The author reviews the Trailblazer Pivot, a space-age 9mm PCC with a trick up its sleeve.
The Trailblazer Pivot, a blowback PCC chambered in 9mm, is not your usual carbine. Some ideas are so clever you’ve just got to nod and go, “I’m on board with that.” The Pivot is a solution to compact storage that does not use any other usual methods.
Usually, to make a long-gun more compact, several things must be done: shorten the barrel, shorten the stock, fold it, make it a takedown or, my least-favorite, make it a bullpup. Shortening the barrel makes it an NFA item, shortening the stock makes it usable only by short people, folding and takedown bring mechanical problems with them, and, as for bullpups, the less we discuss them, the better.
The Pivot uses none of those. Instead, the upper receiver rotates on the lower receiver, and since the pivot point is not in the center of the assembly, it increases in length from its closed size. That’s how you get a 21-inch closed package to unfold into a carbine with a 16-inch barrel.
Nice And Tidy
The folding and unfolding is easy enough. On the front of the lower is a flush button. Press the button to unlock the receivers, and you can then rotate the upper to the unfolded position. (Can it “unfold” if it never folded in the first place? The English language has some very strange quirks and shortcomings.) The rotating is easy; you can use your fingers to give it a flip/rotate in either direction, and you can do it pretty briskly. When the upper gets around to its 180 position, it will automatically lock in place.
Now, the folded position is going to raise some eyebrows, at least until you understand the setup. When folded, the muzzle is going to be pointed back at you. Do not be alarmed. The designers took care of that, in part for safety and also for good mechanical reasons.
To fold or unfold (rotate? pivot? swing about?), the Pivot has to be unloaded, that is, with no magazine in place and with the bolt locked to the rear. The non-reciprocating charging handle has a locking notch, very much like that of the MP5. (And yes, you can do the “HK swipe” to chamber a round.) These are both necessary for the upper receiver to swipe across the top deck of the lower.
If you look closely at the Pivot, you’ll see there is a notched segment in the upper. That’s there to clear the top of the hammer, as the upper swings around across the lower. The hammer has to be high enough to be depressed by the bolt when it cycles, so it sits high in the lower. And the magazine lips have to do the same in order to feed. So, bolt back and magazine out, to provide clearance.
To use the Pivot form in its stored condition, you pull it out of the case, from behind the seat or wherever and hold the pistol grip in your firing hand. Press the unlock button and swing, slap or rotate the upper to lock, grab a magazine, insert in the pistol grip and slap the charging handle down. You carry loaded and have a chambered round. If the stock, as folded, is too short, you simply press the stock latch and slide the stock out as needed. It has 3 inches of travel, and while it’s still a tad short for long-armed gents like me, I find it entirely usable. If you don’t have a 7-foot wingspan, then the stock will be just fine for you. The ambidextrous safety lets you use the Pivot right- or left-handed, and from there it is safety off, aim and fire.
Oh, sights? The Pivot doesn’t come with any. There was a time when every carbine, PCC or other had to come with sights. There weren’t many choices; optics were still fragile and untrusted, and shooters expected sights. Now, there are so many to choose from, and optics are normal; anything Trailblazer put on the Pivot, 80 percent of the buyers would swap out for something else. So, why bother?
Diversity Is The Key
Now, the Pivot doesn’t just have the rotational aspect to it—it isn’t a one-trick pony. The stock, as mentioned, is adjustable to length, and it also has a storage space for a magazine. And did I forget to mention the Pivot uses Glock magazines, and the pistol grip is made deliberately a tad short, so you can use G19 magazine, holding 15 rounds? You can use higher-capacity magazines if you wish (and most of us would), but since the G19 is common, one might even say a baseline EDC pistol, making it compatible with G19 magazines makes sense.
If they made the grip a bit longer, for more comfort, to work only with G17 magazines, none of the bazillion G19 magazines in existence would work. That would be stupid, and the folks at Trailblazer are not. And since it works with Glock magazines starting with the G19, every Glock mag bigger than that, in 9mm, will work as well. I’m not saying that having a 33-round magazine handy would be too much, but it certainly isn’t going to ride well on your belt. So, if belt-loading the Pivot is your plan, have a belt-appropriate magazine or magazines there and the 33-round one someplace handy.
