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PWS Diablo – Versatile, Devilish

Although I had previously owned an AR type pistol I never thought of it as the type of system with the potential to “fit right in” with my personal firearm configuration in some, meaningful way. I guess that I simply never gave it that much thought, to me the AR type pistol was a thing, a bit on the fancy side.

What do you do with an AR type pistol anyhow? An AR type pistol seems to be the type of thing that gets EVERYONE on the forums screaming “SBR that thing”. Somehow an AR type pistol without a stock seems counter intuitive to many, while owning an SBR seems to go against the sensibilities of others.

So, who is buying these things? A bunch of forum dwellers anxiously awaiting their treasury tax stamps approval so that they can join the droves of other persons who were willing to spend 200 bucks and wait months on end to say that they’ve got one? I don’t honestly know who these people are. But, what I can tell you is that since I purchased the PWS Diablo I have come to see the AR type pistol as far more purposeful and versatile than I had previously thought, and I won’t be filing for a treasury tax stamp to make it an SBR, ever.


AR Pistol

Prior to owning the PWS Diablo I had owned a Bushmaster carbon 15 pistol, the later incarnation of the carbon 15, as opposed to the original.

At one time my carbon 15 was actually the only AR type that I had on hand. And I was very glad to have it, as I could stay sharp on my reloads and various other drills much the same as I could will a full size carbine. Purchasing the Bushmaster pistol was not something that I gave very much thought to at the time. I simply had the money and I bought it. I don’t know why, I suppose I must have liked the way it looked. These days my purchases are given quite a bit more careful consideration. If I can’t make a serious case for a weapon, I don’t buy it.

I had been struggling with the PDW concept for some time. I had determined that I needed a gun that I could better fight from a vehicle with and I felt that a PDW style weapon was best suited to fulfill this purpose. I had the opportunity to snatch up a FNH PS90 from an associate and for as much as I was thoroughly tempted to do so; I talked myself out of it. The FNH PS90 carbine had too many chinks in its armor, as far as fitting in with my current configuration goes, and in other ways as well.

Long story short I had to pass on a ridiculously good deal that I could have got on the PS90, had I elected to purchase it.

The first option that presents itself is seldom the best option, so I got to thinking that I could do better. Before I could even begin to rack my brain a different associate was tossing links at me to the PWS website. Now this was interesting!

It wasn’t like the PWS Diablo was the first AR type pistol that I had ever laid eyes upon, but for a variety of reasons it really truly grabbed me. And it was not just the looks of it. I had skimmed through the product description and I wanted to know more about this – “The PWS proprietary operating system utilizes an operating rod that is attached to the carrier and a floating head piston that is attached to the operating rod.” Fanfuckingtastic! Maybe not the most appropriate sentiment for a blog post, but those were the first words that came to mind.

To me, this system seemed to have all the ear marks of the rugged and dependable AK47 embodied in the far superior operating body of an AR type, pistol… So, I decided that I probably had to have one.



However, before I make any purchase, I first needed to do some serious research. Fortunately, I am typically able to draw on a variety of first person resources in these matters. What I found on the web seemed promising, a steady flow of comments ranging from superb balance, excellent fit and finish and good accuracy to total reliability. Many other comments included rating the PWS against other brands, many stating that they held the PWS to be “better than” many formidable brands and on “on par” with still other very heavy hitters in the industry. Many on the forums also praised the configuration of the piston system, sometimes, simply for being “different”. This is certainly the type of feedback that sells guns. And I found myself being more and more sold on the concept as I continued to research. So, back to those first person resources that I mentioned.


I wanted to talk to someone who I knew firsthand about PWS, maybe even someone who actually rolls around in the dirt or the sand for a living. I started making calls to a few guys who I know are especially good at keeping tabs on who rolls with what gear. A few calls in, I hit pay dirt.

I called a buddy of mine, an old school type who we often times joke about his age. He confirmed that “we” did in fact know a guy who runs a PWS.   “You remember Rusty… he has been running a PWS, can tell you all about it”.

The only problem was that I did not know the guy my friend was talking about, this “Rusty”. The funny part was that my friend insisted that I did. We went round and round about this for some time. I tried to put the wraps on the conversation by asking for Rusty’s phone number, so I could get on with finding out what I needed to know. My friend responded “hold on, he’s right here” and handed him the phone saying “it’s Colin” to.. Rusty.  I began to worry that Rusty was part of some kind of geriatric convention my friend was having, it turned out that he wasn’t, and that we sure as hell did NOT know one another. First we had a huge laugh about our friend, and then we got to talking about the PWS system.

Rusty was a retired operator who worked a variety of boarder land gigs as a semi independent contractor. Much of what he did involved riding around on an ATV in the desert and when he is not on an ATV he is often times on foot. Interesting stuff, but more interesting still was his assessment of the PWS. Rusty has worked in Iraq and Afghanistan and according to him he always had an AK at his disposal, as a rule.

