Range Review: Desert Design D3-9SD

posted on January 13, 2020

There has been an incredible growth in the pistol-caliber carbine (PCC) market over the last couple of years. The reasons are many, but the core is that they simply are enjoyable to shoot. You get a familiar manual of arms in an AR-15-style platform but shooting a low recoiling pistol round such as 9 mm. The design was seen as a bit of an outlier when they first started popping up, but I quickly reminded people of a little gun called the MP5. I am also quick to remind people that the 9 mm submachine gun world has been solid for decades. It is a bit surprising that it has taken this long for companies to embrace the PCC in a semi-automatic format that is available to the general public.

One thing I see quite often when people head down the PCC path is a desire to suppress the gun. The next thing is that they want it in an SBR platform to complete the package. This can be a pain to do on your own, but there is an Arizona company that offers just such a package. It is in fact even slicker than just throwing a can on a gun, as the company has designed its rifle to be integrally suppressed. The company is Desert Design, and the gun is the D39SD.

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 fact that they use an AR platform makes the gun exceptionally easy to run. The gun is designed to use Glock magazines, which is a huge plus in my book because of the abundance and reliability of the mags. There is also a hearty aftermarket selection of larger capacity mags from people like ETS. Not quite happy with a 17-round Glock mag? No problem, there are mags that hold as many as 40 rounds at your fingertips.

A side note on the D39SD using Glock mags. This is a solid home-defense option to consider, simply because so many folks carry Glocks. This would give the tactical advantage of carrying only one type of magazine that can be shared between pistol and carbine. It would allow a quick transition from a sidearm to an extremely quiet and accurate suppressed carbine.

Like any other AR, the D39SD can be customized via aftermarket items such as triggers, stock and sights. As an SBR the gun is small. The overall length of the gun ranges from 22 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 hardcoat anodized for the finish.

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 firearm, the designers have included an enhanced bolt carrier, as well as a 9 mm-specific brass deflector. The D39SD has a 9-inch fore-end with a choice of KeyMod 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. The entire gun comes in just over 7 pounds, which is close to the standard weight of a full-size M4 rifle. Before you jump up and down about the gun weighing 7 pounds, remember that it includes the suppressor.

Shooting-wise, the gun is a solid performer. I used a variety of ammo with a vast majority being standard supersonic fodder. Even with the speedy 9 mm rounds, the gun was easy on the ears, which is why we want to put a can on the gun to begin with. When I introduced subsonic ammo, you could hear the action clearer than the round launching downrange. Yes, it was fun to shoot, and yes, I shared the opportunity with friends at the range. The overall impression was the same. The gun was fun to shoot.  Fit- and finish-wise, the gun is nice. Desert Design has taken its time to make a well-built gun.

Yes, this gun would fall under NFA regulation. In fact, as tested, this would be considered a two-stamp gun because of the SBR design and the suppressor. Making it a pistol is always an option, but the suppressor will still require a stamp. The question then: is it worth it? Well, that depends on the shooter. If you know that down the road you are going to do all of this to your PCC anyway, then heck yes, it is worth it.

The wining factor for me is that the gun is integrally suppressed. It is reminiscent of one of my favorite guns of all time, the MP5-SD. Obviously it is not an impulse purchase coming in at just under $2,000, but it would make one heck of an addition to a serious shooter's collection. If your wallet allows it, the D39SD is worth a serious look.

Desert Design D39SD Specs

Overall Length: 22-29 inches
Barrel/Suppressor Length: 13.5 inches installed
Barrel: 6.75 inches; ported, 4140 steel, 1:10-inch twist, parkerized
Enhanced hybrid bolt carrier
Standard charging handle
PCC Deflector & short dust cover
Aero Precision 9-inch fore-end: choice of KeyMod or quad-rail.
Forged lower: 7075-T6, Hard Coat Anodized
Magpul K2 Grip
Magpul MOE mil-spec stock and 6-position buffer tube
One 30-round magazine
Optics Ready
KNS Precision Stainless Steel Anti-Rotation Pins
Black Discrete Hybrid Soft Carry case. Padded with two internal pockets, carry handle, and shoulder strap. White embroidered D3LLC logo
Base Weight: approximately 7 pounds


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