Beretta is happy to announce that they will be manufacturing the official sidearm of the U.S. Army for another five years, right here at their plant in Maryland. The contract calls for another 100,000 pistols to be delivered to the armed forces over the course of those five years.
While this is good news for Beretta, many people, including the U.S. Army, have suggested that it’s time to seek out a more modern sidearm. The Army has been ordering an updated version of the M9 since 2006, the M9A1, which adds a Picatinny rail for accessories as well as some other ergonomic and reliability improvements, but is largely identical to the M9 that entered service in 1980, including having fixed sights.
The Army is aware of these limitations, and in the past has stated their intent to find something newer, a lighter sidearm with a longer service life and more configuration options. There are many pistols that fit this description, but for now, with the Army cinching their belt, it’s likely that it’s less expensive to replace M9s as needed instead of upgrading across the board.
This is a short-term solution. As it stands, according to the Army Times, the M9A1 has a service life of 5,000 rounds. If the Army starts replacing their pistols with guns that have a 25,000-round service life, they will more than make up for the cost of switching to a new sidearm in a few years with maintenance savings alone.
Although it isn’t as if the Army shoots an M9 5,000 times and throws it away, it’s that they need a check-up every 5,000 rounds. The slides are rated for 35,000 rounds, the frames 30,000, and locking blocks 22,000. Other parts like springs, barrels and magazines will need replacement sooner. However, the Army insists that in the desert conditions they commonly are deployed to accelerate the wear “exponentially.”
Requirements for the next Army sidearm are largely based on problems the military has encountered with the M9 and M9A1, and prohibit guns with open slides, slide-mounted safeties and no sight upgrade options. The large slide cutout is one major issue with the pistol, as it allows fine dust and sand to work into the action of the gun, which is what causes them to wear out so quickly.
Others have suggested that the Army adopt a less modern sidearm than the M9, or any wondernine, that it’s time to bring back the M1911. While the M1911 never entirely left service with our armed forces, with some special operations units continuing to use the pistol, it is far from being standard issue.
Recently the Marines entered in contract with Colt for 5,000 Rail Guns to replace their aging MEU(SOC) pistols. However, early tests of these new M-45s yielded disturbing results, with massive failures in just 12,000 rounds.
Still, there are good arguments for going back to .45 ACP, whether it’s a 1911-style pistol or a Glock 21, and the ammunition argument is probably the strongest. The military largely uses ball ammunition, and while advances in expanding ammunition narrow the gap between 9mm and .45 ACP, if you’re shooting full or total metal jacket bullets, there is no question that .45 is a more effective round, albeit at a cost of some capacity.
The Army’s decision isn’t hugely surprising, in the end. They have supplies, parts, magazines and training to spare with the M9, and this only postpone’s the adoption of a new sidearm by three years. Maybe in that time, one gun will stand out from the crowd. As if there were some way for the Army to pick a new gun without kicking any hornets’ nests.
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