23 September 2011

FWS: Armory- Personal Defense Weapons

At present, personal defense weapons (PDW), are replacing the traditional submachine guns in Counter-terrorism units, SWAT teams, and close protection units (Secret Service) on a global scale. The term "personal defense weapon" is muddy, and leads to different interpretations, some believe that PDW refers to weapons like the P90 and MP7 only, while others believe that it is a wide term, encompassing everything from pistols, to submachine guns, to the P90. Things are just as confusing when it comes to PDWs in sci-fi.The first weapon to be called a "personal defense weapon" was the FN P90, while some historians believe that the US Army M-1 Carbine (.30 caliber) was the real first example of an PDW, because it replaced pistols for noncom officers, and allowed mortar crews, and paratroopers to defend themselves against threats that a pistol could not, while still being light and portable.

The Difference between PDW and SMG
9mm compared to 5.7mm
According to several sources, PDW and the good old submachine gun (SMG) are only separated by their ammunition. The SMG shoots common pistol ammunition like the 9mm, .45, .40 S&W, and even the rare 10mm, in contrast the current crop of PDW is armed with specially developed armor-piercing rounds that are normally just used in that specific gun, like the 5.7mm for the P90 and the  MP7's 4.6mm.For example, the apex of the SMG world is the H&K MP5 that fires the uber-common 9x19mm NATO pistol round, that most current body armor stops, the FN P90, fires a specially designed high-velocity 5.7x28mm round that is designed to tear through body armor. Recently, to capture more market share, the FN and H&K have developed high-capacity pistols that fire the small PDW rounds, like the FN Five-seveN, and the H&K P46 (if it is ever made).

The Death of the H&K MP5 and the Rise of the FN P90
The second world war opened military thinking to the use of SMGs, and by the 1980's, every military, SWAT teams, and action stars were using SMGs for counter-terrorism operations, VBSS, hostage rescue, and saving the day.
Despite the massive popularity of the SMGs like the patriarch H&K MP5,  are being replaced with PDWs like the FN P90, and "commando" short carbines, like the Colt M4 CQBR and the AKS-74U. The fall of the traditional pistol-chambering submachine guns was caused by the rise in body armor that pistol-ammunition cannot penetrate within a few shots. This is critical in the close-quarters combat role that most SMGs operate in, where life-and-death are separated by a few heartbeats.While the PDW fires specially designed high-velocity ammunition that defeats body armors and hits the soft stuff in a controlled burst of about three rounds, taking out and killing the target. This video from Discovery Channel's Future Weapons, shows the difference between the old 9mm H&K MP5 and their new 4.6mm PDW, the H&K MP7:

PDWs...pistols, carbines, or next-gen SMGs?
The term "personal defense weapons" is filled with ambiguity, does it refer to the modern upgraded SMG concept that fires special ammunition, or to pistols, or even carbines? If we examine historically, pistols were the developed as personal defense weapons that were much shorter range than rifles, and typically were carried by officers, artillery, and horsemen. The best example of pistols being used as PDW was the pilot's special .38 revolvers.  This trend of pistol being used as PDWs continues today, if we look at pistols in the military, police, or even civilian life, they are used to defend yourself, and not a tool of offensive warfare, well, unless your Jack Bauer. The subject of pistols became more muddy when the development of fully automatic pistols, like the Glock 18 and Beretta 93R, which can also be concerned PDWs.
Then, there is the compact "shorty" or "commando" carbines, like the AKS-74U, the old CAR-15, and the M4 CQBR, which have been used by military personnel like a personal defense weapons over the 9mm pistol or .38 revolver, like the helicopter pilots during Vietnam, and today, after the 1993 Blackhawk Down incident. These commando carbines are also used by Special Forces units for CQC operations, like the killing of UBL or street-fighting in Mogadishu during Blackhawk Down. This allows these commando carbines to be extremely flexible at performing both defensive and offensive operations.Then, we come down to weapons like the MP7 and P90, which are the very definition of the personal defense weapons;compact weapons that fire specially designed ammunition. But are these PDWs really just the continuation of the SMG concept for the next generation of firearms?Bottom line as someone told me today at work, every weapon, even helmet or shovel, can be used defensively or offensively. Now...where's my tomahawk? 

