Army Gives Pistol Contract to Conventional 9mm

At last, the US military’s search for a new pistol seems to be over. This has been running for quite a while now, with a lot of debate about what sort of handgun is required, and even whether it should be in 9mm NATO or a non-standard caliber. The final decision is probably going to disappoint a lot of people because the winner is a very conventional 9mm, but personally, I think it’s an excellent decision.

Ten pistols were entered into the competition, plus Beretta’s M9A3 – a proposed upgrade of the existing M9. The US Army rejected the M9A3 outright, though, and the field was rapidly cut down as the less suitable candidates were weeded out. By late last year the entries were down to SIG Sauer and Glock, which each had full size and compact entries – and in January it was announced that the SIG Sauer P320 had won the competition. This will now become the standard handgun of the US Army and several other military branches.

Glock submitted a formal protest against the result, but apparently it was two days late with the paperwork, so the SIG deal won’t be automatically frozen until the protest is resolved. That makes it a lot less likely that anything will come of it – the more work that’s been done on getting the P320 into mass production and delivered to units, the more reluctant DoD will be to revisit the competition. This is probably a good thing for the troops, because the P320 makes a lot of sense.

The 320 is a modern high-capacity striker-fired 9mm with a polymer frame, developed from the P250. It’s not directly descended from the earlier P226 and P228 but does use the same locking system, where a squared-off breech locks into the ejection port. I had a P226 as a service pistol for a while, and it was an excellent weapon. If the P320 has the same build quality and reliability, there shouldn’t be any issues with it.

A major strength of the P320 is its modularity. The polymer frame comes in three different grip sizes, to accommodate different-sized hands, and three lengths – full, compact and subcompact. The US Army deal is for around 280,000 full-size pistols and 7,000 compact ones, to replace the M9 and M11 (the SIG P228) respectively. The P320 will also take a suppressor without needing any further modifications, and it feeds from a standard 17-round or extended 21-round magazine.

To meet the Army’s requirements, SIG Sauer has made the P320 fully ambidextrous, with all controls either accessible from both sides of the weapon or user-switchable in the field. There’s a loaded chamber indicator and a high degree of sealing to keep assorted crap out of its innards.

Although the standard P320 can be converted to .357 SIG or .40 S&W, and there’s a .45ACP version available, the Army has decided to stick with 9mm. This is going to be controversial with some, but I think it’s a smart decision. Mythology aside, the 9mm is significantly more powerful than .45 ACP and close enough to the other caliber options that any difference in combat performance is negligible. It’s also the NATO standard pistol round, and SIG Sauer are offering two high-performance loads specially designed for the P320.

The M1911 is a classic design, but it’s over a century old now; compared to modern handguns it’s excessively complicated, has poor ergonomics and suffers from an archaic caliber and small magazine capacity. The M9 that largely replaced it is a problematic weapon that’s always had questions over its reliability and durability. Hopefully, with the P320 now accepted as the new M17, the US Army will have a standard handgun that suits everyone. It would be a bonus if every other branch of the US military adopted it too, because the increasing diversity of equipment between branches is an expensive mistake that’s eating resources and damaging interoperability.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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