The Extar EP-9 Carbine – Budget Done Right

Budget guns come and go, and their quality varies greatly. When I say budget, I mean something that’s well worth your limited funds. When I say cheap, I mean it’s not such a good get and is typically an unreliable option. Whenever a firearm advertises itself as budget-friendly, it’s our job to figure out if it’s a budget firearm or a cheap firearm. The latest from our configuration is the Extar EP-9 Carbine. The Extar family of firearms has been mostly large format, often braced pistols.

They’ve made both .45 ACP and 9mm variants of the pistol, but this is their first rifle. These firearms have been known for their affordability, and that’s largely because Extar cuts out the middleman. They sell directly to the consumer and do so at a great price. Even after this stiff period of inflation, these guns have remained affordable. The EP-9 is predictably a 9mm rifle and uses Glock magazines.

The EP-9 Carbines aren’t quite AR-9s, but they do take a lot of influence from the AR-15 world. They are AR-lite in a number of ways. Their price point of around $500 makes them one of the more interesting and affordable firearms in the budget world.

Inside the EP-9 Carbine

The Extar EP-9 carbine is a bit more than a 16-inch barrel version of their pistol. These are more or less straight blowback firearms with something Extar called a mass delayed blowback system. Extar reengineered the bolt to take into account the extra back pressure the longer barrel places on the system.

The EP-9 Carbine’s mass-delayed blowback system takes what looks like any other blowback bolt and installs a weight on the top of this system. Weight and blowback systems are like peanut butter and jelly, and the two mix well. Without weight, the bolt would open too early. The EP-9’s method is a very simple way to delay the opening of the breech without the need for a super stiff buffer weight.

The weight on the top of the bolt features a small spring that the weight can move back and forth on just slightly. In the gun, I imagine this works a bit like the Ruger Dead Blow blowback system. It’s smart and very simple, and it works and keeps the price point low. The gun splits into two receivers, similar to the AR, but there is only one takedown pin.

The lower receiver looks and acts a bit like a standard AR lower with all the standard AR lower controls. The upper is a bit different. The top portion of the receiver sits a little higher and accommodates a right-side charging handle. The two receivers are made from polymer, which makes them quite interesting. Polymer and PCCs have been an expanding market.

The gun has a minimalist stock from Mission First Tactical and a short M-LOK handguard. It’s thoroughly modern for such an affordable firearm. It’s not super friendly for left-handed shooters, but that’s not a me problem.

To The Range

The gun comes without sights, so you’ll need to add your own. I went with a simple red dot. The gun comes with an Extar-made 18-round Glock magazine, but like most shooters, I have a pile of Glock mags. I was also testing the ETS Gen 2 Glock magazines, so it was a bit of synchronicity to test both at once.

First, let’s talk recoil. It’s not the smoothest system overall, but it’s not the worst, either. It’s better than the majority of AR9s out there but doesn’t reach the same level of a proper delayed system like the radial delayed CMMG systems.

It’s also a third of the price. The recoil isn’t sharp but feels chunky and noticeable. It won’t take you off target, but if you shoot a Bill Drill, you’ll most certainly notice the recoil and group size.

The straight blowback design does equate to a very reliable system. I fed the EP-9 Carbine a mix of 115-, 123-, and 147-grain ammunition and a mix of reman new and steel-cased crap, and it chunked its way through. The same goes for a variety of magazines. I used the Extar and the ETS, as well as the Glock OEM, Amend2, and Magpul magazines. They all went bang every time without issue.

Ringing Steel

In terms of accuracy, the gun performs admirably. I used a 25-yard zero and worked on dropping 9 mm-shaped pills into B-8 targets. Punching the blackout of a B8 at 25 yards wasn’t much of a challenge. When moving back to 50 yards, if I rested the gun and took my time, I could hit a 10-inch gong and keep the thing swinging over and over. From a practical standpoint, it’s going to put lead where you need it.

The accuracy isn’t going to produce a 1-MOA group, but that’s tough for any 9mm carbine to do. The EP-9 can certainly fit most user’s needs and will work well for home defense. The magazine well is beveled and helps make reloads fast. The right-side charging handle makes it easy to release the bolt and get the gun back in action. Throw the mag in, slap the action, and let it fly back into action.

The trigger has a bit of take-up to it and does have a slight plastic-on-plastic feel. It’s admittedly gotten better in short order, and it seems like it needed a little break-in. The weight is light, and the break is crisp. It’s just a bit of the journey that feels a little rough.

Budget or Cheap

I went through a few hundred rounds without complaint. The gun worked brilliantly. It’s got a few rough edges, but every budget gun has rough edges. Is it budget or cheap? The Extar EP-9 falls into the world of budget guns. It’s accurate, reliable, and easy to shoot. Gun writers like me can pick it apart, but in reality, it’s kind of crazy that someone can build a weapon like this and only charge $500.

All it needs is a red dot and an optic, and you have an awesome option for home defense, plinking, or maybe even a budget-level pistol caliber carbine entry in USPSA or PCSL. For the price, Extar has made an impressive rifle.

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.