Desert Design’s D39-SD carbine, an upstart on the submachine gun landscape
With such a wide spectrum of guns available, it’s difficult to actually classify one as being truly iconic. However, that rare air is indeed reserved for the submachine gun. Even inside this very specific category we find one special gun that rises above all others: the integrally suppressed submachine gun. King in that class is the H&K MP5SD. For decades this gun was the cornerstone of counterterrorism units across the world. Easily recognized by even the greenest of gun aficionados, the MP5SD is seen as the gold standard for
pistol-caliber, full-auto-capable weapons.
For a plethora of reasons this gun has gone largely unchallenged. That has now changed as Desert Design Development (D3) has introduced what they believe to be a superior integrally suppressed submachine gun. Say hello to the D3-9SD.
Dubbed the “Ultimate Urban Carbine,” it is a short-barreled rifle built on an AR platform that’s primarily chambered for 9mm. The engineers at Desert Design have created a suppressor unit that shrouds and integrates with the barrel, which creates an especially quiet weapon. The major upside to the AR platform is its familiarity of operation and ease of use by virtually anyone; the learning curve to using the weapon is almost non-existent. An added bonus feature of this particular SMG is the fact that it runs on standard Glock-style magazines. This is a move which shows vision from the designers. This carbine is designed to complement existing Glock sidearms and give users the tactical advantage of carrying only one cal-
“An added bonus feature of this particular SMG is the fact that it runs on standard Glock-style magazines.”
iber magazine and sharing it on both pistol and carbine. Utilizing Glock 17, 19, and 18 magazines, it allows quick transition from the pistol to an extremely quiet and accurate suppressed carbine.
The ability to customize that AR-15 users enjoy carries over to the D3-9SD as well. The weapon is designed to allow for standard AR drop-in triggers, aftermarket safeties, and any other AR design furniture on the market. The overall length of the gun ranges from 23 to 29 inches depending on the stock you choose to mount. The unique lower is milled from 7075 billet aluminum and is dedicated to the Glock-style magazine. While some companies insert blocks into the magazine well to make this happen, the D3 is a dedicated weapon. It is billet machined and its finish is hard-coat anodized. Desert Design is also in the process of developing an even shorter “K” version. The barrel with suppressor length is only 14 inches which makes
“The claim of this gun being superior to the H&K MP5SD is a bold statement indeed.”
this a nice small package for carry and use. While building it as an Ar-style weapon, the designers included an enhanced bolt carrier as well as a 9mm-specific brass deflector. The D3-9SD has a 9-inch forend with a choice of Keymod or quad rails. While relatively short, it allows users to mount critical items like lights. The gun is finished out with a Magpul K2 grip and MOE stock. While primarily chambered in 9mm, Desert Design will also have models set up to run 40 S&W and .45 ACP, as well as 10mm for the more adventurous among us. The entire gun weigh in at just over 7 pounds, which is close to the standard weight of a full-size M4. Some may question the weight, but it’s important to remember that this includes the suppressor. This is a very manageable weight that not only makes it easy to carry, but helps manage recoil as well. For those now quietly grumbling about the process to obtain a full-auto SBR, you should know that Desert Design feels your pain. Along with a version designed for law enforcement and military use, they offer a semi-auto version for everyone else. NFA rules obviously still apply, but this gem is definitely obtainable.
The claim of this gun being superior to the H&K MP5SD is a bold statement indeed. With that being said, testing the D3-9SD quickly moved on to the schedule. The gun
“Dubbed the ‘Ultimate Urban Carbine,’ it is a short barreled rifle built on an AR platform that’s primarily chambered for 9mm.”
we received was chambered in 9mm and was a select fire version. Our first impressions were that the gun is well made and lightweight with a great deal of attention paid the to details. The quality of its fit and finish is not an accident. The designers at D3 understand that if they're going to make a claim as bold as theirs, they need to back it up. The only additional accoutrement we received was a Trijicon MRO optic.
Overall, range testing was enjoyable.
