Army shopping this month to replace the Beretta (No, really...)
Later this month the U.S. Army will be meeting with a number of firearms makers to see what the industry has in mind for Big Green's first new pistol in almost 30 years.
Called the Modular Handgun System (MHS) program, the Army is looking to replace some 239,000 M9 and several thousand M11 pistols. These guns, the Beretta 92-F and Sig Sauer P228 respectively, have been the standard military sidearm used by the Army since 1985, replacing the much-loved (but worn out) M1911s that the military had stockpiled from a half-dozen manufacturers during World War Two.
(The current M9)
Is this just going to be another Beretta?
Although the Marines recently bought some updated M9A1 Berettas (basically the Model 92 with a rail on it and a 17-shot magazine), they want something that is not the 92 moving forward, saying that it doesn't meet the Army's MHS requirements.
(The M9A1-- note the rail)
"The M9 doesn't meet it for a multitude of reasons," Daryl Easlick, a project officer with the Army's Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga. told Military.com earlier this month. "It's got reliability issues; the open slide design allows contaminates in. The slide-mounted safety doesn't do well when you are trying to clear a stoppage -- you inadvertently de-cock and safe the weapon system."
In addition, the subject of 9mm chamberings, long a NATO standard, is up for argument.
"The 9mm doesn't score high with soldier feedback," said Easlick, explaining that the Army, and the other services, want a round that will have better terminal effects -- or cause more damage -- when it hits enemy combatants. "We have to do better than our current 9mm."
So with that in mind, the MHS competition will be open to looking at rounds like .40S&W (long considered the default law enforcement chambering in the country), zippy rounds like the .45 GAP and .357SIG, as well as the old standby .45ACP. Of course, if you read into Easlick's comment about 'our current 9mm,' the Army could very well settle for a revamped 9x19mm loading that is better than its current 124-grain FMJ, which wouldn't be hard.
The thing is, no matter what caliber Uncle picks, the terms of the Geneva Convention, which the U.S. signed in 1949, as well as earlier Hague treaties forbid the use of 'dum-dum' or hollow-point ammo, as being inhumane. This limits the field a bit. However, many would argue that a 185-grain FMJ .40 caliber round is better than a 124-grain 9mm round all day.
(The MHS program would also replace a smaller number of SIG P228 pistols, designated as the M11 handgun, that are used by specialist groups like Army CID and Intelligence people)
With modularity in the title of the system, you can bet that the Army will be looking at guns that can be easily upgraded in the field by unit armorers (often with just a power point deep level of training). With that being said, you can expect there to be a demand for accessory rails, interchangeable grips to accommodate different shooters, threaded barrel options (the military is really in love with suppressors these days), easily updated iron sights, and possibly the option for barrel/caliber changes so that these guns could swap back and forth from any 'new' caliber back to the old 9mm if needed.
(Its almost certain you will see these two in the MHS competition)
This would seem to short-list the competition down to the very modern and very modular SIG P320, FN's FNX system pistols, the Gen 4 Glock (remember, the .40 caliber G22 gun will take 9mm barrels all day), S&W's M&P series, Beretta PX4, and of course, railed and updated 1911 designs. Moreover, don't forget that HK just introduced an affordable polymer frame gun, the VP9, which could get in the ring with the aforementioned guns.
(As FN is the current maker of M249 and M240 machine-guns for the military, and has a plant in South Carolina near Fort Jackson, it would seem to set the company up as a competitor with thier FNS or FNX pistols, which look very modular from here)
All of these companies have sold to the federal government already, mainly in law enforcement but in the case of Beretta, FN, HK, and SIG there have been quite a few military orders in recent years so they can be said to already have their foot in the door.
Dark horse contenders would be the new Walther PPX and possibly a Springfield XD option (if they could make it in the country and not rely on imports). Afterall, the winner of the competition could be looking at as many as 500,000 guns sold to the military, which is big incentive for any overseas manufacturer to build a plant in the old U.S. of A.
The Request for Information released by the Army specifies for "2,000 mean rounds between stoppages, 10,000 mean rounds between failures, and a 35,000 round service life" which just about any modern good quality combat handgun is capable of.
Overall, this could be very interesting.