Army still looking got a “subcompact” gun

I had heard no news about the Army search for a “subcompact”1 for quite a long time and thought that the idea had been dropped. Apparently this is not so. The Military Times reports:

Despite initial industry suspicion that the Army would let the effort die a slow death, the service is moving forward with the development of a compact weapon that shoots like a rifle but slings like a sub gun.

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.

“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.

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

The more important question is if they are willing to adopt a new cartridge. I don’t think anyone would argue that the 5.56mm NATO performs well out of a sub-carbine (11″ or shorter) barrel.

11″ Barreled Colt M4 Commando. Another example is the HK416 sub-carbine.

My 2c: develop a 9mm +P+ round that is compatible with the M9 pistol (lets call it the 9mm Steve), then develop a short barrel, foldable stocked, sub-carbine which chambered the 9mm Steve. Deploy it. [ Army officials : contact me for the address to which you can send my hefty consultant’s fee 😉 ]

Discuss in the comments …

  1. The word sub-compact usually refers to small pistols, not rifles. Sub-carbine or PDW (Personal Defense Weapon) would be better terms to use. 

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • kvalseth

    Cough… Magpul PDR… cough…

    Although we don’t even know if Magpul’s built a functioning prototype yet.

  • If I have a choice, as an Army officer, between an AR 223 pistol and a Beretta 92, I’d pick the AR in a heartbeat.

    And that’s primarily what they’re for. Officers, medical personnel, truck drivers, artillery and air defense crew, et al. People whose only weapon was a pistol.

    The army is deathly afraid of adding a new caliber/ammo to the supply system, even though it’d be cheaper than an F-22.

  • gbryant

    Well, what about the KelTec RFB? It’s compact – but with a full length barrel, fires a military round with a proven record, and is fully ambidextrous. I understand it would definitely benefit from rigorous evaluation and perhaps a few design tweaks, but c’mon America; it’s time to give the bullpup design a serious look!

  • Tom

    What’s the point of having this weapon?

  • EgregiousCharles

    One of the criteria is shoots like a rifle. Your proposed 9mm +P+ has the huge advantage of M9 compatibility, but just doesn’t shoot like a rifle; it’s a subgun that shoots like a subgun. 7.62 x 25 and 5.7 x 28 come closer. I think a special short-barrel loading (reduced flash, faster burn, same peak pressure, retain as much velocity as possible) of 7.62 x 39 in a Krinkov type gun might fill the bill as is, but it’s probably impossible for the US to decide to use these Commie inventions. You could probably get 7.92 Kurz performance easily, which is pretty well proven.

    I don’t think it’s possible with bullet technology that’s currently proven & accepted to get acceptable lethality using a .22 cal bullet out of a _short_ barrel, but the military clearly disagrees with me on this with these 11″ or 9″ barrel M4s. Some of the sintered bullet types might make it work on unarmored enemies. (I’m not a critic of the performance out of a 20″ barrel.)

    It might be worth reviving the old 30/223 Apache, which is just a .223/5.56 necked up to .308. Use short-barrel loading criteria; you’ll lose a little velocity over the original 150 grain bullet at 2250 fps, but it should still be respectable. Since then you just need changes to the barrel and gas system of a 5.56, that would allow keeping a boatload of current designs and parts. Less necking (7mm, 6.5mm) might also produce an acceptable compromise. There are a bunch of short 5.56 rifles without the protruding recoil buffer out there, such as the Kel-Tec SU16-D. Shooting a necked-up version of the 5.56 would give better short-barrel lethality.

    To get really exotic, neck a 10mm down to .30 or smaller (between 9×25 Dillon and .224 BOZ) and put it in a tiny folding-stock carbine that has the magazine well in the grip to allow for more barrel in the overall length. I personally think that would be super cool, but I’m not sure the performance would be acceptable. Actually 9×25 Dillon makes an interesting compromise between subgun and rifle performance as is, especially given a carbine barrel (say 10″ – 14″) instead of the pistol barrel (6″) it’s been mostly used with before.