PDW in Science Fiction
The vast majority of sci-fi creators spend little or no time, effort, imagination, or creativity on their weapons. If I had a dollar for every time I read or saw a raygun or blaster, I'd be at the Porsche story ordering an 911 C4S! That brings up major problem to this lover-of-sci-fi-guns, and this blogpost. Do I count every use of the FN P90 in sci-fi as a PDW in sci-fi? Were the producers of Battlestar Galactica or Stargate SG1 intending for their futuristic and cool-looking P90's to be used as a personal defense weapon?
Is every raygun, phaser, and general pistol used by spacemen, explorers, or away missions personal defense weapons, or just were they just designed to look cool and futuristic? These are the questions I have dealing with when in comes to PDWs in science-fiction. So, below, I've compiled a list of guns being used in the role of personal defense weapons....just because a creator of sci-fi uses a P90 or MP7, does not mean its being used in a role as a PDW.

Examples of Real-Steel PDW 

M1A1 Carbine
Before the start of World War II, the US Army discovered a need for a "light rifle" that could be used by crew-served weapons, vehicles, and officers to defend themselves, possibly making this, the first purpose built defensive gun. The M1 Carbine had smaller .30 caliber bullet specially developed that allowed to hold 20 rounds, but had a lower lethality than the .30-06 of the M1 Garand, issues with .30 caliber round would pop up during the Korean War, but would remain in use until Vietnam. My grandfather carried one of these during the Pacific Campaign and Korean as an Army infantry officer.

Seeing the end of their SMG workhorse, the MP5, H&K was not going to be undone by the likes of FN, so they developed their own PDW, the MP7. This pistol-like PDW fires the exclusive 4.6x30mm round that is similar in role and purpose to the FN 5.7x28mm bullet. Counter-terrorism units in the German Army have bought the MP7, along with some international SWAT teams, and (rumored), DEVGRU.


The "K" or Kurz version of the MP5 9mm SMG was modified with a foregrip handle, and retitled a PDW in  1991. This became a favorite among close-protection units in the 1990's, until commando carbines and the FN P90.   

FN P90
In the late 1980's, NATO requested a replacement for the 9mm submachine guns, and this replacement was to be used tank crews, SOF units, and crew-served weapons. In 1990, the FN 5.7x28nn P90 PDW was introducted to the world, and sounded the death note for the traditional SMG. The P90 and its massive 50-round magazine of specially designed rounds  allow for vehicle crews, SWAT teams, and close protection guards to have a great deal of firepower at their hands without having to change magazines or even if they are left or right (shells inject from the bottom). The first time I'd heard of the FN P90 or the concept of PDWs was from an issue of Marvel's Punisher War Journal around 1989.  

Magpul PDR
This concept next-gen PDW from Magpul, called a personal defense rifle (PDR) is a futuristic bullpup that chambers the 5.56mm NATO round, it is another hybrid of the carbine and PDW. It does seem to borrow heavily from the FN P90 and H&K G36.

Beretta M93 Raffica
This fully-auto machine pistol based around the Beretta 92 series 9x19mm pistols was developed for military and police use. The raffica was a sales failure in the world of firearms, but is a favorite for Hong Hong shoot'em and shooter video games, like COD:MW2.

This is a prototype pistol-like PDW that fires the unqiue 7.92x24mm round and borrows elements of the Beretta 92F and Glock pistols.

KAC PDW Concept
Knights Armament Company built their own PDW concept in 2006 based around the Colt M4 carbine, but being a full ten inches short, to allow users to be instantly familiar with the PDW. This eight-inch barreled PDW burls the line between PDW and commando carbine with its design being proximal to the M4, but having a custom designed body armor defeating 6x35mm bullet. The KAC PDW failed to be approved for wide US military usage, and is not going to be released to the general public.  

