The definition of the modern personal-defense weapon (PDW) will vary depending on whom you ask and in what context the weapon would be used. However, it can be generally agreed that the modern personal-defense weapon will be a short-barreled rifle (SBR) chambered in a caliber more powerful than a typical handgun cartridge. Often, the PDW will have select-fire capabilities.
The concept of the PDW is an ever-evolving one. The venerable M1 Carbine was a PDW in its day, even if it wasn’t specifically called that. It was developed for non-infantry troops with the intent of having more range and accuracy than a pistol would allow, but without the weight of the M1 Garand and .30-06 ammo.
The following rifles are some examples of modern PDWs.
Advanced Armament Corporation MPW
For a lightweight, compact, .30-caliber rifle, it is tough to beat the MPW from Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC). Chambered in the very popular 300 Blackout, this gun comes in a variety of configurations, including SBRs with 9- and 12.5-inch nitrided barrels. The MPW ships standard with the AAC Blackout flash suppressor, a free-floating Knight’s Armament URX III rail and a nickel-boron-coated bolt carrier group. For more information, call 770-925-9988 or visit advanced-armament.com.
Armalite M-15 LE Carbine
Designed specifically for law enforcement, Armalite built the short-barreled M-15 LE Carbine with features desired by many police units needing a PDW-style gun. Equipped with a 1-in-7-inch-twist, 10.3-inch barrel, the rifle is able to stabilize the heavier 5.56mm NATO bullets that have become more common in law enforcement and military service. An A2-style front sight is standard, and the upper has a Picatinny rail for a rear sight or glass. For more information, visit armalite.com or call 800-336-0184.
Barrett REC7 Gen II
Most famously known for its big guns, Barrett also makes top-tier, AR-style REC7 rifles, including those with 9.25-inch barrels for close-in work. The REC7’s piston-driven operating system ensures reliability during heavy use, while the gun’s rugged nature will provide years of service. Barrett ships these guns with Magpul furniture, a KeyMod handguard and folding sights. The top rail allows for the addition of sights and optics. For more, visit barrett.net or call 615-896-2938.
CMMG Mk4 PDW
Chambered in 300 Blackout, the Mk4 PDW from CMMG offers the familiarity of the AR platform with an 8-inch barrel and a weight of only 5.3 pounds. The RKM7 handguard is trim and lightweight. With a top rail that mates up with the flattop upper’s and KeyMod slots along the sides and bottom, it’s easy for operators to add mission-critical accessories like lights and lasers to the handguard. Magpul’s MOE gear is used for the pistol grip, triggerguard and adjustable buttstock. For more information, call 660-248-2293 or visit cmmginc.com.
With a folding and collapsible stock, the SCW (Sub Compact Weapon) from Colt allows support units and crews in cramped locations to have rifle firepower on hand. The SCW uses a monolithic upper receiver for strength, and Colt incorporates technology to keep recoil to a minimum and increase shooter control during both semi-automatic and full-auto fire. For more information, visit colt.com or call 800-962-2658.
Daniel Defense MK18
Lighter, stronger and better might be the company motto at Daniel Defense, but it could also be a good description of the MK18 rifle. Weighing in at less than 5.9 pounds, this SBR has a cold-hammer-forged, 10.3-inch barrel and an overmolded adjustable stock that trims the overall length to 26.75 inches when collapsed. From the properly staked gas key to the phosphate coating on the barrel, the MK18 is designed for a long service life. For more information, call 866-554-4867 or visit danieldefense.com.
Essentially a very short-barreled AR-type rifle, the DPMS PDW sports a 7-inch, heavy barrel, an overall length of 23.75 inches with its stock collapsed and a weight of only 5.5 pounds unloaded. The gun uses forged upper and lower receivers for strength. Magpul folding sights are standard, and the barrel has an AAC Blackout muzzle device that reduces the flash signature and serves as an adapter for mounting a sound suppressor. For more information, visit dpmsinc.com or call 800-578-3767.
The SCW (Sub-Compact Weapon) is an aptly named AR-style rifle developed by FERFRANS. To increase a shooter’s control over the weapon, FERFRANS developed the Delayed Sear Activation System to reduce the cyclic rate of full-auto fire. This allows the shooter to stay on target and have more precise control during rapid fire. A short-stroke piston operating system complements the reduced cyclic rate to reduce heat and improve the SCW’s reliability. For more information, visit ferfrans.net or call 626-893-8155.
FN SCAR PDW
The FN SCAR Personal Defense Weapon (PDW) takes all the next-generation capabilities of the 5.56mm SCAR platform and shrinks it down into an ultra-compact package. Running on a short-stroke piston system, the SCAR PDW features a short 6.75-inch barrel, a non-reciprocating charging handle, a quad-rail forend, a collapsible stock and tank-tough durability for reliability in a range of environmental conditions. For more information, visit fnhusa.com or call 703-288-3500.
