TNW Firearms Aero Survival Pistol Review

| November 5, 2014 | 15 Comments

This is a guest review by CR Williams, firearms instructor and author of “Gunfighting, and Other Thoughts on Doing Violence” volumes 1 and 2. Please visit his Web site at In Shadow In Light – Shepherd

My acquisition of the TNW Firearms Aero Survival Pistol was intended to fill a need for an ‘Urban Truck Gun’ (UTG). What I wanted was a shoulder-mountable gun that could be deployed and fired from inside and around vehicles and in and around buildings. Ideally, it would be small enough to fit into a large shoulder bag, give me solid 100-150-yard capability, and be ‘instant-on’—that is, I could keep it loaded in the vehicle. This precluded carbines, although my original search was for a pistol-caliber-carbine that could run Glock magazines so I could have one support bag for both pistol and UTG.

PCCs that run Glock mags are rare and the reason I found TNW Firearms at first. I was looking at their Aero Survival Rifle when I noticed the pistol version of that. “This,” I thought, “has potential…”

It looks like a 9mm AR pistol from a distance, but then you see the charging handle. It does use a few common AR parts but most are specific to the design. The top rail has more than enough room to mount rifle optics and a bottom rail is included, as are flip-up BUIS. A quick-detach sling mount is set on the end of the buffer tube. And you can not only take it down without tools, you can change calibers as well. 9mm and .40 S&W can be switched by swapping barrels and bolt carriers while .45ACP needs another lower because of the magazine size difference. They are working up a .357Sig option as well. Magazines from G19/G22/G30 and up will fit.

What you get in the box 25per

So far, so good. I had two questions for Shawn at TNW Firearms, Inc. when I called to place my order: Is the ASP rated for +P+ ammunition and can I get the 6.5” barrel as advertised on their website? No problem with +P+, she answered. (So until that .357Sig option comes out I can get nearly the same ballistics if I want.). The short barrel was another issue—not that I couldn’t get one, but a 6.5” barrel turned out to be a little too short. (8” barrels allow enough room for threading for a suppressor. If I go that route I’ll get another barrel. For now, I wanted compact more than suppressible.) But they could cut a standard barrel to 7” for me which is what they did—and shipped it that afternoon.

The weapon is well-constructed and solid. The buffer tube is thinly padded and allows for a cheek weld or—once the quick-detach sling mount is removed—a shoulder mount (though without some sort of additional cover over the end of the tube I do not recommend doing that). The front of the magazine well is curved and the edges are rounded specifically to allow for a magazine-well hold as desired. The SAW-type grip that comes on the ASP is not what I’m accustomed to seeing on stock ARs and is my only quibble with the stock setup—it’s a little too big for my hand and so has been replaced. It is evident that care was taken in the design of the gun and in the manufacturing of the major parts—all edges are rounded and smoothed. The only sharp edges on the gun are on Picatinny rails, one running the full length of the upper and the other included for attachment at the base of the fore-end. There is very little here that will scrape or cut you without some effort on your part.

Controls are simple—magazine release is a button on the left just in front of the magazine well, the safety a push-button style just above the trigger well. Controls cannot be switched, though extraction can be changed from right to left if desired. Learning to operate the pistol is easy.

UTG 2 25 per

Operation is as simple as the control set. Either lock the bolt back or load on a closed bolt (more effort than loading with an open bolt), release or run the bolt. There is an audible click on mag lock, but I suggest a light tug to make sure of seating (yes, I did have it fall out once or twice at the range). There is some wiggle in the mag when it’s inserted. Press the safety (if it was engaged) from right to left to show the red ring around the button. The weapon is ready to fire.

Trigger pull distance on the ASP is shorter than I’m used to on any AR form-factor weapon and there is almost no slack. You’re going to have less than a quarter-inch of travel before the shot breaks. This was a bit of a surprise to me at first but I adjusted quickly. The trigger guard will not allow much room for heavy winter gloves, either. I ran the pistol fine with standard Mechanix gloves, but anything much thicker than that might present a challenge.

