The competition for the Army’s new submachine gun is entering the final stage. The process began back in May when the Army issued through its Program Executive Office Soldier (PEO) a Request for Information (RFI) during the annual National Defense Industrial Association’s Armament Systems forum. Initially, 13 companies responded, and 10 guns were presented. The Army, however, temporarily froze the process in order to update its requirements. The new RFI called for six companies that have to submit 15 prototypes. These are the six companies that qualified for the final round: Angstadt Arms; B&T USA; Global Ordnance, LLC; Shield Arms; Sig Sauer; and Trident Rifles, LLC.

The prototypes must have 20 and 30 round magazines and be capable of having a Picatinny rail in order to mount shooting-enhancing devices. They must also be able to fire 60 rounds per minute for five minutes without malfunctions. The specified calibre is the 147-grain 9mm. Furthermore, the revised requirements for the new submachine gun state that it must be a “highly concealable system capable of engaging threat personnel with a high volume of lethal force while accurately firing at close range with minimal collateral damage.” The above criteria suggest that the gun’s main users would be soldiers doing Personal Security Detail (PSD) of High-Risk Personnel (HRP), for example, politicians or generals visiting a combat zone or high-threat area. Furthermore, the limited contract (initially, 350 weapons with an option for 1000) indicates that the weapon will be used by specialised personnel, for example, helicopter pilots.

Not all companies have released their prototypes. But the ones that have, give a glimpse of the calibre of weapons being tested. Angstadt Arms is running with the Sub Compact Weapon (SCW-9). The SCW-9 has complete ambidextrous controls, to include the magazine release, safety selector, charging handle, and bolt catch and release mechanisms. It weighs just 4 pounds and is 14.5 inches long. It can take both nonlethal ammunition for training exercises and Glock 9mm ammo.

The U.S. military has had a long history with submachine guns. The first to be fielded was the indomitable M1921 Thompson, also known as the Tommie Gun, which entered service in the years following the First World War. The Tommie Gun was popularised by Mafia members. Then, during the Second World War, there came the M3 Grease Gun, which was famous for its reliability and infamous for its awkwardness — back in the day, it was issued, without a sling, to candidates undergoing Delta Force selection because of its awkward and ponderous shape. More recently, the MP5 has been used by many units, for example, Navy SEALs, in a number of roles, to include counter-terrorism, close-protection, and sentry elimination.