The Army recently announced that it will be breaking a 35-year connection with Beretta USA in replacing the popular M9 pistol with the P320 or M17 modular hand gun made by Sig Sauer. The new contract could be worth as much as $580 million and more than 500,000 guns.
Driving the change is the Army’s desire for a more modular gun design. For those unfamiliar with the M9, the chassis or frame of the gun doesn’t allow for much customization. Think of it as buying a sports car without options for wheel or engine size.
In comparison, the P320/M17 will allow soldiers to choose from different pistol grip sizes, longer or shorter barrels, the side of the gun on which the safety is located, and even the type of ammunition it uses.
This is because the only part of the M17 that is truly uniform is the trigger mechanism. Everything else that goes around it has options.
So, for example, a larger or smaller pistol grip can be selected based on hand size.
The location of the safety can be based on whether you fire with the left or right hand.
Or a longer barrel can be chosen for use on the battlefield, vs. a shorter option for on-post Military Police.
These and other preferences make the gun a better fit, literally, for the user. These pistols will also be configurable for use with silencers, as wells as standard and larger capacity ammo clips.
The selection of Sig Sauer emanated from the Army’s $350 million Modular Handgun System competition, which began soliciting for requests for proposal in September 2015. The process was criticized for how long it dragged on – to the point where lawmakers questioned incoming Defense Secretary, General James Mattis about it during his confirmation hearing earlier this month.
Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and the aforementioned Beretta USA for the contract. Although the company is headquartered in Germany, all M17s are set to be manufactured at Sig Sauer’s factory in New Hampshire.