View Full Version : Army 'Excited' About New Subcompact Gun

10-16-2009, 09:15 PM
According to the Army official in charge of fielding new weapons for the service, the search for a so-called "subcompact individual weapon system" is moving ahead in earnest. In May, the Army sponsored a user evaluation where Soldiers put subcompact weapons through their paces to see if the idea would stick.

And at least for the brass running the show, it did.

"I'm excited about the subcompact," said Col. Doug Tamilio, the Army program manager for Soldier weapons, during an Oct. 15 interview with Military.com. "There are a lot of Soldiers today who do not need to carry either a carbine or an M-16, but yet a pistol may just not be enough."

Read more on the Army’s search for a new rifle.

The Army's preliminary evaluation tested a host of weapons in different scenarios and conditions, their accuracy at different ranges and how well Joes could control the small weapons with a big punch while firing.

"We tested how Soldiers worked with those weapons and what seems to work form, fit and function better than others," Tamilio explained. "We got some great data on that."

Though Tamilio wouldn't say who participated in the evaluation, an industry source said that about six manufacturers may have submitted weapons for the shoot.

The search for a weapon that delivers a Mike Tyson punch in Sugar Ray Leonard package was included in an Army solicitation last year for a possible alternative to the M-4 carbine. The solicitation left open size, weight, barrel length and caliber, but many companies had already developed so-called personal defense weapons, or PDWs, for contract security teams and other covert operators.

"We found out a lot of good things," Tamilio said of the early summer evaluation. "There are a lot of good weapons out there [and] Soldiers can hit accurately, hit very well with all of the weapons that were out there."

"So now it comes down to what are the best parts of all of these?"

Officials with the Army's soldier weapons office said the Army Infantry School is working on final requirements for the subcompact weapon, and while it may be two years before a Joe commanding a supply convoy gets to sling one of these bantam bad boys, Army officials are moving with deliberate speed to get the program in gear.

"We got a lot of great data," Tamilio added. "So, now as the Infantry School writes the requirement they'll be more informed on what they're looking for."

Only a couple months before the Army's subcompact evaluation, industry insiders were grumbling that the Army would likely lose interest in the initiative since it was part of a much larger, more expensive push to look at alternatives to the M-4 carbine.

According to Tamilio, the so-called "Improved Carbine" program is stuck in bureaucratic and budgetary limbo. Top Army generals are still bandying about the requirements developed by the Infantry School, but Tamilio expects those to be resolved "very shortly." Then it goes to Pentagon evaluators for their chop before the Army starts to look at competitors' guns.

"There are a couple comments that they are trying to adjudicate as we speak," Tamilio said of the Army's deliberations.

"To some people [the issues] are fundamental, to other people they're on the margins - it depends on who you talk to," he added, declining to be more specific.

The service is also waiting for the final version of the fiscal 2010 Pentagon budget to be signed by the president, releasing nearly $10 million to start the program.

"At the end of that process, I'll be in a good position to start executing the program," Tamilio said. "Once we get that [Pentagon] approved requirement ... we'll be moving along at our original timeline. We're excited about that still."

Army officials have said that if all the benchmarks are met, Joes could potentially see a new rifle or redesigned M-4 by 2012.


10-16-2009, 09:18 PM

These handy little guns can be anything from a submachine gun to a chopped-down carbine. The Army first announced it was interested in such a weapon in 2007, to give pilots, tankers and truck drivers a little more firepower than the Beretta M9 9mm pistol.

The service's interest prompted gun makers to gin up a variety of these James Bond-style weapons in multiple calibers and barrel lengths. Gun companies showed off their new designs at an Army industry day in November, but Army weapons officials still have no concrete plans for the effort's future.

"The subcompact has to serve a lot of different people ... it's much too early to say this is what we are looking for," Jim Stone, the head of the Soldier Requirement's Division at Fort Benning, Ga., told Military.Com recently.

Such a cautious approach has veteran gun makers doubtful that these new, compact weapons will ever make it to formal testing, let alone into Soldier's hands.

"I see this as an uphill battle," said C. Reed Knight Jr., owner of Knight's Armament Company. "The government still doesn't know what it wants."

Knight's Armament unveiled its new 6x35mm PDW at the industry day late last year. The sleek, 4.5 pound package has an effective range of 300 meters and can fire 700 rounds per minute on full auto, Knight said.

But the subcompact concept is nothing new. It all started with the .45cal Thompson and M3 submachine guns of World War II fame.

Over the years there have been innovations to the submachine gun genre, such as the Heckler & Koch MP5, a very popular 9mm weapon developed in the 1960s and still favored by numerous special operations and law enforcement units.

Experts say the only real drawback to the submachine gun is that its pistol ammunition isn't powerful enough for the battlefield. One alternative that emerged during the Vietnam War was the XM177, or "Commando" series of weapons. It fired the same 5.56mm round as the M-16, but came with a telescoping stock and 10-inch and 11.5-inch barrels.

The latest versions of these shorty carbines -- such as the H&K 416 -- emerged in 2004 at the request of some special operations units looking for something more reliable than their M4A1. The key to the 416's reliability is its piston gas system rather than the direct impingement system used on the M4 and M-16, which blows heat and carbon residue into the chamber.

And the most compact version of the 416 sports a 10-inch barrel -- that's 4.5 inches shorter than the M4's barrel.

Since then, the small arms industry has been flooded with new piston-driven carbine designs, many of them small enough for use as PDWs.

Among these is LWRC International's PSD. It has an 8-inch barrel and comes in both 5.56mm and the more potent 6.8mm. The Adams Arms Inc. PDW 5.56 takes the barrel length down do 7.5 inches.

Another type of PDW that's gained popularity over the past two decades combines the compactness of a submachine gun with small, rifle-style ammunition powerful enough to penetrate some types of soft armor vests and ballistic helmets.

The first of these appeared in the late 1980s when FN Herstal introduced its P90. The unique design features a 5.7x28mm round and an effective range of approximately 200 meters. The P90's bullpup layout and 10.4-inch barrel keeps the overall length at less than 20 inches, where and M4 measures 30.5 inches when the stock is fully collapsed.

The P90 has a 50-round magazine and can fire up to 900 rounds per minute. The weapon earned more notoriety when it showed up on the set of the TV series "Stargate SG-1."

A decade later, H&K came out with its version of the hybrid PDW, the MP7. It's chambered in 4.6x30mm and also has an effective range of about 200 meters. The 20-, 30- and 40-round magazines load through the pistol grip, making the MP7 resemble the venerable Uzi submachine gun. With this design, the 7-inch barreled MP7 measures only 16.3 inches with its stock collapsed.

By comparison, Knight's Armament PDW measures 17.5 inches with an 8-inch barrel when the stock is folded. The 6x35mm ammunition gives it an effective range of 300 meters with 50 percent less recoil than the M4 carbine, said Knight, who began developing his PDW in 2004 to fill the gap between the M4 and the M9 pistol.

"The 5.56mm is too big and the 9mm is too small," he said. "We really need something in between those."

As part of the request for information, Army weapons officials maintain the service is looking at all calibers for both the carbine and the subcompact.

The Army has made it clear, though, that it will not have a new requirements document for a subcompact until it completes the carbine requirement sometime late this summer.

10-16-2009, 10:29 PM
Ive checked out the Knights armament PDW and it looks like a real nice weapon. I'd like to get my hands on one and shoot it!

10-17-2009, 11:39 AM
Very cool. They've got plenty of great options available for them as well. I look forward to seeing what they select.