We Americans do indeed love our handguns. Georg Luger’s peerless P08 Parabellum is an indisputably elegant pistol, but it was intended for military use. The English had their Webleys and the Russians their Nagants, but, as was the case with the Germans, these handguns were originally intended to equip soldiers, not citizens. In the United States, this grand experiment in democracy, you see the planet’s shining example of a government of the people, by the people and for the people. More so than any other modern nation, our citizens remain free to craft our own destinies and subsequently own our own firearms.
As a nation of rugged individualists, we produced such iconic arms as the Colt Peacemaker, John Browning’s inimitable 1911 and entire generations of Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Remington and sundry other esteemed weapons. While many of these guns were indeed intended for military use, it was frequently the civilian market that drove their development. The first Peacemakers, for instance, were sold to individual citizens before they were sold to the Army.
Despite our enthusiasm for handguns, however, they remain the most difficult of all weapons in common usage to master. By contrast, a lightweight rifle is easier to run safely, but its geometric envelope makes it a substandard home- defense firearm. To be truly optimized for the home-defense mission, a gun needs to fall someplace in between these two extremes. Enter the TNW Aero Survival Pistol.
Striking Aero Survival Pistol
The TNW Aero Survival Pistol is a study in contradictions. It operates via a fairly common straight-blowback operating system and is available in 9mm, .40 S&W, 10mm and .45 ACP. That part is simple. What the Aero Survival Pistol is not, however, is somebody’s recycled AR variant. This factor alone makes for an interesting gun.
The hardcoat anodized aluminum upper and lower receivers are available in a couple of cool color schemes. The top half of the gun is railed for optics, and there are mounting points for Picatinny rails at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions on the forend. The barrel drops in and out painlessly by threading off the ventilated barrel shroud. The standard buffer tube comes encased in foam material that makes for a surprisingly decent cheek- weld—more on that later.
The heart of the gun, however, is entirely fresh and new. The receivers split in half, but they separate linearly up and down rather than pivot like your AR. The fire control system is proprietary rather than a drop-in AR design using stock parts. As a result, the safety is a simple and effective push button located just ahead of the trigger. Push right and the gun is on “safe.” Push left and it goes hot. The trigger is markedly thinner than a typical AR’s, and it feels very different as a result. I have big hands, and the dainty nature of the pistol grip combined with the small trigger made it a challenge to get my finger running the trigger in just the right spot. However, shooters without my monkey mitts would likely do better. There are scads of aftermarket grips available that would easily drop in place and provide longer geometries if so desired.
The magazine release is a push button on the left side of the magazine well, and the Aero Survival Pistol runs standard Glock magazines. These mags are both freely available and cheap in a variety of capacities. They are also ridiculously reliable. Opting for current-production Glock boxes was a great way to feed the Aero Survival Pistol.
Swap the extractor around and the gun ejects to the left. The bolt does not lock to the rear after the last round is fired, but all of the controls are easy to reach and intuitive. The charging handle reciprocates with the bolt and provides a handy way to manipulate the gun manually in the unlikely event of a stoppage. Should your proclivities turn toward quieter pursuits, the muzzle is available with threading for a suppressor.
Near the end of the buffer tube is a push-button sling swivel fitting, and the test gun came with a fixed 4X scope from AIM Sports. While I initially thought it a bit quizzical that a pistol would arrive sporting a modest 4X riflescope, once I burned a little ammo, I came to appreciate the wisdom of this approach.
How It Runs
The Aero Survival Pistol operates via straight blowback. This means the bolt must be heavy and reside ahead of a commensurately robust recoil spring. The recoil impulse is fairly abrupt, though it is in no way uncomfortable. My test gun was in 9mm, but given the heft of the weapon, I suspect it would manage any of its larger chamberings just as well.
The TNW Aero Survival Pistol can be run in several ways. With a single-point sling attached, the gun runs nicely with the arms outstretched and locked in the manner of the HK MP5K submachine gun. In this configuration, I found it easiest to keep my arms locked out rigidly and sight grossly over the gun. Any number of red-dot sights could be added if such tactics seemed most appropriate to your individual circumstances.
What is truly interesting, however, is what happens when you run the gun like a rifle and plant your cheek alongside the padded buffer tube. (Of course, you aren’t allowed to rest the buffer tube against your shoulder.) Given the gun’s modest recoil impulse, this technique was painless. With the 4X optic in place, the TNW Aero Survival Pistol so employed will reach out to a football field or longer. The gun maneuvers quickly in tight spaces, and the foam-covered buffer tube allows for a surprisingly effective cheekweld.
I mounted a SureFire X400 to the left-hand forend rail for close-quarters engagements. The 600-lumen light on the X400 will handily displace the darkness, and the integral green laser projects for an age in dim light. Once ranges exceeded the capacity of my laser to penetrate, it was time to drop down behind the telescopic sight and go to town. Since this is a handgun, keep in mind that angled foregrips are fine in the eyes of the government, but vertical foregrips are not. No, it doesn’t make any sense to me, either.
If you really want to take the Aero Survival Pistol to the next level, remove the buffer tube’s foam cover and replace it with an SB Tactical Pistol Stabilizing Brace (PSB). This inspired contrivance allows you to have most of that short-barreled rifle (SBR) cool without the hassle of ancillary registration and a $200 tax stamp.
Practical & Tactical
The average engagement range for a civilian defensive shooting situation in America is about 7 meters. At such close ranges, things will be hot and heavy. In this case, you don’t need an automatic grenade launcher or a thermonuclear warhead. You just need a reliable, maneuverable firearm that will move without interference and launch rounds accurately every single time you squeeze the trigger. The TNW Aero Survival Pistol will do all that splendidly.
The trigger reach is a bit short for my tastes, but a beefier grip would be an easy swap. However, the argument could be made that the Aero Survival Pistol bests any other conventional handgun for the specific mission of home defense. The Aero Survival Pistol is small enough to hide yet sufficiently substantial as to remain controllable and accurate, even when firing rapidly. The gun ran exceptionally well at moderate ranges using the telescopic sight, and established a stable firing position with the padded buffer tube resting against the cheek. The negligible recoil of the weapon in this chambering is what made all that possible.
The Aero Survival Pistol would also make a fine bugout gun. It is sufficiently trim and tidy to operate within a vehicle, yet packs enough onboard ammo to keep bringing the pain in the face of fairly egregious threats. It also looks plenty scary so as to dissuade your lower-quality hooligans without a shot needing to be fired.
On top of the fact that the TNW Aero Survival Pistol is a reliable, maneuverable, thoroughly modern handgun, it is also refreshingly different. I like a proper AR rifle as much as the next gun nerd, but it is a treat to paw over a gun that doesn’t look so familiar on the inside. The Aero Survival Pistol is not the gun you grab if the zombies are talking bad about your momma from five football fields away. That task demands a different tool. However, should you hear glass breaking downstairs and need a proper boomstick to keep the ne’er-do-wells out of your inner sanctum, the TNW Aero Survival Pistol will do that just fine.
Barrel: 8 inches
OA Length: 18.5 inches
Weight: 5.5 pounds (empty)
Action: Blowback-operated semi-auto
Capacity: Glock mag compatible
For more information, visit tnwfirearms.com.
This article was originally published in “Combat Handguns” September/October 2017. To subscribe, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.