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LWRC International has built a solid reputation on building Tier 1 firearms for both U.S. and foreign military groups, and translating those skills into producing civilian-legal ARs for those who want to own firearms with a battle—hardened lineage. And that tradition continues on to today, with the company still responding to requests from military and security groups for cutting-edge firearms.
In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security issued a solicitation for up to 7,000 personal defense weapons. The solicitation, HSCEMS-12-R-00011, is easily found on several government websites and is considered open source. To quote the document, “DHS and its components have a requirement for a 5.56X45mm NATO, select-fire firearm suitable for personal defense use in close quarters and/or when maximum concealment is required.” The specifications state, in part:
- “The firearm shall be able to be operated by a left or right-handed user without permanent modification.”
- “The action shall fire from a closed bolt.”
- “The action shall be gas operated.”
- “The action shall be capable of accepting all standard NATO STANAG 20 and 30-round magazines and Magpul 30-round PMAGs.”
- “The trigger pull shall be not less than 5.5 pounds and not exceed 9.5 pounds.”
- “The overall length of the firearm shall not exceed 30 inches with the stock fully extended.”
- “The overall length of the firearm shall not exceed 20 inches with the stock fully retracted and/or folded.”
- “The unloaded weight of the firearm (without magazine) shall not exceed 7 pounds.”
- “The barrel shall have a rifling twist of 1 in 7 inches.”
- “The front forend shall incorporate MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rails on the top, bottom, and both sides to accommodate the attachment of optics or accessories.”
- “It is desired that the forend Picatinny rail sections be capable of being removed or added.”
- “The front and rear sights shall be capable of being folded and/or removed.”
- “Each firearm will be rated for its initial accuracy at 50 yards. The average extreme spread of five 5-shot groups shall be no greater than 2.5 inches.”
From the requirements, it seems obvious that DHS was following an emerging trend of replacing legacy PDW platforms, predominately the MP5 9mm SMG, with a similarly sized platform in 5.56 NATO. It was no coincidence that the MP5 A2, with a collapsible stock model, weighs 5.97 lbs. and has an overall length of 26” with the stock extended and 19.3” with the stock collapsed. This is very similar to the 30” and 20” requirements of the DHS solicitation.
The original M4 operating system was designed around a 14.5” barrel and carbine gas system. Reliability is based on three main components: Size of the gas port, the length of the gas tube, and the weight of the bolt carrier group. In addition, the weight of the buffer and tension of the buffer spring must be matched with the velocity and weight of the bolt carrier group. Once the rifle is optimized, the magazine must ensure proper feeding of a wide variety of ammunition. If any one item is out of spec, the reliability and performance of the rifle can be adversely affected. As a result, reducing the M4 rifle to a PDW size was not a simple operation.
I have had an ongoing relationship with the fine folks at LWRC for many years. During that time, I have evaluated a number of their guns to include several short-barreled rifles. When the DHS solicitation was published, I contacted Jeff Clemmer at LWRC and asked it the company was going to have a submission. He replied that it was under consideration and he would keep me in the loop. Several months later, I received a call from my dealer advising me that the IC-PDW was in.
Caliber: 5.56 NATO
Barrel: 8.5 inches
Weight: 5.9 pounds
OA Length: 20.5–25.5 inches
Stock: LWRC Exclusive PDW stock
Sights: LWRC Skirmish
Finish: Matte black
The LWRC IC-PDW is basically a compact version of LWRC firearms such as the IC Enhanced Carbine. The IC platform was developed to meet the requirements of the U.S. Army Individual Carbine program. The IC-PDW retains all of the improved operating controls of the full-size IC carbines. Both the upper and lower receiver are forged and feature fully ambidextrous fire controls and a flared magazine well. The safety/selector and bolt release are mirrored on both sides using the same control part. The left side magazine release is a large paddle that is recessed between two raised ribs to prevent inadvertent magazine dumps. The pistol grip is Magpul’s excellent MOE Plus grip.
The Monoforge upper receiver is mated with a low profile rail that has threaded positions on the 9, 3, and 6 o’clock axis allowing the user to mount rail sections where required. The IC-PDW comes equipped with LWRC’s outstanding back-up iron sights that are machined from 7075 aluminum. The rear sight consists of a square post that is lifted and then rotated to change aperture settings. The post is also serrated to reduce glare. The front sight consists of a square post that is adjustable for elevation and features a semi-circular guard that is reminiscent of the front sight on the MP5. LWRC’s beefy ambidextrous charging handle provides a solid purchase when manually operating the action.
