As a general rule, soldiers are issued a single rifle that is intended to serve all battle purposes. Personal defense for officers, air crewman, armor crewman and support personal has normally been with pistols. Pistols are very compact but ineffective at all but the shortest of ranges due to cartridge and ergonomic limitations.
Efforts to increase the effectiveness of pistols have lead to miniaturized sub-machineguns such as the Mini-Uzi, MAC M10, HK MP-5PDW. Unfortunately, the major issue of this approach became apparent with the development of modern soft body armor which is generally not defeated by pistol-calibers.
Recently some branches of the military have been issuing shorter carbine versions of issue rifles such as the M4. While useful as a primary weapon for close-quarters battle, carbines like the M4 must still be carried and used like a rifle due to their bulk and weight.
Some weapons have been designed for this grey area between pistol and rifle and are generally called PDWs (Personal Defense Weapons). Systems like the HK MP-7, FN P90 have defined the capabilities of the PDW by offering recoil controllability, armor defeat capabilities and compact size factor.
While the capability of this latest class of weapons fills the gray area between the pistol and the rifle, it comes with some drawbacks. Primarily, both the MP-7 and the P90 utilize exotic ammunition and proprietary magazines that are not interchangeable with any other system whether it is a pistol, carbine or rifle. This situation creates an undue logistical burden since a completely new set of consumable materials must be manufactured, transported, stockpiled and distributed to soldiers in the field.
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