Examples of PDW in Sci-Fi

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Starfleet, per Mr. Phoenix, is an schizophrenic organization that attempts to combine defense with space exploration. Per this mandate, the weapons of Starfleet are designed to appear less "gun-like" than weapons used by the Klingons or even early NX-01 crews, to allow more relaxed and peaceful contact during away missions. This role was normally filled by the handheld Type-I phaser, and due to the micro-size of the Type-I phaser, it could be tucked into the uniform, becoming  a concealed PDW. Unlike other sci-fi shows that hinted at their PDWs, Star Trek presented the Type-I on-screen and in print as the personal defense weapon of ST:TNG. Okay, I really hate to say this, but the tiny Type-I phaser (sometimes referred to as "the cricket") used in the ST:TNG may be the best example of a sci-fi PDW

Battlestar Galactica (2003)
In the 2003 miniseries of Battlestar Galactica, when the Galactica arrives at Ra several of the crew and Leoben  carry an odd-looking PDW, that is actually an Seburo MN-23 developed for the Shirow Dominion: Conflict  This gun is never seen again in the series, and replaced with the FN P90, yet another PDW. So, the question begs itself, is the FN P90 in BSG being used as an PDW or just a cool-looking gun? If I was on the Galactica, I'd want a P90 for CQC. Even odder is the fact, that FN Five-Seven pistol is used as the main sidearm, which also could be concerned a PDW. Odd. 

Ghost in the Shell
The fictional firearms company of Masamune Shirow universe, Seburo , outfits most of the characters in Ghost in the Shell and Apple Seed special police units with rapid firing, small HV caliber PDWs...mainly the C25 5mm PDW. For many of us, Mr. Shirow was our introduction to the concept and usage of PDWs in sci-fi.


In the HALO universe of 26th century, the UNSC uses the "C" variant of the Misriah Armory M6 12.7mm Magnum as a PDW. This is the stripped down verison without the 2x scope, and is mainly seen in HALO 2, HALO WARS, and HALO LEGENDS: Homecoming. The idea that a .50 caliber pistol is being used by normal humans as a PDW is nearly funny. I've fired a .50 caliber Desert Eagle, and I would not carry this into combat, despite the fact, that I use a Tiberius T8 paintball pistol (similar size). The 12.7mm round is massive, heavy, and wears down the shooter after only a few rounds. I would much rather have my SIG SAUER P229 .40 S&W than a Desert Eagle .50 caliber, unless I was facing an pissed off Elite.

Much like Section Nine in Ghost in the Shell, the ESWAT police force of Olympus, outfit themselves with Seburo made PDW-like weaponry that fires specially developed ammunition.   

The Cellular Ammunition Rifle Base or CARB are the modular caseless firearm system of the RDA on Pandora and manufactured by Matanza Arms Corporation. Among the dozen or so verisons of the CARB is the PDW, which fires the same 6.2x35mm caseless round, but is fitted with a eight inch barrel. This is used by "inside the wire" personnel and crew-served vehicles (possibly the AMP suits.) The odd thing is, besides the blue people, the Avatar Wiki refers to this as "submachine gun".  

Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis
Jack O'Neil said this of the FN P90: "this is a weapon of war. It's made to kill your enemy." This weapon replaced the H&K MP5 to deal with the body armor that is worn by many of the aggressive species that SG1 and Atlantis personnel are forced to deal with. Since the SG1 and Atlantis personnel mount off-world expedition missions, similar to the away missions in Star Trek, the usage of the P90 could be in its role as a PDW. However, other times, the P90 is used on purely offensive combat operations, where a carbine would have been better.
First appearance of the P90 was the SG1 episode: The First Ones.

Gene Rhoddenberry's Andromeda
The personal weapon of choice for the Systems Commonwealth was the Force Lance, a small rod-like weapon that fires both defensive or offensive munitions, and can be extended to two meters and used as a melee weapon. Give the small size, portability, and limited range, coupled with interception munitions, its a good bet that the standard Force Lance are a futuristic PDW. During the Magog boarding of Andromda, Hunt gets to a arms locker, and seems to take a different Force Lance, this could be a more offensive model than a standard F-Lance.   

