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With a wide spectrum of guns available, it’s sometimes difficult to actually classify one as being truly iconic. However, that rarified 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 most rookie of gun aficionados, the MP5 SD is seen as the gold standard for pistol-caliber full-auto capable weapons. For a plethora of reasons, this gun has gone largely unchallenged.

However that has now changed, because Desert Design & Development (D3) has introduced what it believes to be a superior integrally suppressed submachine gun. Say hello to the D3-9SD.

“The gun was very quiet, even with standard ball ammunition. With the introduction of subsonic ammunition, the gun was almost comically quiet.”


Dubbed the “ultimate urban carbine,” the D3-9SD is a short-barrelled 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 up side to the AR platform is its familiarity of operation and ease of use by anybody in the industry. The learning curve to using this weapon is almost nonexistent, because the manual of arms is based on the standard AR-15.

“The dedicated Glock magazine well made reloads fast and effortless.”

An additional bonus feature of this SMG is the fact that it runs on standard, Glock-style magazines. This is a move that shows vision from the designers. Glock handguns are, by far, the most popular pistols carried by law enforcement across the country. This carbine is designed to complement the existing Glock handguns and give them the tactical advantage of carrying only one magazine caliber and share it on both pistol and carbine. Utilizing the Glock 17, 19 and 18 magazines, it allows quick transition from a sidearm to an extremely quiet and accurate suppressed carbine.



Custom Time

The ability to customize the AR-15 that users enjoy carries over to the D3-9SD, as well. This weapon is designed to allow for standard AR drop-in triggers and aftermarket safeties in 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 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 barrel with suppressor length is only 14 inches, which makes this a nice small package for carry and use. While 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 such as lights. The gun is finished out with a Magpul K2 grip and MOE stock.


The D3-9SD is primarily chambered in 9mm; however, 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 comes in at slightly more than 7 pounds, which is close to the standard weight of a full-sized M4 rifle. Some might question the weight, but it is important to remember that this includes the suppressor. This is a very manageable weight that makes it easy to carry and also manage recoil.

“ … the gun became the weapon people in Hollywood put in movies.”

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 the law enforcement and military world, this manufacturer also has a semi-auto version for everyone else. NFA rules obviously still apply, but this gem is definitely obtainable.


Test Time

Making the claim of being superior to the H&K MP5SD is a pretty bold deal, indeed. With that being said, testing the D3-9SD quickly moved on to the schedule. 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 and lightweight and shows a great deal of attention to detail. The Fit and finish of the gun are not an accident. The designers at D3 understand that if they’re going to make a claim, they need to back it up. The only addition to the gun I received was the installation of a Trijicon MRO optic. Range testing was enjoyable. First up was shooting the gun for groups. While not known for its superior accuracy, the submachine gun is much more capable than some people 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 1½ 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 147-grain FMJ, and the gun became the weapon people in Hollywood put in movies. It is already hearing safe, but the introduction of the 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 subsonic ammo, the hollow-point ammunition was still hearing safe and ran well, with no malfunctions. In my mind, this was one of the more-critical tests, because 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. Unlike its German counterpart, all 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 and a bit stiff, but that would 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. The mix of a low-recoil 9mm round with a 7-pound gun allowed me to quickly engage steel at super-close-quarter distance out to 75 yards with no issue what so ever. The gun gained extra stars when it came time for reloads. The dedicated Glock magazine well made reloads fast and effortless.

The overall small size of the weapon made it feel as if I were reloading a large pistol (as opposed to a rifle). Reloads were fast and smooth and allowed me to get back into the fight with only a momentary break. The Trijicon MRO was a great choice for this gun, because its clear, large aperture made for quick target engagement. They also made a great pairing as I ran the gun from a variety of nontraditional positions, such as urban prone and around various barricades. At the end of the testing, I stood over a pile of brass and impressed with the rifle.

As a submachine gun instructor, I have a special place in my heart for the MP5SD and its magical place in the gun world. However, that same instructor responsibility has allowed me to see the challenges students face with the MP5 SD in regard 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 I support. While not a giant player in the firearms world, Desert Design and Development has certainly fired a suppressed shot that will be heard ’round the world.


Desert Design and Development’s D3-9SD Carbine

Upper: Aero Precision M4E1 upper, forged 7075-T6 aluminum

Forend: Aero Precision enhanced 9-inch (Keymod or Quadrail), 6061-T6 aluminum.

Barrel: D3LLC, 4140 steel, 6.75 inches, match grade, ported

Twist rate: 1:10 twist

Suppressor: 12 inches, 1.625 inches in diameter, 6061-T6 aluminum

Lower: Gen1, quarter circle, 10 GSF; billet 7075-T6 aluminum

Fire control group: Standard MIL-SPEC

Stock: MVB

Pistol grip: Magpul MOE K2

MSRP: $2,699




Velocity Avg. Group Best Group

Remington UMC 9mm 115-grain FMJ

1,145 2 inches 1½ inches

Aguila 9mm 115-grain FMJ

1,250 2½ inches

2 inches

Federal American Eagle 9mm 115-grain FMJ


2¾ inches

2¼ inches

Note: Bullet weight was measured in grains, velocity in fps and accuracy in inches for three five-shot groups at 25 yards. 


Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the August 2016 print issue of Gun World Magazine.