Report Shows Problems With M17, M18 Pistols

(Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

The Department of Defense’s decision to go with Sig’s P320 over Glock’s offering has been controversial, to say the least. Glock is still convinced it had the best pistol for the job and the company feels like it got screwed on the deal. None of this was helped by the news breaking that the P320 could fire if dropped in a certain manner, to be sure.


Now, a new report reveals some significant problems with the M17 and M18 pistols the military currently has, which probably is making Glock feel pretty good about themselves at the moment.

The U.S. Army’s decision to select two versions of Sig Sauer’s 9mm P320 pistol as the new standard sidearms across the service was not without controversy, including a formal protest by competing gun maker Glock, which claimed the service didn’t complete certain critical tests. The Pentagon recently released a report that shows testing of the M17 and M18 handguns exposed a number of significant and persistent deficiencies, including firing accidentally if a shooter dropped the gun, ejecting live ammunition, and low reliability with traditional “ball” cartridges with bullets enclosed inside a full metal jacket.

These and other details were in the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation review of such work during the 2017 fiscal year, which it published earlier in January 2018. This regular report covers a wide variety of high profile weapon systems and other important equipment across the U.S. military, including the Army’s Modular Handgun System (MHS) program. In January 2017, the Army chose Sig Sauer to supply a total more than 300,000 of the full size M17 and compact M18 pistols as part of that project, a deal worth approximately $580 million. The other U.S. military services are now considering following suit and adopting the guns and the company is making essentially the same gun available to civilian shooters as well.

According to the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, the guns experienced a number of issues in testing between April and September 2017, which is the end of the period the report covers. The first of these was a publicly known issue that the pistol could go off if the user dropped the weapon. Needless to say, an accidental discharge could be dangerous to the shooter or those around them.

The Army discovered this issue during the initial “Product Verification Test,” but it is unclear when specifically the service became aware of the problem. Sig Sauer did subsequently make unspecified changes to fix this issue in the M17 and M18 pistols.


That would be the same fix available to civilian owners of the P320.

Fans of the Glock are probably feeling pretty smug right now, but I seem to remember the M9 also having some teething problems in the early days.

Of course, none of those was the weapon ejecting live rounds. Seriously, how does that even happen? I’m trying to play this in my mind, and I just can’t see it.

DOD officials are working with Sig to resolve the problem, but it’s just one of many the pistol seems to be having, including the weapon not being able to feed ball ammunition reliably. It works fine with the military’s hollow point ammo, but when you switch to ball, reliability drops from the 95 percent standard required during testing to just 75 percent.

I’m sure I don’t need to spell out why this is a problem.

All this said, don’t expect the military to jump ship and come running to Glock. Instead, they’ll push the issue with Sig and make the company fix the issues. Military procurement is such a bog that trying to shift gears like that just can’t happen. It’s easier to make Sig do some work and make the problems go away, which I suspect will happen pretty soon.

However, I don’t see people feeling warm and fuzzy about that new P320 in the gun store case by any stretch of the imagination.


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