Personal Defense Weapons: Everything You Need to Know

Personal defense weapons, or PDWs, are gaining popularity rapidly for their small but efficient nature. That being said, what exactly is a PDW, and are they right for you?

A personal defense weapon (PDW) is a type of firearm that is concealable, usually chambered in a smaller caliber than most rifles. PDWs are meant for personal/self defense, rather than advancing forces.

Definitions in this field can be ambiguous at best, so I’ll do my best to break everything down next.

What Is a PDW?

Personal defense weapons should be thought of as a middle ground between rifles/carbines and pistols.

They’re usually chambered in a round smaller than rifle caliber, but larger than pistol caliber, making them very effective at close ranges.


The P90, a PDW made by FN.

PDWs are meant to be small and lightweight. They’re designed to be capable of defense and security while you’re completing work, unlike a rifle where you’re expecting to use it to defend, attack, etc.

As I’ll mention more below, there’s a lack of a real definition of a PDW. There’s some gray area between them, PCCs, and other types of firearms which may make discerning different ones confusing.

Who Needs a PDW?

PDWs are meant for situations where you’re expecting the possibility of needing to defend something or someone, without that being the goal of the mission.

They’re not great for EDC if you’re a civilian unless you’re working a security job.

If you expect to need the ability to defend property, people, and/or cargo against combatants or even large animals, PDWs may be right for you.

Is a PDW Worth It?

The largest group that uses PDWs are special forces soldiers. If you’re reading this, it’s safe for me to assume that that’s not you.

Of course, just because you might not be in the special forces doesn’t mean that you can’t use a personal defense weapon or that they’re not right for you, but it might put it into perspective just what situations PDWs are made for.

To put it bluntly, if you already have a handgun and a rifle/carbine, you probably don’t need a PDW. Most civilians will never have the specific need for one that would warrant the cost of purchasing one.

That being said, I want one. I can assume many of us enjoy buying new firearms, even though we probably don’t need more than one or two rifles, it’s always good to buy more.

Almost nobody needs a PDW. If you’re looking for a new gun to get, and you have some extra money to throw around then, by all means, go for it!

Disadvantages of a PDW

One of the main disadvantages of a PDW is its larger than pistol size. Of course, this is also one of its main advantages, it all depends on how you look at it.

A PDW would not be a suitable replacement for a handgun, because of how big they are compared to say, a Glock. But they would make a great addition for some extra security.

Many PDWs also have more obscure calibers than 9mm or 5.56, which are two of the most easily obtainable calibers out there. This means that if you get a true PDW, you might have some trouble feeding it.


5.7x28mm, the cartridge for the P90, one of the most popular PDWs.

That being said, there are many options these days in accessible calibers, and you can always build your own in a caliber that you like and are capable of obtaining easily.


The main difference between a PCC and a PDW is that PCCs exclusively use pistol calibers, while PDWs can technically use any caliber. PDWs may also have shorter barrels than PCCs.


A lineup of PCCs, usually chambered in 9MM.


PCC stands for pistol caliber carbine.

Again, this is a place I’m having trouble finding definitive answers. None of these things have legal definitions, and they have different meanings to different people, or people just use the wrong term altogether.

PDWs VS Pistols and Handguns

The main benefit of a PDW over a handgun is the larger caliber size.
Many PDWs have an intermediate cartridge design, which makes them larger than pistol calibers, but smaller than rifle caliber.

Although, as I mentioned before, there’s no singular, authoritative definition of a PDW. Because of this, a personal defense weapon could be chambered in a pistol caliber, like 9mm.

Right now there’s no definitive meaning of these terms, and as long as your firearm has a smaller barrel, and is concealable, you can technically call it a PDW.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that PDWs can be a great option for self defense, especially if you’re in a dangerous area or working in a spot where you expect the potentiality of needing to defend yourself, others, property, or anything else.

They’re probably not the best for EDC, because they’re considerably larger than handguns, but they’re great for security.

A lack of a comprehensive definition of a PDW means that many things can qualify as being one, and there’s far from a legal definition for them, so you might already have one and not even know it!

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