Photo: Fred Mastison

Photo: Fred Mastison

There are few moments in history that drastically change the direction of American law enforcement. As a rule, police agencies are measured and methodical about changes, with most taking place at a glacial pace. One such drastic event occurred on Feb. 28, 1997.

On that day dispatch received traffic from an LAPD patrol unit calling for assistance with a "211 in progress." It was quickly followed by "Shots Fired–Require Backup." This call would forever change the law enforcement weapons culture. It was the beginning of the infamous North Hollywood Bank Robbery shootout where the LAPD ended up engaging two heavily armed suspects determined to avoid capture after a bank robbery.

The two robbers in that 1997 gunfight were armed with fully automatic rifles while the responding officers were equipped only with a variety of handguns and the rare shotgun. The two suspects were not only heavily armed, but they also wore body armor, which the police stood little chance of defeating with handguns. This situation eventually drove several officers to enter a local gun store where they secured rifles to engage the suspects. The fight continued until SWAT arrived and the suspects were stopped.

In the end there were more than 2,000 rounds fired by both sides, resulting in 18 casualties and two fatalities. This was one of the longest and bloodiest shootouts in American law enforcement history. The incident would change the law enforcement community's view on rifles and the need to include rifles in patrol cars.

In the years after North Hollywood, the AR-15 rifle became the "go-to" long gun for law enforcement. The AR is light, easy to shoot, and was relatively inexpensive. Additionally, many officers across the country had prior military service and were already familiar with how to operate the AR-15 platform.

Today, the AR-15 and some AR-15 variants remain the most popular law enforcement patrol rifles. But there are alternatives. One alternative patrol rifle platform that recently came to my attention is the D3-9SD rifle from Desert Design and Development.

Designed for Duty

Desert Design has dubbed the D3-9SD the "ultimate urban carbine." It is an integrally suppressed 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 continuing popularity of the AR platform is its familiarity of operation and ease-of-use by just about anyone in American law enforcement. The learning curve to using this weapon is almost non-existent, as the manual of arms is based on the standard AR-15. An additional bonus feature of the D3-9SD is the fact that it runs on standard Glock-style magazines.

This shows vision from the designers who wanted their new carbine to appeal to police. Glock handguns are by far the most popular pistol carried by law enforcement across the country. This carbine is designed to complement officers' existing Glock handguns and give them the tactical advantage of carrying only one caliber of magazine that they share between their pistol and 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 and aftermarket safeties in any other AR design furniture on the market.

Overall length of the D3-9SD gun ranges from 23 inches to 29 inches, depending on the stock. 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 gun is a dedicated weapon. It is billet machined and hard coat anodized for the finish. Desert Design is also in the process of developing an even shorter "K" version. The D3-9SD's barrel with suppressor length is only 14 inches, which makes it a nice small package for carry and use.

While the D3-9SD was built as an AR-style weapon, the designers have 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 key mod or a quad rail. While small, 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 carbine tips the scales at just over seven pounds, which is close to the standard weight of a full-sized M4 rifle. Some may question the weight, but it is important to remember that this includes the suppressor. This is a very manageable weight that not only makes it easy to carry, but to manage recoil as well. The weapon is designed to be delivered in a semi-automatic version as well as a select fire (full-auto, three-round burst, single shot) version.

Out on the Range

Any weapon that is purported to be the next greatest thing in law enforcement will have to do some serious convincing on the range. With that in mind, I set out to test the D3-9SD.

The gun I received was chambered in 9mm and was a select-fire version. First impressions of the gun were that it is well made, lightweight, and the manufacturer paid a great deal of attention to detail. Fit and finish of the gun are not an accident. The designers at D3 understand that if they're going to make claims of excellence, as they have, they need to back them up.

Range testing was enjoyable. First up was shooting the gun for groups. While not exactly known for its accuracy, the submachine gun is much more capable than most believe. For this test we utilized three different types of ammunition, including 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.

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 functionally well in the D3-9SD. The best group we got came from the Remington ammunition at 1.5 inches.

With the D3-9SD being an integrally suppressed rifle, the focus kept drifting toward the actual sound of the gun. D3's claim of exceptional suppression held true during my testing. The gun was quiet even with standard ball ammunition. And with the introduction of subsonic ammunition, the D3-9SD 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 produced a dramatic reduction in muzzle sound.

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 subsonic 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 dedicated duty weapon and reliable function is test number one.

The shooting bench is not exactly the native territory for a submachine gun so it was 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. All of the manipulations of the gun, including safety operation, were within easy reach with no change in position. The trigger on the demo gun was a standard mil spec version which was a bit stiff, but that can be quickly remedied with a new drop in trigger. The cyclic rate was well balanced and muzzle rise was negligible. Accuracy opened up as expected but still remained much better than other weapons I have fired in this class.

The mix of low recoil 9mm rounds with a seven-pound gun allowed me to quickly engage steel at super close-quarter distance out to 75 yards with no issue whatsoever. The gun gained extra stars when it came time for reloads. The dedicated Glock magazine well made it easy to perform reloads fast and with little effort. The overall small size of the weapon made it feel as if I were reloading a large pistol as opposed to a rifle. They were fast, smooth, and allowed me to get back into the fight with only a momentary break. At the end of the testing I stood over a pile of brass impressed with the rifle.

Add it to the List

My take away from this testing is that there is a real place in the law enforcement community for a rifle chambered in a pistol caliber. With the advances in 9mm ammunition performance, the arguments of ineffectiveness are null. Understand that this is not meant to replace a rifle chambered in 5.56 NATO. There will always be a need for that insurance policy should problems need solving at longer ranges or the bad guys come to the fight in armor.

This gun is solid at 50 yards and shines at 25 yards. It would make an excellent active shooter response weapon as well as an entry gun for tactical units. Once again I reference the ability to use an officer's own duty mags to keep it fed and a load out list begins to shrink. Add to this the fact that it is suppressed and the interest should be high. The D3-9SD is a good fit for modern law enforcement. While not a giant player in the firearms world, Desert Design and Development has certainly fired a suppressed shot that I believe will be heard throughout the industry.

Fred Mastison is a law enforcement firearms instructor and professional writer. He is the president of Force Options Tactical Training Solutions and teaches classes in the United States, Europe, and Central America.

Shooting the Desert Design and Development D3-9SD Carbine

Ammunition                              Velocity                        Average Group Best Group

                                                (feet per second)          (inches)                        (inches)

Remington UMC 9mm 115-grain FMJ  1145    2          1.5

Aguila 9mm 115-grain FMJ      1250    2.5       2

Federal American Eagle 9mm 115-grain FMJ   1160    2.75     2.25

Note: Groups calculated by three 5-shot groups at 25 yards.

Desert Design and Development D3-9SD Carbine Specs

Caliber: 9mm

Magazine Capacity: 33 rounds in Glock-type mag

Overall Length: 26 or 30 inches, depending on stock

Barrel Length: 13.5 inches (6.75-inch barrel inside 12-inch suppressor)

Barrel: 4140 Moly match grade with blueprinted ports. 1:10 twist

Lower: 7075-T6 forged aluminum

Upper and Handguard: 6160-T6 aluminum

Features: Built-in suppressor, 9-inch Keymod handguard, Magpul K2 grip, Magpul MOE mil-spec stock, comes with one extended capacity magazine

Price: $2,700

www.d3llc.com

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