Enemy Mine (1985)
In this forgotten sci-fi classic of 1985, 21st century pilot played by Dennis Quaid fighting in an deep space war with the Dracs. During a fighter battle, he crash lands on a planet, and hunts a downed Drac pilot with his silver PPK, a great sci-fi example of pilot PDW, and one of the few I know.

Babylon 5
The PPG pistol of the Earth Alliance could be counted as an DEW PDW, it seems from the examples of the PPG being used in the series, could be counted as a defensive weapon.


  1. As always, William, thanks for a great post on SF firearms!! I have a few comments on PDW's in SF. It seems that most of the time, the creators of SF series simply want to show a cool gun. They don't actually think through the uses and purposes of various weapons.

    PDW seems to refer to compact SMG-like weapons that fire high-velocity rounds designed to penetrate body armor. PDW are supposed to put the firepower of a carbine in a compact weapon that can be easily carried and concealed, like a SMG. If we use the term PDW to refer to compact weapons that fire armor-piercing ammunition, only weapons like the FN P90 (or futuristic equivalents) are PDWs.

    However, if we think of PDW as a term referring to a weapon designed to be carried for personal defense instead of all-out war, than quite a few weapons in SF are PDW's. I could classify my Glock 17, Kirk's phaser, Han Solo's DL-44 blaster pistol, and the tiny silver handguns used by Queen Amadala's guards as personal defense weapons.

    I suspect most shows that use real PDW's just do it for the cool factor. Other SF weapons, like blasters or disruptors, are just shiny props given cool names. Most SF writers don't get that creative with firearms- which is a pity, since it is fun. I can speak from first had experience with the Steyr-Phoenix series of laser weapons.

    Christopher Phoenix

  2. When ray-guns are common, the categories of SMG, carbine, and PDW blur together. The main difference between a carbine, SMG, and PDW are the rounds they fire, but this has no meaning when applied to weapons that fire energy beams instead of solid bullets. This makes it hard to classify energy weapons according to modern day classes of slug-throwers. In short, the distinction between SMG's, PDW's, and compact carbines won't exist when ray-guns are used.

    Energy weapons are categorized by what kind of energy they direct- lasers, particle beams, etc.- and their energy output. You might have a class infantry laser weapons, or a compact particle beam weapons. You could categorize ray-guns by their energy output, size, and purpose, but not by their caliber- they don't have a caliber.

    Energy-handguns will likely have deep magazines, burst-fire modes, adjustable output, and high accuracy. Since there is no recoil to push your aim off of the target, energy pistols can have truly controllable automatic fire. Rapid pulses will probably look like a continuous beam.

    Lets imagine a compact personal energy weapon- the PG-30 Particle Machine Pistol. The PG-30 fires 10 kJ shots, feeds from a 1 mega-joule energy magazine (enough energy for 100 pulses), and is the size of a large machine pistol. The PG-30 is compact enough to be carried like a large pistol, fires full auto at 10 hZ, can have a stack attached, and has far more penetrating and killing power than any SMG or carbine.

    This weapon fires particle beams, not bullets, so we can't categorize it by the caliber of the rounds it fires. it is compact like a pistol, but full-auto like a SMG. The best category is an DEW machine pistol.

    A good example of SMG's and carbines blurring together is the E-11 Blaster Carbine from Star Wars. The E-11 is used in cramped conditions on board spaceships, where a modern military might use a compact carbine. The E-11's size is appropriate for a SMG, but it blasts holes in stormtrooper armor and pock-marks bulkheads. This gun fulfills the same roles that submachine guns and carbines do in modern armies.

    When guns don't shoot bullets, several categories (submachine gun, PDW, and carbine) will blur together.

