The Civilian PDW: Needs, Wants, and Why

When you think about civilian means of self-defense in public, then you likely think about concealable handguns. That’s the most common method and easily the most convenient method. However, I’ve been doing a bit of a thought experiment: what if things weren’t so stable? Maybe it’s zombies, a disaster, civil unrest, and a lack of good law and order. It’s not Mad Max levels of violence but a disruption of normal services. Wouldn’t you want something more capable than a handgun? That’s when I got to thinking about the civilian PDW. 

Once the brace is deployed I can manipulate the Glock and press the magazine release with my firing hand thumb.
I miss the Glock Flux brace.

What really jump-started my thinking about the concept was Jack Clemons on a podcast called Gunday Brunch. In a conversation about the Smith & Wesson FPC, he said something along the lines of, “You still gotta pay rent during the apocalypse.” Sure, things are bad, but rent’s due, and you gotta go to work, get food, and live life. A more capable firearm than your average pistol might be a smart option. 

In researching the idea of a civilian PDW, I came across a video by Brass Facts where he breaks down his idea into the same matter. Unsurprisingly, the idea has been explored, but allow me to explore it once more. Keep in mind this is a thought experiment; I’m not saying it’s a must-have, but something to think about and consider. 

What’s a PDW?

PDW stands for Personal Defense Weapon. The concept became popular in the late 1980s and early 90s. NATO wanted a weapon that was more capable than a handgun but not as heavy and large as an assault or battle rifle. It was a weapon designed for troops who served in non-combat roles. Better than a pistol and easier to manage than a rifle. This resulted in guns like the P90 and MP7 and their respective light rifle rounds. 

That’s the traditional definition of a PDW, but ours will escape that. We aren’t isolated to select fire weapons in odd calibers. In my thought experiment, there are three requirements of a civilian PDW. 

Compact and Lightweight

The weapon shouldn’t be hefty or hard to carry. The user should be able to fire the weapon with one hand and have a good chance to hit targets at close range. The civilian PDW needs to be easy to carry because it’s something that will likely be carried all day. It should also be easy to use in close quarters, including inside of a vehicle. 

Flux raider with brace deployed
The Raider is an effective little PDW.


The weapon should be small enough to be concealable. This doesn’t necessarily mean on the person. It should be able to fit in your average bag. It can be a laptop bag, a backpack, or a sling bag. Something fairly inconspicuous that doesn’t scream gun. It shouldn’t need a dedicated oversized bag to conceal it. 

Easy Engagement Out to 50 Yards 

The civilian PDW should be able to hit a threat out to fifty yards with relative ease. There are likely plenty of well-heeled handgunners who can do that, but for most people, that’s a tough shot with a traditional handgun. It’s even tougher in a violent situation. Therefore, the weapon should facilitate 50-yard shots, and those shots should be easily made by an average user.

What about caliber?

Caliber can vary fairly wildly. Pistol calibers and very small guns go together hand in hand. Handgun rounds like 9mm are naturally apt in small guns, and various subguns and purpose-built platforms work fairly well. Other handgun calibers like 10mm, .45 ACP, and others aren’t as common but would work fine as well. Handgun calibers can reach up to 50 yards pretty well but rarely make it much further. 

CMMG FourSix with Fiocchi 4.6x30mm ammunition
The 4.6x30mm finally has a civilian platform to worm its way into.

Then, we have the light rifle cartridges. Calibers like 5.7x28mm and 4.6x30mm were designed and produced for the PDW concept. The 5.7x28mm is quite popular and has had quite a revival, and the 4.6x30mm has attracted some attention with the CMMG FourSix. These rounds are small and hot. They move fast and shoot flat out to 150 yards. 

Dedicated rifle calibers are tough. Some .300 Blackout rifles can be pretty short and sweet, and the .300 Blackout would be ballistically pretty capable from a PDW. However, it seems like you’d need something crazy to make it small and concealable enough to work. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it just seems unlikely. Plus, the magazine also gets fairly large for real dedicated rifle rounds. 

Getting the PDW Into Action 

Another big consideration when it comes to choosing your PDW is how fast you can deploy it. Bigger guns will be slower to deploy and tougher to carry. Other options may require a step or two to get the weapon into action, and that should be considered as well. Being able to quickly deploy a PDW is tantamount to its success. 

