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officials were recently quoted declaring its stock of 200k-plus semi-auto Sig Sauer M11 and Beretta M9 pistols to be outdated.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.
“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 FoxNews.com 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 Military.com.
The Army isn’t wasting any time. Field trial are set to begin on July 29, 2014 when the Army hosts an “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.”
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?
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.