    Christopher Phoenix

  3. You are right, Mr. Phoenix, when DEW become common, there will be fewer types of weapons, like SMGs or PDWs. And that most sci-fi creators just pick something cool looking rather than funcational. When I was a kid, I had the Flash G.I. Joe figure, that was both cool and realistic.
    Your PG-30 is a good example of what the future holds, and it possible for the future of DEW is classified on their energy output, like we do with grain and powder...just a thought.
    I completely forgot about the little sliver blaster from the Phantom Turd! Ugh! I thought I got them all.
    The E-11 was one of my favorite SW weapons, and besides, Boba Fett is so cool that anything he uses is cool.

  4. I read that the E-11 holds 100 shots per power cell- which is probably important, since Stormtroopers have really shitty aim. I always like Han Solo's DL-44 blaster- Greedo's smoking corpse and the massive explosions the blaster created in the landing bay on Tatooine showed its power. I always thought the blaster impacts in Star Wars were pretty realistic...

    Simply choosing something "because it looks cool" is a sadly common trait in SF- even if the writers get something right, it is more an example of a broken clock being right twice a day than any intelligence on their part.

    Energy weapons won't just be classified on their energy output, but the kind of energy they project. Lasers project beams and pulses of coherent light. Particle guns fire high energy beams of electrons, protons, ions, or even more exotic particles. Lightning guns or fulgurators shoot bolts of electricity down a laser induced plasma channel- basically a weaponized tesla coil. Plasma guns, if they worked, would fire bolts, streams, or toroids of plasma. Sonic weapons could fire bursts of sound waves. X-ray lasers fire high energy beams of X-ray laser light- dangerous because scattered radiation could sicken or kill the gunner. Within these different types of energy weapons, there could be a wide variation of effect- ranging from the size of the hole to the level of stun.

    I hope that something like the PG-30 exists someday. It seems to me that with recoilless energy weapons, automatic fire becomes a lot more practical. If we can ever store energy at the same density of TNT, my power packs could become reality- must look into this sometime...

    I just hope we don't have to listen to endless arguments about the effectiveness of the 1.5 kJ pulse versus the 2 kJ pulse in the future...

    Christopher Phoenix

  5. Hey, guess what William...

    My assumption that a multi-kilojoule pulse is capable of blasting straight through human flesh has been verified- by researchers developing an experimental laser tank.

    To quote:

    It’s believed that prototype laser cannons will be available in the 1978-1979 period, and that working field models may be coming into use in the early 1980's.461 Already the U.S. Army has fielded an experimental laser tank, called the Mobile Test Unit (Mm). From early in 1975, the MTU has been tested at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. The driver rides in front, aiming the turret in the rear at the desired target. The Electric Discharge Laser (EDL) in the turret fires a multi-kilojoule pulse, powerful enough to burn holes in wood, metal, or human flesh. Says a researcher on the MTU development team: "It‘ll go right through you right now with no trouble.

    So there, Jeff Hecht!!! Now you can write Empty Places assured that all the numbers are correct

    I've come across ludicrous claims by people "proving" laser guns will never exist.

    Take this article for example: http://massively.joystiq.com/2011/09/15/behind-the-mask-fictional-guns-are-lame/ The writer actually claims a laser beam would need the same amount of energy his house uses in a week to have the same destructive power as a handgun bullet... Either he lives in a dollhouse, or he is just plain wrong. A laser beam carrying that amount of energy in a short pulse would vaporize the first person it hits, and then the person behind him, and then the wall behind them, and then the people in the room behind the wall.... Okay maybe I shouldn't get so worked up that a gamer fan got it wrong.

    Okay, now I'll complain about this article. Jeff Hecht simply told you the amount of energy it takes to vaporize a hole through a human, as though we simply scooped out the flesh and set it to simmer on a bunsen burner. He neglected to mention that the expanding steam would rip flesh apart and spread the damage around. However, he is not nearly as wrong as the gamer article- he said it would take 50,000 joules to burn a hole through a human. He went on to assure you that laser guns will never exist, since they consume too much energy, thus lasers cannot kill- but in the future, everyone will put supercomputers and nanoscale propulsion systems in bullets. I really don't know at what point we jumped from "lasers are energy intensive" to "lasers are incapable of killing people"- and how much do these "brilliant bullets" cost, anyway?

