SOFIC 2018: Submachine guns for the Army?

The U.S. Army could be buying submachine guns for conventional forces. Get a look at a couple of possibilities. (Jeff Martin/Staff) Jeff Martin

After some fits and starts, the Army submachine gun program has reached its next phase as officials have selected the six companies they want to provide guns for consideration.

The program caught attention when it was first mentioned at the annual National Defense Industrial Association’s Armament Systems forum.

Lt. Col. Steven Power, product manager of Soldier Weapons for Program Executive Office-Soldier noted the then-recent posting of a Request For Information on sub gun options for soldier personal security.

Fairly quickly, more than a dozen companies sent their offerings, and the designs ranged from the classic Heckler & Koch MP5-style to the smaller M4-type guns chambered in 9mm.

Sub guns or subcompact guns have been in use in the military for a variety of purposes dating back to the Thompson Submachine gun developed during World War I and put into use in World War II.

That heavy-duty, high-capacity weapon fell out of use in the subsequent decades, while other lighter versions with smaller rounds such as the 9mm came into fashion.

Sub guns have long been used by special operations forces, such as the Navy SEALs, for close-quarters battle shooting scenarios. But they were not in common use among the rank and file for some time.

That seems to be part of the reason that posting caught the attention of military-gun focused readers.

Then, it appeared the program halted when the RFI was canceled after 13 submissions were received.

But, in a few short weeks, a Prototype Opportunity Notice by Army Contracting Command was posted, modifying some of the requirements.

The new notice wants a “highly concealable [Sub Compact Weapon] system capable of engaging threat personnel with a high volume of lethal force while accurately firing at close range with minimal collateral damage.”

The sub gun now had to be optimized specifically to fire a 147-grain 9mm and include 20- and 30-round magazines.

It must fire 60 rounds per minute for five minutes without a cookoff.

The following companies were selected for the next phase:

  • Trident Rifles, LLC
  • Sig Sauer
  • Shield Arms
  • Global Ordnance, LLC
  • B&T USA
  • Angstadt Arms

If selected, the companies could be asked to manufacture up to 350 guns initially, and possibly as many as 1,000 of the sub guns, depending on Army requirements.

First, the companies will have until mid-October to provide 15 weapons for an evaluation.

The six companies selected make for some interesting developments on the design front.

Though details on specific submissions have not been made public, at least two of the companies on the list, Angstadt and Shield Arms, both make M4-style 9mm variants, as reported by Soldier Systems, a military gear-focused website.

The Firearm Blog notes that the original MP5-style designs from Heckler & Koch, Zenith and PTR are now off the list, as are some of the companies typically associated with this type of gun.

That includes Colt, Beretta, CMMG, CZ-USA, LMT and Noveske, the website reported.

Sig Sauer has had recent success, nabbing last year’s contract to replace the common sidearm for all the services in the M17 9mm handgun, part of the Modular Handgun System.

It also garnered attention from Special Operations Command for its work on the MCX Rattler, chambered in .300 Winchester Blackout, this year.

One company not selected, Handl Defense, reportedly told TFB that they planned to file a protest on the selections, alleging they were excluded on a “procedural basis.”