The production-grade variant of the CS/LS5 sub-machine gun was first introduced at the 2012 edition of the CIPATE – the “China (Beijing) International Exhibition and Symposium on Police Equipment and Anti Terrorism Technology and Equipment” held yearly in the capitol of the People's Republic of China.
Its early prototype had been already showcased at the 2009 edition of the same exhibition as an attempt to create a “Sub-machine gun for Police” that would constitute a counterpart to the well known Heckler & Koch MP5 for the Chinese military and law enforcement community as well as to those Countries – mostly in Africa and in south-east Asia – that purchase the bulk of their armaments from the Chinese arms industry.
The CS/LS5 is manufactured by Chongqing Jianshe Industry Co., Ltd., a private-owned company whose military-oriented products are distributed globally by the State-owned Norinco group; however, a semiautomatic, sporting-oriented variant of the CS/LS5 sub-machine gun, dubbed the SMG9, is also manufactured in China by the SDM - Sino Defense Manufacturing brand and imported exclusively in Europe by the Italy based Prima Armi S.r.l. company.
The SMG9 can be described in many ways – as a “mini-Rifle”, to use the IPSC terms; as a “short-barrel rifle”, as it would be considered under the American laws; as a semiautomatic small-sized carbine; or as a pistol, as it would be classified by many European laws due to its barrel length vs. overall length. It is manufactured originally in a classic 9mm Luger chambering (a.k.a. 9x19mm “Parabellum”), but a rechambered 9x21mm IMI variant will be distributed in Italy, where the use of 9mm Luger ammunition is forbidden on civilian-grade handguns.
Full-scale distribution of the SMG9 is stated to start sometimes in early 2016 in Italy, with other European Countries coming shortly afterwards, but a handful of samples have already been imported by the Prima Armi company for testing and proofing – some of which have been later sold to some lucky collectors. As of today, Italy is the world's only Country where the SDM SMG9 short-barrel rifle is available, and all4shooters.com has been able to secure a test sample for a global premiere!
A look to the inside
At a first glance, the SDM SMG9 is an appealing and yet odd design to behold – half curvy and modern, half boxy and edgy due to the use of stamped steel for the upper receiver in contrast to the use of reinforced polymer for the lower receiver, the folding stock, and the two-parts handguard.
A simple takedown pin, located at the rear end of the upper receiver, keeps the two assemblies together, allowing easy field-stripping once removed. The disassembly would then proceed by removing the return spring from the rear portion of the upper receiver, then by removing the bolt assembly – whose outline closely resembles that of an AK/AKM bolt and bolt carrier group – and finally by removing a second takedown pin that keeps together the two halves of the polymer handguard.
Upon complete takedown, it's clear how, despite a certain degree of aesthetic similarity with the Heckler & Koch MP5, the SDM SMG9 is not a roller-delayed blowback design but a much more unique (for an SMG, that is) gas-operated system. The cocking handle is connected to a small nut that runs within the upper half of the handguard; the front sight base sports a notch with two locking springs that dubs as the gas port, and that's where gas pressure is transmitted to the front tube of the bolt assembly through the cocking handle nut. The gas system on the SMG9 doesn't seem to be adjustable; the CS/LS5 sub-machine gun has instead been upgraded lately with an adjustable gas system allowing the use of sound moderators or riot ammunition launchers.
Much like the MP5, the SDM SMG9 sports no hold-open device. The cocking handle guide slot on the upper half of the handguard of the SDM SMG9 is however pretty much akin to that of the Heckler & Koch MP5 – a feature meant to make the CS/LS5 sub-machine gun easy to familiarize with for those operators who are already used with the German SMG – so that it can be locked open if necessary by pulling it all the way back and then tilting it up in the proper cut.
The reinforced polymer lower receiver hosts the trigger group, the magazine well, and the rest of the controls: a two positions safety switch on the left side, located just above the pistol grip, and two different magazine release systems: a standard button located in a fenced round hollow seat on the left side, to be operated with the left thumb while holding the magazine; and a much more tactical-styled flat lever located just in front of the trigger guard, on the right side, to be activated with the right index finger.
Of course the standard button could also be operated with the left index finger and the tactical flat lever could be operated with the right thumb, making this configuration left-handed shooter capable right out of the box
The black double stack magazines are completely manufactured out of polymer, exception made for a metal elevator spring, and their catch is so sturdy that they require a generous tap to be inserted and won't fall free when released if completely empty and thus too light.
The pistol grip of the SDM SMG9 comes with thumb seats and non-slip serrations on both sides; a bottom plug can be removed, revealing a hollow stowaway compartment that will easily accept batteries, a small cleaning kit, or other similar useful accessories.
The sturdy polymer stock, also featuring a rubber butt-pad, is attached to the lower receiver through a metal plate. The stock is hinged on the plate, and a small and unobtrusive top button allows it to fold on the right side of the SMG9; said button must also be pushed to unfold the stock.
