B-List film and television star of the 70’s and 80’s, the Wilkinson Arms Linda is back in current production as a carbine. It may be undeniably retro, but it still looks scary enough to have been specifically named on Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D) 2013 AWB wishlist. While the Linda 9mm Carbine wasn’t very assaulty in my hands, it did shoot straight, fast, and soft, and the current models bring welcome (albeit certainly not to Feinstein) modern improvements.
Always sure to get the antis’ knickers in a bunch is a barrel shroud (is that the shoulder thing that goes up?) reminiscent of the M1919 machine gun, a pistol grip, and 18- and 31-round capacity magazine-clips.
New for the modern era of Linda Carbines is the addition of 1/2-28 muzzle threads. This allows for the easy installation of a compensator, flash hider, or sound suppressor. Assault Weapons Ban aficionados may now need a safe space.
Further increasing the effectiveness of the platform is an optional Picatinny top rail. Actually, the Linda has always had an integral rail machined into the top of the extruded aluminum receiver, but it was Weaver style and lacked any recoil slots. When Wilkinson Arms asked me if I wanted slots or not, I was quite conflicted. Stick with the classic, retro look or up the utility factor?
Ultimately, though the nice speed skater lady with the big hair and bad trigger discipline and slot-less Linda looks decidedly cool, I decided on the slots for your benefit, o’ reader, to improve the validity of my accuracy testing through the use of an optic. Clearly the recoil slots on my sample were machined after the receiver was powdercoated, whereas they’d be more incognito were they cut ahead of time and coated black to match (which is Wilkinson’s standard practice).
With the modern touches covered, we’re back to retro goodness. The Linda Carbine, or LE-3 as it’s now designated, is a straight-blowback action, low-frills 9mm carbine.
If you’re thinking it looks like an SBR, you aren’t alone. Most of the people I showed the Linda to thought the barrel was way shorter than 16″. Unlike a Sten or M3 Grease Gun or many other WWII (or otherwise “old school”) pistol caliber carbines of this general look and feel, though, the Linda’s magazine inserts through the pistol grip (rather than way ahead of it) and this is where the action begins.
It’s a short, sweet action, too. The 1.32 pound bolt only cycles rearwards a couple of inches, which is plenty to eject a spent 9mm case, allow the magazine to lift the next round into position, then chamber that round into the legal-length barrel. A rubber pad acts as a recoil stop at the end of the bolt’s travel.
While the modern Wilkinson Arms now offers the Linda with an AR-15 stock or an underfolder stock, both with an accessory rail section in place of the wood forend seen here, the decision to me was clear. The wood just looks so good! It seems “right” for the gun. It’s really nicely-figured wood, too.
In fact, the number one thing I would change about this Linda, if I could, would be swapping the plastic grips for matching wood ones. The grip seen above is comprised of three pieces — rear cap and two side grip panels — and I can’t help but think the entire look and feel of the carbine would be complete were it wood instead. I should say, though, that the grip is surprisingly comfortable given the somewhat unique look of the angles involved.
While the simple tubular stock could have started life as part of a coffee table, I dig it. Nothing else would look so good on this gun. Wood screws to hold the wood “recoil pad” on? Yes, please. Sign me up.
On the other side of the stock, it mounts to the receiver in a simple, functional manner: slot, tab, and one bolt to lock it all down. Originally the Linda was designed as a pistol, and with that in mind the stock looks surprisingly at-home on the receiver once installed.
This might be a good time to mention that there’s a sling stud on the barrel shroud, but no sling attachment point whatsoever anywhere rear of that. I suppose one of those universal slings that wraps around the end of the stock could work here, but it would block the view of my nicely-figured wood. While we’ll see later that the Linda is quite accurate, I don’t foresee anyone mounting a bipod to it.
In less time than I had anticipated, the Linda was stripped down completely. In fact, it was accomplished without the owner’s manual and was pretty straightforward. My only gripe here is that you’ll need four different hex wrench sizes to break down the Linda to this point. The overall theme is simplicity and large, solid parts.
Even the trigger mechanism is quite simple and is housed entirely in the aluminum grip frame. Hammer-fired, as you can see.
Before even leaving my FFL, I was pleasantly surprised by the decent trigger pull on the Linda. As the general look and feel of the gun (and of the trigger itself) says “WWII battle carbine” to me, I was prepared for the worst. Far from the worst, though, the trigger pull is smooth and consistent and the break is fairly crisp.
Well, the Dvorak TriggerScan shows that its travel isn’t perfectly smooth, but it’s smoother than a GLOCK trigger and much shorter from touch to bang (Linda in bold vs. factory stock GLOCK 22 chart here). It felt lighter than its as-measured ~6.4 lbs and, while it’s far from a match trigger, it exceeded expectations with the exception of a meek reset click near the front of its travel.
I began my range time shooting the Linda with its removable iron sights — a peep rear and a blade front. Perfectly serviceable, and I thought they couldn’t get simpler until I noticed that the rear sight post was actually stamped and bent up from the same piece of sheet metal that the body is made from. For some reason I find this entirely hilarious, and I love it.
The sights were right on target and I have no complaints, though were this my rifle I’d probably paint the tip of the front blade white or orange or install a brass bead to make it stand out more. Of interesting note is that the height may be some sort of standard that I’m not aware of, as they actually co-witnessed perfectly through the hole in the Primary Arms 2.5x prism sight‘s mount.
That optic was installed (and was not re-zeroed) to keep me on target for 5-shot accuracy groups, which I chose to do at the indoor range to escape the snow and the absurdly cold weather. Considering the average group size was under 3/4 of an inch, I now wish I had shot the Linda at farther than 25 yards. Suffice it to say, though, that she’s a straight shooter, possibly favoring the lighter and/or faster rounds.