First up was shooting the gun for groups. While not known for superior accuracy, the submachine gun is much more capable
“The weapon is designed to allow for standard AR drop-in triggers, aftermarket safeties, or any other AR furniture on the market.”
than some might believe. For this test we utilized three different types of ammunition. These included Remington UMC 9mm Luger 115 Grain Full Metal Jacket, Aguila 9mm Luger 115 Grain Full Metal Jacket, and Federal American Eagle 9mm Luger
115 Grain Full Metal Jacket. The five-shot groups were performed from a bench with a support bag to rest the weapon on. This created a very stable testing platform. Each flavor of ammunition performed well in the D3-9SD. The best group we got came from the Remington ammunition with a group of 1 ½ inches. Of course, even during the group shooting the focus was on the actual sound of the gun. D3’s claim of exceptional suppression held true during our testing. The gun was very quiet even with standard ball ammunition. With the introduction of subsonic ammunition the gun was almost comically quiet. I loaded a few magazines with Magtech 9mm Luger Subsonic 147gr FMJ and the gun became the weapon people in Hollywood put in movies. Already hearing safe, the introduction of subsonic ammo dropped muzzle sound dramatically. The last test regarding ammunition came as I loaded several magazines with a variety of duty/ personal protection ammunition. While not as quiet as our sub-sonic ammo, the hollow point ammunition was still hearing safe and ran well with no malfunctions. This in my mind was one of the more critical tests as the gun has the option of being a dedicat-
“subsonic ammunition makes the gun almost comically quiet.”
ed duty weapon and reliable function is test number one.
The shooting bench is not exactly the natural habitat for a submachine gun so it was soon time to let it off the leash and run it as intended. This is where the D3-9SD really began to shine. The gun was comfortable and easy to run. Unlike its German counterpart, all of the manipulations of the gun including safety operation were within easy reach, requiring no change in position. The trigger on the demo gun was a standard mil-spec version which was a bit stiff, but that would be quickly remedied with a new drop-in trigger. The cyclic rate was well balanced
“The Desert Design D3-9SD has addressed many challenges by taking the magic of the H&K and putting it into an AR platform.”
and muzzle rise was negligible. Accuracy opened up as expected but still remained much better than other weapons. The mix of a low-recoil 9mm round and a seven pound gun allowed us to quickly engage steel at close quarters all the way out to 75 yards with no issues whatsoever. The gun gained extra stars when it came time for reloads. The dedicated Glock magazine well made those reloads fast and effortless. The overall small size of the weapon make it feel as if you’re reloading a large pistol as opposed to a rifle—fast, smooth, and allow you to get back into the fight with only a momentary break. The Trijicon MRO was a great choice for this gun as its large, clear aperture made for quick target engagement. The two also made a great pairing as we ran the gun from a variety of non-traditional positions such as urban prone and around various barricades. At the end of the testing, we stood over a veritable pile of brass, visibly impressed with the rifle.
As a submachine gun instructor, I have a special place in my heart for the MP5SD and its place in the gun world. That same instructor responsibility though has allowed me to see the challenges students face with the MP5SD in regards to operation. The Desert Design D3-9SD has addressed many of those challenges by taking the magic of the H&K and putting it into an AR platform. It is a brilliant move and one that we support. While not a giant player in the firearms world, Desert Design and Development has certainly fired a suppressed shot that will be heard around the world.
“This carbine is designed to complement existing Glock sidearms and give the tactical advantage of carrying only one caliber magazine, sharing it on both pistol and carbine.”
The unique lower is milled from 7075 billet aluminum and is dedicated to Glock-style magazines.
D3 has designed a suppressor unit that shrouds and integrates with the barrel and creates an exceptionally quiet weapon.
The D3-9SD has a 9-inch forend with a choice of Keymod or quad rails. While relatively short, it allows users to mount critical items like lights.
The only additional accoutrement we received was a Trijicon MRO optic, which was a great choice for quick target engagement.
Our first impressions were that the gun is well made and lightweight with a great deal of attention paid the to details. The quality of fit and finish is accident.
The dedicated Glock mag well made the process of reloading quick and easy.