User Tools

Site Tools

Snippet from Wikipedia: Personal defense weapon

Personal defense weapons (PDWs) are a class of compact, selective fire, magazine-fed, submachine gun-like firearms—essentially a hybrid between a conventional submachine gun and a compact assault rifle. Most PDWs fire a small-caliber (less than 6 mm), high-velocity centerfire bottleneck cartridge resembling a scaled down/shortened intermediate rifle cartridge. This gives the PDWs better effective range, accuracy and armor-penetrating capability than submachine guns, which fire the larger-caliber handgun cartridges.

The name describes the weapon's original conceptual role: as a compact but powerful small arm that can be conveniently carried by support troops behind the frontline such as military engineers, logistic drivers, artillery crews or signallers. These personnel may be at risk of encountering decently equipped enemy infiltrators and having to defend themselves in close quarters, which warrants an effective weapon that can suppress enemy charges and hold them beyond a safe distance to prevent the defenders from being overrun, but such risk is rare enough that a long-barrel service rifle would be an unnecessary burden during their normal duties. Because of their ease of use, light weight and controllability, PDWs have also been used by special forces, paramilitaries, heavily-armed police and even bodyguards.

: the HK MP7 is part of Germany's IdZ modernization program and is now in use with police and military forces in Germany.]]

A personal defense weapon (PDW) is a compact semi-automatic or fully automatic firearm similar in most respects to a submachine gun, but firing a (often proprietary) rifle round, giving a PDW better range, accuracy and armor-penetrating capability than submachine guns, which fire pistol-caliber cartridges. The class of weapon as it exists today evolved as a hybrid between a submachine gun and a carbine, retaining the compact size and ammunition capacity of the former while adding the power, accuracy and penetration of the latter.


In the 19th and early 20th centuries, shortened versions of the infantry rifle were issued as 'carbines' for cavalry troops and gun crews. This designation was dropped as infantry rifle designs were shortened such as in the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield rifle. Pistols were typically issued as a backup sidearm to infantry, as they were not effective in most combat situations. In the First World War, the Mauser C96 and artillery versions of the Luger pistol were issued with attachable shoulder stock holsters, which allowed greater accuracy and control. During this time, the Steyr M1912 was developed along with a fully automatic variant.

During the interwar period, the Argentine firm Hispano-Argentina Fábrica de Automóviles S.A. introduced the C-2 machine pistol issued to armoured vehicle personnel, a shortened variant of the Hafdasa C-4 submachine gun, fed from a 40/50 round casket box magazine depending on the calibre for which the weapon is chambered. Although the C-2 was an effective weapon, it did not see much service outside Argentina.

The World War II era M1 carbine can be considered a forerunner of modern personal defense weapons. It filled a similar role; it was not primarily intended for front line troops, but for support personnel such as drivers, engineers and medics to defend themselves in an emergency. Another such example was the 5 barrel Neal submachine gun, capable of firing 3000rpm, but the idea was dropped as existing pistol-caliber submachine guns could fill the role.

In 1986, United States Army Infantry School based at Fort Benning issued the reference document Small Arms Strategy 2000, which defines the APDW (Advanced Personal Defense Weapon). The earliest weapons marketed as PDWs were the Heckler & Koch MP5K-PDW and the GG-95 PDW.<ref name=CWEG90>Fowler, Will; North, Anthony; Stronge, Charles; Sweeney, Patrick: The Complete World Encyclopedia of Guns, page 90. Anness Publishing Ltd, 2008.</ref>

PDWs were developed during the late 1980s for non-combatant troops as compact automatic weapons that could defeat enemy body armor. Standard pistols and submachine guns chambered for pistol rounds had proven ineffective against armored soldiers and compact lightweight weapons capable of penetrating body armor were needed. In this role, they were supposed to be a more convenient alternative to the standard assault rifle, as their smaller size and lighter weight would be less of an encumbrance to a person whose primary function on the battlefield was not front-line combat.


Typical PDWs use small-caliber, high-velocity pistol bullets similar to miniaturized rifle rounds, which are capable of penetrating soft body armor up to Level IIIa. PDWs are otherwise similar to submachine guns in most respects, and are often classified as such. Both types of guns tend to have a very high rate of fire which, when combined with the lower recoil of the smaller pistol-sized cartridges, increases the probability of multiple hits.


PDW, shown here during a Cypriot National Guard parade.]]

The PDW concept has not been widely successful, partly because PDWs are not significantly cheaper to manufacture than full size assault rifles. PDWs also usually use a special cartridge, such as the 5.7x28mm cartridge of the FN P90 or 4.6x30mm of the Heckler & Koch MP7, neither of which are compatible with existing pistols and rifles (outside of FN's proprietary Five-Seven pistol which chambers the same 5.7x28mm cartridge cartridge as FN's P90). A different take on the PDW concept is the Russian made PP-2000, which can fire the common 9x19mm Parabellum round or a special armor-piercing version to give it the same capabilities as other PDWs.

Though they have not become very popular for their intended application, personal defense weapons have been acquired by many special forces and law enforcement groups as direct replacements for submachine guns. FN's P90 personal defense weapon and PDW-caliber Five-seven pistol are used by military and police forces in over 40 countries throughout the world, such as Canada, Cyprus, France, Greece, India, Peru, Poland, Spain, and the United States.<ref name=“arsmechanica”>

</ref> The Heckler & Koch MP7 personal defense weapon is also used in a number of countries, including Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom.<ref></ref><ref name=“gourley2003”>Gourley, S.; Kemp, I (November 26, 2003). “The Duellists”. Jane's Defence Weekly (ISSN: 02653818), Volume 40 Issue 21, pp 26-28.</ref>

Like submachine guns, PDWs are small and light weapons, and their low recoil enables higher accuracy when the weapon is fired on full automatic. Like assault rifles and carbines, PDWs can also penetrate lighter body armor, while traditional pistol caliber submachine guns cannot. Assault rifles and carbines, by comparison, are generally heavier than either PDWs or submachine guns, have more severe muzzle blast and recoil, and are more likely to cause collateral damage due to overpenetration of either their intended targets or obstacles such as drywall, which is a significant concern in law enforcement operations in which the presence of innocent individuals is often unavoidable.

Modern personal defense weapons

PDW-caliber pistols

See also


Fair Use References are embedded in the above article as footnotes.

Wiktionary is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation that seeks to create a dictionary of all words of all languages.

personal_defense_weapon.txt · Last modified: 2020/03/12 18:37 (external edit)