UTG 1 25per

Using a cheek weld and then  a shoulder mount as with an AR pistol gives me the same feel shooting it as I get with any 9mm pistol caliber carbine I’ve ever fired—a slightly sharper subjective recoil impulse than I get with a standard AR rifle. The shorter length of the buffer tube did earn me a couple of ‘bites’ on the nose from the rear BUIS until I got the contact point set right (and changing the red dot to the shorter Lucid M7 let me reset the rear BUIS and eliminated that problem entirely). And the length of pull and overall shorter length of the pistol meant a more compressed shooting position than I assume with most other rifles or rifle-caliber pistols. Some shooters might be uncomfortable with that, but I believe most people will easily adapt to any differences between the ASP and other similar pistols and rifles.

Shooting ASP 01 cut

Running a mix of 124gr +P HP, 135gr +P HP, and 130gr and 124gr FMJ out of factory Glock magazines in my initial function tests I did run into problems with feeding approximately one in thirty rounds. The round did not strip normally and was caught in the case by the bolt head and jammed nose-high, requiring magazine release and pulling back on the bolt to clear. This was cleared up by installing Wolff extra-power springs in magazines that will be used in the Aero and was the only malfunction I experienced with this weapon.

Editor’s note: I buy Korean-made 33-round magazines and replace them with Wolff springs. Still less expensive than a factory Glock mag, and just as reliable. – Shepherd

There is no last-round bolt hold-open; in this it is like any AK and not an insurmountable obstacle to operating the gun.

Minute-of-angle statistics are of academic interest to me. What I need to know about a gun’s accuracy is: Can I hit where I need to and how far out can I do that? With a Lucid M7 red-dot on the Aero sighted at 25 yards, I made consistent center-body-line (1/3 width of body centered on spine) hits to at least 100 yards and was light-switch (head, specifically the area of the medulla) accurate out to almost twenty from an unsupported standing position in initial testing. (I’m still pulling left too often, though.) As I get a better read on point-of-aim and sight offset, I expect both of those range figures to improve. The gun is accurate enough for me to pick up and fight with. I believe it will be as accurate for most of you.

I would like to see a more positive lock on the magazine catch and some beveling of the mag-well. That and the feed issue requiring the mag spring change are the only quibbles I have with the gun operationally. Personally, I think I will be changing out the Magpul AFG for a hand stop. That should give me enough real-estate to mount a light in the future. The whole package is just over 20” in length and fits in a large messenger bag for concealed carry outside of the vehicle if required or desired.

UTG Carry Bag contents 25per

Perfect for the role I want it to fill? No, but what gun would be? It does have the lowest number of compromises of other options I looked at, however. And it will do the job I need it to do if the time comes I need the job done. For an MSRP of 799.00, that’s hard for me to beat.

If you’re thinking about an AR-pattern weapon in a pistol caliber, take a look at the ASP. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

About the Author:

CR Williams is the author of (so far) four non-fiction books: Three volumes of the ongoing "Gunfighting, and Other Thoughts about Doing Violence" series and "Facing the Active Shooter: Guidelines for the Armed Citizen Defender". He has also made entries into the fiction arena with recent releases of "Live Fire" and the first volume of the "An Even Break" series. He currently runs classes from either his home-base area in Central/South-Central Alabama or wherever anyone wants to host him for a class. An active and ongoing student of the fight in all its aspects, he continues to work toward his goal of making you the very best defender of life and loved ones that you can be.

15 Comments on "TNW Firearms Aero Survival Pistol Review"

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  1. Martin Luther says:

    Sweet setup at 20″. If you could get the tube to collapse it would be like 13″. Small as a mini uzi without the NFA stamp. Rock River sells a 7.5 ” barreled ar pistol in 9 that is a few inches longer but doesnt use glock mags. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  2. Peldrigal says:

    The clearly visible sig brace is never mentioned. There seems to be some molten material: was some modification required to fit it on the tube?

    • CR Williams says:

      That’s a piece of bicycle inner tube I cut in an attempt to keep the brace from riding forward over the tip of the buffer tube a bit. It didn’t work and it and the Sig brace have since been removed. (Look for an update about that coming here later.) When I hunch my shoulders the lower tip of the brace was in contact and pushed forward by recoil. Moot point now, of course.

  3. pollock56th says:

    Does TNW cut barrels to custom lengths? I would like one cut to around 9 inches For either the pistol or the rifle.

