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.
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?