  • Spiff

    What’s wrong with a 5.56mmNATO Steyr AUG with a 14″ or 16″ barrel? And it can be adapted for left hand shooters, and converted to 9mm…And it has been proven! No R & D charges, no waiting, no BS…

  • Other Steve

    Uh… It already exists. HK MP5F (for French I thought). Redesigned to take +P ammo reliably.

    It was deemed too expensive for US use, hk made the UMP to be a cheaper model but the UMP is just a very simple blow back gun. Lacks any of the engineering and soul the MP5 has.

  • dogon1013

    Any idea what the size and weight specs are for this “subcompact” carbine?

  • Ty

    The Russians are making 9mm with hardened steel penetrators. Just issue out the MP5 or equivalent with similar ammo.

  • drewogatory

    Or just re-issue the darn M1 carbine with a synthetic folding stock and a rail system. I’d rather have .30 carbine than 9 mm, esp. with modern bullets and reasonable chamber pressures. Or even better .357 Mag. Same overall case length as .30 carbine I think. Otherwise whatever they choose is going to have to be a bullpup so some reasonable barrel length can be maintained. Maybe if the KRISS proves reliable..

  • Tom Stone

    just buy a bunch of HiPoint carbines already…

  • SpudGun

    I’ve always liked the FN P90 design. I wonder why is was never re-chambered for 5.56mm?

    There is quite a choice for conventional PDW bullpups – Steyr, Tavor, etc. but I imagine the Army will go for something with lots of parts interchangeability.

    I know, make a bullpup Colt M4, job done.

  • jody

    the knight’s armament PDW looks good.

    as far as pistol ammunition goes, the US military should switch to .40 smith & wesson. the FBI did years of research and development on pistol ammunition. that was their answer.

  • Vak

    “the service is moving forward with the development of a compact weapon that shoots like a rifle but slings like a sub gun.”

    Yeah, sounds good. But not as good as a compact weapon that hits like a 4 gauge, have the armor piercing capacity of a 120mm SABOT, the recoil of an air rifle, the accuracy of a laser, the range of a tomahawk, the ergonomics of a 1911, the ruggedness of an AK, the price of a Liberator, the aestetics of a C-96, the magazine capacity of a M249, the modularity of a Magpul AR and the weight of a feather.

    If we’re going to kick physics to the curb, at least let’s be hardcore I say !

  • Tahoe

    I’m all for a sub-carbine. Since dropping the M3 from the inventory, we haven’t had a GI weapon like it. However, the idea of a 9mm +P+ round blowing the slide off an M9 gives me the willies….and you know it will happen at some point, if that ammo is issued to the field.

  • I think the problem with PDW’s is they introduce another caliber into the logistics system which is a problem. I also heard the PDW calibers are weaker then a 9mm. I never fired a 10 inch M4 so I don’t know if the recoil and muzzle blast would be a problem or not. UBR Belgium has worked on some very impressive AP 9mm loads. The Russians have also developed a AP load of the 9mm. So maybe a smg in a new AP load would be the best option if the military is really serious about this.

  • We can’t just give them Skorpions, Uzis, or Glock 18s?

  • Carl

    “shoots like a rifle but slings like a sub gun”, that’s a bullpup rifle.

    The Kel-Tec RFB seems like an excellent choice to me. Of course there will be no full auto with the 7.62×51, but I have a feeling that is pretty useless in a rifle to begin with. It’s just a fast way to waste your ammo and overheat your rifle.

    If it’s a PDW they are looking for I’d look at a compact 9×19 with the magazine in the grip like the B&T MP9. The Glock 18 or a similar machine pistol could be worth looking at as well. I know I’d personally appreciate the small size and low weight if I was in a non-fighting military unit and just needed a weapon for emergencies.
    Learning to shoot the G18 efficiently on full auto might prove a lot of work for such troops though, but it still seems like it could be worth trying out.

  • Lance

    I dont see this really happening anytime soon. The President has already signed the 2010 bill i beleve. The problums with issueing to all troops a S.B.R.ed M-4 or XM-177 or Magpull Masada or whatever is too much a head ach. The M-4 is already showing its limatations in Afghanistain and combat is 100-1000 yeards and a short barrel weapons are proving too inaccurate for outdoor fighting. The Marines who use full size M-16A4s with those long 20inch (not really too long) barrels have had much better success that the Army has with a general issue carbine. I think there some who want to bring any new rifle system to service because they simply hate Colt rifles.

