The Beretta M9 is showing its age. Pistol technology has improved considerably since the M9 was first adopted by the U.S. Army in 1985, and now the Pentagon is intent on finding a replacement for the armed forces’ least favorite firearm.
That’s right – in a 2006 survey of soldiers’ perspectives on infantry weapons, the M9 came in last in every category.
Nearly half of the survey participants reported that they didn’t have confidence in the reliability of the pistols.
With such a low bar set by the M9, you wouldn’t think it would be all that hard to find a viable replacement for the ailing weapon. After all, there have been plenty of truly great pistols released in the last 30 years. Leave it to the DoD to make things, well, a little more difficult (not to mention expensive) than they probably need to be. In total, the selection process – dubbed the Modular Handgun System (MHS) – is expected to take two years and cost $17 million.
“We’re not figuring out the next lunar landing. This is a pistol,” remarked U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Miley earlier this year in regard to the long, expensive process. He then went on to suggest that he could just as easily walk into a Cabela’s with $17 million and outfit every member of the Armed Services with a serviceable pistol.
A healthy bit of hyperbole, but a valid sentiment.
In fact, nearly every candidate for the Modular Handgun System is a variant of a pistol that is already widely available on the civilian market.
The Glock 17, for example, is owned by millions of American civilians.
This month, the Pentagon is expected to choose three semifinalists from the current field of 12 weapons in the MHS program. Once these three candidates have been selected, they’ll undergo an additional nine months of evaluation to determine which one is best suited for combat. After that it will take at least another 13 months before the winning pistols are delivered to the military.
Candidates for the MHS program were initially selected based on two main criteria.
First, they must score higher than the M9 in terms of accuracy, durability, reliability, maintainability and ergonomics.
Given the M9’s decidedly spotty service record, this should be no big deal for many modern pistols. The second criterion – and here’s where the ‘modular’ part of MHS comes in – is a little more difficult to achieve. The MHS pistol must have a modular grip system to accommodate hands of different sizes. It must also feature an integral military-issue Picatinny rail beneath the barrel so that the weapon can be outfitted with accessories such as flashlights and lasers.
Finally, the MHS pistols must have threaded barrels to accommodate suppressors.
There’s been no word yet on which pistols have been chosen as semifinalists, if they’ve been chosen at all. Many people seem to suspect that the Sig Sauer P320 is the most likely candidate to win the MHS program. But for now, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Stay tuned for more updates from your source for dynamic, discreet electronic hearing protectors – ESP.