What We Can and Can't Learn From the Army's Sub Compact Weapon Q&A

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss
Spc. David Bromley, with 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, fires a HK MP7 (not a potential SCW) at a range in Baghlan province, Afghanistan, June 3, 2013. German and U.S. forces had the chance to fire each other’s weapons during this training event. (U.S. Army courtesy photo/Released)

Back in late July the US Army relaunched its Sub Compact Weapon program to find a suitable 9x19mm submachine gun for close protection details. The new deadline to submit designs was 9th August, but before then the US Army’s Contracting Command, New Jersey, posted some answers to some 40 questions raised by vendors on the Sub Compact Weapon’s FedBizOps notice page.

Some of the answers offer more detail on the program and the desired weapon itself but some of the answers are frustratingly vague, especially for the manufacturers hoping to submit weapons. Lets take a look at the questions and answers and see what we can learn.

First lets look at some of the questions asked about the weapon itself. One vendor asked if a folding buttstock was acceptable while another asked if a “side-folding and telescoping buttstock” could be submitted. the Sub Compact Weapon specifications requires a weapon no longer than 15 inches when ts stock is collapsed. To the first question Army Contracting Command replied that the stock “shall be telescopically collapsible.” While the to the second they explained that: “A folding collapsible buttstock is allowed but may impact other evaluation factors such as User in the Loop Testing – concealability and Ambidextrous Control Go/No-Go requirements.” While these responses differ it appears that some form of folding stock may be acceptable – as long as it is length adjustable.

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

From the questions posted we also learn that at least one company intends to submit an integrally suppressed design and have asked if this will be acceptable. We also gain some clarity on the SCW’s specification for ambidextrous controls with the Army Contract Command (ACC) explaining that the charging handle does not have to be ambidextrous. Questions were also asked about the type of 147gr 9x19mm ammunition which will be used in the testing with one question asking “does the government require performance/demonstration with subsonic or supersonic 147gn 9mm?” ACC replied that subsonic ammunition will be used for the testing. Likely, the new XM1152 round developed for the Modular Handgun System.

Another interesting question asked: “Will our offer to the government be disqualified if another company offers a different product from the same manufacturer?” Suggesting that multiple vendors are likely to submit weapons from the same manufacturer, perhaps B&T. ACC replied simply with ‘No’, companies would not be disqualified.

A Video?

One of the most contentious issues surrounding the program’s submission process itself was the inclusion of a video requirement which requires a 2.5 minute long video showing the submitted weapon fulfilling requirements from the SCW’s Go/No Go list. The Go/No Go list includes capabilities to mount accessories, fire 9x19mm 147gr ammunition, be select-fire, be ambidextrous, show 20 and 30 round magazines, and show the weapon’s colour. Vendors must also demonstrate the weapon’s weight, length, and maintenance without special tools. They must also prove that they are able to deliver 15 weapons within 30 days of being awarded the contract. A tall order to cram all of these things into such a short video.

In their responses the Army also clarified that only actual firearms can be featured in the footage, no computer aided models, and that the “professionally produced videos are not expected.” Another asked if the length of the, seemingly very short, video could be extended, the Army responded that it will not be extended and that “only the first 2.5 minutes of video will be considered.”

One vendor was anxious to learn if the inclusion of a video would be become standard practice for solicitations in the future to which the ACC responded:

There are no expectations this will become commonplace for future PONs/ solicitations. As far as Government is concerned, we cannot state what other solicitations will require as every solicitation is different and will have its unique requirements. For this PON, a video submission is meant to streamline the process for Offerors and the Government.

It is unclear how the SCW’s magazine requirements will impact on submissions like the Angstadt Arms Corporation’s UDP-9, which uses Glock magazines – will the 33 round glock magazine be acceptable?

Things Get a Little Vague

Some of the ACC’s other responses were less helpful, with several giving little clarification. There were a number of queries about magazine capacity with the ACC simply responded that “magazine capacity shall include 20 round and 30 round magazines.” Several other responses were similarly vague:

9. Question: How can we sufficiently demonstrate the weapon will “Perform optimally” with 147 grain 9mm ammunition?
Answer: Loading and firing 147 grain 9mm ammunition is a way that would prove an Offeror met this requirement.

11. Question: How much detail is required to demonstrate “Shall be maintainable without use of special tools”?
Answer: Demonstrate how you maintain the weapon without the use of special tools.

14. Question: Can you elaborate on what is meant by the phrase “Must be able to fire marking/training round” for the ammunition?
Answer: Offerors must show, demonstrate, or explain how their weapon is able to fire a marking/training round.”

Vendors are unlikely to have been satisfied by some of the vague responses and it remains to be seen which manufacturers intend to submit weapons. The solicitation ended on 9th August, with the page stating that “any questions received hereafter will be answered and posted next week on or before 17 August 2018.”


Matthew Moss
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: TheFirearmBlog.com & Overt Defense.com. 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: matt@thefirearmblog.com

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  • Colonel K Colonel K on Aug 21, 2018

    Somebody in contracting or acquisition is not doing his job correctly. Is the Army interested in buying a SMG or a short film? Imagine if the MP5, Uzi, or Swedish K had been rejected because the video demo did not meet the specified requirements. The bigger problem is it appears the person who wrote the requirements already has an idea of what he wants. Now he is window shopping. This is not the best way do R&D or acquisition. A more proper approach is to write general guidelines such as "should not exceed X pounds when loaded, Y length when collapsed." If you get too specific, you could be eliminating solutions that may be superior to the ones you came up with. I saw this happen when we adopted the M9 service pistol. Nobody would even consider the Glock, in part because it lacked the required manual safety feature. The fact that the Glock did not need one was deemed irrelevant. Such is the way of most bureaucrats.

  • Potates Potates on Aug 22, 2018

    Thinking about it, a pistol caliber PDW could eventually prove usefull in the space force.