The idea dates back to the old west, where frontiersmen, cowboys and lawmen sought a rifle or carbine (usually a lever action) that used the same ammunition as their side arm.
The first pistol caliber carbine was the Winchester model 1873. Originally chambered for the 44 Winchester Center Fire (aka the 44-40)
Colt soon followed by chambering their Single Action Army Revolver in .44-40. While the model Winchester 1873 was never chambered in the more popular 45 Colt, the Winchester model 1894 was. It was also chambered in .38/.357 and .44 Mag. Colt was very interested in the concept of the pistol caliber carbines and in 1884 they introduced the Colt Lightning Carbine.
Winchester did not like the idea of another competitor in their rifle market and a meeting was scheduled between the two companies, but that is a story for another day. Here is the Colt pump-action Lightning Carbine:
Marlin followed suit and from 1894 to 1934 they produced their model 1894 in pistol calibers.
With the rise in popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting, Marlin re-introduced their 1894 lever action in .38/.357, .44 Mag and 45 Colt. They also made one in .32 H&R Mag at one point.
During WWI General John Taliaferro Thompson saw a need for a sub-machine gun for trench and close quarter combat, he set out to design a pistol caliber sub-machine carbine. The choice of calibers was obvious. The U.S. Military had adopted the .45 ACP cartridge in the model 1911 pistol just a decade before. His creation was too late for WWI, but became popular with the gangsters of the 1920s and eventually found use with the U.S. Military in WWII.
In the early 60's Sturm, Ruger & Company was looking to build a rifle. The popularity of their .44 Magnum Blackhawk revolver probably influenced their decision to introduce a gas operated .44 Magnum Carbine.
This made a nice pair for the hunter stalking prey where short distance shots were the norm.
Ruger took the opposite approach when they chambered their Blackhawk revolver in .30 Carbine. I'm sure at the time surplus .30 Carbine ammo was plentiful, not so much today. Either way an owner of an M-1 Carbine could now have a side arm chambered for the same cartridge.
Taurus/Rossi did something unique (at least something that hasn't been done in a while). they created a revolving rifle. They converted their Judge revolver that fires .45 Colt & .410 shot shells into a carbine. They call it the "Circuit Judge".
In 1989, Israeli Military Industries introduced a slide action carbine called the Timberwolf, chambered in .38/.357 and .44 Magnum. The Timberwolf gave hunters and sportsman another choice in pistol caliber carbines
Sometimes manufacturers will build pistol caliber carbines just because the cartridge is so awesome. Many pistol cartridges can benefit from additional barrel length, increasing their feasibility as hunting rounds.
Predator Tactical at one time was offering a slide action carbine chambered in .500 S&W Magnum.....What else is there to say? Except, I want one!
Big Horn Armory is producing a lever action carbine in .500 S&W Magnum, the gun is a mix of Winchester designs from the 1886 & 1892 models.
Of course you could go a cheaper route and pick up a H&R/NEF Handi-Rifle chambered in your favorite magnum handgun round (.357, .44 or .500)
Law Enforcement for years were only issued revolvers (in .38 or .357) and sometimes a shotgun. With the adoption of the 9mm pistols in LEO circles, a renewed interest in pistol caliber carbines naturally followed.
Marlin introduced the Camp Carbine in 1985, the 9mm version used Smith & Wesson model 59 double stack magazines and the 45 ACP version used 1911 magazines. The gun was discontinued in 1999. Since their discontinuation, the values have begun to escalate considerably.
In 1996 Ruger followed Marlin's lead and introduced their own pistol caliber carbine, focused on the sport and LEO market. Their PC9 (9mm) & PC4 (.40 S&W) utilize magazines from the Ruger P series of semi-auto pistols. The "PC" stood for Police Carbine, the gun was discontinued due to lack of sales in 2006.
Hi-Point firearms developed a pistol caliber carbine as a mate to their economically priced line of pistols. Made in 9mm, .40 S&W & .45 ACP. the originally 995 carbine could probably win a contest for ugliest gun. They have since remedied that with a redesign, in addition ATI makes an aftermarket replacement stock that mimics the look of the CX4 Beretta.
Their capacity was limited to a factory 10 round magazine. Which was a disappointment to some.
Caracal introduced their CC10 carbine that uses magazines from their 9mm pistols
Pistol caliber carbines have become quite popular with the civilian sporting market. Kel-Tec introduced their Sub-2000 carbine in 2001 (2000 is probably a designation for the new millennium?).
Kel-Tec took Marlin's idea, the use of other manufacturer's pistol magazines and stepped it up a notch. They made models that used magazines from all the popular pistols: Glock, Smith & Wesson, Sig and Beretta. There were ten models between the two calibers (9mm & .40S&W).
The Kel-Tec also had a unique feature in that it could folded up for storage and transport.
Not to be left out, Beretta decided to introduce their own pistol caliber carbine. Like Marlin & Kel-Tec the gun was designed to use magazines from more than one Beretta model. The CX4 Storm was designed around Beretta's new PX4 pistol, but Beretta decided to make a versions that would also accept magazines from their Cougar pistols as well as their popular Model 92 (and NATO Military M-9) pistol. Four chamberings are available: 9mm Para, 9x21mm IMI, .40 S&W & 45 ACP.
You many have noticed that I left out the AR style rifles chambered for pistol calibers. Yes there are plenty of those. Even some that accept pistol magazines. I decided to limit this post to dedicated designs.
The Specialist Ltd.
Big Horn Armory
Sturm, Ruger & Co