  4. pollock56th says:

    After reading this review and watching your shot show video among others I decided to buy one. this one to be exact

    I was in the market for the rapidly growing pcc market and was looking at some of the new more expensive and heavier models. I only use glock factory magazines and also train with a g19 gen4. I hope there is good reliability with this gun, as I plan on making this my primary home defense gun.

    Thank you for taking time to record your videos…

    • CR Williams says:

      As I said in my writeup, the only thing that might be necessary is the replacement of the magazine springs. I have not experienced problems related to anything else so far with mine. CR

  5. Steve says:

    Thanks for some great info on a very interesting product. You mentioned wanting the 357 caliber. I am thinking about the 45 caliber they are already making. What are your thoughts on these two calibers, including recoil? Thanks!

    • CR Williams says:

      .45 is going to be softer-shooting than .357Sig and will drop more over distance. .357Sig is better if you’re shooting in open areas because has a flatter trajectory. If you want an idea of what .357Sig feels like when fired get a few rounds of 9mm +P+ and shoot that. .357Sig is on average about a 100-150fps faster out the barrel than that as memory tells me. .45 is still more common. Which one hits harder is not a factor. Both will do enough damage to the target to stop the attack assuming you’re shooting right and they’re not one of those that really needs a .50 BMG to stop with more than three rounds. My guess is that .357Sig will lose less of its starting energy over distance than .45 does but within their limits its even to me.

      As well with the ASP and the ASR, you need to change lowers when going from 9mm or .40 to .45. When they come out with .357Sig conversion you’ll just need to change the barrel and bolt if you already have the 9mm/.40 version. .45 is still more common and still has a larger variety of round types than .357Sig if memory serves again, but there’s enough of the other I don’t worry about it on that account.

      If you want maximum versatility: 9mm/.40 and wait for the .357Sig conversion.
      If you want the most effect over the greatest range: .357Sig
      If you want the easiest to handle shooting it: .45
      If you’re optimizing for 50yds and in: Actually a toss up but I’d go with .45 because I’ll manage bursts easier with that one.

      Hope this helps.

  6. DocNugent says:

    My standard 8″ ASP was purchased 19 months ago, and I enjoy it more than any other firearm I’ve owned. Two comments:
    – The 9mm target ammo (115gr) cost is great, and when I finish my Form 1 suppressor build, Federal HST (147gr, subsonic) is not bad, either, for SD use in the house.
    – Although more expensive than KCI mags, my Glock 17 mags have had no feed problems.

    My only complaint is that the trigger would be a lot more comfortable if it were twice as wide as it is and convex rather than square across the finger pad.

  7. BR says:

    I shoot the 9mm ASP and absolutely love it as my “go to” gun for survival or even self defense in the home properly outfitted with laser and lights.

    BUT…there is potentially a rather significant safety flaw with the ambidextrous design!

    I have the barrel threaded option, and when the ASP is used with a suppressor, enough back pressure is created to make hot gunpowder particles emanating from the non-used ejection side to spray back and impinge on the shooter’s face and potentially into the shooter’s eyes if the shooter is not wearing safety goggles. Hot poweder impingement on the face HURTS !


    An ambidextrous cover plate over the unused ejection port needs to be a standard factory feature(and free to all previous buyers) to prevent this significant safety problem from occuring.

    Going blind due to hot powder eye impingement does not help accuracy, either!

    I have emailed the factory, but have not received any sort of acknowledgement.

    IF the safety problem are solved, I plan to upgrade to all the other calibers offered for the ASP.

    • Chris says:

      I’d suggest an project with a sheet of Kydex. Cut and mold it to fit the left side of the upper. Use the two screw holes for the LHS rail to secure it in place. It will be very stiff once molded around the curvature of the receiver.

      • CR Williams says:

        I would think that Kydex would start to soften as the weapon was fired much, especially since hot gases would be hitting it directly. Metal would be better for this application.

  8. Halconen says:

    Another option for your desired range but not quite as compact is Inland Manufacturing’s M1 Advisor Pistol (.30 carbine). This one is without a stock with a 12-in barrel and their M1A1 Paratrooper carbine is with a folding stock and 18-in barrel. Comes with 15 round mags and also accepts 30 round mags which I believe are curved. They also have 10 rounders I presume for California etc.. The pistol does not need a SBR stamp. I don’t know if it would after attaching a folding stock to it. But it’s more pricey with an msrp of 1259 on top of not being able to share mags you may already have.

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