Army Sub Machine Gun Submachine SMG Contract
courtesy wikimedia.org
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Reader John Dingell III writes:

As you may have heard, the US Army’s product manager for individual weapons (PM IW) issued a Request for Information (RFI) from the firearms industry regarding Compact Weapons (SCW) on May 2nd. It appears that they are considering adopting an off the shelf submachine gun for limited issue to conventional forces. The RFI provides no indication of how many submachine guns are contemplated, but a dozen or so different manufacturers have expressed interest, including these:

Beretta USA’s PMX subcompact weapon
Colt modular CM9MM-9H-M5A 9mm
CMMG’s PDW subcompact
CZ-USA for Scorpion EVO 3 A1
Lewis Machine & Tool Company MARS-L9
PTR Industries PTR 9CS subcompact
Quarter Circle 10 5.5 CLT and 5.5 QV5 subcompacts
SIG SAUER’s MPX
Trident Rifles’ B&T MP9 machine gun
Zenith Firearms for Z-5RS, Z-5P and Z-5K subcompacts

The last submachine gun issued by the U.S. Army to its regular forces was the M3A1 ‘Grease Gun’ made by Guide Lamp Division of GM during WW II and Ithaca during the Korean War. Most went to NCO’s and operators of crew served weapons like artillery and mortars. The last reported issuance of the M3A1 was to tankers during the first Gulf War.

M3A1 Grease Gun Submachine Gun Machine Gun
courtesy wikimedia.org

The U.S. Army lost interest in submachine guns with the advent of selective fire rifles and their continuing reduction in size. Widespread adoption of body armor by potential adversaries furthered the demise of the military submachine gun. The only remaining U.S. military issuance of submachine guns is to SOCOM and the Marines: the Heckler & Koch MP5 series and the Colt RO635, respectively.

There are, however, still some valid niche applications for submachine guns in military operations. You don’t want to bang away with deep penetrating armor piercing rifle ammunition in chemical plants, petroleum refineries, nuclear power stations and other such hazardous environs.

MAC 10-sized micro submachine guns are superior to pistols in armored vehicles, tunnels, sewers, and other confined spaces where an M4 carbine – or even an MP5 – would be awkward. You don’t get to choose where you’re going to fight, the enemy makes that decision for you.

Can a single submachine gun design satisfy various different applications including working in confined spaces as well as personal protection duty? Probably not. Regular forces operating in hazardous environs would benefit from an AR-like fuller-sized SMG to minimize training and familiarization, while maximizing effectiveness.

Probably the best outcome would be two different designs sharing common magazines. The Army should be considering two different submachine guns for different uses. Will they?

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89 COMMENTS

      • A single shot B&T 6.5mm Creedmore conversion would be superior to anything ever. With 6.5mm Creedmore you don’t need a select fire option because all enemies would fall in its wake. Also, 6.5mm Creedmore is so smart that it wouldn’t over penetrate or effect friendlies…. not like that dumb old 7.62x51mm… pffft… .308 Win is so stupid.

  1. Since they are spending/wasting all kinds of taxpayer dollars for a new 9mm pistol they might as well buy the B&T P320 USW module.

    • One of the requirements is select fire. Is the B&T chassis select fire? I’ve only seen the B&T stock/frame with the folding stock that’s semi only.

      • The B&T MP9, Steyr MPP/TMP, is. I have an old TMP, and it’s awesome. The USW isn’t select fire, its just a CZ75 clone with some ancillary doodads.

  2. Why not just use existing m4/m16 based systems (mk18, xm177, etc), but use frangible ammo? We’re abandoning the Hague expanding ammo bottleneck. The military is phasing out 9mm ball for 9mm m1159 (Winchester HP ammo).

      • They want a lightweight, compact, controllable, select fire weapon that mitigates collateral damage to be used be lessor trained soldiers. You can have all those things but it’s going to require a lot of training. “Lightweight/compact” and “select fire” doesn’t lend itself to “mitigating collateral damage” without a lot of training. People who get a lot of training use 5.56mm cabines (mk18’s) and handguns.

