24 July 19

“When you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting!”

Dave Young

PDW (Personal Defensive Weapon)

The term, “PDW,” has been conferred upon an ill-defined class of individual firearms that armies, including
ours, have historically looked to for issue to “rear-echelon” troops.

Back in the Cold-War Era, commanders imagined rear-area personnel having to confront Soviet paratroopers, who would be wearing some kind of personal body armor. To address this eventuality, the FN P90, firing its proprietary round, the 5.7×28, was introduced.

The 5.7×28 did indeed penetrate some kinds of body armor, but was (and is) expensive, hard to find, and its performance in all other aspects of terminal ballistics is nothing special.

And the P90 itself is a short, compact, light rifle, but still too big to carry in a holster, much less carry

It’s small, but not small enough!

I’ve had students bring P90s to DTI Urban Rifle Courses, and in all fairness, they run fine.

Nonetheless, the P90 never “caught-on,” neither in the private sector, nor in the police community, nor has DOD ever displayed any more than casual interest!

Other weapons, from pistols with shoulder-stocks, to “miniaturized” SMGs, have also been tasked to fill the roll of “PDW,” with varying degrees of failure and dispassion!

During WWII, the M1 Carbine was designed as a “PDW!”

The English term, “carbine,” is derived from a French word for cavalry, or horse-mounted soldiers (who were expected to actually fight from horseback). It refers to a short rifle suitable for carrying by horse-cavalry and that can be fired one-handed, from horseback. By the 1940s, horses, of course, no longer occupied an important position in land warfare, but the term stuck!

The M1 Garand (chambered for “30-06,” or 7.62×63) was (and is) a superb infantry rifle for average-to-large-sized, young males in good physical shape, but it was never well suited for carrying inside vehicles, nor for use by the small-statured, nor for rear-area personnel (from secretaries, to truck-drivers, to mechanics) who were not trained to expertly operate it, beyond a brief afternoon of perfunctory “familiarization firing.”

The M1 Carbine, firing what is little more than a pistol round, proved enormously popular in all theaters of WWII, including among front-line troops, but it still did not fit into a holster!

In our Modern Era, troopers are now herded into cramped armored vehicles and helicopters, all of which has demanded short, light, compact rifles, “carbines,” if you will!

In addition, in our age of sophisticated optical sights, “sight radius” the distance between rear and front, iron sights (the longer, the more inherently accurate the rifle), has become irrelevant! i

Thus, modern military rifles have barrels between sixteen and twenty inches, just long enough to maximize bullet velocity (within the context described above).

So, do modern armies still need a separate “PDW” for rear-area personnel?

The argument rages, but while votes are still being counted, what about pistols, like our current SIG P320 (M17), or the old Beretta 92F (M9), or for that matter the even older 1911?

Isn’t the sidearm supposed to fill the role of “PDW?”

Modern pistols can be safely carried, all day, fully loaded, in holsters, openly or concealed.

Recoil and noise are relatively mild (compared with rifles), and pistols can be brought into action quickly.

Modern pistol ammunition is as terminally effective at short range as pistol ammunition has ever been, and while most pistol ammunition is not “armor piercing,” we are concerned today far more with rag-tag Islamic jihadis than we are with Soviet paratroopers!

A modern pistol, routinely carried in a high state of readiness, loaded with high-performance ammunition, in the hands of a seasoned Operator, is extremely fast, adroit, and lethal. Perfect for close-range, personal defense.

That’s why Operators in the civilian world carry them concealed, everywhere!

So, why haven’t we long-since forgotten the entire “PDW” legerdemain, and just started training troopers who need them, how to carry and use their issue-pistols effectively?

Why do we see, even in this “Age of Terrorism,” those few troopers (even officers and staff NCOs) who are allowed to touch pistols, carry them with an empty magazine well, even in “combat zones?”

Heaven forbid anyone would actually have a round chambered!

The answer is, of course, systemic “risk-aversion,” which invariably leads to fear-driven decisions, a pernicious, chronic disease that plagues all bureaucracies.

Civilian police officers, as well as CCW permit-holders, routinely carry fully-loaded pistols, openly and concealed, every day, all day.

We don’t “turn them in” at the end of the day either!

They’re in our homes and in our cars. We keep and carry them, always in a high state of readiness, continuously.

Yes, there are UDs. We note the procedural lesson, and move on! We don’t take all the guns away in a panic, because we’re frightened to death we’ll have another!

Yet, our magnificent troopers, even today, apparently can’t be trusted with pistols, nor with legitimate, modern defensive pistol training.

So, we continue to spend millions in an unnecessary search for the magic “PDW,” when a perfectly good one is right in front of us, and has been since 1911!

“The ‘sunk-cost fallacy’ says that it is bad to lose something we have invested time, money, energy, and emotion into, regardless of whether or not that something is actually doing anything for us.

Humans are naturally risk-averse, so we stubbornly choose not to lose something, over potentially gaining something else, when we don’t even like what we would lose!”

Liz Powell

At the poker table, it’s called, “… good money after bad!”