July 16th, 2014

Military (Finally) Looking to Retire the M9 Pistol

Commentary by John Buol
The critics say that the M9 pistol (the U.S. military’s version of Beretta’s m92) must go. We’re told that the 9x19mm (aka 9mm NATO) is a poor pistol cartridge. Our Soldiers and Marines are being hampered by an inferior handgun and cartridge — or so the argument goes.

We are told that the military needs a new pistol, to be called the Modular Handgun System (MHS). According to Fox News: “The MHS would replace the Army’s inventory of more than 200,000 outdated M9 pistols and several thousand M11 9mm pistols with one that has greater accuracy, lethality, reliability, and durability.” The MHS will be a “total system replacement — new gun, new ammo, new holster, everything,” reports Daryl Easlick, Army project officer at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Easlick says that the Army, and other services, demand a pistol with a more powerful cartridge that does more damage to the bad guys: “We have to do better than our current 9mm.”

M9 Military Pistol Handgun Training

Does the military really need a new pistol, with a different chambering? Maybe not…

Here’s the real problem. Most Marines, Soldiers, police, and gun owners tend to be novice marksmen, especially with handguns. Very few people have trained to shoot a handgun well enough to offer a competent opinion on the matter. To underscore this point, let’s look at some ranges for evidence of typical skill levels.

Army Pistol Qualification Target
M9 Military Pistol Handgun Training

As you can see, there is no real trend in hits and the entire barn door (full sized silhouette) has shots sprayed all over it. And these are the shots that actually hit, all of them receiving full value. On this particular Army course, shooters are given 40 rounds to engage 30 targets and are considered qualified if 16 of the 30 targets are hit, somewhere. Soldiers can miss nearly half the time, even with ten extra rounds, and still pass. The “fast” stages of the course allow two seconds per shot and the bulk of the course is slower. Note the base of the target is blocked by the mound protecting the target lifter and that mound is a beaten zone of many very low, errant shots.

The Marines in the peanut gallery are likely chuckling, so let’s look at examples of their ranges.

Marine Pistol Target Bay
M9 Military Pistol Handgun Training

Yet Another Marine Pistol Target Bay, Showing Effects of Missed Shots.
M9 Military Pistol Handgun Training

The metal carrier behind the block wall holds a silhouette the same size as the Army target and that waist-high wall has taken a healthy beating from bad shots jerked and flinched several feet off target. Of course, the wall only shows shots pulled off target that went low. The rest ended up in the berm somewhere else. As seen closer up, the chewed-up top line of blocks is not made of concrete. That’s to avoid back-splatter towards the shooters from the excessive number of low shots.

REALITY CHECK: These are the results on actual qualification ranges with large targets, generous time limits, fixed courses of fire, and no real pressure. Imagine how much worse the shooting is when the stress and variables of combat are thrown in. Given the users wielding it, is the M9 truly ineffective? Even if it is, are shooters like this capable of a valid opinion on the matter?

Most Marines, Soldiers, police, CCW, and gun owners won’t invest the effort needed to train to a high level of skill and very few public sector organizations will expend the resources needed to make them do so. I’m not casting aspersions, just trying to address reality. If the Department of Defense (DoD) decides on a new pistol, or any other weapon, the results will be similar because the end user isn’t magically more skillful with a shiny new issue item.

About the Author
John M. Buol Jr. began his shooting career in practical competition, earning Master classifications from USPSA and IDPA. After slotting on the Army Reserve Marksmanship Program, he switched to NATO and NRA/CMP events, earning Distinguished Rifleman and Pistol Shot badges and a series of All Army Small Arms Championship wins along the way. He is a published author (Beyond “Expert”: Tripling Military Shooting Skills) and maintains the Firearm User Network Blog at http://FirearmUserNetwork.com

Permalink Handguns 22 Comments »
July 16th, 2014

Get Calendar for 2014 NRA National Matches

If you’re wondering what is happening when at the NRA National Rifle and Pistol championships, here is a calendar of all the scheduled events. The pistol matches concluded last week. Smallbore (rimfire) events are underway this week (in Bristol, Indiana), while the High Power events commenced yesterday (July 15) with clinics. The popular CMP Garand match is held July 19, while the NRA High Power National Championship commences on Saturday, July 26.

Click the calendar image below to see a large size version (that’s easier to read). You can also download a PDF file with the complete National Matches Event schedule for 2014.

CLICK to DOWNLOAD 2014 National Match Calendars

2013 National Matches Calendar

Permalink Competition, News No Comments »