    • 1. Technically we never signed on the the expanding ammo treaty. (There’s an amazing number of treaties that .mil follows in principle that the US never actually signed.)
      2. The mk18 is a great carbine, but the 5.56×45 round leaves a lot to be desired when fired from a rifle that small. Not to mention that you can get really tiny sub-guns these days that are far more practical for close quarters than the mk18.

      • You are right about 5.56mm capability being neutered by a short barrel, but even with a super short barrel it still has greater punch than a 9mm (with the right kind of ammo).
        The mk18 was meant to replace the mp5 not the M4a1. SOCOM is using mk262, RRLP (frangible), and other nonstandard ammo in their mk18’s to make them very effective open-air and even “soft” barrier rounds.

      • “Technically we never signed on the the expanding ammo treaty.”

        Correct. This was The Hague Convention of 1899, Declaration III (not the Geneva Convention) — which itself only banned the use of hollowpoint and similar ammo between signatories.

        Even if we had signed it, I don’t recall ISIS joining in.

        The US has wimped out on it’s own soldiers by slavishly following the dictates of the Europeans who the US is supposed to protect — and mostly on our dime, too.

        • Well… yeah. That’s what happens when you let Eurotrash control how you fight a war.

  3. MPX in .357 SIG. if ever there was a use case that required SMG but could conceivable use a pistol round that needs to stretch it’s legs over 9mm it is the Army/Special Forces. AR-type platform (though SF dont need no familiarity because they arent friggin idiots) flatter shooting with no appreciable increased recoil, inherently more reliable via bottleneck design, better penetration capabilities over 9mm for various mediums. oh yeah, and it was designed less than 100 yrs ago. people keep saying “yeah but 9mm projectiles have come so far” and that is true…but imagine what engineers could do with a little bit of design time with a cartridge designed for 40000+ CUP. not a sig fanboy. incremental improvements please. NATO and economies of scale will follow the ARMY’s lead. B&T good choice too but please lets move past the 9mm self perpetuating machine.

    • Before reading rocketscientists’s comment, I was thinking, “But a sub-machine gun firing 9mm is a bit underpowered and something with more punch would be extremely useful.” Something like .357 Sig would definitely provide more punch than 9mm Luger.

      What the U.S. military should do is make a new cartridge with even more wallop to it. Basically make a true .357 Magnum equivalent cartridge without the rimmed base so that the cartridges will feed easily/reliably in straight magazines. That means a casing that is longer than current .357 Sig casings to allow for ample smokeless propellant volume while maintaining straight walls on the casing.

      Now pair that new cartridge with a 12-inch barrel (or better yet a 16-inch barrel on a bull-pup design) and you have a light, compact sub-machine gun that will be on the heals of the venerable 7.62x39mm cartridge coming out of an AK-47.

      Or just make a sub-machine gun design that can use .30 Carbine cartridges (especially in a bull-pup design) and be done with it.

      • “What the U.S. military should do is make a new cartridge with even more wallop to it.”

        It makes far more sense logistically to use existing ammunition in inventory.

        Like 9×19 NATO.

        There are *zero* shortages of perfectly acceptable existing 9×19 subguns…

        • Geoff PR,

          The problem is that the 9mm Luger cartridge doesn’t have enough velocity out of typical short-barreled sub-machine guns to defeat basic ballistic vests. I am advocating for a sub-machine gun platform — combination of a cartridge and long enough barrel — that could defeat basic ballistic vests since there is a fairly high probability that enemy soldiers would be equipped with basic ballistic vests.

          The greatest logistic advantages in the world are meaningless if those logistic advantages distribute firearm platforms that are ineffective.

        • That’s what tungsten penetrators are for. Just because us civies don’t get to play with AP pistol ammo, doesn’t mean .mil doesn’t. Some animals are more equal than others.

      • New cartridge, or just use 9x25mm Dilon or 9x25mm Super Auto G (both necked down 10mm, rather than necked down .40 S&W)?

        • As I understood the problem the question was not that there was a deficiency of power, it was in fact the they were looking for a weapon that could be effective in an environment where passthroughs and stray rounds did not cause bad situations to become catastrophic. If you have a situation where you are trying to take down an enemy in a chemical plant, refinery or a nuclear facility in an allied country and you take out the enemy but the passthrough strikes a control panel and causes an explosion that takes out not only your whole team but three quarters of the local friendly civilians it seems like kind of a hollow victory to me.

