February 08, 2023
Back when the West was the frontier, it was common to pack a rifle and a handgun that were chambered in the same cartridge. It kept supply easier, and if the cartridge in question was a common one, you could be sure to find ammo pretty much anyplace that was civilized, should you need to stock up. Even some uncivilized places, as well. Oh, and a brief aside here; do you know the four most common chamberings for the Colt Single Action Army? They would be, in order; .45 Colt, .44-40, .38-40, and .32-20. I have read some references that show the .32-20 in third place. Apparently, a lot of cowboys felt that the .32-20 was enough gun.
The question we are faced with is: if we are going to follow the same path, and have a long gun and a handgun in the same caliber, what should that caliber be? And no, I am not going to suggest the .32-20. Let’s be more specific and consider your dual-firearm caliber choice to not only be one for emergency situations, aka survival or civil unrest, but also hunting, because that is part of survival. As far as civil unrest, there’s a good chance that in such a situation you will be working in or around vehicles. That puts a couple of severe restrictions on our choices. First, it has to include a long gun that is not so long. You have to be able to maneuver it into and out of an automobile. Now, at one of the most recent Patrol Rifle classes I was at, a Deputy brought his “car gun” to the class. It was a full-sized AR-15 rifle, an A2 with 20-inch barrel and fixed stock. Just thinking about all that can go wrong, trying to get that out of a mount, and out the door (let alone unlimbered inside, should you need to shoot out) gave me the heebie-jeebies. He was fine with it, but no, something shorter for me, please. Second, you may need at times to get through glass and steel. Well, you may, sometimes, have that need, and it would be good to have that option.
So, our options are; 9mm and .45, as usual, right? The 9mm may have more success in getting into a car than the .45, and it may not. The 9mm will hold more rounds (not that that is likely to be a critical need, but it is always comforting to have more ammo) but the .45 does a better job of causing job-classification reassessments on the part of miscreants. Might I suggest a third choice: 10mm?
The 10mm comes close to the 9mm where capacity is concerned, and generally beats the .45 in that category. It offers bullet weights nearly as heavy as those of the .45 ACP. And it penetrates better than either. The felt recoil of a 10mm is not going to be significantly greater than that of a .45, and while it is more than a 9mm, it is, in my opinion, worth the freight. Plus, it is available. Regarding the hunting aspect of survival, if you need to take a medium-sized deer at under 50 yards, the 10mm will feed you. Not sure that it would and want proof? Get a back issue of Firearms News from 2018, number 19 to be exact. You will see the medium-sized doe that Editor Vincent DeNiro’s son Mathew bagged with a 10mm TNW Aero carbine. There are other, hot, cartridges that you might think would make “just the thing” for a dual-firearm combo, but getting ammo, or firearms, wouldn’t be easy.
Let’s take this one step further. Not just the same ammunition, but the same magazines. Now, in the AR-verse that has become a much more common thing. You can get carbines that use common pistol magazines, but they are carbines as far as the controls go. Let’s tie this all up, and decide that we want commonality of controls, and we are now to the final spot: we need a pistol conversion that makes a carbine, in 10mm, and we want capacity.
Welcome to MechTech
MechTech offers options with other pistols, but the one we will be looking at today is the combination of MechTech and a Springfield Armory XD-M in 10mm. The MechTech CCU comes in a variety of options, and you can add on upgrades to make it what you want. You can even rebuild it to make it more. What I did was simply go right to the top, and laid hands on an Operator model. Let’s look at what it is, and has built-in, before we go hands-on and assemble a combo. The CCU (carbine conversion Unit) is a steel tube as the receiver, with a bolt inside, and a barrel secured in the front. The bolt is not locked, thus a blow-back system, and the interior has a stout buffer pad to control the thump of the bolt bottoming out at the rear. The rear of the tube has a stock attachment, and on the Operator, the stock attachment is an AR-15 carbine buffer tube. The ejection port is on the right side, and the charging handle is on the left side.
The Operator also has a quad-rail assembly attached to the exterior of the tube, and the top rail is almost the full length of the receiver tube. The CCU (and the PCU, the Pistol conversion Unit) does not have a serial number, because in order to make it work you have to install a pistol receiver to it. As the pistol receiver has its own serial number, the CCU is thus simply an accessory as far as the law is concerned. (Your state may feel differently, so be sure of the law, and don’t get tripped up by some absurd, nanny-state interpretation that your “representatives” may have foisted upon you.) This means, state law permitting, it can be shipped right to your door. Another great feature, regarding laws and regulations, is that since the stock is attached to the upper receiver and barrel assembly, there are no issues with violating the National Firearms Act of 1934 by accidentally having an unregistered short barreled rifle through what ATF likes to call “constructive possession.” Other pistol to carbine kits have stocks which attach to the firearm’s serialized receiver or frame, and when possessed with a barrel shorter than 16 inches can put one in hot water even if a 16-plus-inch barrel is installed.
