The U.S. Army and Air Force are moving one step closer to replacing the 9mm Beretta M9 pistol that has been the U.S. military’s “go to” sidearm for more than 30 years.
The Department of Defense will soon chose three finalists in a competition to be the U.S. Army and Air Force’s new sidearm. One of the three finalists could go on to outfit all of the services, with total sales of of 500,000 handguns—but not before the Pentagon bureaucracy makes it as long and complicated as possible.
The Modular Handgun System (MHS) is a $17 million dollar effort to replace the aging Beretta M92 handgun. First adopted in the 1980s, the U.S. Army’s Berettas are beginning to wear out. The M92 is also a product of another time, and hasn’t kept up with recent advances in pistol technology.
According to the article, the three MHS finalists will be selected from one of the following pistols.
Currently there are twelve bidders for the contract, including the Beretta APX, Ceská Zbrojovka’s CZ P-09, FN Herstal’s Five-Seven Mk 2, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GDOTS) and Smith & Wesson’s M&P polymer handgun; the Glock 17 and 22; and Sig Sauer’s P320. An updated version of the M9, the Beretta M9A3, was rejected by the Army and won’t be involved in the competition.
Interestingly enough, most of the handguns submitted are clearly not modular in nature, a bizarre reality for a “Modular Handgun System.”
Only the Sig Sauer P320, with a serialized core frame and the ability to swap different grip lengths and slide-barrel combinations, seems to meet the requirements of the RFP among the named designs*. The Beretta APX, CZ P09, Smith & Wesson M&P, and Glock models only offer swappable backstraps. They lack any kind of actual modularity and the ability to change frame sizes and slide/barrel lengths on the same chassis.
I’m also perplexed that FN submitted the Five-SeveN, as the gun’s 5.7×28 caliber has been thoroughly trashed by most defensive handgun experts as a niche round that fails to create adequate tissue damage to have significant immediate impact on targets.
Caliber-wise, the RFP states that the MHS winner will need to work with legacy 9mm training systems, meaning that the winner will either need to be 9mm, or be compatible with 9mm.
Once you consider these factors, it seems that the 9mm P320 MHS variant must be not only be among the MHS finalists, but be declared the winner for being the only submitted handgun which actually meets the Army’s RFP, providing that it meets performance specifications (which it should,based on the standard P320’s success in the civilian and law enforcement markets).
Let’s go ahead and declare this contest over.
* Detonics Defense and STI had the only other truly modular design and the only metal-frame gun being considered for submission, but withdrew the MTX at the last minute without explanation.