        • Hey Mr. Taylor, I’ve got a question for you that is wholly unrelated to this article as well as any of your comments. I remember you saying that you have a Hornady Hot-Tub and you love the thing. You said that you can drop a whole gun in, plastic and all, and it will not cause any damage whatsoever. I was thinking of getting a 10″ AR barrel and pin/welding a suppressor to bring it to an overall length of 16″ so I only need a single tax stamp. If I take the suppressed upper and drop it in the Hornady Hot-Tub, will it clean it properly without having to disassemble the suppressor? Also, I’m somewhat unfamiliar with the disassembly of a suppressor. Is there a can out there that can be pinned and welded onto a barrel and still be taken apart for cleaning without having to fiddle around with the weld? Thank you.

    • The P90 is a bit of a unicorn. It’s a great gun, but I don’t see .mil setting up a whole new supply chain to deliver specialty ammo for a specialty gun.

      • You mean like 45acp or 9mm or 30 carbine or..? 😉

        My point is .gov already had this discussion, determined PDWs were a good course to follow (they are), had a thorough competition of the best options, determined the P90 was good enough for the job (it is), was ready to adopt it and gradually phase out 9mm weapons, and then HK started pulling Germany’s apron strings.

        Starting the whole process over is unlikely to yield different results (in 6 months we’ll hear how 9mm now needs to penetrate soft armor) and even less likely to yield a better solution.

  4. Meh… Sounds like a job for for a UMP. Similar controls to the MP5 and AR platforms soldiers are already familiar with. Already in inventory for some portions of .mil.

    • UMP45 would be a mighty good bad guy slayer to issue. It doesn’t get much more lethal for close work. Nothing new and no new calibers needed.

      • Probably UMP9 to avoid ammo supply issues, but yeah. I agree with the article we saw here a few weeks back, as a modern sub-gun, there is very little that the UMP doesn’t do well. Now if only HK made a K version of the UMP, then we’d be all set.

        • In 9mm, the Evo does everything as well or better, and for far less money. The UMP is pretty big for what it’s doing, and kind of ungainly. Also way more expensive than it needs to be. I’m not a fan of either, but if poly subgun is the order, CZ kind of stands alone at this point.

          It’s one of few options in 45, though, which is where it holds the edge. In 9mm, it’s an almost antiquated design with tons of good alternatives.

  5. Why not use something already in .gov’s armory, just look to the Secret Service for the ideal weapons. Simple, and may even save us taxpayers some coin in the end too. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill, as we say.

    • Rimfire,

      My only concern about the U.S. military co-opting the same sub-machine gun platform/s that U.S. Secret Service protection details use: their sub-machine gun platforms probably cannot penetrate basic ballistic vests which many foreign military personnel could very well be wearing.

      I would want a sub-machine gun platform with some ability to penetrate basic ballistic vests. That means Magnum cartridge propellant volumes and pressure levels AND a much LONGER barrel to achieve the increased velocities necessary to defeat basic ballistic vests. If U.S. Secret Service protection details already have such a sub-machine gun platform, fantastic: the U.S. military should go ahead and co-opt it. Otherwise, the U.S. military should develop their own. It would not be difficult nor expensive.

      • The P90 has very good AP ammo available. So, yes, you can easily defeat soft armor. However, I doubt that anti-soft armor capability will make it to this spec sheet. It’s a gun for niche situations. The main problems the P90 has are
        1. New ammo
        2. Size and weight (Being a bull pup doesn’t make you any lighter.)

        • 1. ammo has been in production for 30 years now. And many of the 9mm rounds being discussed aren’t military fmjs, but specialty “boutique” rounds.

          2. “Weight” says the guy championing the ump. Lol. The p90 is super light to the point that it can easily be wielded with only one hand.

    • Secret service uses the FN p90, I understand because it can be deployed from under a jacket and can be loaded with minimally penetrating rounds for use in crowded areas…
      I like the idea and agree it has potential- pity it isn’t on the list.

