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Personal Defence Weapons

The idea behind this piece here came from this video here. Please note that the categorisation of PDWs I use here is not an official or commonly-accepted means of categorisation, I just think it's kinda neat and I also wanted to try and figure out what a PDW is and what weapons can be considered PDWs, so I also did a bunch of additional research for this section of the my user page.

Personal Defence Weapons (PDWs) are a vaguely defined class of compact, selective fire, magazine-fed weapons, intended for use in a variety of roles. These roles include tankers, truck drivers, pilots, ship crews, rear-echelon troops, special forces or police CQB situations, close protection details like the US Secret Service, military engineers, bomb disposal teams, combat medics, artillery crews, signallers and many more roles where the subject cannot use their hands to use a weapon and engage in combat, as they are currently engaged in another activity like defusing a bomb, driving a vehicle or fixing up a wounded friendly (with the obvious exception being special forces or police CQB situations, where they are intended to engage in combat with the enemy).

Note that Personal Defence Weapons are not the same as Self-Defence Weapons, as in home defence, although one of the main reasons for developing a PDW is to give your troops a weapon that can be used in self defence. Obviously almost any weapon can be whipped out quickly and can be used in self defence (apart from big heavy machine guns, snipers and launchers) but these weapons are not PDWs.

The PDW (in effect) has existed since the First World War, but the name and formal designation was only given to the fairly informal category in the 1990s by NATO, when they were searching for a compact, armour-piercing weapon for rear echelon troops and truck drivers under potential threat from an airborne Soviet invasion of Western Europe, who would be wearing Kevlar armour. This program led to the development of the FN P90 and Heckler & Koch MP7 in the early 2000s, which have since been adopted by many countries for police, special forces and close protection detail work.

There are four types of PDW which I will use here to sort the assortment of SMGs, machine pistols and carbines into (for PDWs can also be classed as other types of weapons, hence why I said they were "vaugely-defined" earlier). These four types do not fully define the weapon, as the PDWs can also be classed as machine pistols or carbines as well as being a PDW. What makes them PDWs specifically is the intent behind their use in one or more of the roles listed above. Each type has different advantages and drawbacks over the other, meaning there is no one best type of PDW, it depends on the specific role they are intended to be used in, making them a very specialised and very varied class of firearms.

  • Type 1: Purpose-built weapons (usually) using either proprietary or specialised ammunition. An example would be the P90 from earlier, which fires the 5.7x28mm round. Advantages involve armour-piercing, small size while maintaining good control over the weapon and generally good accuracy. Disadvantages include unusual ergonomics, rare calibers (as no PDW was adopted by NATO and, subsequently, there is no official NATO PDW cartridge), rarity (as many were not adopted and were experimental weapons) and price.
  • Type 2: Stocked machine pistols, which are easily concealable but still controllable. An example would be the Mauser M712 Schnellfeuer machine pistol from WWII. Advantages include very small size and easy concealability, while maintaining use of common pistol calibers. Disadvantages include potentially high recoil force and uncomfortable usage, alongside poor performance at range and
  • Type 3: Compact sub-machine guns such as the Heckler & Koch MP5K. Advantages include ease of use, as training with the full-size SMG can easily be transferred over, usage of common pistol calibers, ability to use most modifications options developed for the SMG. Disadvantages include a larger size compared to the first two types, as well as the lack of armour-penetration and ranged accuracy.
  • Type 4: Miniature, short-barrelled rifles/carbines such as the AKS-74U. Advantages include good stopping power, due to most using intermediate rifle rounds, good accuracy and ergonomics, along with the ability to use most modification options developed for the full-size rifle the PDW is based on. Disadvantages include high muzzle flash from the short barrel, high recoil if using a larger round and the largest size out of all other PDW types, due to being compact rifles.

Note that some PDWs could be argued to be in two different categories, like the Honey Badger, which is a compact rifle using a proprietary round, so an argument could be made for Type 1 or Type 4. In these cases a note will be made regarding the straddling of two different types.

Type 1 PDWs

Type 2 PDWs

Type 3 PDWs

Type 4 PDWs



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Anything larger than fixing grammatical errors (i.e. actually adding new information or pictures, or reordering the page) is under here. Bold italics indicate major contributions to the page, such as adding in detailed info about weapon models or adding lots of screencaps.

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