Rusty didn’t think too highly of the M4 in these environments and he had a lot of interesting anecdotes and stories to back his position on the matter up. In short, he was not a fan of gas impingement systems. In regards to the PWS, it was the only AR type system that Rusty had come to trust. He admittedly would have never laid hands on one had some of the companies that he contracted with not allowed him to work with a “menacing” AK.

Rusty felt good about the PWS, and the feedback that he provided was of the sobering straight forward variety. Not allot of fancy talk, no mention of the fit and finish or non free float vs a free floating system. Rusty didn’t care about any of that, what he did care about was that it was always ready to “take out a hog” or anything else for that matter.

Moving on.

Colin Despins Review - PSW Diablo

My discussion with Rusty more or less sealed the deal for me. As opposed to running in circles on the web looking for contradictory feedback that centered on the usual talking points, I spoke at length with a man who inspired confidence in my conclusions. It was refreshing to say the least.

When my PWS Diablo arrived I was ready for it. More ready perhaps than for any other purchase in recent memory. I had carved out in my mind the purpose and the mission, and the PWS Diablo was the tool. It was to be my truck gun and would fast become more than just that.

I went about introducing the PWS to a variety of persons; co-workers, friends for the most part. The PWS Diablo was greeted by a barrage of enthusiasm. Most were impressed with the outward appearance of the Diablo and the piston system. I even gave an NRA Training Counselor a start when I produced the PWS Diablo to shoot for a test that required that we bring a “pistol” of our choosing.


I had been transporting the Diablo around for some time in the carry sleeve of my Eberlestock Gun slinger pack. Then I found a friend carrying an AR pistol in a 5.11 Select Carry Sling Pack. I was astounded that I had not thought of this myself. I had been transporting the Diablo in my Eberlestock Gunslinger for some time, and when I put on the pack I knew that I was carrying it concealed. However, it had not crossed my mind to carry it concealed in some manner of standalone pack. So, I immediately went online and ordered one.

This simple realization changed my entire mindset in regards to the Diablo. I had transported/carried it to and fro work in much the same manner, and had packed it along whenever I traveled any considerable distance from home. However, I did not always carry it from my home to my vehicle. I had to ask myself, why the hell not? And that was all it took, as opposed to transporting the PWS Diablo with me less than half the time I was now able to not only transport but effectively carry the PWS with me whenever I wanted.


PSW Diablo Max Venom Review

I started to have a feeling the PWS was lacking a little extra something. I had kept the Diablo in its stock configuration for quite some time, but felt that it needed… something. I had tried on a magpul Angled Fore Grip but it didn’t do anything for me. I had also tried on an Eotech at the insistence of a friend who had run an SBR in his line of work, but it was too much for my taste and added a sort of bulky feeling to the sleek form of the Diablo. So, I settled in and allowed the wanting to pass.

Shortly thereafter a co-worker who had returned from a shooting match had an interesting thing to show me, a prize he had won at his match. The prize was a 6 moa model Vortex Razor red dot and he showed it to me enthusiastically, in both that he had won it and that he knew that I was known to be familiar with the Vortex line. I had never seen this particular product in person and I was most sincerely impressed.

Having looked at the Vortex Razor red dot online I didn’t quite know what to make of it. For starters I believed that I had no particular use for a red dot this small, and in addition I have general predisposition of distrust of most all manner of electronic devices that are… small. However, I was struck by the rugged construction of this small device and fascinated with the fast acquisition potential of the 6 MOA read dot.

Before I had actually began to give the Vortex Razor serious consideration, we “tried it on” the Diablo, just for kicks. After a few trial placements of the Razor red dot I settled on spot for it, third groove foreword of the shell deflector to be precise. And something about it just seemed to strike me as a perfect fit. The Vortex Razor red dot didn’t come with the riser that most would want in order to have a true co-witness, but that didn’t seem to matter much to me. With the magpul sights flipped down and by bringing the Diablo up to the customary sight level, my eye readily tracked to the 6 MOA red dot.

With the sights flipped up they blocked out the red dot and the front sight could be readily viewed through the aperture just over the crest of the red dots sight window. I know that this might send plenty of folks scuttling to order the riser, but I have never been a big co-witness fan, and under either circumstance my eye seemed to naturally track to the proper point of aim… So, I ended up buying one, without the riser.

Since receiving my Vortex Razor the PWS Diablo has seemed all the more complete. In some ways the Vortex Razors seems as if it were built to compliment the platform. Furthermore, I may have an addition carbine/rifle acquisition on the horizon; I am already strongly considering outfitting it with a Vortex Razor 6 MOA red dot!

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