    I played his own game and assumed that you'd need 250,000 joules, using a megawatt range laser and burning a 3cm hole in flesh. I noted that a 1 kilojoule power pack storing energy at the same density of TNT would hold 18 shots, assuming my worst case scenario.

    Christopher Phoenix

  6. However, I now know that a multi-kilojoule pulse will blast through wood, metal, or flesh easily. This is not the speculation of a SF fan or numbers crunched by a physicist- this is the capability of a real experimental testbed for a laser weapon. The only problem is that lasers are too bulky and inefficient to be used yet.

    Here is the link to the article where I found this out:

    The ultimate insult came from Mary Robinette Kowal, an author of SF and fantasy. She wrote this article, saying that ray-guns had not place in SF and were thus firmly in the realm of fantasy- alongside Godzilla and dragons, I suppose. Her reasons why? Well, lasers are invisible unless dust is in the air, it takes too much energy to vaporize someone, and you can't dodge lasers. Not only that but lasers don't stop, so shooting on in a spaceship is the dumbest idea possible. Well, BULLETS DON'T STOP EITHER!!!! Hello? Anyone in there?

    First off, on the invisibility of lasers and lack of dodge capability- that is the unscientific way that hollywood portrays energy weapons, not any failing of real life DEW's. You can't dodge bullets, anyhow. And that thing about lasers not stopping- I really don't know what to say about that, other than that bullets don't stop either. In fact, this is where Mary Kowal shows her ignorance- a laser beam will spread out over very long distances due to diffraction, while a bullet will just drift along until it hits something. Of course, diffraction is such a small effect, you simply don't notice except over extreme distances- certainly not the distances encountered in even the largest spacecraft.

    But the real insult is that she said laser guns didn't belong on science fiction, but in fantasy. I did take that just a bit personally. These are authors of SF books who say these sort of things- and Jeff Hecht's article was published in the Lightspeed Magazine. Its sort of a reverse realism- in their efforts to be "realistic", the authors become close-minded and simply wrong.

    I find their lack of faith disturbing.

    Christopher Phoenix

  7. Forgot to give you the links to the articles in question:

    The moral of this story? Don't believe everything you read on the internet, even if a successful author wrote it.

    Christopher Phoenix

  8. I just read the article from Mary Kowal, and I agree with you, and she needs more research than just say that they're using magic. I personally would want a weapon that was invisible. After the time in paintball, I track the person via their balls (hehe).
    Hecht's article, besides being boring, and not covering all the bases of sci-fi DEW. Where was the plasma, microwave, and particle? And he missed that the trend in sci-fi is towards bullets, not to DEW.
    And missed point, was the advancement in laser technology even in my lifetime. Today, lasers are used on the battlefield, the AN/PEQ, the SOFLAM, and the new seaborne lase. In the classroom with laser pointers, and I grew up playing with LAZER-TAG IR guns. I think the real reason, we don't have a Steyr-Phoenix HEL is we do not need it yet, traditional firearms still work fine, the AK-47 still lives up to its name, Always Kills.
    I do wish she had knocked down DEW swords...sorry Jedi/Sith out there.
    I do like the Brilliant Bullet idea, if it would work, and you are correct, it's were expensive, but in the end, its all about cost and effectiveness. If we need, we'll build it.

  9. Yeah- Jeff Hecht's article is boring. If you want efficiency, use an arrow. Arrows carry much less energy than a bullet.

    I've been trying to calculate the energy output a ray-gun requires to kill, but given the different types of ray-guns possible and the different definitions of "lethal damage", it is a little complex. Not to mention that there are different kinds of damage an energy weapon can have. Thermal effects, as in heating, burn, chars, cooks, melts, and vaporizes targets. Blast damage occurs when enough heat energy is dumped in a target all at once to cause it to violently explode. Radiation poisoning occurs when a beam of ionizing radiation, as in x-rays, gamma rays, or particle beams is used. The scattered radiation from a x-ray or particle beam pulse can cause radiation sickness and brain death.

