The US Army has announced that it will be seeking to replace their current M9 series sidearm, presenting a rare and lucrative opportunity for small arms manufacturers both here and overseas. However, the manufacturer of the current Army sidearm may be on the outside looking in.
The Pentagon has invited gunmakers to submit designs for a “modular handgun system.”
Beretta has produced 600,000 M9s for the Department of Defense and is still under contract to produce another 100,000. The M9s were initially made in Italy, but they have been manufactured in the U.S. since 1987.
The venerable Italian arms manufacturer has been in business since 1526 and their 92 series 9mm pistol was chosen to replace the Colt 1911A1 as the US military handgun in the late 1980s. The military version of the Model 92- known in all four branches as the M9- features a metal frame, slide-mounted safety and 15 round magazine. In December, Beretta introduced the M9A3 which featured improvements such as a removable, modular wrap-around grip, a threaded barrel, tritium sights, an under-barrel accessory rail and a 17-round magazine. The pistol itself is sand-colored, a change from the current gunmetal black. Another selling point Beretta highlighted is that the M9A3 would be interchangeable with components and accessories from the current batch of M9s.
However, the Army rejected Beretta's proposal this month and the new Modular Handgun System will most likely use an entirely different platform. Given the widespread use of Glock handguns by police agencies throughout the United States as well as some NATO allies, it would seem logical that some variation of the polymer-framed 9mm Glock 17 was evaluated at some point. Although relatively new, Smith and Wesson's Polymer-framed M&P series pistol is also being evaluated by the Army as a replacement for the M9. Despite being around for less than a decade, Smith & Wesson's M&P series has been adopted by a number of law enforcement agencies in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia- even replacing earlier versions of Glocks in some instances. Smith & Wesson's [NASDAQ: SWHC] bid for the lucrative Modular Handgun System contract will be assisted by General Dynamics [NYSE: GD] Ordnance and Tactical Systems.
Another possibility could be Modular Handgun System being awarded to SIG-Sauer. The US Army Criminal Investigative Division presently carries the SIG P228 [designated the M11- NANESB!] and the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command ordered 5000 polymer-framed SIG SP2022 9mm pistols. The SP2022 has a number of features similar to SIG-Sauer's full-size P226 series pistols, but is lighter thanks to the polymer frame.