When folded, the stock is extremely close to the ejection window, but despite that, we found out that it wouldn't cause any kind of disturbance to the ejection pattern.
On the left side of the stock plate is the rear sling loop; the front loop is located on the left side of the front sight base.
Speaking of sights, the front sight of the SDM SMG9 is of the hooded kind, sports a round top opening and requires a tool to be adjusted in elevation.
The rear sight is of the peep type and can be adjusted in several positions, more akin to a modern AR-15 type sight than to the MP5 drum type rear sight featured in the early CS/LS5 sub-machine gun prototypes back in 2009.
The SDM SMG9 also sports a 11cm/4.33” long, milled top MIL-STD-1913 “Picatinny” on top of the upper receiver, allowing the use of optical or electro-optical gunsights.
Three shorter Picatinny rails (3.5cm/1.3” of usable surface, 5,5cm/2.16” with their mounting base included) are located at 3,6 and 9-o'clock positions on the lower portion of the handguard, and kept in place by two flat Allen screws each.
Despite their small size, the handguard rails are more than sufficient to host any kind of tactical accessory that a shooter may want to install on his or her SDM SMG9; their major drawback comes in form of sharp edges that may hurt the shooter's hands in case of rough handling, plus the rail located on the left side of the handguard (9-o'clock position) is definitely too close to the cocking handle – meaning that most accessories would hinder operation if installed there.
My suggestion would be to use small-sized add-ons, or to use an Allen key to remove the rails you don't need.
Another component that sports a disturbingly sharp edge is the square cut at the top rear end of the cocking handle guide, meant to allow the shooter to lock the bolt in open position: watch out for it when operating your SMG9, or consider filing it away.
The SDM SMG9 is 46cm/18.11” long with its stock folded, and 69cm/27.1” long with the stock open. Its cold-hammer forged barrel is 216mm/8.5” long and sports six right-handed grooves, with a pitch that's more than apt to stabilize basically every commercial 9mm load out there; indeed, the CS/LS5 sub-machine gun the SMG9 is based on was conceived for very high-pressure loads.
The muzzle sports two step cuts, meant originally as attachment points for a proprietary silencer whose manufacturing status is not known at the moment.
We tested the SDM SMG9 at an outdoors shooting range in northern Sardinia in a sunny July afternoon.
Despite the manufacturing Company's claims about the CS/LS5 sub-machine gun being “ideal” to engage targets up to 80 metres in range (when using high-pressure 9x19mm DAP92-9 Chinese service rounds, mind!) we decided to replicate the average experience of a civilian shooter and test the SDM SMG9 on standard pistol targets located at 20 metres (21.8 yards).
We had our SDM SMG9 outfitted in an “Entry Weapon” configuration with a CAA Tactical MGRIP foregrip, a NexTorch TL1 tactical flashlight and a Vortex SPARC red dot sight.
The SDM SMG9 at the range
The SDM SMG9 provided excellent results from the standing position, returning tight patterns with both Fiocchi “Top Target Plus” and GECO 9x21mm caliber, 124-grains loads: all shots ended up very central, even when dumping two magazines in rapid fire and using the hotter Fiocchi “Black Mamba” loads.
We were assisted in our tests by a skilled shooter, and the accessories we had available helped him to achieve an even better control on the gun.
Was it just sheer luck? That may very well be; we will soon try the SDM SMG9 again in different conditions and with different loads (both factory ammo and handloaded) to see if its performance remains consistent. Sure enough, should that be the case, we would genuinely be surprised: the SDM SMG9 would be a true gem in the mud, well able to stand against several well-known counterparts on the market.
Sure, the SDM SMG9 also owes much of its stability to the overall well-distributed weight (2,5kg/5.51lbs empty, about 2,7kg/5.95lbs with a full 15-rounds magazine in) and to the rigidity and stability of its stock. The recoil level is extraordinarily low, even when dumping mags in rapid fire.
The SDM SMG9 is sold in a cardboard box including the gun, a single magazine, and no instruction manual whatsoever – probably the manufacturing company or the distributor should rethink the packaging. The magazines come out of the factory in a 30-rounds configuration only, but the Prima Armi company can limit them to 5, 10 or 15 rounds to meet local restrictions in several European Countries or elsewhere.
Practically speaking, the SDM SMG9 would be an exceptional small-sized carbine for range shooting, plinking or competition; it would also be a viable alternative for personal, home and property defense, and private security personnel or even Police in those jurisdictions where full-automatic weapons are only available to tactical units.
Its most direct competitors on the market are the MP5 knock-offs, the TP9 and APC models from the Swiss-based B&T company, and the extraordinary CZ Scorpion EVO-3 A1. The SDM SMG9 may be more spartan and austere in its construction, but when mass distribution will kick off, the retail price will also be much lower than what the above-mentioned, well-known competitors are sold for today. And that's not something to be taken lightly nowadays.