The IC-PDW features an 8.5” barrel with a proprietary four prong flash hider. The barrel is made from 41V45 steel alloy that is forged from an oversized barrel blank using high-pressure rotary hammers. This process results in near perfect rifling that is molecularly stronger than other forms of rifling. The barrels are also treated with NiCorr that is “more lubricious, harder wearing, and more heat and corrosion resistant than normal hard chrome.” The company advertises a barrel life of 20,000 rounds as compared to 6,000 to 10,000 rounds for standard mil-spec barrels. A shortened LWRC four-prong flash hider dampens the muzzle flash on the IC-PDW.
The IC-PDW runs on the LWRC’s patented self-regulating short-stroke piston system. The design eliminates the gas and carbon build up in the receiver and bolt carrier group and enhances reliability and reduces felt recoil and muzzle rise. It is important to note that, even with the piston system, the LWRC rifles retain 80% parts commonality with traditional direct impingement rifles. Access to the piston is gained by loosening two retaining screws and removing the top portion of the rail assembly. The design captures the retaining screws and allows for easy maintenance in the field.
To get the back end of the PDW as short as possible, the buffer tube was shortened from the standard 6.5” length to a mere 3.5”. This design reduces the operating space for bolt travel by 46%! That detail alone should quantify the challenge of shortening the M4 to meet the DHS requirements. The collapsible stock rides on two steel rails and, when released, extends the stock approximately 4.5”. The ribbed butt plate is machined from a solid piece of aluminum and provides a solid and stable mounting surface. The shortened buffer tube resulted in LWRC designing a completely new bolt carrier and buffer components. The new design incorporates a buffer that is integrated into the rear of the redesigned bolt carrier. To enhance reliability and service life, LWRC engineers replaced the standard buffer spring with a flat wire spring. This design requires both takedown pins to be pushed out to allow the upper to be separated from the lower.
Prior to hitting the range, we installed an Aimpoint Micro T-2 using a LaRue Tactical mount. The T-2 offers improved performance over the T-1 with a new lens coating that improves both light transmission and clarity. Most noticeable is the redesigned case that provides protective wings for the elevation adjustment and flip-up lens covers that will make Micro users very happy. Like the T-1, the T-2 has eight daylight settings and four settings that are compatible with night vision. A single 3V Lithium provides 50,000 hours of constant run time at a daylight setting. Finally, new steel helicoil inserts, for the mounting screws, are less likely to be stripped and are easily replaced. The T-2 is the next evolution in red dot optics and is unsurpassed in durability, functionality, and battery life. For those not needing a night vision capability, the Aimpoint H-2 will fill the bill at a slightly reduced price. Recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation adopted the H-2 Micro for all of their regional tactical teams.
Given the small size and low profile of the IC-PDW, I selected to mount my SureFire Mini-Scout light using S&S Precision’s IFM Rigid mount. This mount incorporates both a mounting clamp and the battery tube. To use the IFM mount, I simply attached the head and the rear switch plate from my Mini-Scout. When mounted to the top Picatinny rail, the body of the light tucks neatly in the 11 o-clock position. Due to the short rail, I had to mount the light slightly to the rear in order for the head to clear the base of the BUIS. This required bringing the support hand back to the front of the magazine well in order to access the rear switch. I did not find this to be an issue on a super short SBR.
On the range, the IC-PDW was boringly reliable with a variety of commercial and military loads. For accuracy testing, I installed a Leupold MK4 2.5-8X36mm M2 tactical scope using a LaRue SPR. Shooting from a bench using the wire stock proved challenging but was not uncomfortable and did not beat up the shooter’s face. I used three proven defensive rounds for testing. We tested Hornady’s 55-gr. Urban Tap, Hornady’s 62-gr. Barrier load and Ruag’s Swiss P Styx Action 62-gr. round. The 55-gr. TAP averaged 2,420 fps while the 62-gr. Barrier averaged 2,279. The Ruag averaged 2,446 fps. The PDW lived up to my expectations and proved to be exceptionally accurate at 100 yards with all three loads. The 55 gr. TAP produced a group that measured 1.35” while the 62 gr. Barrier’s group measured 1.25”. The Ruag group opened up to a still acceptable 2.10”.
The real fun came when we mounted the Aimpoint T-2 Micro and worked quick drills with multiple rounds and target transitions. The key to shooting the IC-PDW is to have a positive cheek weld on the buffer tube, not the rail. When this position was used, the little rifle proved to be fast and accurate. The LaRue absolute co-index mount reduced the profile of the optic while providing a proper mounting location for rapid indexing.
The IC-PDW was especially handy when deploying for vehicle operations and when operating in confined environments. It is also well suited for protective details when larger rifles are too obtrusive to be utilized. Being easily concealed, it is also ideal for high-risk undercover and surveillance operations for both the military and law enforcement communities.
And, thanks to the constant product refinement that LWRC undergoes with all its firearms, these projects help the company develop better and better products for the civilian market as well. So, if you are in the market for a high-quality AR and want one that is made by a proven manufacturer, then you should definitely take a look at an LWRC.