Once a year or so, a company comes out with a new product that is all the rave. Soon, three or four other companies are producing their own version and we see many new builds using that product pop up all over the interwebs. Such was the case with PDW styled stocks. PDW (for personal defense weapon) is usually used to describe either a design type of firearms used when space is at a minimum, or a modification to an existing platform using size reduction parts like a short barrel and micro stock. The HK Mp7 and FN P90 are some of the most well known PDW firearms out there.
Now we have PDW stocks coming out for the AR15. While there is some debate as to which came out first, there is no doubt they have gained popularity and can be seen on many rifles around the nation. Some advantages: they’re very short when collapsed and have badass looks. The disadvantages: poor-to-no cheek weld, can interfere with BAD levers and use of proprietary parts.
To take a look at some of the different offerings out there, I rounded up PDW stocks from three different manufacturers. I’ll compare and contrast the stocks from a features standpoint and discuss ease of installation. I was able to find a Northeastern Arms Compact Carbine Stock (NEA CCS), a Safety Harbor Kompact Entry Stock (KES) and a MVB industries ARC stock.
Now on to the tale of the tape. The CCS is a simple four piece affair, consisting of the buffer spring, stock assembly, shortened buffer tube and a bolt carrier which has the buffer permanently affixed. This is a two position stock and features “grip-n-rip”: essentially you can grab the closed stock and pull it open without needing to manipulate a release button. The CCS is the only stock out of the three of these to feature this, even if you were to compare it to the two-position stocks from the other manufacturers. This stock adds 4.5″ to the receiver when collapsed and 8.5″ when extended. The CCS weighs 2 lbs. There is a quick-detach (QD) sling port in the rear of the stock housing. This stock retails for $319.99 at Brownells.
The Kompact Entry Stock comes as a five piece package, comprised of the stock assembly, buffer tube, buffer spring, bolt carrier and the buffer. Optional add-ons for a QD sling mounting spot or sling loop mount are available and simply bolt on to the side of the stock housing. This is a four position stock and adds 4.75″ to the length when collapsed, up to 10.3″ when fully extended. This is the longest stock of the three by about an inch and a half. Total weight for the entire assembly is 1 lb, 15 oz. The asking price for the KES is $350.
The ARC stock came to me in a box loaded with all seven pieces of the kit: the stock assembly, the two-piece buffer tube, the buffer, the two-piece buffer spring and the steel cup that separates the two springs. Notice there is no bolt carrier here, the ARC stock uses your standard mil-spec carrier. The ARC adds 4.875″ when collapsed and 8.875″ when fully extended. The QD sling mount is on the bottom of the stock housing. The ARC weighs 1 lb 12 oz, with my existing bolt carrier weighing another 9 oz. MVB is asking $395 for the ARC kit.
So, those are the objective facts. Now, I’ll cover installation and subjective observations.
The CCS is a breeze to install. Place the stock assembly against the rear of the receiver and slide the buffer tube through the back. Tighten it down and it’s in! Shotgunning your upper receiver open to get at the BGC is now a thing of the past. The method for gaining access to the inside of your rifle with these PDW kits is to open up both takedown pins and pull the upper receiver up and forward. The buffer spring will stay attached to the back of the bolt carrier. It is worth noting that the CCS had extremely tight fitment on both of the lower receivers I test installed it on. I had to take a little sandpaper to the oval projection of metal that inserts into the recess in the lower just below the opening for the buffer tube. It was too big by a couple’a thousandths which led to the buffer tube binding up a little. It’s tough to get the torque necessary to back that tube out once it’s bound like that, as my booger hooks are a bit big to be jamming down in there. The CCS looks clean and operates smoothly. The “grip-n-rip” feature is one I consider important to a PDW stock. The length of pull is short enough that I am able to get a decent nose-to-charging handle cheek weld without forcing my stance too much.
The MVB ARC stock takes just a little longer to install, but not much. First you screw the double male threaded portion of the buffer tube into the lower receiver. Slide the stock assembly onto it, then cap it off with the other half of the buffer tube. Place the buffer into the back of your BCG, then slide the corresponding half of the buffer spring onto the buffer. Place the steel cup at the rearmost section of the spring, then add the other half of the recoil spring. This two spring design allows for a shorter recoil system, giving the ARC the ability to use your own mil-spec bolt carrier. The ARC stock had no problems with installation. The placement of the lock button on the right side of the buttstock as opposed to the buttstock housing is the most ergonomic placement of the three stocks. Being able to use your own BCG is great for those who have a specialty coating on their bolt carrier as well as those who worry about having irreplaceable proprietary parts while out in the field, away from the ability to order up a spare. The ARC locks up securely and adjusts smoothly. The tube is long enough I can get a decent chin-to-stock weld. The QD sling mounting placement is my favorite of the three. The buffer tube diameter hole cut in the buttstock helps keep the weight down.
Installation of the Safety Harbor KES was the easiest of the bunch, due to one little addition. Once the buttstock assembly is against the receiver and you’re screwing in the buffer tube, getting big monkey mitts in between the buttstock rods can be tough. The KES includes a giant allen key, with an allen slot in the rear of the buffer tube. The KES is visually my favorite of the group. Functionally, the buttstock rods are so long they can interfere with some bolt-catch manipulation levers such as Magpuls BAD lever. As a result, you cant quite lock the KES into the fully collapsed position if you have one of these levers installed. At its longest, the KES is too long for my preference, though I am on the shorter range for most shooters. I found this stock to be the most comfortable when shooting as long as it was in the second to longest position. The KES was the stock that surprised me the most. I hadn’t heard of it until I started researching for this article. After seeing the quality of workmanship and design Safety Harbor has put into this PDW kit, I’m interested in seeing what other products they’re putting out.
Shooting the PDW stocks is not a lesson in comfort. If you run with your nose tight against the charging handle, you can get a decent chin-to-stock weld on all three stocks. Just as often, I let my head float back a little and rest easy using parralax free red dots or irons. These aren’t precision shooting stocks; they’re meant to be compact, fast and angry. To that end, they succeed. Not one of the stocks had a single malfunction during live-fire testing. All in all, there is no clear “best” among these three stocks. All are quality built and all have their own redeeming features. If you use a PDW stock operationally, you may find the CCS having the “grip-n-rip” to be as important as I do. Going from compact to firefight in one simple “can’t screw this up” step is great. If you want a longer length of pull or multiple lengths to fine tune your PDW shooting stance options, I’d say the KES is the stock for you. If you’re looking to use your existing bolt carrier with a PDW stock, the ARC is where you’re at. I can’t recommend against any of these three PDW stocks, as none have any disqualifying flaws. The truth is that they are three different flavors in the PDW stock world, each is good but will look best to a certain segment of end users. I think the features of all three could be combined to make a stock option that is superior to all the rest. Until then, I’ll be sitting here struggling to figure out which one to use on my PDW build.