We’ve got some news on the US Military’s Solicitation for the M9 replacement.
First, a brief aside. I am extremely skeptical that this program will actually result in a pistol being procured by the US Military. There have been many, many attempts to replace the M16/M4, and all have failed. At this point, I’m pretty sure the carbines just start laughing at the attempts. So color me skeptical of this XM17.
See, a large part of the problem with replacing the M4 is that its really quite good. There are some perceived flaws, but it’s a great gun. It’s actually really reliable. And it’s in the system. Spare parts, armorer training, the whole lot. So when compared to a bunch of expensive “wonderguns” that don’t live up to the ad copy, or a bunch of slightly different guns that still shoot the same damn 5.56 mm round, it’s no shock that the M4 sticks around.
But what about the M9? Well, here’s my two bits, though it’s not really at issue here. I think it’s a fine gun. I’m also not personally a big fan1. I think the decocker/safety is in an awkward place. I’m not a fan of double action pistols. And you’re basically stuck with the sights its got, though newer models have rectified this somewhat, depending on sight availability. But that’s the opinion of one guy. Who’s a pistol shooter and pistol enthusiast. The M9 is mostly in the hands of guys whose job doesn’t involve lots of shooting. They don’t get a ton of practice with it. Changing the pistol isn’t going to change the fact that they won’t be able to hit a barn from the inside, and they won’t care about their pistols. Now, people who actually care about and frequently use pistols, the elite forces types, get enough training to make it work and have budget items to buy whatever they please. And really, pistols aren’t that important. Since the competitors all shoot 9 mm rounds, I’m not sure this is worth the effort.
But for now, the Army disagrees on that last point. Or perhaps they agree with my earlier point of disliking the M9. So they solicited a new “Modular Handgun” which was a really, really long document when compared to the FBI’s solicitation. We’ve learned one of the entrants has been tossed.
Smith & Wesson.
Now, part of me was surprised by this. S&W had partnered with General Dynamics Land Systems for its offering. And GDLS is one of the biggest American contractors, with lots of experience getting contracts in Washington. I thought this was a great business move for them, work with someone who has experience in dealing with the Pentagon. But it wasn’t enough. They’re out.
And now, time for some rampant speculation!
First, who might we expect in the downselect? Glock, of course. Especially after winning the FBI contract. Glock is the big, obvious, 800 pound gorilla in the room. They’ve also been selected by SOCOM, so those guys whose job involve lots of faceshooting seem to like them. I might also expect SiG to go far, and then possibly FN or Beretta, since FN is a big weapons contractor, and Beretta makes the current pistol. We’ll see from there.
Now, let’s talk about the S&W entrant, the M&P. I’ve got some time on an M&P40. It’s a solid gun. Of course, the US Army is interested in 9 mm. And the M&P9s have a poor reputation for quality control and accuracy at range (beyond 25 yards). Not all of the full size 9 mms have the problem, but that’s the rep they’ve got. Maybe there were QC issues with their submission? Maybe there were production concerns?
Note of course that the M&Ps come with a manual safety option, but the Glock, P320, and the Beretta APX don’t. Doesn’t really matter. It’s something that can be added if a competition demands it. I’m also not sure if that’s a requirement of the MHS, or something preferred, or if the US Military has moved on from that desire.
1.) It is, however, quite iconic. The Beretta 92 is the weapon of choice of many wonderful fictional characters, including John McClane, Martin Riggs, and the S.T.A.R.S. team.