When you order, you can add or subtract options, and change features. You can have a plain muzzle, threaded, or a slip-on flash hider, your choice. (Again, State law permitting.) Fixed, adjustable, or telestocks, muzzle brakes, handguards, various rail sizes and configurations, you can have a CCU or PCU as plain or as tricked-out as you like. Also, since the CCU is made of steel, you can, if you are handy, modify it yourself. The top rail means you can install a classic M4 carry handle, or build up a suite of optics and iron sights to your taste or needs. Folding irons, front and back, with a red-dot optic in the middle would replicate the sighting setup of many AR-15s, but the AR-15-based carbine would lack the caliber option of the CCU. Those, you can only have in 9mm, with some few I’ve seen through the years in 10mm. Lastly, you can have your CCU or PCU done up in various colors. But, and again, this is steel, so you can start with a plain one and once you have it built/modified to your liking, apply your own camo scheme to it.
Put It Together
OK, time to build. The CCU can be had to fit three pistols, four if you count the XD and the XD-M as separate pistols. Which they are, in some calibers, at least as far as the magazines are concerned. The three are XD/XDM, Glock and 1911. Each CCU is pistol-specific. That is, if you have a 1911 CCU, it will work with all the 1911-pattern pistols that will fit it, but it will not work with Glocks or XD/XD-M pistols. And the same with the other options, so know what you are ordering. Also, you have to stay within pistol size in a given model, as well as caliber. So, you can’t lay hands on a Glock (just to pick one) CCU for a G17, and expect it to work with a G20. The frame sizes are different. But a CCU made for the G17 will work with a G22, as the frame sizes are the same, but you will have to use 9mm magazines, not the .40s that came with the G22. This is all explained by MechTech, but if you have questions I’m sure they can answer them. But it is worth paying attention to the details listed by MechTech on this, in order to gain the greatest versatility in your CCU/pistol combo. For our testing, we had MechTech ship a CCU in 10mm for the full-sized Springfield Armory XD-M. Assembly is straightforward, with some details you will have to pay attention to.
Unload and disassemble your pistol. You simply have to remove the slide assembly, but you do not have to take the barrel and recoil spring out of the slide. Set the XD-M slide assembly aside, perhaps in a pocket of your range bag or shelf over the workbench. Pivot the XD-M takedown lever back to “assembled,” then take the MechTech-provided CCU feed ramp, and press it into the XD/M frame in front of the magazine well. Since the CCU is a blow-back design, the barrel does not cam down when the system cycles. The space in the XD-M frame for the cammed-down barrel has to be filled, and that’s what the CCU feed ramp does. The feed ramp has a small magnet in it to keep it in place while you are handling it for assembly. Once the CCU and the XD-M frame are assembled, the feed ramp is sandwiched between the XD-M frame and the CCU assembly and can’t fall out, as there’s no room for it to move.
The Glock and 1911 differ a bit from this point on, so I will be specific for the XD/XD-M, and you can find the details of those other two if you opt for one of them. The XD/M CCU has a thumbscrew and railed connector on the bottom. Loosen the thumbscrew. Lock the CCU bolt to the rear. Press the pistol frame up into the CCU with the grip safety depressed and press the pistol forward. This locks the pistol rail into the receiver rails of the CCU. Then tighten the thumbscrew while keeping the interlocking rails of the CCU and the accessory rail slots of the XD-M aligned. If the clamping rail slots and the accessory slots of the XD-M frame do not line up properly, that means you do not have the pistol frame correctly inserted and locked into the CCU tube. There is no “close enough” here, things must line up properly.