The upper is an aluminum shell with the steel barrel and bolt inside, while the lower is aluminum and polymer. The upper has a Pic rail on top, but it doesn’t extend the full length of the receiver. It starts at the rear, but a hand’s-width back of the charging handle stop position, the rail is cut away. This does two things: It keeps your hand from the sharp edges of the rail, while you’re working the charging handle.
And it precludes mounting gear there that would do the same thing. The rail picks up again forward of the charging handle travel, so there’s room to mount a front sight if you want a BUIS set. My suggestion, if you do: Be sure and select something that folds. It’d be a shame to take the very compact Pivot and make it a bulky thing with fixed sights.
A compact red-dot sight would be just the ticket here, and I used an Aimpoint Micro T2, 2 MOA for the fun. The Pivot isn’t a long-range carbine (although the Pivot and Aimpoint and I did heroic work on the 100-yard gongs at the club), so even a low-power variable scope would be more than needed and, by the time you had mounted it, add considerably to the bulk of the Pivot.
That said, if you want to add accessories, the Pivot is handy. The upper receiver has two rows of M-Lok slots for accessories on each side. The lower receiver has M-Lok slots at the 6 o’clock position, so you could, if you were just not paying attention, hang a whole lot of gear on the Pivot. The whole point of the Pivot is that it’s compact, so resist the temptation to bling it up.
In testing, I found that the blowback design is effective, but it has some unavoidable consequences. Since the Pivot is compact and this limits bolt travel, the bolt is heavy and stoutly sprung. Not so much so that it is difficult to hand-cycle, but more so than my various competition PCCs, which isn’t a fair comparison. Those have been tuned to be smooth and soft, and the shortest one of them is a full foot longer than the Pivot, and the lightest one tips the scales 2 pounds heavier than the Pivot. Unfair, as I said, because the Pivot is meant to be compact, and my competition PCCs are made to win matches.
But the recoil is no big deal in the Pivot—we are, after all, talking about a 9mm carbine. The barrel is threaded 1/2×28, the standard 9mm muzzle thread, so you have your choice of muzzle brakes, suppressors or just use the included thread protector instead.
I tested the Pivot with a cross-section of 9mm ammo, not really expecting to find anything wrong, or amiss, and guess what, I didn’t. Boringly, the Pivot fed all, fired all and ejected all with no problems. The Pivot does not lock open after the last round has been fired, but I don’t see that as an operational problem, and I can see it as a mechanical and safety problem.
Disassembly is not obvious. It involves a punch or small-diameter Philips-head screwdriver, and a hole in the rear plate of the upper receiver. The owner’s manual lays it all out, and once you have extracted the bolt assembly, your job is done. There’s no need to separate the upper and lower, as you can gain access to everything with it hinged open, and the large socket-nut bolt on the bottom does not appear to be user-serviceable. Once the bolt is out, clean the gunk, scrub the bore, aerosol hose out the firing assembly, lubricate and reassemble. There’s really no need to make it more complicated than that.
But … Why?
So, what’s the usefulness of the Pivot, very clever engineering aside? Well, if you want to be packing a PCC, but don’t want to be using something as obvious as a gun case, this is your ticket. At just under 21 inches long, folded, the Pivot will disappear into bags and cases that don’t shout “firearm.” Instead of a skateboard pack, a messenger bag will do—and even a not-large messenger bag, provided the zipper arrangement allows.
That said, know the laws in your jurisdiction. Your CPL may cover the Pivot, and it may not. Is it a concealed pistol license or a concealed firearms license? Some states don’t allow the concealed carry of rifles and shotguns. And in some other (even more irrational) states, the law or case law has determined that a firearm that has a loaded magazine in the case with it, or touching it, is loaded. So your unloaded Pivot, with a loaded magazine in the stock, is “loaded” based on some ignorant judge decades past. Know the law.
As to the cost, the list price seems a bit much at first. Well, it did to me, but then I remembered “it isn’t the 1980s anymore.” If you’re comparing the Pivot to a 9mm-chambered AR, then the price is normal. In fact, you can flip open the latest Gun Digest to the AR/PCC section and be hard pressed to randomly drop a fingertip onto one AR or another and not exceed the cost of the Pivot. Oh, you can find 9mm carbines for less, but they don’t fold or rotate.
Nope, there’s only one Pivot.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2024 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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