    I dont think to give the article too much concern or prevalence. The Army always has articles showing NEW weapon and often its killed off over time dispite military press relases I.E. ACR program in 1989.

    If anything happens itll probably be a XM style M-4 adopted if it goes thew Since its common parts with M-16s and M-4s will make it cheaper than going with a new system which then the rmy will have a M-16 rifle a M-4 carbine and a subcompact gun which has its own parts. it would be a major head ach for armorers.

    The army will not go with a new caliber 5.56mm will be stuck with us for sometime.

  • michael

    LWRC psd in 6.8 is the answer

  • jdun1911

    Magpul PDR is a bullpup and that automatically disqualified it.

    Even in short barrel the 5.56 is way better then 9mm +p+. Unlike the 9mm, the 5.56 will still be able to penetrate soft body armor. That is the main reason why sub-gun in pistol calibers has been fading for the last 20 years.

    I can’t see the Army willing to adopt a short barrel rifle shorter then 12″ for mass use. If anything they might move back up to 16″.

    Navy Mk18 in 10.5″ work very well in tight spots.

    • “Even in short barrel the 5.56 is way better then 9mm +p+. Unlike the 9mm, the 5.56 will still be able to penetrate soft body armor”

      Purley on the numbers, I know 5.56mm is better – still I would much rather, at a short range, be throwing heavy 9mm slugs.

  • Fred

    kvalseth beat me to it… Magpul’s design look promising if they can find somebody to actually build it before 2020 or so… (Yes, that’s a reference to how long the ACR/Masada’s taking…)

  • Lance

    I dont get going so short when all the fighting in fghanistain is long range and all troops there report that standerd size and larger rilfes are much perfer than sub-guns of any caliber.

  • Freiheit

    I bet we could just issue each platoon an espresso machine, create a new barista specialist, and make Caleb a drill sergeant. War would be over in a few weeks.

    • Freiheit, pretty sure Caleb’s methods are in violation of the Geneva convention … or something. Biological weapons? Expanding liquid?

  • Matt Groom

    “I don’t think anyone would argue that the 5.56mm NATO performs well out of a sub-carbine (11″ or shorter) barrel.”

    Uhh, I would argue that, but then again, I love to argue. 😉 These things are gonna be shot without hearing protection and from the confines of metal vehicles and concrete bunkers. That’s a formula for deafness if there ever was one. Plus, the 5.56 is a velocity dependent cartridge and it loses all of its shine below 1800FPS. Lotsa muzzle blast and no kick ass. Might as well adopt the .22 Magnum.

    If the goal is a 10″ +/- 1″ PDW, then I feel it might be wise to consider something like the Knight’s PDW. All of their crap is ungodly expensive, but we’re talking about the people who pay $300 for toilet seats and $500 for hammers. The 6mm Whisper cartridge as fired by the Knights design is an excellent compromise, and will prove much more efficient than a pistol cartridge out of a long barrel or an rifle cartridge out of a short one. Plus, you’d be hard pressed to make a weapon shorter than you can make it with a side folding stock.

    • Matt, are you arguing for or against? 😉 I was arguing against.

  • CMathews

    @ SpudGun

    To re-chamber a P90 in 5.56 would require a completely redesigned rifle. 5.56 is longer than the 5.7, and with the way the feeding system works it would be better just to make a “P90” esque 5.56 “sub-gun”. I think it would be an interesting idea to do so. I love shooting the P90, however, I would not trust my life to a 5.7x28mm round. Just doesn’t do it for me. If I could have a .22lr clone of a P90 I’d be in heaven 🙂

  • Lance

    I agree on this with others a Sub gun in 9mm like a MP-5 and or a .45cal UMP-45 would be better. The Russians have both Amor pericing loads for 9x18mm and for export 9x19mm. Winchester made a Ktel round in the late 1980s that penatrates soft armor. They where band by Ted Kennedy. Just buy ktel 9mm rounds and MP-5s with Aimpoint ML-2 reddots. Cant fail.

  • Lance

    Have to agree with my emails and posts on this Steve.

