The End to the 9mm vs. .45 ACP Debate? U.S. Army to Replace 9mm

By Dave Dolbee published on in Firearms

The U.S. Army has settled the age-old 9mm vs. .45 ACP debate with its latest request for a new service pistol with more “knock down” power. Army officials were recently quoted declaring its stock of 200k-plus semi-auto Sig Sauer M11 and Beretta M9 pistols to be outdated. The Army therefore wants a new platform that offers increased reliability and durability. Given the record of both of these weapons, more reliability is going to be a high bar to get over.

THE Beretta M9 (92FS)

THE Beretta M9 (92FS)

“Advancements in firearms have taken place since the M9 was adopted nearly 30 years ago, and it is our intent to take advantage of these advancements,” a military spokesperson told on Friday. “The Army is seeking to replace the M9 and M11 pistols with a handgun that is more accurate, ergonomic, reliable and durable than the current pistol.”

New pistols also open the door to new ammunition too! Beretta immediately responded with an offer to update the current M9, but the Army is looking toward field trials to vet something new.

“We have submitted numerous changes or product improvements that really address a lot of the shortcomings that are either perceived or real,” Beretta development manager Gabe Bailey recently told

The Army isn’t wasting any time. Field trial are set to begin on July 29, 2014 when the Army hosts and “industry day.” This will not be a day of popping primers and inhaling the sweet aroma of gunpowder and Hoppes No. 9. July 29 will be the day when the Army layout the requirements for a winning proposal and how the competition to select the new winner will be conducted. The winner(s) can look forward to a contract for up to 400,000 new pistols—when and if a winner is selected.

A few of the requirements are easy to determine ahead of time based on common complaints among soldiers and market trends. The current 9mms are taking a beating and the Army has long complained of the cost of repairs. Newer ergonomic grip designs seem be a leading feature among new models over the past year and will likely make the list. The harsh condition of desert warfare are unlikely to go away anytime soon, requiring attention to redesigning the open slide bullet chamber. Lastly, soldiers in the field have complained of safety devices locking inadvertently so ergonomics and function will also be paramount—regardless of whether the current problem is mechanical or operator generated.


The debate whether the 9mm was a well-reasoned choice has raged for decades. Whether the Army’s appearant desire to abandon the round will put the matter to rest… only time will tell, but it is doubtful. The 9mm was adopted (at least in part) due to cost savings. Will budgets allow a larger caliber at a higher cost? What will happen to the ammo market if the military abandons the 9mm and adopts something bigger? Good question to which the answers are simply not available, but do not stick a fork in the 9mm just yet. The Army is not ruling out the 9mm as a caliber, but requirements will dictate something with performance that surpasses the current M882.

“We are not dictating a caliber during the competition,” the military spokesperson stated. “A vendor may submit multiple calibers of ammunition. However, the ammunition must exceed the performance of the current M882 9mm round.”

Sig Sauer M11-A1 handgun

Sig Sauer M11-A1

However, if the 9mm does not make the grade, the next two likely choices would be the .40 S&W and .45 ACP. If the Army is already worried about abuse, wear and the cost of replacement parts, the .40 S&W will have a strike against it. Most .40s are built on 9mm frames, but does that mean the Army will go full circle and return to the venerable .45 ACP?

The Process

More information will be available after industry day when the Army will release a draft Request for Proposal, which seeks input from manufacturers. The Army will then consider the manufacturers’ comments and modify the request as necessary so the details and requirements will remain fluid. However, the Army plans to have a final industry day to issue its final proposal before the end of the year. That should make for an interesting SHOT Show in January 2015. That would be too soon for the new models, but we may be able to pry some information from insiders or preview new features in the 2015 lineup.

After the determination of the final requirements, the Army will transition to field trials. During this period, the Army test and begin the elimination process. Technical performance and soldier feedback will be key factors.

