Senator John McCain has apparently had his name out of the limelight for too long, and so he’s decided to thrust himself into the national spotlight by holding forth on a subject he clearly knows nothing about, the U.S. Army’s XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) Contract.
The genesis for the MHS program was the realization that the U.S. military’s current pistol, the Beretta M9, was an outdated design that many servicemen and women could not shoot well, with poor ergonomics and placement of controls, using 9mm NATO ball ammunition that did not perform as well as could be hoped for in combat.
The technologies behind the M9, and indeed, most contemporary law enforcement and military firearms, is 30 years to a half-century behind the curve in terms of science.
We know so much more now about how the human body performs under the stress of combat, combat human factors engineering, and the science of ballistics than when most “modern” handguns were created.
The main drivers behind the MHS program were the warfighters from Fort Benning. They saw that the firearms industry was largely content to rest on their laurels and push incremental improvements to existing designs, instead of sinking monies into research and development to truly build a 21st century handgun for the American soldier.
These performance-focused fighters knew that the M9 was going to need to be replaced, and insisted that American soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen deserved a handgun that was more intuitive to aim, had lower perceived recoil, had faster shot-to-shot strings, could be used effectively by a wider number of troops, and which had more immediate impact upon the enemy than the questionable performance of the 9mm NATO M882 cartridge.
The XM17 was thus intended to be a fighting pistol unparalleled in the world, a “fifth generation” pistol akin to the F22 Raptor among military jet fighters, but at a far more reasonable cost, and likely at less than the per-unit replacement cost of the M9.
The gun industry has largely been resistant to the radical changes demanded by the MHS program, as the handgun the Army has spec’d out will make contemporary pistols seem woefully inadequate in comparison, and will force them to spend tens, of not hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development and design to bring their own modern, “fifth generation” handguns to market.
One of the most intelligent decisions they made when developing the MHS contract was to make the platform itself caliber agnostic.
They knew well that ammunition companies were developing products at a pace faster than gun companies, and that truly revolutionary products were being tested and refined. They wanted to ensure that the handgun they selected would not be tied down to single caliber.
They wanted to allow the best and brightest in the ammunition and handgun industries to be free to collaborate to develop a cartridge and handgun combination that would far surpass the existing M882 round in terms of accuracy, recoil control, and effect on target.
They also wanted to ensure that the handgun design was robust enough so that over the expected service life of the pistol it could be easily upgraded to take advantage of advanced cartridges and even new calibers by only needing relatively minor and cost-effective upgrades, such as new barrels, springs, and magazines.
Perhaps Senator McCain is simply too old and too set in his ways to understand the careful thought that has gone into crafting the MHS contract.
As someone tired of seeing our military constantly being equipped to fight the last war, I’d kindly invite Senator McCain to shut his fool mouth, and let the actual experts get the handgun they desire, for once.