The addition of a suppressor opened things up a little, which is not what I’m used to seeing. An inch at 25 yards, though, is still quite accurate. Especially for something that — and I don’t mean this negatively as it’s part of the appeal and charm — looks like it was built from furniture and plumbing parts.
On the plus side, the Linda suppressed extremely well. It was significantly quieter than I anticipated; expecting something more along the lines of a 9mm AR-15 conversion. Much like the CZ Scorpion Evo, I attribute this to a very heavy bolt. All of that mass delays the opening of the action and allows the pressure to drop more completely than on other straight-blowback firearms.
With CapArms 147 grain subsonic ammo, the Linda was shoot-in-your-basement (don’t do this) quiet, very light on gas blowback, and oh so smooth. Pew pew — actually, more like “clink, clink” as the bolt closed against the barrel — was achieved. It remained fairly nicely balanced and continued feeling nimble and handy.
While at the indoor range I asked a couple of their employees to test drive the Linda. Keith, despite being a modern plastic fantastic gun kind of a guy, was still not wont to touch another man’s wood and chose to go full Chris Costa grip on Linda’s shroud instead. I admit this hadn’t occurred to me — just as holding it by, you know, the handguard hadn’t occurred to him — so I’m glad he did it and, in so doing, brought even more modern flavor to a retro gun.
The consensus among all who shot it lined up right with mine. Wilkinson Arms’ Linda is a soft-shooting, handy, accurate little carbine with retro-cool looks and a decent trigger.
On the downside, the tiny little cross-bolt safety leaves something to be desired. It was annoyingly sticky from the factory, but after taking the gun apart and doing some cleaning and lubing it felt great. That didn’t resolve the fact that it’s physically too small and/or too hidden up under the overhang of the receiver to be easily accessed, though. Of course, I suppose the receiver also protects it from accidental bumps.
Likewise, the magazine release was a bit sticky and magazines fit somewhat snugly in the frame — don’t expect them to drop free. This could be another, albeit admittedly subtle, area in which to modernize the Linda.
The standard left-side charging handle (knob) is easy to grab and operate, but Wilkinson Arms also offers extended options. As is the case on most guns of this sort, the bolt does not lock back on empty. There is also no mechanism by which to manually lock the bolt to the rear. Adding either or both of these functionalities could be another area in which to subtly bring the Linda up to modern standards.
After all of my shooting, the Linda was good and dirty. The grease applied to the parts at the factory definitely attracted carbon and other gunk, but she never stopped running. Other than a few short cycles on the very first magazine fired — the ~12° F weather and choice of grease for lube didn’t help — there were no functional hiccups. Simplicity has its advantages, and I’d put money on a straight-blowback action running longer than just about anything else.
Overall the Wilkinson Arms Linda 9mm Carbine is a ton of fun to look at and a ton of fun to shoot. Not only fun, actually, as it’s a perfectly viable, reliable, accurate firearm that would serve the user well in home- or self-defense scenarios and more.
Wilkinson Arms has done a nice job bringing it at least partially into the modern era with the addition of a threaded barrel and a Picatinny rail(s). However, it still suffers from some relics of its old school design such as less-than-ideal controls and a “hand-painted pipe fittings” aesthetic, but of course the latter explains a lot of its appeal, too. If it had a matching wood grip, I’d be completely thrilled to send them $799 for one. Even without that touch, it’s undeniably cool.
Specifications: Wilkinson Arms Linda 9mm Carbine
Magazine Capacity: 31-round magazine included, 18- and 31- round magazines available separately ($32 or less each)
Build: Extruded aluminum alloy upper receiver, aluminum lower receiver, tubular steel fixed stock, wood foregrip and buttplate, steel bolt
Finish: Black powdercoat on receivers and stock. Barrel and bolt are blued. Shroud and barrel nut are anodized. Future models may be Ceracoated.
Trigger Mech: Hammer-fired single action
Sights: Metal, fixed. Peep rear, blade front.
Barrel Length: 16 in. Threaded 1/2-28 as standard, but also available without threads.
Overall Length: 32 in
Weight: 6 lbs, 1 oz
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Accuracy * * * * *
Reliability * * * *
Aside from three hiccups where the bolt didn’t cycle sufficiently far rearwards during the first magazine (of weak, 115 grain reloads in 12 degree weather, mind you), the Linda ran flawlessly whether suppressed or not and kept on ticking even after it was well gunked up.
Ergonomics * *
The safety and mag release leave something to be desired, and the overall package is quite compact (length of pull, location of the handguard). The charging handle is in a decent location on the left side instead of on the top or the right side. Overall it’s great by 70’s standards but probably just short of average today. Very comfortable to shoot, though, with its soft recoil and nimble handling.
Customize This * * *
Wilkinson Arms does offer different stocks, one of which is an adapter for an AR-15 stock. It has a rail for an optic — some versions also have an accessory rail — and the iron sights are easily removable. It’s threaded for a suppressor or other muzzle device. There’s no aftermarket for the Linda Carbine, though.
Overall * * * *
The Wilkinson Arms Linda 9mm Carbine is a hoot to shoot. It’s fun, reliable, accurate, and very quiet when suppressed. It also looks awesome in a retro, kitschy sort of a way. Overall, it’s just plain cool.
The 147 grain subsonic 9mm ammunition for this review was provided by CapArms. Their sponsorship of most of TTAG’s review-related ammo needs is a huge help, allowing us to review more guns and more gear more thoroughly.