  6. “There are, however, still some valid niche applications for submachine guns in military operations. You don’t want to bang away with deep penetrating armor piercing rifle ammunition in chemical plants, petroleum refineries, nuclear power stations and other such hazardous environs.”

    Pussy. Fight war like you don’t give a sh_t.
    ; )

    To heck with a pistol caliber cartridge.
    Go with the full-auto version of the C93 Pistol in 5.56 – Loud, fiery, smoky, black, and with rollers. Just like I like my. . . SMG pistols.

  7. Looking at the OP pic. . .

    Why does the 82nd Airborne need help with his mags, and look like he owes some situps?

  8. Thinking about this, I wonder if this is a ploy to get Sig more marketshare. I mean, it would make sense for them to do something based off the P320 now or that could at least take the mags from a P320.

  9. The Thompson was the go to subgun in WWII.
    High rate of fire, easy to use, compensated muzzle, drum mag. What’s to not like?

    • It was and is a great gun, but it’s also heavy, expensive to make and tricky to maintain. Maybe modern manufacturing methods could bring the cost down, and armorers can be trained, but soldiers in the field might have problems keeping the Chicago Typewriter in tune.

      And you’re right about the Cutts compensator. Without it, the Tommy is hard to control. With it, it’s much easier to stop the barrel from climbing straight up. I’ve fired them both ways and the difference to the shooter is obvious.

      • Heavy in some cases is a good thing. Reduces the recoil the shooter has to endure. The downside is without a sling it does tend to wear you out carrying it.
        My one suppressed 5.56 AR15 weighs 12.5 pounds loaded with a 30 round mag and bipod, but no recoil to speak of on the bench.
        I missed out on a couple of the full auto Thompsons because the price exceeded what I had to spend.
        NC Sheriff’s Department (I forget what County) auctioned one it got back in the late 40’s and it went for about $35K. Yes, it was a Registered and transferable MG.

    • The Thompson suffers from the “Luger Problem:” They’re wonderful firearms, but they require lots of machining by people who care about the end result. This means that they’re expensive, and you’re going to have a bottleneck where production is concerned.

      The USMC took a crack at cost-reducing the civilian market Thompson for military service prior to WWII, and shaved off some of the cost, but not as much as they hoped for. That’s how we got the M-3 “Grease Gun” as a widely deployed .45 ACP sub-gun.

  10. Thompson took too much detailed machining so slow to make and cost too much hence the M3 grease gun in WW2.

    I can’t imagine army going away from 9 mm from logistics point of view. That’s why they stayed with 30-06 for Garand to use up WW1 stock.

  11. AF security police replaced their M2 carbines and M-3 Grease Guns with the AR-15 with Army MPs, Special Forces and support troops to follow. 60 years later the Army wants to replace infantry rifles with subguns. There is nothing new under the sun.

  12. The sad part is, it wont be a 10mm subgun like we deserve. Have the ability to swap stocks from collapsible to fixed, or a solid side folder.
    And ability barrel swap from a 6” to 10-12”
    That way you can get the most out of the sub/supersonic loads. Not too mention some of the hot chamberings like the extreme penetrators, gimme a full mag dump of those bad boys into some aloha snack bars

  13. Keep in mind the intended user and role of these SMGs. As explained in the contract award synopsis updated on FedBizOpps. The US Army Personal Security Detail (PSD) teams provide security to command staff, a similar role to what the US Sercret Service provides for highest elected leaders and visiting foreign dignitaries. So short-barrelled rifles with supressor and longer barrelled SMG are not likely to meet the concealability requirements. These weapons are intended for a specialized task, not as general purpose PDWs, like the M-1 carbine.

    FedBizOpps, Synopsis of Contract Award, Solicitation Number: W15QKN-18-R-02N4
    June 15, 2018 update:
    “This contemplated sole source contract will include the procurement of commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) Sub Compact Weapons (SCW). The SCW is a highly concealable sub compact weapon system capable of engaging threat personnel with a high volume of lethal and accurate fires at close range with minimal collateral damage.”

