Where next for PDWs?

I have updated and considerably extended my article on Personal Defence Weapon ammunition, to include the choice of weapons as well. See: quarry.nildram.co.uk/PDWs.htm

As a cartridge collector, I love the variety of all these new PDW rounds, but I don’t really see many countries making any great investment in procuring either the weapons or ammo in any significant quantity. Very interesting stuff, but I foresee a flash-in-the-pan.

For years, almost since its inception, people, including troops in the field using them in combat, have complained about the poor wound ballistics characteristics of the 5.56 x 45mm round, to the point where there has been much development over the years in larger calibers, intermediate to the 7.62 x 51 NATO and 5.56x45 NATO rounds. The 6.8 Remington is one of the latest.

Now, everyone is clamoring over these little PDWs that fire, in some cases, the same diameter bullets, but lighter and at slower velocities than the 5.56 NATO. Most are too big and clumsy to be carried well in holsters leaving both hands free with nothing dangling from around one’s neck, and to small in caliber to be effective much beyond pistol ranges. Some of the cartridges have been tested by military establishments at such places as the Former U.S. Army Wound Ballistics Lab, Letterman Army Institute of Research, Presidio of San Francisco, California (a hollywood special effects studio now sits on the site of the fomer LAIR, and the Presidio is no longer a military base), and have been found wanting.

It is interesting that the Western soldier now hauls around 75 to 100 pounds of equipment everywhere he goes, including in active combat it seems from the pictures in Iraq (full field packs), while most of yesterdays and todays enemies are carrying a rifle and some ammunition and maybe a water bottle. I know that some of the equipment gives our troops a big advantage - night vision, various levels of body armor, etc., and I am not knocking all technology. The aircraft weapons, especially, do an incredible job today. But the 3rd World types without all this stuff haven’t be knocked into submission yet, either, after years of fighting them (Viet Nam, Middle East, etc.).

I think the last thing the soldiers need is some new, little, under-powered SMG (PDWs are nothing, in MHO, other than an SMG in new clothing). I would rather the guy next to me in a fight have an M-14, FAL, Bren Gun or FN-GPMG - something useful - thank you.

Now, don’t all jump on me at once. I know I am a 19th Century man. Heck, for the most part, I would as soon have my light, slim, easy to handle Model 1892 Winchester Carbine in .44-40 caliber, a short range cartridge with some hitting power in full loads, than one of these PDW Buck Rogers specials.


I swear you still have a Brown Bess beside your bed, arent you ?? :-)


I think the last thing the soldiers need is some new, little, under-powered SMG (PDWs are nothing, in MHO, other than an SMG in new clothing). I would rather the guy next to me in a fight have an M-14, FAL, Bren Gun or FN-GPMG - something useful - thank you.[/quote]
Certainly true for front-line infantrymen John, but the PDWs aren’t meant for them.

What about vehicle and aircraft crews, or those whose primary task is to do something else? If you insist they carry the standard rifle, you’re liable to find one of two things: either that they carry it and find it obstructs them in doing their primary job, or they stack it somewhere and it isn’t to hand when they need it.

The term PDW has a specific meaning in NATOspeak, but really it’s just a function rather than a weapon: a self-defence arm for second-line troops. It can be used to encompass eveything from pistols to carbines. As I say in the article, there are no right answers: just options with different pros and cons.

Lothar - Not a Brown Bess. My gosh, you would think I am old fashioned. I keep an M1 Garand - the only REAL combat rifle!

Tony - the Red Ball Express in Europe, vehicle bound, carried the standard infantry weapons - Garand, M1 Carbine, Tommy Guns - and they weren’t caught without them. That is purely a matter of weapons discipline.

Tank crews have no need for small arms unless they have to abandon their tanks. Then they are better served with real weapons. An armed encounter is an armed encounter is an armed encounter - doesn’t matter what level of troops are involved and what their jobs are. If the lead starts flying their way, they are better served with standard infantry weapons that with little guns with the wound ballistics characteristics of an icepick. Aircraft crews that have to use weapons on the ground are pretty much screwed, and might just as well be armed with pistols - a gun to get a gun - than anything else, as they have been in most wars. But, on helicopters, I would be sure those door guns had ground mounts to go with them.

Just my opinion. I never cared much for SMGs, no matter what they are called. Never could see what you could do with a burst from a hard to control weapon that you couldn’t do with one aimed shot from an M1911A1, and I have put my share of rounds down range with SMGs. Fun, but no cigar!. I know Europeans are in love with SMGs and they are welcome to them. They served the Russians in good stead because they could make a jillion of them on short order. Wisely, though, they put a real butt stock on them until late in the war, and a magazine with some meaningful capacity. Much better than the MP40, U.S. M3 and M3A1, Sten gun, etc. The tommy gun was the right idea and the right caliber, but a little heavy and too much muzzle climb due to the poor angle of the stock in relation to the axis of the bore. Sten and Bren sound a lot alike, but a Bren gun is a REAL gun. The best!

An argument that could go on forever. My opinion won’t change - I am too old to worry about it anymore.

All the above are well-reasoned comments, and I agree on a technical level. However, I think any serious adoption of PDW-type weapons will be an economic question.