  • prodromos

    Actualy you have to count out pistol calibers with pistol ballistics . (9mm-40s&w-45ACPetc) .
    The “sub-compact” must be able to launch aimed fire to 200m .
    So we are talking pistol calibers with rifle ballistics (5,7X28 , 4,6X30 , 224boz , 5,56X30 , 6,5cbz etc)

    Talking it one step further , i think that the army wants specificaly a very short barrelled rifle in 5,56X45 NATO . That is why i think they dont call it PDW(mp-7) or MG(mp-5) or MP(glock-18) . And by very short barrelled i mean >10″ . I believe that that is why they call it “sub compact” and not carbine (14,5″) or sub carbine(<14") .
    To be more precise , i believe that they have a model like the ROBARM-XCR , G-36C , or a colt M4 with a 8-9" barrel in their minds (there are many more in this category) .
    They could even consider a model without stock like the one in the XM-8 family (allthow i dont know how an AR type pistol could deliver aimed fire at 200m)

  • prodromos

    And the lethality of 5,56 from short barrels , i think this matter is going to be adressed with the new socom rounds .

  • Lance

    I dont know why the Army is crying and moening over it. In the Marine Corps Truck drivers or none infantrymen either are given a M-4 or a M-16A2. Yeah its heavy to pack around but when the enemy attacks its sure handy. Is the Army full of whiners who cry at a heavy load? Every other service including the Marines are pleased and are keeping there weapons for at least 10 year in the future.

    I think Col Tamilo is getting money from other gun makers and is makeing up mosty army whineing over M-4s. The Pentigon is such a load of crap.

    If every servy shows 89-90% happines with a gun. DO NOT REPLACE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What do you think Steve.

  • Brian

    The KAC PDW is the American equal of the Krinkov. So what if it adds another caliber. REMFs and vehicle operators need something they can deploy quickly but still not get in the way of their primary duties. RFB? Get serious. Full sized M16? In a truck cab? The KAC PDW deserves a hard look.

  • Brian

    Forgot the link:
    Official Youtube:
    Unofficial Youtube Futureweapons:

  • prodromos

    The kac pdw , the xcr-micro , and others like them in size but chambered 5,56X45 are the answer .

  • Brian

    Lance, turn on your spell-check for God’s sake!

  • Lance

    Sorry about the bad spelling was in a hurry. You dont need a micro rifle. A XM-177 without the long flashhider would be fine. But a M-4 is fine for noe combat users. $ inches is not that much longer and that wahts a carbines job is. A weapon none riflemen use.

  • subby

    The RFB is compact enough but its too heavy at 8.1 pounds and service people who already can’t shoot for shit, will look retarded shooting 7.62mm.

    The kel tec SU-16D is the smallest compact carbine, but there are also many other options (ACR, SCAR). As for hearing damage, since when has the army given a shit about hearing? Just issue them with earplugs.

    Military won’t agree to introducing a new calibre and 9mm isn’t able to penetrate body armor.

    Too bad theres no compact, light bullpup in 5.56mm around. (FN FS2000 is heavy and bulky as shite.)

    Kel tec is releasing a new 5.56 bullpup modeled after the RFB in a couple of years. They should just wait for that. Or better yet work with them to develop a weapon.

    Most likely we’ll get a retarded pipsqueak M4 lwith a super short barrel. Don’t forget your earplugs.

  • seeker_two

    Another vote for the P90 here….you could even solve the ammo supply problem by replacing the M9 with the FN Five-Seven pistol….if you feel comfortable with the 5.7 load….

  • Brad

    Carl was on the right track

    To meet the Army requirements, of sling like a subgun but fire like a rifle, the only way with 5.56 is to use a bullpup. If the Army insists on using the AR platform with stubby 10 inch barrels, then a caliber change is necessary such as .357 SIG.

    How has the shorty version of the FAMAS worked out?

  • Mike

    Let me guess? Is this a proposal to (re)invent the submachine gun? Golly gosh, what goes around comes around!

  • prodromos

    Talking bullbup , an actual carbine with a barrel of 13″ , weight 6,7pds with reflex , and a total length less than 24″ . The Micro Tavor-II . Prooven in battle .
    Or a slightly bigger and heavier AUG like someone allready said.