“One of the primary requirements for this weapon system is to provide the soldier with increased terminal performance,” the military spokesperson said. “Feedback from soldiers in the field is that they want increased ‘knock-down power.’ And the MHS program will evaluate commercially available weapons that meet that requirement.”

So, standby for a host of new models, upgrades, redesigns and enhancements to current models and a potential price drop to the M9 and M11. OK, prices are not really going to drop, but we can always dream.

What do you think will be the outcome of the Army trials? Will the Army abandon the 9mm? Which pistol or feature will be crowned in the end? Share you opinions in the comment section.


Growing up in Pennsylvania’s game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Dave’s writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersen’s Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business,, and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!

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Comments (169)

  • Swampthing


    Ask me why I love my .45 Long Colt, sit down and be prepared to be there for a couple of hours. Its really hard to beat the best and loaded properly, it out performs the nearly invincible .44 mag but with advantages some of us truly understand.


  • Michael S


    The 9mm ball is the problem. If the bullet was heavier or had a Cor-Bon type bullet, it would be ideal. 9mm has been around as long as the 45ACP has almost. I like the 45 and the 40, but they are much more expensive to shoot. The 9mm is still the standard in personal protection and military combat. They need to find a way to keep it.


  • Bob


    Let me correct myself…the Morro firefights happened absolutely. What is folklore is the “one hit and they all went flying backwards,” dropped, with one shot etc.. Anecdotal stories at best. These types of stories are often repeated and given way too much credence. It is a fact that “stopping power/knockdown power” do not exist. This is a simple fact of physics (and much study by experts). If a bullet will penetrate the body and it hits a vital organ, spine/cns/brain, incapacitation and or death will occur, regardless of caliber. Now, bigger is always better but how much better in any given situation is not know. The belief seems to be it will have a better chance of nicking an artery or heart. And many people seem to believe that they will get hits every time they fire, which studies of actual shootings show that 70%-80% of all bullets fired miss. That is why I prefer 9mm and more rounds. Also, studied and has been shown that follow up shots (even with very experience shooters) favors the 9mm. Do not get me wrong, I love the .45! damn fun too shoot. But for practical purposes, 9mm works for me. By they way, my BS opening comment was not meant to be personal or insulting. Sorry if it sounded that way. Gotta get me some manners!


  • Bigman Withagun


    You’ve got a big hunk of lead travelling much slower than a smaller piece of lead that is travelling much faster, it’s going to have much less penetration and more “knockdown power”, much like being punched in the stomach, but obviously on a much more extreme level. Which is why it was so effective against the Moro tribesmen that were hopped up on cocaine, it put them down and didn’t just make holes.


    • Bob




    • zman


      The Moro story isn’t “BS” at all, however something missing from its use in contemporary “9mm vs. .45″ arguments is that the round the military had deployed originally to that conflict, the .38 Long Colt, is actually quite anemic, and in no way could be said to reflect the 9×19 Luger.
      Look it up- comparing the two is quite instructive.

      When the .38LC demanded immediate replacement in the feild, the Army sent over M1873 Colt SAA revolvers chambered in .45LC, which has ballistics that are still to this day impressive.

      The M1873 and .45LC was known for being a man stopper on the frontier, and when employed against the Moros, it performed even better then the .30 Krag rifles which were standard infantry issue at the time, usually able to stop a drugged, religiously crazed jurementado with a single well placed shot.

      This ancedotal history, coupled with the Thompson LeGarde tests, cemented the .45 as the bore of choice, and Brownings 1911 became the gun the army wanted to fire it in.

      I’ve read that William E. Fairbairn of the British SOE during WW2 favored the Browning Hi-Power, but instructed its users to always fire double taps, but that with the “American .45″ this was not required (but still sound practice).

      As an avid student of combatives, this is all the endorsment for the .45 I need.

      That being said- I’d take a BHP in 9×19 Luger over a Colt’s Revolver chambered in .38LC against drugged up fanatics any say.

      But the .45 1911 still has the edge.


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