Heckler & Koch MP7A1
Specifically designed as a PDW, the HK MP7A1 is compact enough to be carried on a belt or thigh holster yet can still punch through a NATO CRISAT target at 200 meters. The specially designed 4.6x30mm cartridge used in the MP7A1 offers flat shooting and nearly non-existent recoil in addition to its armor- defeating characteristics. A collapsible stock and folding foregrip are standard on the MP7A1. For more information, visit hk-usa.com or call 706-568-1906.
Using a bullpup-style configuration, IWI developed the X95, a PDW-sized rifle with a 13-inch barrel to increase bullet velocity and accuracy when compared to many alternatives. These guns have proven on the battlefield that they will reliably operate in the harshest of environments. The guns are completely ambidextrous, and an integral sound suppressor is optional. For more information, visit iwi.us or call 717-695-2081.
LMT CQB MRP Defender Piston 12
Lewis Machine & Tool (LMT) has a well-deserved reputation for building high-quality rifles, and the CQB MRP Defender Piston 12 is an example of that. Piston-driven, this short-barreled rifle runs cool and clean for any duty requiring a compact weapon. If a sound suppressor is used, the piston system helps prevent gas blowback. The barrel is cryogenically treated, and LMT’s SOPMOD stock is standard. For more information, call 309-787-7151 or visit lmtdefense.com.
The IC-PDW from LWRC International combines a two-position, quick-deploy stock with an 8.5-inch barrel to shrink this gun’s overall length to less than 21 inches. The lower receiver is fully ambidextrous, and the fire control group is nickel-boron coated for a great trigger pull. The IC-PDW uses the company’s respected short-stroke piston-driven operating system. For more information, visit lwrci.com or call 410-901-1348.
Patriot Ordnance P415 Gen 4
Light and compact, the Patriot Ordnance Factory (POF-USA) P415 equipped with a 7.25-inch barrel provides rifle-caliber power to anyone needing a PDW. POF-USA uses a regulated gas piston system combined with its innovative E2 dual extraction system to reliably drive this rifle. The ambidextrous bolt catch, safety and magazine release make it easy for left- and right-handed operators to use the gun. For more information, visit pof-usa.com or call 623-561-9572.
Primary Weapon Systems MK107
With a long-stroke piston system and a nickel-Teflon-coated bolt carrier group, it’s not hard to understand why the MK107 runs cool, clean and reliably. Primary Weapons Systems (PWS) developed the MK107 as a replacement for the MP5 submachine gun, giving military and law enforcement operators an excellent CQB weapon that can still drop threats at 200 meters. The handguard features KeyMod slots along the sides and bottom. For more information, visit primaryweapons.com or call 208-344-5217.
Rock River Arms LAR-15 PDW A4 SBR
A recent introduction to the Rock River Arms stable of thoroughbreds, the LAR-15 PDW A4 SBR uses a North Eastern Arms Compact Carbine Stock as well as a 10.5-inch barrel to reduce the overall size of this package to just 24 inches. Magazines are standard AR-15/M4 style, and the gun is chambered in 5.56mm NATO. The handguard features a built-in folding foregrip as well as rails for accessories in the 3, 9 and 12 o’clock positions. For more information, visit rockriverarms.com or call 866-980-7625.
Sig Sauer MCX SBR
Designed from the ground up to accept multiple calibers, stocks and forends, the Sig Sauer MCX SBR is suppressor ready, lightweight and compact. The rifle uses a two-position-adjustable, short-stroke piston system that offers optimum reliability. The upper has several steel parts, including the feed ramp insert, cam path plate and charging handle latch points, as well as a replaceable forward assist housing. For more information, call 603-610-3000 or visit sigsauer.com.
Steyr AUG/A3 M1
With its iconic bullpup design, the Steyr AUG/A3 SA M1 offers a relatively compact rifle while maintaining a longer 16-inch barrel. This model allows uses translucent AUG magazines and is available with an integral 1.5X or 3X optic, a short Picatinny top rail or a longer Picatinny top rail for various sights. The AUG/A3 M1 uses an adjustable short-stroke piston for clean running and enhanced reliability in harsh conditions. For more information, visit steyrarms.com or call 205-417-8644.
Troy M7A1 PDW
Blending the best features of a carbine with those of a submachine gun, Troy Defense’s M7A1 PDW runs the 5.56mm NATO cartridge and uses standard M4/AR-15 magazines. Using a 7.5-inch barrel and a specialized PDW stock, Troy reduces the size of this gun to a mere 20 inches. The bolt carrier group is manganese phosphated, the safety is ambidextrous and folding sights come standard. For more information, visit troydefense.com or call 413-788-4214.
Wilson Combat SBR Tactical
Some might call the SBR Tactical elegant, while others might call it a rugged brute. They both would be right. Wilson Combat builds these rifles to be both beautiful and ultra-reliable. From the 11.3-inch, match-grade barrel to the NP3-coated bolt carrier group, these guns will take care of you in the worst places around the world. Standard features on this gun include the BCM Gunfighter charging handle, a 4-pound tactical trigger and an Armor-Tuff finish. For more information, call 800-955-4856 or visit wilsoncombat.com.