January 22nd, 2017

U.S. Army Adopts SIG XM17 (P320) Pistol to Replace Beretta M9

Beretta M9 M17 XM17 Sig Sauer Modular Pistol System

The U.S. Army has selected variants of the SIG Sauer P320 pistol to replace the venerable M9 pistol from Beretta. The Army will purchase the new 9mm striker-fired SIG handgun, designated the XM17, in both compact and full-size versions. The Army will purchase a minimum of 280,000 handguns, with options for another 212,000. This represents a huge contract, worth $580,000,000 through budget year 2027. According to American Rifleman: “The XM17 will likely lose the ‘X’ and be made by American workers in an American factory for American soldiers.”

In adopting the new SIG XM17, the U.S. Army has chosen its first new handgun in three decades. The lengthy Modular Handgun System (MHS) selection process took two years and $17 million, with twelve different candidates vying to be chosen as the Army’s new sidearm. SIG Sauer triumphed over other major pistol-makers (including Beretta, CZ, Glock, FNH, and S&W), by best fulfilling a complex set of requirements. According to Popular Mechanics: “The bureaucracy surrounding the M17 Modular Handgun System contract was oppressive. The Army’s Final Solicitation document, which spelled out the terms of the competition, was whopping 351 pages long. Senator John McCain of Arizona described the rules as ‘byzantine.’ Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates complained, ‘This is absurd — it’s a handgun for God’s sake’.”

The Army’s new XM17 is fully ambidextrous, with safety and slide release levers on both sides. Importantly, unlike Glock pistols, the new SIG XM17 can be taken down without pulling the trigger. In accordance with the XM17 design protocols, the new SIG features a front Picatinny rail for accessories, as well as interchangeable grip panels to fit various hand sizes. There will be threaded barrel options for use with a suppressor. The Army’s selection of the SIG Sauer XM17 was announced this past week at SHOT Show in Las Vegas.

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September 7th, 2015

Army Issues Solicitation for XM17 Pistol to Replace Beretta M9

M9 U.S. Army Solicitation XM17 HMS Modular Handgun System

It’s official… the U.S. Army is replacing the M9 Pistol made by Beretta. On August 28, 2015, the Army released the official solicitation for the XM17 MHS Pistol, a modular design that will replace the M9, the Army’s version of Beretta’s model 92. This is a big contract — the Army intends to acquire at least 300,000 pistols, all from one manufacturer.

According to Military.com: “One of the major goals of the MHS [Modular Handgun System] effort is to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm[.] The U.S. military replaced the .45 caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.” It is unclear what chambering the U.S. Army wants instead of the 9x19mm. Some pundits suggest the Army wants a larger-diameter bullet, while others think the Army is looking for a higher velocity projectile that can penetrate body armor. While the Army has not specified a particular cartridge, the XM17 spec requires that the pistol’s projectile penetrate at least 14″ of ballistics gel at 50 meters. The Army also hopes that the new pistol will be more durable and easier to maintain than the M9.

This XM17 solicitation document, a whopping 351 pages long, contains detailed specs for the pistol, accessories, along with performance standards. Guns.com says the specification includes accuracy standards as well as modular design requirements: “The Army said the handgun should be able to hit a 4-inch target at a 50-meter range at least 90 percent of the time throughout the gun’s lifespan. To compete in the Modular Handgun System, and the XM17 designation, the pistol needs modifiable grips, varied magazine options, ambidextrous controls, and rails for accessories.”

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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

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