The military is making noises concerning a new sidearm. There is some controversy. Handguns, for whatever reason, seem to come with more emotional attachment and a sense of history than the rifle. I believe, that as a close quarters combat pistol, the Beretta 92 is lacking the most important attribute a sidearm should have and that is wound potential.
There is junk science in the world, and I choose to ignore it—as will most professional soldiers and peace officers.
There is much to be said for the military simply ordering the pistols they need without going through a cumbersome trial. Congressional oversight is all well and good, after all, it is our tax money (As if congress has a good record for spending our money). The pistol should be vetted in an exhaustive trail but that isn’t that difficult. All it takes is time, personnel, and ammunition. The Beretta A3 isn’t a new pistol but a modified Beretta M9/M92. Senator John McCain felt that the Army should choose the caliber first. From his report:
“The Army plans to conduct ‘an open caliber competition,’ which means the choice of caliber is left up to the discretion of industry. But the caliber of the cartridge and the type of bullet it launches is arguably the most important performance component of the handgun,” the report states.
Army officers have made comments such as ‘just buy a bunch of Glock 19 9mm pistols’, a reasonable trend. There are certain requirements in the Army circular for the MHS pistol (Army Modular Handgun System) that cannot be met by many pistols but which may be met by the Beretta A3. The A3 is an updated Beretta 92. That isn’t a bad thing as the Beretta’s primary advantage is reliability. It is accurate enough for any foreseeable handgun task.
The requirement for a capability to use a suppressor in certain roles is met by the A3’s threaded barrel. This barrel may be retrofitted to existing Beretta 9mm pistols easily. The pistol’s sights may be supplied with Tritium inserts. The pistol is delivered with a light rail for use with combat lights. A big advantage is that the pistol features the ‘Vertec-type’ grip. This is a thinner grip allowing those with small hands to use the pistol well. A high-capacity pistol isn’t always tolerant of small hand sizes. The Beretta features a double-action first-shot trigger. The trigger is pressed to fire the pistol. The hammer is then cocked by the recoiling slide for subsequent single-action fire. The safety lever also operates as a decocking lever. The Army wants a manual safety. A pistol without a safety abrogates many of the advantages of a self-loading pistol.
The Beretta is easy enough to fire well with light recoil and modest muzzle flip. Tactically, there is nothing that may be done with the SIG P226 or the Glock 17 that cannot be done with the Beretta. In long-range and slow-fire accuracy, the Beretta is superior to most pistols save perhaps the SIG, but it takes a fine shot to demonstrate this. The new Beretta pistol will be able to use existing holsters, magazines, and spare parts in stock for the Beretta 92. Ammunition supply isn’t impeded.
The Beretta A3 is a good upgrade over Beretta 92 and Beretta 92A1 pistols. It will serve the Army’s needs well. This is simply reality. The problem is training. The Army trains its men and women but little with the handgun. It isn’t unusual for the average soldier to go for years without firing the handgun past an initial familiarization in training. The Beretta has a good safety record and it is easy enough use well.
As for its competitors, we don’t really know what their performance would be like in the sandbox. We can predict that it is an even bet with certain types of pistols—DAO types without a safety—there would be more negligent discharges. Beretta fans will be pleased and Colt 1911 fans will have to bite the bullet and let the deal go ahead without undue rancor.
As for training the soldiers, there are certain select budget teams in the U.S. Military that fire many thousands of rounds in the handgun on a yearly basis. These teams are well equipped and highly trained. Those who need the 1911 .45, and prefer the pistol, will obtain one. The Marine Corps, as an example, uses the Colt 1911 Rail Gun for special operations groups. If the Army is going to continue with the 9mm high-capacity pistol, the Beretta A3 is as good as any and better than many.