Pentagon docs reveal Army MHS plagued with problems

Troops of the 101st Airborne Division were the first in the Army to be issued the new handgun, based on the Sig P320 (Photos: DOD)

Troops of the 101st Airborne Division were the first in the Army to be issued the new handgun, based on the Sig P320. (Photo: DoD)

The Army’s Modular Handgun System hasn’t all been smooth sailing, according to recently released Pentagon documents indicating persistent problems with the Sig Sauer platform.

An annual fiscal report released by the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation detailed potential issues with the Sig Sauer XM17 and XM18 platforms. Among those listed were drop safety concerns, double ejections and stoppage issues with the use of certain ammunition.

Possibly the most glaring problem for the pistol platform was a drop safety deficiency discovered by Army researchers during evaluations. The report states that during drop testing of the Sig Sauer pistols, an empty primed cartridge would discharge if the striker was struck. Sig Sauer implemented an “Engineering Change Proposal” immediately after it was alerted to the drop safety issue, according to the report, eventually correcting the deficiency by tweaking the trigger group mechanism.

In a strikingly similar case, Sig Sauer underwent public scrutiny in August 2017 regarding drop safety concerns in its P320 variant — the platform the MHS is based on — after it was demonstrated that the pistol would discharge a primed cartridge when dropped or hit at a certain angle. Consumer backlash was fierce and eventually forced the company to issue a voluntary recall on the P320 platform.

Drop safety concerns weren’t the only alarms raised by Army testers. The full size XM17 and compact XM18 reportedly also experienced routine double-ejections — when  an unspent ball round ejects alongside a spent round. The problem was persistent in both pistols, enough so that the Army stood up a root cause analysis team to trace the issue. The DoD reports the investigation is still underway.

In addition to ejection deficiencies, stoppages also seemed to be a common theme between the pistols. The Army defines a stoppage as “any deficiency that prevents the pistol from operating as intended, but is corrected through immediate action.”

During Product Verification Testing the MHS platform demonstrated more stoppages with ball ammunition than special purpose ammunition, but the report also noted that slide stoppages accounted for nearly half of XM17 stoppages and 75 percent of XM18. During these, the slide failed to lock to the rear after the last round.

Army marksmanship experts were quick to point out that the slide lock stoppage was most likely due to user handling. In the documentation, the DoD emphasized that a high hand placement can engage the slide stop lever on the Sig Sauer pistols, which prevents the slide from locking to the rear. The Army emphasized that better personnel training would likely correct the issue.

Sig Sauer’s MHS award over competitors Glock, Beretta and Smith & Wesson has been a hotly debated topic since the gun maker pulled off the $580 million win. Glock filed a bid protest in Feb. 2017, arguing that Army Material Command did not properly evaluate the MHS proposal. The Government Accountability Office slammed the door on Glock in June 2017, denying the challenge.

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