You can feel the bolt go rearward and then go back forward with every shot. This has an effect on your sight picture with a red dot. The dot moves a good bit when the gun fires.

The way to limit this effect is to pull that gun back and tight into your shoulder. Practicing that tight rearward pull reduced the back-and-forth feeling of the bolt moving. A forward grip would help, but the textured handguard is a nice touch.

In terms of reliability, the gun cycled a bit of everything I had. This includes various weights, hollow points and a mix of new and remanufactured ammo. The Extar EP9 Carbine eats and eats. It also functions reliably with a mess of Glock magazines. Extar ships it with one 18-round magazine, and I used ETS, GLOCK OEM, Amend2 and KCI mags, and they all functioned without a problem. The KCI magazines did not drop free, but other than that, it works fine with them.

Caliber – 9×19 Luger
Barrel Length – 16.25 in.
Barrel Thread – 1/2-28
Overall Length Extended – 35 in.
Overall Height – 7.9 in.
Overall Width – 2 in.
Weight (Unloaded) – 5lbs., 2oz.
MSRP – $499

Ratings (Out of Five Stars)

Accuracy – ****
The gun can reach out and hit targets at 100 yards. Not bad at all for a 9mm carbine. It’s not 1 MOA gun, but it’s a fairly solid PCC. The 9mm isn’t typically used beyond 50 yards, so the Extar EP9 Carbine is impressive enough.

Ergonomics – *** (And a half)
Overall, the ergonomics are solid, but there are some changes that would be nice. I would like to see a longer rail. The current short rail means a weapon light will have a terrible shadow. The charging handle is fine if you’re right-handed, but the charging handle is tricky for lefties. The recoil impulse is also interesting, but you can work past it a bit.

Reliability – *****
The Extar EP9 Carbine runs with a wide variety of ammo as well as a wide variety of Glock magazines without complaint.

Bang For Your Buck – *****
The Extar EP9 is 500 bucks, and that’s stellar considering our inflation rates and what $500 buys you these days.

Overall – ****
For the money, I’m not sure there is a better carbine out there. The SUB 2000 is a close competitor, but outside of the folding design, the EP9 does everything better. It’s a surprisingly solid rifle from a small American company, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the design.

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