June 03, 2019
I try to start each new year with an internal evaluation, looking at strength and weaknesses with my shooting and gun selection. This year, I noticed 9mm pistol-caliber carbines (PCC) being used by many of the notable pro trainers in their videos. I also noticed as the competition season kicked off, some big names were now using these carbines as their primary gun during big events. As in the past, my internal jury was still out on PCC’s for tactical and practical use. So, holding true to working on weaknesses, I was very excited to get a chance at writing on a pistol-caliber carbine and use offset iron sights. It was as if someone had read my short list of what never to do. I did know, from a previous I.O. Inc. 9mm project, I would run a PCC which supports Glock style magazines as the I.O. Inc. M215 9mm does!
Upon receiving this project, I quickly went to pick up the gun from my favorite FFL, National Armory in Moon, PA. Matt, the store manager, asked why I had selected a 9mm carbine. I told him I really didn’t have a choice, but that this article would get me out of my comfort zone early in the training season. The 45-degree offset iron sights had already arrived from Midwest Industries, Inc. (MidwestIndustriesInc.com), so I started taking pictures and looking at how I would set up the gun. From my research and through talking to pros and military shooters, I decided on a small magnified scope for the top rail. But this conflicted with my old mindset as I wondered why put a magnified optic on a pistol carbine. After remembering to keep an open mind, I realized that I didn’t have an extra low magnification scope which would be right for this gun and writing project.
No worries! I pulled a Trijicon MRO off of another gun and mounted it on the top rail of the I.O. M215 9mm M-Lok with 15" rail (ML-15). This configuration may not be how I would run this gun for real; but using the MRO on top gave me the chance to proof the concept of using offset iron sights. (I will talk more about optics and using iron sights later in the article.) After mounting the MRO and offset iron sights, I went to the range and test fired the M215 9mm. I grabbed the one ETS-Elite Tactical Systems, 9mm, 31 round Glock-style magazine that came with the gun and a can of loose 9mm ammo. I didn’t clean or oil the gun and fired 50 rounds from it at the range. The I.O. M215 9mm carbine performed flawlessly. I returned home to break the gun down for more pictures and a closer inspection.
Even after a previous FN article on I.O. AR style pistols, I am still getting used to differences in PCC’s. The M215 9mm does not come with the last-round bolt hold-open feature (LRBHO) and the forward assist does not serve that function for this dedicated 9mm Bolt Carrier Group (BCG). On the outside, the M215 9mm has a 16" barrel with a 15" free float M-Lok rail. This rifle is equipped with an M4 profile, nitride barrel, with a 1:8 twist rate. The flash suppressor is a Colt style AR-15/M16A2/M4 flash suppressor/compensator cage with slots. The stock is a six position, Guntec USA AR-15, M.L.S. stock. The buffer tube is a 7" adjustable position, Mil-Spec, carbine style, tube. The M-Lok free-float rail has Mil-STD 1913 with the center groove on top and M-Lok slimline handguards on the sides and bottom.
The upper and lower receivers are made from 7075 T-6 aluminum forgings. The pistol grip is a Mil-Spec A2 grip. The AR-15 common features on the M215 9mm such as the dust cover, brass deflector, charging handle, trigger guard and bolt catch paddle are standard Mil-Spec quality and design. Remember, the forward assist is present and can be pushed forward; but does not engage the BCG to assist it into battery. The magazine release paddle and lever are mounted on the right side of the lower receiver’s magazine well. I like the large size of the magazine release paddle and like that it is just above the upper front corner of the trigger guard. The safety selector switch and trigger are standard AR-15 style and Mil-Spec quality.
I do appreciate the ease and simplicity involved in removing the M-Lok free float rail. To do this, simply remove two hex screws at the bottom, rear portion of the rail on the right side. After removing the screws, slide the rail off exposing the barrel and barrel nut. I am still getting used to M-Lok and KeyMod type rails for mounting accessories. After years of military and military style AR-15’s, I still prefer the four-rail configuration on a free-floating rail. But as I said in the beginning I am open to exploring new approaches to my overall AR-15 setup. The I.O. M215 9mm does motivate me to stay with the M-Lok rail, yet I can quickly make a change to my old ways with the removal of two screws.
I am getting used to the inside of AR-15 9mm upper and lower receivers. The lower parts kit is standard for an AR style gun. The trigger group is standard Mil-Spec quality. The differences with the PCC’s come in and around the magazine well. On top of the magazine well is the ejector. The magazine well is Glock style 9mm specific. This works for me as my work and training handguns are all Glock 9mm. Inside the upper receiver, the bolt carrier group is heavy and built for blowback operation. I really appreciate the simplicity of this operating system. Again, this model does not lock the bolt carrier group to the rear after the last round has been fired. I would want the LRBHO feature on a 9mm AR I was using for serious training or for competition. The shooter can still lock the bolt carrier group to the rear manually using the bolt catch.
Now it was time for the range again! During these projects, the second time is always more rewarding. The weather was fantastic. I double checked everything on the gun again, especially the Trijicon MRO and the Midwest Industries offset irons. Oh yes, those sights. After much consideration and research, I decided to mount the offset front sight all the way forward and offset right. The base of the sight is mounted on the top rail. More thinking went into the mounting of the rear sight. I have seen some offset rear sights mounted at the back of the free float rail and forward of the ejection port. I decided against this due to wanting max distance between the two sights from front to rear on the gun for a better sight picture. But then I had to look at the offset rear sight being in the way of shell casings being ejected or it being in the way of the forward assist or charging handle. You don’t have to worry about the forward assist, but I was worried about interference with operating the charging handle. I went to the third top rail slot from the charging handle and mounted the rear offset sight.
I quickly zeroed the MRO and offset iron sights. For me as a right-handed shooter, I simply canted the gun to my left and rested the front rail on a sandbag. This brings the offset iron sights directly over the barrel and centered, just like you would do it with top mounted iron sights. I used the MRO to test fire and shoot groups with the different ammo. I selected six different types of ammunition ranging in bullet weight from 115 grain to 147 grain. I was pleasantly surprised at the accuracy of most of the ammo at 25 yards. I was amazed at the accuracy of two of the types of ammo at 100 yards. SIG Sauer V-Crown and Hornady CD Flexlock were outstanding at 100 yards. I am now a believer in the use of the PCC out past 100 yards.
Next, I had some fun shooting fast and using both the MRO and offset irons to engage far and near targets. The gun ran smoothly and was easy to bring up on target. When using the offset iron sights and canting the gun, I found a sweet spot between my shoulder and the top of my arm which allowed for an excellent stock weld. I moved from target to target with ease, switching back and forth between the red dot and the offset irons.
This PCC project was very meaningful for me. Yes, I have had an AR-15 style carbine or rifle in my hands most of my adult life. That doesn’t mean I can’t adapt to new ideas on using the AR style carbine. The advantages of the PCC definitely outweigh any disadvantage. Good accuracy out past 100 yards, ammo cost, PCC magazine compatibility with your handgun, and simplicity in operation are all big reasons to invest in this platform. Look at your shooting goals for this year. If a PCC fits into that plan, the I.O. M215 9mm ML-15 can definitely fill that void.
SPECIFICATIONS I.O. M215 9MM ML-15
Overall Length: 33 inches collapsed 36.25 inches extended
Weight Unloaded: 7 lbs.
Weight Loaded: 8.3 lbs.
Barrel Length: 16 inches
Twist Rate: 1:8
Magazine Type: Glock Style 9mm
MSRP: $663.99 (bolt-hold-open feature available for additional $150)
Contact: I.O., Inc., (321) 499-3800