    The Orion's Arm article on Laser Weapons suggests that it is far more efficient to damage matter through mechanical means than thermal mechanisms, so a pulsed laser would emit a rapid series of super-intense pulses that cause matter to explode into plasma. The resulting explosions will gouge craters and drive cracks into the target. Perhaps- but this is all speculation at present. I still prefer the Heat-Rays from War of the World's.

    Ray-guns are portrayed differently depending on the attitudes that people have toward them at the time. Sometimes blasters will vaporize a person and shatter the wall behind him. Other times they kill without leaving a mark. Sometimes the only DEW's are non-lethal or point defense. Other works have laser cannons that melt cities. In real life, there will likely be many DEW's in the future. Weaker weapons that stun or kill without leaving much more than a burn mark could exist in this century. Ray-guns that melt people into goo may be a bit farther off.

    Invisible beams are probably much more useful for soldiers, but even visible light beams will be hard to see in outdoors conditions. The flashes from the beams hitting a target will also dazzle anyone nearby, so soldiers might miss the actual beam in the dazzling flash.

    Christopher Phoenix

  10. As for Mary Kowal, she really ought to have done more research. She did forget to knock down lightsabers, although to be honest, the real problem with energy swords is that even if you get one to work, it is still useless. A person armed with a lightsaber would be easily killed by someone with a Mac-10. On the historical not, Isaac Asimov's stories have force-field blades that inspired the lightsaber. The real use of force-field blades would be as cutting tools.

    A laser sword, on the other hand, would never stop- so you could simply sweep your target and slice them in two. The solution to getting an energy sword to cut off to a nice tip? You don't. Just let the beam go on until it disperses.

    Smart bullets are a neat idea, but I find it hard to imagine arming every soldier with them. Maybe someday self-guiding rocket bullets will be used, but I still wonder how they know where to go- sometimes submarines used to be sunk by their own torpedoes, which turned around and targeted them. Could this happen to someone with a so-called "smart" bullet? Do you have to manually lock the weapon on target? What if the enemy figures out how to jam the smart bullets? Will they zip around like fireflies on crack, randomly targeting anyone who gets in their way, friendly or not?

    Miniature projectiles with nano-scale propulsion, integrated computers, and lethal payloads would be great for assassinations, but not combat missions. To easy to fudge in combat, but perfect for killing someone in a civilian situation. I could imagine a smart projectile that flew on hummingbird wings and killed with neurotoxic barbettes. Such a bullet would seek you wherever you might flee. I can also imagine lethal assassination devices concealed as pens, designed to be released near a target and than track and destroy them. These weapons would be weapons of terror, not war. They could be programmed to seek a certain individual, perhaps with facial recognition software. I'm sure the CIA would love them.

    On the battlefield, smart grenades and guided shells have already make an appearance. Check out this, for example. With the XM25 CDTE, derived from the XM29 OICW, you can program a grenade to explode near the target. Perhaps someday handheld smart bullet weapons will exist- but I suspect ordinary bullets will be loaded into handguns a while yet. Air burst grenades are rather specialized.

    Snipers might like a bullet that could change its course to track a target, but with an energy weapon like a laser gun, you only need to get the target in your sights and pull the trigger. That is probably cheaper than self-guiding micro-missiles.

    If I had to worry about self-guiding assassination micro-drones, I would install a larger version of the Mosquito Laser. This laser weapon can target and shoot down insects, why not bullets that fly on hummingbird wings? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosquito_laser

    Maybe I could have a Mosquito/Micro-Drone Laser in a hat. Than I would be protected wherever I went. The Mosquito Laser can already differentiate between mosquitos and other insects, like bees. I'm sure I could create one that would shoot at miniature assassin drones. Hmmm.... Future Fashions!!!

    Actually- I like smart bullets too. I can come up with plenty of lethal assassination devices, like the one in Dune, and maybe even some kind of self-guiding bullet for a futuristic hand weapon.

    Christopher Phoenix.

  11. Hey, William...

    I remembered another PDW in science fiction you forgot to include.... the laser stun/kill gun from Space:1999. The surprisingly well-armed Alphans carried sleek, compact hand lasers that fulfilled most of their defensive and offensive needs. These weapons were carried by both security details and on the Eagle Transporters. These weapons were very small, shaped a little like a staple gun, and had four beam emitters- even though the beams emerged from the top emitter for almost all of the episodes.

    Apparently, there are two models, one with the stun setting only, and another with a selector switch with both stun and kill settings. In the episodes I have seen, the guns always had both stun and kill settings.

    The stun setting fires a yellow beam that affects the central nervous system, causing slowed heartbeat and respiration, unconsciousness, and with continued application, cardiac arrest and death. The kill setting fires a short duration bluish beam with sufficient force to penetrate protective clothing and completely incinerate a human sized target or create large explosions.

    The three auxiliary barrels generate a continuous laser beam as long as the trigger is depressed and should not be used on an individual or in the proximity of a pressure bulkhead. Barrel 2 fires a micron width "torch" beam that is useful for cutting and welding plastic or sheet metal. Barrel 3 fires a more intense beam for penetrating rock and metal walls. Barrel 4 fires a wide focus beam for disintegrating metal, concrete, or stone and close range (protective clothing should be worn when Barrel 4 is used). Without special modification, all four barrels cannot be fired simultaneously.

    If you remember the Space 1999 episode "Force of Life", you will remember what the "stun" laser did to Anton Zoref. The corpse was not even recognizable. Basically, the hand laser on kill setting will blast a human into a corpse resembling Uncle Owen after the Stormtroopers were through with him in A New Hope.

    The Alphans also had unusual looking laser rifles that fired an orange beam and Armor Piercing Lasers that were powerful enough to blow up a spaceship. The Armor Piercing Lasers were at one point going to be used in an offensive against a group of alien spaceships hovering over Alpha.

    The army has been researching a line of less-lethal weapons referred to as Pulsed Energy Projectile. This weapon is supposed to fire a laser pulse that creates a plasma burst when it hits someone, knocking them down. The army discovered that the pulses can create paralysis and pain- apparently these plasma bursts generate a electromagnetic signal that interferes with the nervous system. The effect can be made lethal- the original name for the project was Pulsed Impulsive Kill Laser, or PIKL. The PEP weapon is a massive chemical laser, so you can't carry it around with you, but who knows how far this type of weapon can be miniaturized. In the future, we may see Space 1999 style stun lasers with a "kill" setting.


    My favorite spaceships from Space: 1999 are the Mark IX Hawks seen the episode "War Games". Those ships are awesome!!


    Christopher Phoenix

  12. You are completely right on that one! Ugh...I cannot believe I missed Space:1999. What an odd show, then again, most shows about space stations seem to be odd.
    I shall have to add it later, thanks for the catch! I agreed, the war-eagles ruled

  13. Interesting article, although I think Halo's SMG would be a better example than the Magnum.

  14. I agree with you, the M5 caseless SMG is more like a modern concept of the PDW. I thought it was odd that Bungie used the words 'personal defense weapon' for the .50cal pistol instead of offensive handgun used for the Mark23 SOCOM .45 pistol.

  15. The Discovery Channel video is false, NATO already said that the 5.7 is worse then 9x19mm against body armor when the target is 50 feet away.

    When do you have people 50 feet away from you in a house?

    I already mentioned on another page that the MP7 has a round worse then the 5.7 round. as per NATO testing.

  16. I'd say that a personal defense weapon is defined as:

    "a firearm with more firepower and greater effective range than handguns and sub-machineguns, but weaker and less effective at longer ranges than assault rifles and battle rifles."

    in this sense pdw's could include "compact/commando" assault rifles, since they have limited range compared to full length assault rifles, as well as dedicated pdw's such as the m1/m2 carbine, p90, and mp7.

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