By Mike Keleher
The Army Times has let the sub-machine gun cat out of the bag. Seems the Army is setting up trials to pick a new “Sub Compact Weapon” or SCW, for troops who are infrequently involved in combat, are involved in personal protection missions and/or possibly vehicle and armor crewmen who could use a small weapon that has more lethality than a pistol.
The published Request For Information cites the weapons are to be chambered in 9X19mm, capable of full auto fire, exhibit one or more Picatinny Rails and be able to mount a suppressor.
So, to call it what it is, they are really looking for a new modern, small sub-machine gun that can be suppressed. Sub-compact versions of famous sub-machine guns like the H+K MP5 (MPK) were more recently known as Personal Defense Weapons or PDWs, and the U.S. military has never been a big buyer of tiny machine guns.
PDW’s are fun to carry and shoot, but in full automatic roles they are not well suited to staffing tank crews or cooks. Sounds a lot more like they want something more in line with Special Operations Command or even military criminal investigators who conduct protective operations. The U.S. Army, the branch responsible for testing and choosing weapons for the American military has not chosen a sub-machine gun since WWII.
Going way back- the Army solicited and bought the M-1 Carbine in .30 in 1942 for issue to support troops who did not need a full battle rifle. The M-1 Carbine was a success and was quickly picked up as a 5.8 lb light weight battle rifle by support and combat troops in Europe and the Pacific. The use of 15 and 30 round magazines helped balance out some of the limited range of the cartridge. The .45 ACP M-3 Grease Gun was also developed and built on the cheap for issue to vehicle crews and support unit personnel. The Reising and Thompson SMGs were also used extensively but were much larger/heavier than the Carbine or Grease Gun.
Since WWII, the U.S. Army has not embraced sub-machine guns other than in Special Forces units who could obtain small purchase numbers of “exotic” weapons like the Swedish K and H+K MP5. The SEALS heavily used MP5s in their inventory for a couple of decades and like most other elite units have looked for other non-9mm firearms like the MK-18 and M-4 variants in 5.56mm and even some H+K MP-7 PDWs chambered in 4.6x30mm.
Other famous tiny sub-machine guns would include Ingram/MAC-10s and MAC-11s, Mini-Uzis and even machine pistols like the Russian Stechkin and Glock 18. One of the most innovative PDW’s comes from FN who introduced their 5.7x28mm cartridge in the space gun looking P90 PDW with a 50-round magazine in 1990 with hopes of NATO adoption. It is in service with 40 countries, but the initial success waned in the U.S. The U.S. Secret Service still uses the P90 with a short barrel as their replacement for H+K MP5s.
The 2018 Army solicitation has announced they will be testing guns from a variety of American and European manufacturers. The announced models fall into two categories- AR variants and “other.” The “others” are much more modern designs than the venerable ARs and make use of advanced ergonomics, metallurgy, manufacturing and polymers.
Several listed sources showed some strong contenders to include a new Sig Sauer variant of their very modern MPX which is noted as the MPX-K PSB model, the H+K UMP9, Brugger & Thomet MP9, Beretta PMX Sub Compact Weapon, and the CZ Scorpion EVO.
Sig Sauer MPX-the submitted MPX K may have a 4.5 inch barrel. Photo Creidt Wikipedia.
A couple of companies are submitting MP5 clones (Any chance they will succeed? Even H+K has moved on from that design), and several American companies like Quarter Circle 10, CMMG and Lewis Machine & Tool are listed with compact AR’s that are essentially full auto variants of current popular semi-automatic Pistol Caliber Carbines (PCC) chambered in 9mm which use Glock or Colt magazines. One of the obvious benefits to the AR pattern is compatible operator controls are well known to military service men and women and these “SCW” would not require much additional training.
Colt is offering up the “Colt Modular 9mm Sub Compact Weapon”, but why? If this is just another version of their Colt SMG introduced in 1982 with the simple addition of a Picatinny rail, why would they even bother submitting that design against much newer designs?
Most military and federal agencies left the 1950’s designed Uzis for Colt SMGs, and then left the Colts when they could switch up to H+K MP5s. Now a generation of engineering has moved beyond the MP5, and it seems unlikely the Colt 9mm SMG would add anything different to the trials and which would be the same size as MK18s or short barreled M-4s which have a more robust 5.56mm cartridge.
What does this competition do for civilians? Well competition is good to spur on design, and semi-auto versions should be less expensive to produce once military contract production gets going. Any weapon adopted by the military will have a built in civilian sales opportunity with 16” barrels.
B+T MP9. Photo Credit Wikipedia.