In a significant doctrinal shift, the U.S. military is relegating full metal jacketed (FMJ) pistol bullets to a training role, and will be adopting modern hollowpoint designs similar to those used by most domestic law enforcement agencies and citizens who carry handguns for self-defense.

The stunning announcement was made at the U.S Army’s Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey yesterday during the military’s two-day “industry day” for the Modular Handgun System (MHS), which will conclude today.

A military lawyer who made a presentation during the Industry Day noted that the United States is not a signatory to the Hague Conventions which outlawed the use of “dum-dum” and expanding bullets more than a century ago. It is the military’s position that the shift to jacketed hollowpoint (JHP) ammunition, which more efficiently transfers energy to the target and which presents much less of a risk of over-penetration, is more humane and less of a risk to innocent civilians downrange in modern combat where there are often no clear front lines.

The MHS contract is still caliber agnostic, with the primary requirement being that the adopted cartridge must perform 10% better than currently issued M882 (9mm NATO, 124-grain FMJ) with both the FMJ training ammunition and the hollowpoint ammunition issued for deployment.

Both the FMJ and JHP must perform similarly so that the training and combat ammunition has the same recoil impulses and performance parameters.

A lot of conventional wisdom suggests that the 9MM and .45 ACP are the top two contenders for the MHS contract.

The big selling point for .45 ACP in the past century was always that it was a slightly larger bullet than the 9mm, and that it performed somewhat better when both calibers were using FMJ bullets. In addition, the military has also already used .45 ACP hollowpoints in combat handguns in Afghanistan and Iraq among special operations units fighting unlawful combatants. It has not (officially) used them against other nation-states in military-on-military combat.

Now that JHPs are going to be used as general issue, the playing field tilts back strongly in favor of 9mm.

I strongly suspect that the Army has already taken a long and hard look at the data produced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation when they recently investigated switching handgun calibers, an investigation that led the agency to abandon the .40 S&W in favor of the 9mm. The FBI discovered that 9mm outperforms both .40 S&W and .45 ACP when using premium hollowpoints, while having less perceived recoil and much greater ammunition capacity.

I would not be surprised at all if the full-size variant of the pistol that eventually wins the contract has a magazine capacity of 17-20 rounds.

During testing, MHS candidate pistols will feed at least 35,000 rounds of JHP  to ensure reliable feeding.

 

* Image via Wikipedia