The United States Army is finally beginning to replace the M9 Beretta, the service’s primary handgun since 1986. The Beretta will be replaced by the Sig Sauer P320 and will be known as the M17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) in the Army.
The M17 and its smaller, more compact version the M18, are being issued to team leaders in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. More than 2,000 handguns were delivered to the 101st headquarters in November and some soldiers got to fire the weapon right out of the box. The team leaders who will receive them first will carry them as a secondary weapon along with their primary weapon, the M4.
“The specific performance improvements from [the Modular Handgun System] over the M9 include better accuracy, tighter dispersion, and better ergonomics, which, combined, result in a far more lethal pistol,” Lieutenant Colonel Steven Power, the individual weapons product manager for Project Manager Soldier Weapons, said in an Army release.
All Army units will see the M17 replace the M9 over the next decade.
The M9 Beretta has an interesting reputation, particularly within the military, and has found itself often criticized for having a bad trigger, fat grip, safety/de-cocker, and little stopping power. Despite this, many have praised its accuracy, durability, and reliability through the abuse and lack of maintenance that is common among the combat arms and Marines that it has been issued to.
The Army has been looking to replace the M9 since at least 2011, when they announced the competition for the Modular Handgun System. All Army units will see the M17 replace the M9 over the next decade. The Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force are all looking to replace the M9 Beretta with the M17 as well.
An official told Stars and Stripes news that the M17 Modular Handgun System will be issued to the Army’s new 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) at Fort Benning, Georgia before the end of the year. The 1st SFAB was recently stood up after its first Soldiers completed their training. Their mission is to train, advise, and assist security forces in partner nations.
The M17 and M18 come equipped with an external safety and a self-illuminating light that will help Soldiers operating in low-light conditions. It also has an integrated rail system that will allow Soldiers to add enablers to the weapon and is configured to have a silencer/suppressor added.
Like the M9 Beretta, the M17 and M18 will fire 9mm but, unlike the Beretta, is designed to retain the ability to be modified for a variety of missions. Grips, barrels, and slides can be removed and mated to completely redesign the Modular Handgun System based on a specific mission’s requirements.
The gun has a stainless steel frame that allows users to “change caliber, size and fit at will.” It also has a “cleaner, crisper trigger reset, safe takedown and unprecedented modularity,” a promotional release from Sig Sauer said.
Sig Sauer won a 10-year, $580 million contract to produce 195,000 pistols for the Army. They will be produced at Sig Sauer facilities in New Hampshire.