BREAKING: US Army's Subgun Search Resumes!

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss
Sgt. Robert Brown fires a MP5 submachine gun at a range on the Iraqi Special Operations Forces compound at Baghdad’s Victory Base Complex Oct. 2009. (Sgt. Lindsey Bradford/US Army)

We at TFB have been following the US Army’s Sub Compact Weapon programme closely. It was initially announced at the beginning of May, this was quickly followed by the news that weapons submitted by no less than 13 companies would be evaluated. At that point the programme’s contracts had an estimated worth of almost $260,000. Then in the first week of July it was announced that the programme was to be cancelled, pending a review of the Army’s requirements.

Many thought this would be the end of the Sub Compact Weapon programme, however, on 26th July a new Prototype Opportunity Notice was posted by the Army Contracting Command, New Jersey, on behalf of Project Manager Soldier Weapons. The PON read:

Project Manager Soldier Weapons, is seeking proposals in regards to a Prototype Opportunity Notice (PON) for Sub Compact Weapon (SCW) Systems. The ultimate objective of this program is to acquire a highly concealable SCW system capable of engaging threat personnel with a high volume of lethal force while accurately firing at close range with minimal collateral damage.

The aim of the PON is to select a 9x19mm compact weapon system which meets the Army’s requirements. These include accessory attachament abilites, optimal performance with a 147 grain 9x19mm NATO spec round, select fire capability, ambidextrous controls, feed from 20 and 30 round magazines, bottom, vertical feed magazines, black exterior finish, have an overall length of “less than 15 inches overall in collapsed position” and weigh less than 7 pounds. The barrel will be no longer than 5.5 inches and the stock must collapse telescopically. Depending on interpretation some of these criteria may prevent some of the previous entries from submitting such as the B&T MP9 and Beretta PMX.

Angstadt Arms Corporation’s UDP-9, one of the many AR-platform SMGs submitted first time around

The PON has a section explaining the background to the need for the new Sub Compact Weapon:

United States military operations take place worldwide and in all types of terrains as well as under every environmental condition. The Secretary of the Army and/or the Chief of Staff approves senior commanders and key personnel as High Risk Personnel (HRP). HRPs are authorized a Personal Security Detail (PSD), which are assigned to guard against outlined threats. To address this operational need, PSD military personnel require weapons with greater lethality than pistols that are more concealable than rifles. The ultimate objective of this program is to acquire a highly concealable Sub Compact Weapon (SCW) system capable of engaging threat personnel with a high volume of lethal force while accurately firing at close range with minimal collateral damage.

This is inline with the earlier, more vague, requirements shared by the Army Contracting Command. The PON also gives information on just how many weapons are set to be ordered by the Army once the programme is completed. An initial order for 350 weapons and accompanying tools, spares, accessories and equipment will be made. From the award of the contract the vendor will be scheduled to provide the first 10 SCW systems within 30 days of the contract award. This will then be followed by the remaining 340 weapons over a 5 to 7 month period after the award of a follow on production award. The period of the contract’s fulfilment will not exceed twelve months from the date of award.

B&T’s MP9 was by far the most compact weapon submitted, but its side folding stock is not acceptable under the new PON’s guidelines!

The Army is looking to award up to 6 Prototype Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs). Vendors will have to complete submission forms detailing price and other information and submit a 2.5 minute video pitching and demonstrating their weapon. These OTA’s will require 15 weapons from each vendor for testing along with: “Slings & Manuals, 40 – 20 round magazines and 80 – 30 round magazines, 5 cleaning kits, 3 suppressors, 2 specialized tool kits (if required for assembly/disassembly), and spare parts.” These will need to be delivered within 30 days of the awarding of the OTA.

Testing will include drop testing from 5 feet from 6 orientations with the safety both engaged and disengaged. Accuracy testing will require that the weapon put four out of five consecutive shots within a four inch diameter circle at 35 metres. The weapon must fire 60 rounds per minute without cook off and must not suffer more than 1 stoppage per 1,000 rounds.

The PON outlines how the contract award will be phased with two phases. The second phase, following the award of the OTAs will require vendors to submit a schedule, an updated Price (with cheaper prces only accepted), an outline of their delivery capabilities, their quality assurance programme and their warranty. The PON has a deadline of the 9th August, giving interested vendors two weeks to submit their proposed systems for evaluation. You can find out more on the PON’s FBO page, here.

Heckler & Koch’s UMP9, with its folding stock is also possibly out of the running

How many of the previous 13 vendors who submitted a range of weapons including MP5 clones, AR platform based submachine guns and ultra compact personal defence weapons like the B&T MP9. You can check out my two-part breakdown of the weapons that were originally submitted to the program here & here. We will continue to follow the Army’s Sub Compact Weapon programme and bring you news on which companies submit to the relaunched programme.


Matthew Moss
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: & Overt Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. Matt is also runs The Armourer's Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms. Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news. Reach Matt at:

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2 of 232 comments
  • TW TW on Jul 30, 2018

    Maybe someone comes up with an AR based gun that uses 320 mags. Then come out with 30-40 round 320 mags to go with it. That way you keep standardized between handgun and subgun.

  • Mazryonh Mazryonh on Aug 04, 2018

    I don't understand why platforms with magazines inside the pistol grip aren't allowed in the SCW programme. That's one of the simplest ways to get a shorter weapon without compromising barrel length if you're dealing with cartridges that are relatively short (like most handgun calibers).