It’s official, the U.S. Army is in the market for a new handgun.
The military branch formally signaled it is hunting for the replacement to the Beretta M9 in June when it issued a Request for Information, initiating the search for a new sidearm. Though this is not the first indication the army and other service branches were moving in the direction of replacing the 9x19mm pistol.
According to National Defense Magazine, the Air Force initiated a joint project with the Army in 2008, known as the Modular Handgun System. The project investigated potential replacements for the M9 that were currently available on the market. And the undertaking kicked the door wide open for the new sidearm, not limiting competing models on calibers or features.
In fact, an RFI filed in January by the Army was extremely vague in exactly what the service branches were searching for in a handgun. The only hard information on the project, according to Defense Media Network, were the standards by which the handguns would be evaluated.
The article stated, the Army would assess competing handguns at ranges from 0 to 50 meters and in ballistic gelatin 0- to 14-inches thick. The accuracy standard for competitors, a 90-percent or better probability of a hit on a 4-inch circle at 50 meters from a test fixture. The potential replacement also must have a rating of 2,000 mean rounds between stoppages and 10,000 mean rounds between failure.
According to The Washington Times, the Army plans on evaluating .45ACP, .357 SIG and .40 S&W in the selection process. There is also talk of looking into features such as night sights and Picatinny Rails.
Spurring the drive for a new service pistol has been consistent complaints about the M9 by soldiers. Servicemen have repeatedly express a lack of confidence in the handgun, this has included complaints by soldiers who served in Afghanistan about the 9mm NATO round being underpowered.
There is also a push to make a more resilient handgun. The M9 has been criticized for breaking too easily. And there has been discussion of extending the lifetime of the new pistol past its predecessor. The M9 is reported to have a 17,000-round service life. The Army would like the new handgun to last 25,000 to 35,000 rounds.
The winner of the new government contract has the potential to reap a windfall with the Army planning on purchasing 400,000 new pistols, according to Military.com. Presently, there are some 200,000 M9s in service.
The move to replace the Army’s service pistol has drawn criticism from some corners. It has been pointed out by some that the project comes in the midst of defense-spending cuts. It also comes on the heels of the Army’s fruitless campaign to replace the M4 Carbine.
The M9 has been a somewhat controversial firearm since the Army adopted it in 1985. The handgun rubbed many the wrong way since it displaced the M1911A1, which was the service branch’s sidearm of choice since 1911.