Published reports indicate that the Army has decided to kick the M-9 Beretta service pistol to the curb and not consider the upgraded M-9A3 for its new Modular Handgun System. So what should replace it?
Opinions are like certain parts of the human anatomy. Everybody has one. I spent 20 years in the Army (combat infantry veteran) and 8 of those years I was involved in the Army’s Marksmanship Program, both as a professional shooter and instructor. I was a firing member of the Army Pistol team 8 years at the Nationals and am a holder of the Army’s Gold Distinguished Pistol Shot badge. Now that I have suitably impressed you, what does that have to do with what handgun the Army should replace the M-9 with? Not a lot really other that I have dealt with handguns a lot both in the field and on the range and have drawn some conclusions.
I was on active duty when the Army transitioned from the 1911a1 in .45acp to the Beretta M-9 in 9mm. I never particularly cared for the M-9 for a number of reasons. I have small hands and the grip is a little too large for me, and not much to be done about it. It was an easy swap to put a flat mainspring housing on any .45 I used. I also never really liked the Beretta open top slide system. The Beretta isn’t a bad gun really, and to some degree got a bit of a bad rap for slides cracking. The truth of that was some SEAL teams were using Israeli Uzi submachine rounds in them and this load would damage any normal handgun with repeated use. However the M-9 is not the “wonder winner” it was cracked up to be. In reality, the M-9 is really nothing more than a German WW2 P-38 with a Beretta open top full length slide. Personally, I believe that the P-38 is the better of the two. The desire to standardize on 9mm was a marginally understandable concept, given NATO commitments, but Colt offered to retrofit all 1911’s in stock to 9mm. As in way too many small arms procurement programs, getting the best equipment to the soldier is not necessarily the top priority. Politics, pride, cost and a whole list of other considerations are involved. Don’t get me wrong. I honestly think the Army wants to equip our troops with the best, but they get a lot of outside pressure as to what constitutes the “best”
Sometimes the desire to “keep up with the Jones” comes into play. The Brits recently switched over from the Browning High Power they have been using since WW2 to the Gen 4 Glock 17. The Glock is an outstanding design, but then again so was the Browning. And so was the 1911a1.
The vast majority of military personnel will never be issued, or trained on handguns. And to me, here is the key rub: Except for Spec Ops units who can buy what they want from their own Black budgets, the average G.I. Joe and Jane will not get the necessary training to effectively use whatever handgun the Army selects . And unless the military is willing to commit the necessary time and ammunition to properly train our soldiers, it really doesn’t matter which handgun they select.
I saw it for over 20 years first hand. The .45 was hailed as “inaccurate”. B.S. I trained too many 95 pound soaking wet female soldiers to shoot arms room .45’s effectively. The military will jump through all kinds of hoops to select the current perception of the “best” handgun, and skimp on both training time and ammunition. (except for Spec Ops).
So, what handgun should replace the M-9 as the basis for a Modular Handgun System? There are a lot of acceptable, quality handguns available. Since I haven’t read the specifications on the bid, I will make some general observations. If they insist on staying with 9mm, either the Glock 17 or 19 would do nicely. If they can be convinced to return to .45acp, that would open a whole world of possibilities!
So what do you think?
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