    “Currently, Personal Security Detail (PSD) military personnel utilize pistols and rifles, however, there is an operational need for additional concealability and lethality.”

    https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=deca988ece19b839d4172a159bda4291&tab=core&_cview=1

    • I was on a PSD in OIF04, and we turned down MP5s in favor of M4A1s.

      That said, why no consideration of an SBR in .300 BLK?

      If they want a pistol caliber weapon for combat support and combat service support it already exists. They call it the P90. (as previously mentioned)

      • The B&T MP9 does. That’s the only one in the selected pool that has a holster system, and even has a version that holds the MP9, with it’s suppressor still mounted.

  14. I think sub guns still have “a” place but I still think they’re going to use this competition to push the Rattler into acceptance. This whole thing smells like an IAR-style backdoor effort.

  15. Interesting that they are not going with the 5.7×28 or 4.6 rounds. I guess they are not that good.
    My choice would be more MP5Ks, or Sig MPX. Scorpion looks interesting, especially the new one with the wire stock/brace

  16. Let me throw this out. To me it sounds like the militaries perfect gun is the Russian Federation’s PP2000. Compact, folding stock, in 9mm Lugar and can fire the body armor piercing rounds that have been developed for it. But just try to get the U.S. Army to buy it.

  17. In addition to the ten models listed in the main article, the June 15 update of FedBizOps synopsis includes testing contract awards for these 3 addition models:

    Heckler and Koch Defense Inc for HK UMP9 Sub Compact Weapon
    Angstadt Arms Corporation for Angstadt UDP-9 Sub Compact Weapon
    Noveske Corporation for Noveske Sub Compact Weapon

  18. Asking the military to test and select not one but TWO weapon platforms is a tall order. Unless it’s a modular weapon I don’t think they’d go for it.

  19. I hope they baseline against the M3 Grease gun and the old M1 carbine. This would give the Army two data points to measure: cost, lethality, reliability, and maintainability.

    A lot of people don’t know that M3 could be caliber converted from 45 ACP to 9mm. See:
    http://www.smallarmsreview.com/display.article.cfm?idarticles=2990

    It should be possible to design an SMG that accepts: 9mm, 10mm, and 45 ACP. In other words between a gas port adjustment/spring set, magazine adapter, and a barrel change the design could easily be multi-caliber and also accept a suppressor.

  20. 7.62×25 Tokarev , blow back action, 10.5 inch barrel, carbon fiber lower, 40 shot staggered magazine. 110 gr bullets at 1700 fps.

  21. Don’t really see why the Army needs any weapons beside ones for show. It’s the Marines who do all of the real fighting anyway.

  22. “You don’t want to bang away with deep penetrating armor piercing rifle ammunition in chemical plants, petroleum refineries, nuclear power stations and other such hazardous environs.”

    “Lieutenant, what do those pulse rifles fire….?”

  23. The M3A1 ‘Grease Gun’ was one of the most sought after firearms by our forces in Vietnam, to obtain one for patrols was akin to winning the lottery.

  24. The simplest, cheapest, and best solution (which is why the U.S. Army will never adopt it!) is to just purchase .300 AAC Blackout 9″ SBR uppers for existing M4 lowers.
    The .300 BLK works perfectly fine in 9″ barrels, with a lot more energy out of a 9″ barrel than any 5.56mm round, and less flash and blast.

    ONY PROBLEM (and this is probably why the Army hasn’t switched to 300 Blackout, except for highly-trained Special Forces):
    Because .300 BLK and 5.56 NATO are so similar in dimensions, and .300 BLK magazines are interchangeable with 5.56 NATO magazines (AAC designed them that way), sooner or later rifles will blow up when high school dropout Private Joe Snuffy accidentally chambers a round of .300 BLK in his M4 that’s built for 5.56 NATO, and then we’ll be stuck paying a lifetime of “service-connected disability” for Private Snuffy! Or Private Snuffy will accidentally load a full magazine of 5.56 NATO into his 300 BLK SBR with bad results (I’ll let someone who’s accidentally done it themselves explain what happens if you load the smaller caliber 5.56 into a 300 BLK rifle, because I’ve heard two different theories about that one, but don’t do it on purpose!)

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