Once assembled, operation is easy. Load a magazine. Lock the bolt to the rear by pulling the charging handle back and the pressing it into the receiver, to catch on the recess machined in the charging handle groove. Insert the magazine into the pistol frame as you would any pistol magazine. Hold the pistol frame and depress the grip safety. Retract the charging handle from its recess and let go. (The charging handle will not move unless the grip safety is depressed.) You’ve got a round in the chamber. The CCU depends on the grip safety of the XD-M and does not have an external safety of its own. The CCU does not lock open when empty. And, the positioning of the magazine in the CCU, for proper feeding, at least as explained in the manual, makes it mechanically impossible to permit inserting a magazine with the bolt forward, thus the need to lock the bolt back to load. I found it possible to insert and lock a magazine in place with the bolt forward. However, a couple of times the top round did not feed properly, and it took a bit of tapping to get it to close. When I locked the bolt back to load, it fed perfectly every time. So, it lies to be loaded a certain way. I can live with that.
While you can accessorize your CCU, the Operator CCU comes with items that would be accessories with other firearms. The regular Operator includes a press-on flash hider (if you opt for a threaded muzzle, then you’ll get a threaded muzzle brake) a red/green optic, flip up sights, a vertical foregrip, and sling hardware. While I really didn’t feel the need for a muzzle brake on a 10mm carbine that ends up at the weight this one does, the other items make it ready to go right out of the box, once you’ve attended to a little assembly.
At the Range
The optic and iron sights are UTG from Leapers, a Taiwan company. I’m a hard-core Made in the USA guy, but I’ll gladly buy gear from Taiwan, even if it is just to poke the mainland in the eye. This is more than poking. UTG gear might be looked down on by the “gotta be Made for SEALs” crowd, but I have found it to be quite serviceable. And even if you want to get the best, you can profit from learning on UTG, and then moving up (if you have to, or feel the need). A brief aside here, as well: I love Magpul gear. But I will not use folding sights that are made of plastic. The UTG sights are aluminum, and they lock in each position. So, given those two choices, I’ll gladly go UTG.
The carbine-length barrel on the MechTech gives us a bit of velocity boost, but not as much as you might expect. Still, 150 fps is a nice extra, and I won’t give it up if it is offered. Ammunition manufacturers have spent more than a few decades at this point wringing as much velocity as they can out of pistol-length barrels. Going from five-and-a-quarter inches to sixteen in barrel length is not going to get you a huge velocity boost. But it will get you some, depending on bullet weight and the powder the manufacturer uses. At just over eight pounds empty, the CCU is not going to have a lot of recoil, even in 10mm. It does have a bit of spring “boing” which is mysterious, since there’s no buffer spring in it. But, it is a steel tube, and certain harmonics of recoil are likely the culprit here.
The trigger pull of the CCU is, as you’d expect, the trigger pull of the host pistol frame. This is a good thing, as it not only gives you the same hand-feel, grip, etc, but also the same trigger pull. Granted, your pistol is now dedicated to being a carbine, but since this is America, and you are not limited to just one firearm, you can buy a matching pair. Or, a full-sized and compact, and have the same ammunition, magazines, trigger pull and grip feel in both carbine and pistol. I am at the moment also testing the new Springfield XD-M Elite OSP compact in 10mm, and this with the MechTech CCU is a rockin’ combo. Dual ammo and magazines for both pistol and carbine. And in 10mm, it has the horsepower to deal with emergencies. If you need to absolutely whack something, right now, and many times, then a 10mm CCU, loaded with Buffalo Bore ammo, will serve you well. Not that the other loads are love taps, but a 220-grain hard cast bullet making a Power Factor of 286 is comforting in an emergency, especially if the emergency is a hungry bear.
If you travel a lot, and only carry a handgun, consider getting a MechTech conversion if your handgun of choice is a Springfield XD series, Glock, or 1911. With the way things have been in this country, it would be much better to have a semi-auto carbine if you have to fight your way back home.
MechTech Systems 10mm Conversion Kit Specs
- Type: Striker-fired, semiautomatic
- Caliber: 10mm
- Capacity: Any Springfield Armory 10mm XD-M magazine
- Barrel: 16 in.
- Overall Length: 36 in.
- Weight: 8 lbs., 3 oz. (with pistol frame)
- Finish: Cerakote
- Grips: XD-M frame
- Sights: N/A
- Trigger: 5 lbs. (host trigger pull)
- MSRP: $850
- Manufacturer: MechTech Systems
About the Author
Patrick Sweeney is a life-long shooter, with more than half a century of trigger time, four decades of reloading, 25 years of competition (4 IPSC World Shoots, 50 USPSA Nationals, 500+ club matches, and 18 Pin Shoots, as well as Masters, Steel Challenge and Handgunner Shootoff entries). He spent two decades as a professional gunsmith, and two decades as the President of his gun club. A State-Certified law Enforcement Firearms Instructor, he is also a Court-recognized Expert Witness.
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