    Dont talk about new calibers . The army will not change or even adopt a new round for years to come . Think of a 5.56X45 NATO “Sub compact” .

  • Vak


    Don’t even think of the Famas. It’s an heavily flawed weapon : it have to use one and only one kind of 5.56 that is NOT compatible with standard 5.56 NATO ammo for some weird reason, it’s actually quite sensitive to dust and foulings (because of it’s overtrly complicated action) and it just lacks the now common modern features (ie : rails everywhere).

    Sure, it looks nice, and this is the kind of weapon that everyone likes in videogames thanks to its rate of fire or for the shooting range for its decent accuracy, but in real life, all french special forces try to dump it aside and use AKs and ARs.

  • Jeff M

    Hey Steve,

    I agree with the 9mm PDW. The Brugger & Thomas TP9 would make a good gun for lots of folks in urban situations against soft targets. I’d say the machine pistols are good out to 100 yards.

    And I think the RFB should be the standard issue carbine. That gun is so frickin awesome, I got mine a few months back, only complaint is that it’s a little bit complicated to break down and clean, and it probably heats up quicker than an M4, but the power and compactness is as good as it gets. Could probably hit something at 900 yards with a little luck.

  • Matt Groom

    “As for hearing damage, since when has the army given a shit about hearing? Just issue them with earplugs.”

    ‘Wait! Stop shooting! I have to put my ear plugs in! Thanks. Okay, I’m ready!’

    The military will not give you disability for hearing loss unless it’s significant, like you need hearing aids at age 22. So the policy is “You went deaf? That’s your problem.”

    The issue with short barrels is these are the modern equivalent of the M1 Carbine and are intended for non-shooters, who’s primary duties involve something other than gunplay. Truck drivers, medics, pilots, and the like. People who have other things to do when the shooting starts but might still need to shoot back when the chips are down. The rub then isn’t recoil, or weight, or accuracy, or even the size of the weapon, it’s the flinching that’s associated with the muzzle blast.

    Those tiny Surefire suppressors that Steve blogged about a few weeks ago would be nearly ideal for a really short barrel, but those AND a PDW length cartridge would be even better, and the cans would last longer. They don’t need to be silent, just to keep you from going deaf.

  • Lance

    I dont think 5.7 is the awnser. The round never cought on in the Police world because the round has over penatration issues and lacks knockdown power. A MP-5 with ktel rounds would be the best idea. The army already uses 9mm rounds and has a surplus of MP-5s left over frm when Army SOCOM replaced MP-5s with M-4s. Just have Winchester make the Ktel round for the army and add 1913 rails to the subguns to add optics.

    Im also not a Bullpup fan. There cumbersom heavy and ackward to shoot. The AUG or L-85 already have issues with shooting out to 200 yards. Why buy a weapon that isnt working for the combat your fighting, which is long range firefights.

  • Komrad

    How about Calico? They already have high capacity (100 rounds) 9mm carbines and pistols. They use helical mags that can be left loaded with the spring disconnected (perfect for leaving in the truck for extended periods), are ambidextrous for less issues with logistics, have speed loaders that allow reloading of magazines in just a few seconds, and have .22lr counterparts for cheap training. To top it all off, they are made in the USA and sold for the low price of only $750. Using steel core rounds even our truck drivers can hit hard. A short barreled version with a folding stock could function as a carbine or a somewhat bulky pistol. It would also give this small company a big boost, maybe a big enough boost for them to make .40 and .45 caliber versions. Helical mags show potential for compact, high capacity weapons.

  • Edward

    I loved the PDR concept when I saw it, but Magpul explained over at ARFCOM (, right?) that it’s not a priority to R&D when the biggest potential customer hasn’t enough interest to call back.

  • Michael Oppenheimer

    we do not pay 500 dollars for a hammer that is put in the buget to hide the money that we send to the C.I.A. and other black ops and spec ops and other thing that we do not want you and other to know about,the army is put up 10 million to come up with a replacement for the m-16 and it well be the 6.5 or the 6.8 and bullpup rifle that comes from the army so that all I know at this time thank you for you time and your input. Mic