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Deadly 'subcompacts' on hold

Prospects dim for personal defense weapon for tankers, others.

Knight's Armament Company

Crews hoping for more personal fire power when scrambling from a tank hatch or other confined conveyance will be disappointed to learn that the U.S. Army is putting the search for a "subcompact" carbine on hold, according to industry reports.

While searching for a possible alternative to the M4 carbine, the Army had also been looking at a new "personal defense weapon" to give drivers and crews a little more punch than the currently issued Beretta M9 9mm pistol. But that plan has followed the economy, and the military budget, down the drain, according to the industry press.

"I see this as an uphill battle," C. Reed Knight Jr., owner of Knight's Armament Company told Military.Com in an interview. "I think it will probably die a slow death."

There's been no shortage of candidates; the market has been flooded with new grease gun wannabes. The challenge has been to come up with something both more powerful than the pistol ammunition now used by many PDWs, yet lighter than the 5.56mm round used in assault rifles.

Knight's Armament submitted a 6x35mm PDW--a streamlined, 4.5 pound weapon that can fire 700 rounds per minute. But there's less than "a 50-50 chance" of anything getting adopted, Knight said. "The government still doesn't know what it wants."

There are plenty of other contenders on the shelf, including the LWRC International PSD, which sports an 8-inch barrel and comes in both 5.56mm and a punchy 6.8mm, and the Adams Arms at 7.5 inches.

The Army's position: don't rush us. "The subcompact has to serve a lot of different people...it's much too early to say this is what we are looking for," Jim Stone, the head of the Soldier Requirement's Division at Fort Benning, Ga., told Military.com.