In early 2017, SIG Sauer picked up the largest and most important military handgun contract in 30 years and had to meet requirements far more rigorous than previous generations. 

The New Hampshire-based company came out on top in the U.S. Army's $580 million Modular Handgun System award, one that stood to replace the service's dated M9 (Beretta 92F) and M11 (SIG P228) series 9mm pistols. The new MHS guns would be the full-sized M17 and the more compact M18, both models of SIG's P320 series pistol but fitted with different grip modules and barrels. 
 

The two pistols compared. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

 

By November 2017, the first batches of M17s were in the hands of the elite Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne Division. 

By early 2019, Lot Acceptance Tests for the M18 variant had passed with flying colors. While LAT tests allow for 12 stoppages in the course of 5000 rounds fired, three M18s used went to 12,000 rounds each, with no stoppages. The guns then went on to pass the required interchangeability, material, and accuracy tests.

Later that year, the Air Force began fielding its own M18s, followed by the Marines. In USAF service, the M18s replaced not only the M9 and M11 but also the M15, the old S&W .38 K-frame long retained for use in training military working dogs. Meanwhile, the Marines would use the M18 to not only replace their aging M9 Berettas but also the Colt M45A1 CQB .45ACP railgun and the newly acquired M007 Glock.

 

The M18, seen here under inspection at SIG Sauer's plant
The M18, seen here under inspection at SIG Sauer's plant, has become the pistol of choice for the U.S. Air Force, Marines, and Navy, whereas it is used in smaller numbers by the Army, which prefers the larger format M17. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

 

RELATED: We Toured SIG Sauer's New Hampshire Plant to See Where P320s Are Born

 

With both variants fully approved for use by the Army, SIG delivered the 100,000th MHS pistol to the military by November 2019. By November 2020, the 200,000th had been delivered.  

As detailed in the above video, filmed on location at SIG Sauer's New Hampshire factory, Roger Gerwig explains the inspection and certification process to which the military submits each MHS series pistol. 

This includes a strict accuracy test, with each pistol required to fire 10 shots into a 2.85-inch circle at 25 meters. For reference, this is about the size of a tennis ball. The prior standard was 10 shots inside a 9x11 rectangle – an area just larger than a sheet of copy paper. 

 

A graphical representation of the current M17 standard compared to the previous M9 standard for accuracy. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
A graphical representation of the current M17 standard compared to the previous M9 standard for accuracy. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

 

revolver barrel loading graphic

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