S&W FPC In a bag
Your bag matters a lot.

The PDW doesn’t need a subsecond draw, but you should be able to deploy it instinctually and on demand when necessary. We know we have to carry it in a bag, so you have to find a bag and a gun that makes sense for that role. Preferably, you’ll want a bag that can be transported easily and likely utilized for daily carry. If it’s just a gun bag, that’s fine, but if you can carry your laptop, phone charger, gym clothes, or whatever, even better. 

handgun in chest rig
Yank the hot pull and boom, accessible firearm.

Like anything to do with guns, training will help you succeed. You’ll need to train with your PDW at close and long ranges. Practice reloads, malfunctions, and more to create a good training plan for competency with the platform. Make sure you become quick to deploy it from the bag and to fight from the bag. If you stage reloads in the bag, you should be able to reload from the bag. 

The PDW Options 

I’ve come up with a few different PDW options that I think fit the bill. They fall into a few different categories and come in a few different sizes. I haven’t done a ton of experiments to figure out which is best, but it’s something I plan to pursue in the future. With that in mind, here are some fairly broad categories that represent a few different-sized options. 

Bracing a Standard Pistol 

We all have handguns, so why don’t we just add a brace and extend their range? There are a ton of ways to do this, and the most common is some kind of clamshell device that clamps over the gun. These are not worth the money or effort for reasons I won’t get into here. 

With that said, the Recover Tactical 20/20 system does do a great job of providing a braced pistol to PDW conversion. It’s not perfect, but it’s very affordable, and it’s even a modular system. You’ll need to red dot mount for sure, but after that, it’s up to you. 

Glock with Recover Tactical 20/20
From Glock to PDW in one easy step.

The premium tier option would be the Flux Raider system. This uses a P320 FCU and a P320 slide to form a rather impressive and high-tech PDW. This setup delivers a very small and compact platform with a spring-loaded brace system. It’s an excellent system, but it’s expensive and often sold out. 

Another easy and cheap option is an Endo stock adapter for a Glock Gen 3 pistol. Mount a brace to the adapter, and you’re good. This system has the brace acting as a QD system. Unlike the other options, this brace is attached to your carry gun when you need it to be and left in the bag when it’s not needed. 

Flux raider with brace deployed
The Raider is an effective little PDW.

These braced pistols offer you the most compact option out there. It’s light and very easy to store in a bag. This makes them easy to deploy at the push of a button. 

Micro Subguns 

Subguns are larger format braced pistols that resemble submachine guns. They come in numerous sizes, but the various K models, for lack of a better term, are smaller and easier to conceal. The two that spring to mind are the Scorpion 3+ Micro and the APC9K. These are admittedly larger than the braced pistols out there but also more purpose-built. The Ruger LC Charger in 5.7x28mm also seems to be an interesting option. 

Micro scorpion 9mm pistol
The Micro Scorpion can be a great PDW.

Installing optics, lights, lasers, and beyond is much easier. They tend to feature more SMG-like controls, which aren’t compromised by being based on a pistol. Magazine capacities tend to be in the 20- and 30-round varieties, which makes them perfectly suited for concealment in a bag. A brace or sling is required for stability and to extend the range out to 50 yards. 

Folding PCCs 

When I say folding PCCs, I mean the S&W FPC and the KelTec SUB 2000, of course. These platforms fold in half and reduce their length to around 17 inches or so when folded. While they are short, there is some additional bulk tied to the weapon. They fire pistol calibers from pistol magazines. 

folding guns
Both guns are folding and super compact.

As rifles, they aren’t subject to future brace restrictions, and both of these platforms are uber cheap. They do require a step from deployment to action due to the need to be unfolded. This slows down the deployment, but not by much. The size requires a backpack, at the very least, which can be a turn-off for some. 

The World of the PDW 

PDWs aren’t a must-have. They are an interesting firearm concept for special situations. If I had to abandon home or evacuate a PDW in a bag on my lap as I drove, it would be comforting. The same goes for a loss of normal civil services, civil unrest, and the like. They provide a more capable weapon for extraordinary environments. In a perfect world, you’d just stay home, but as Jack said, “You gotta pay rent in the apocalypse.” 

What do you think? Let us know below! 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:
© 2024 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap