During a recent storm my area lost power for several days. Thankfully no rioting happened; but there were some reports of folks “looking for gas” in the middle of the night. In my case they were nice enough to be loudly talking as they passed by home. I’m not sure if they resorted to borrowing gas from anyone in the neighborhood with a garden hose; but I was able to keep track of them from the shadows of my property while armed with a SMG/PCC. My choice that night was a SBR’d PCC.
For the purposes of this article I use SMG, PCC, Machine Pistol interchangeably. These weapons fire a pistol caliber round, usually a 9mm. You’ll also find 45 ACP, with some diversions into 32acp, 380, 9mm Mak (9×18), 357SIG, 10mm, 762×25 and maybe a few others. They (almost all), have a shoulder stock, so they can be fired with 4 points of contact (Hand, Hand, Cheek, Shoulder). The original SMG definition would mean full auto and typically with a 5 to 10 inch barrel, although some shorter and longer.
Barrel length typically determined which subset of SMG the weapon classified into, from concealable to “Go To War” size. Traditionally, SMGs divided into subcompact size (think MAC10, Mini/Micro UZI and the ultra tiny 32 acp VZ61 Skorpion) and the full-size “Go To War” weapons (UZI, MP5, Thompson, etc). Today’s legal status has largely eliminated full auto and options with barrels shorter than 16 inches. But, that hasn’t made SMGs/PCCs irrelevant in a civilian tactical role. In fact it may make them more relevant.
Setting the Stage
I live in a suburban area of Eastern Pennsylvania near the Maryland border. We are surrounded by single family homes on small lots. There’s a State road that runs nearby through the community, with houses on both sides of the street. PA is a deer hunting state, and schools close for the open day of the season. Around here, the average deer is taken well under 200 meters. Most everyone has a deer rifle of some sort. Semi autos are not legal for deer hunting, though. Still I’d say a home without an AR is unusual. I’m gonna bet the “AR homes” also have a AR pistol or two and likely something SMG-ish as well.
So let’s start with the advantages of a SMG/PCC in a Scenario X situation. The first is ammo availability.
You can typically carry twice as much ammo for an SMG in the same space as rifle ammo. It’s not a direct correlation of weight, but saying two subgun mags fit in the back pocket of your jeans where only one 556 or 308 mag would fit. So if you’re forced to grab-and-go out your front door to an altercation down the street, a couple of mags in your pocket versus one AR mag might make the difference. Even at the worst of the “Ammo Crisis” during the “Summer of Love,” 9mm was available.
Recoil & Muzzle Blast
A 9mm PCC simply doesn’t show any negative effects from recoil. Perhaps more importantly, the blast difference between 9mm versus 5.56 is drastic. Picture firing 9mm from a 10″ barrel next to a 556 from a 10″ barrel, then remember that 9mm could be fired from an even shorter barrel with no ill effects.
Can you say the same for 556 from a 5 inch barrel? If you’re limited to 16 inch barrels, 9mm is still quieter than 556.
Next consider that your handgun likely uses the same caliber as your SMG/PCC, and might even use the same magazines. Personally I prefer my SMGs to use SMG-specific mags except in one case. Glock mags are almost an industry standard at this point, and they’re great pistol mags. But because they are designed for handguns they are designed for an angled magazine well. Conversely “real” SMG mags feed straight into the gun, and that just feels more natural to me. My one exception is the Ruger PC Carbine, because it can use the short Magpul drum made specifically for the PC Carbine. The Ruger with the Magpul drum, along with a binary trigger, effectively turn your PC Carbine into a 21st Century PPSh-41.
But What About Rifles?
OK, on to the guy screaming that 9mm is a short range cartridge and 556 is a rifle cartridge that can reach out to 500+ meters. Yes, you are correct. However, 9mm from a SMG/PCC is easily good for a 100-meter threat. Yes the “enemy” might stay beyond SMG range. They “might,” but considering the likely threat, I’ll take that risk especially when in Senario-X I’ll most likely have a working knowledge of my area of operations (AO) versus an attacking enemy.
Ultimately SMGs work best in an urban/suburban environment. If your AO is open rural countryside, then a weapon with longer range and a harder-hitting cartridge may be in order. That being said, an “Intermediate” or Magnum SMG, in something like 10mm, or 357SIG, or perhaps 30 Carbine and maybe 5.7FN are capable of easily reaching well beyond 100 meters and still fit the SMG role.
Perhaps more important, no matter what brought on your Scenario-X, there will surely be some return to “Law and Order” and your 500 meter shootouts will be scrutinized.
Now let’s get back to some more of the advantages of SMGs. A pistol cartridge is easier to suppress and quieter in general than a rifle cartridge. Think back to the Blast issue. A rifle shot screams, “hear” I am [sic], where a pistol (especially a suppressed pistol) may go unnoticed. Yes, to that guy that’s waving his hand and saying that you can suppress a rifle…Well yes, sorta. But you’ll never suppress the sonic crack, and a pistol caliber suppressor can be significantly smaller. Yes, rifle cartridges are more “effective” than pistol cartridges. I hear that guy reminding us that a pistol is what you use to fight your way to your rifle. Yep, it is. However, a SMG/PCC is more than a pistol because it allows you to use it like a rifle.
Should everyone in your team have a SMG/PCC?
Well yes, no, and maybe.
First, maybe YOU can dictate what your neighbors bring to the team during YOUR Scenario X, but thus far I haven’t been that lucky. Ideally I’d build a team around rifles and SMGs. I’d toss in a heavy caliber (308 or greater), I’d want a scoped rifle capable of precision shots, and I love to have a couple of belt feds even if they were semi auto only. On the other hand, if all my neighbors showed up with Ruger PC Carbines and drum mags, we’d organize like the WW2 SMG units.
I ran this topic by a much younger buddy. He’s a former Army Ranger with no time on SMGs. He’s not a SMG fan; but prefers a SBR’d AR, something like a MK18. He’s willing to take on the added weight of the 556 mags and blast for the longer range. I won’t say he’s wrong, we all form our opinions from our own experiences and perspective. As for me, I’ve got a lot of time with real SMGs in the military and law enforcement. I’m pretty confident a SMG can perform as well of better than a Mk18 in most situations. Your mileage may vary