Category Archives: Industry

Five Reasons to Own Sixguns

Revolvers have been declining in market share for three decades, a decline which really only got going 30 years after the last major military revolver user (the UK), crawled into the 20th Century. (Actually the last major military revolver user was probably the US, which issued revolvers to aviators, and to military police men and women who had difficulty with the 1911A1, up until the adoption of the Beretta M9 — but it was always a secondary weapon). They’re now rare as police firearms, and much less common than they once were as defensive firearms.

As revolvers’ presence in the police and civilian market has declined, their presence in crime has also declined. This is logical, as most criminals arm themselves with weapons diverted from lawful uses, generally by theft or straw purchase with many cut-outs and intermediaries. This increased use of automatic pistols in crime has actually been a boon for homicide and assault investigators, as toolmark evidence matching firearms to cases (cartridge type) or cases (cartridge) from one crime scene to another, has helped close more than a few cases (investigative type). Sumdood doesn’t police his brass when he rips his dope dealer, oddly enough; and he can’t police his brass when he does a drive-by, holding his Hi-Point sideways out the window.

Logisticians might dream of caseless ammo, but homicide cops don’t.

Revolvers’ mindshare has declined. They are seldom seen in TV or movies, except in period pieces or to mark a character as kind of old-fashioned (Rick in The Walking Dead with his long-discontinued Python).

Is the declining mindshare of revolvers a cause or an effect of declining market share? Both may be the right answer; market and mind share may be wrapped in a vicious circle, or spiral.

But there are a number of reasons for the classic, 1890s-style double-action revolver’s remaining children to still be used. Consider these five reasons to shoot sixguns:

  1. They are simple and, if quality products in good condition, reliable.
  2. They are indifferent to variations in ammunition.
  3. Misfire drill? Just fire again.
  4. Time spent loading can enforce a certain pace on a shooting session, improving performance.
  5. They can be enjoyable and educational to shoot; there’s a great variety of them.

Simple and Reliable

While a revolver’s mechanism seems fiendishly complex to those not mechanically inclined, it’s a simple mechanical mechanism. Compared to a typewriter or sewing machine there’s a lot less to go on — and compared to an automatic pistol, the same is true. Some of them are better than others, especially on durability. (An old, worn Smith is less likely to have lost time or need a gunsmith than a Colt of similar vintage. Or an NIB Taurus). It’s also intuitive and easy to learn. There’s a t-shirt with a Colt SAA on it: “the original point-and-click interface.” Steve Jobs (who lifted it all from Xerox PARC anyway), eat your heart out.

Indifferent to Ammo Variations

What ammo works with your carry gun? Sure, with modern autos the days of hollow-points not feeding are mostly over, but everyone has experience with ammo their gun does not like. Doesn’t happen with a sixgun. If the gun’s right, anything that chambers goes bang. Bang-on-demand is good.

What Misfire Drill?

As we mentioned, with a revolver you just point and click. If you do get a point and click and not point and bang, your follow-up shot is a trigger pull away (a hammer cock and trigger pull, if you’re really OG and toting an SAA or something like that). No auto pistol is that quickly back in the fight (or, for hunters, on the game).

Enforces Pace

OK, here we’re making a virtue of necessity. But anyone who spends any time on ranges has seen the shooter with more ammo than sense, blowing through 200 rounds without making a great deal of effort to hit anything. Hey, it’s a free country, and if that’s how they want to make fun let ’em knock themselves out, but… there’s a lot to be said for taking that same amount of time and firing 50 rounds with care. The mechanical, muscle-memory drill of dumping cases and loading rounds can be a great time for considering what went wrong with your last six shots, and what you can do better with the next six.

After all, only the hits count, and even 3 out of 6 into the target at 7 meters is better than the NYPD does out of a 17-round Glock mag.

Enjoyable Variety

The different revolver mechanisms are a blast. Everybody who has never shot a Single-Action Army before gets a thrill out of it, the first time. Ejecting the cases and loading them is fun, and they you can tell the guy or gal, “And… they were expected to do this on a horse.” Instant connection to distant times and places. Likewise, tip-up revolves.

A favorite uncle had a Harrington and Richardson 9-shot .22; it looked like a baby Webley, and was great fun to pop it open and fountain .22 brass around.

Colt 1917

And then, there are the revolvers of 1,000 detective shows, and plenty of revolvers with interesting military history. (Colt and Smith M1917s are nice, beefy guns with a great back story and some weird engineering to let them shoot rimless .45 ACP). Early police double-action .32 pistols are fun and easy to shoot, built like jewels, and dirt cheap right now. There’s always some bragging rights in a Smith & Wesson Model 29. (Or a .500 if you’re diffident about carrying Dirty Harry’s gun, or concerned about the low power of the .44 Mag).

Everybody ought to have a revolver.

But then, the question becomes, which revolver?

HK433 and the German Competition, Part III

So far, in Part 1 and Part 2, we’ve given you just about everything that Hah und Kah has put out about the new assault rifle family, the HK433. It’s importance for HK is that it’s the company’s entrant in the Bundeswehr competition to replace HK’s own G36. The G36 ran into troubles with shot dispersion in hot conditions, both hot environments and when the gun itself heats up; after a long and unpleasant series of legal maneuvers, German courts ruled that the government was not entitled to recover damages: the G36 met every Bundeswehr requirement, and the hot-conditions test was not anticipated, and so wasn’t a requirement. The rifle’s poor performance in these conditions was a surprise to everybody, including the team that designed it.

And, despite the problem, the German troops that carry the G36 remain generally happy with it; for all the Sturm und Drang in the press (this has been an ongoing Page One story in Germany), troop confidence is not as shaken as you might think. There is no groundswell of German Landsers demanding their G3s back (let alone Opa’s K98k). So the competition has to produce a rifle that’s better than the G36, not only in the view of the theoretically objective testers, but perhaps more importantly in the eyes of the Gefreiter mafia.

While HK’s own HK433 has to be considered the favorite, it’s a big contract (and a German sale increases your odds of selling to fans of German engineering worldwide, including many Third World armies that are larger than the Bundeswehr). So everybody’s going to chase it.

So who else is playing? The German station N TV has a report on the competition, and we’ll translate some passages for you, starting with a shortened version of a paragraph we did in Part I.

Out with the old G36, in with a new standard rifle for the Bundeswehr. …. The firms Sig Sauer s well as Rheimetall in collaboration with Steyr Mannlicher have recently indicated that they want to get the big contract from the Federal Defense Ministry. Now the former top dog and G36 supplier Heckler & Koch chimes in.

After delays the RFP for the major contract should be issued in the first half of 2017, reports the Defense Ministry. Actually a start at the end of 2016 had been envisioned. Due to painstaking preparation of the conract conditions, an “adjustment of the internal timeline” became necessary. The supply of new rifles should begin in 2020 and end 2026; originally 2019 has been named as a possible starting year.

Heckler & Koch and the Defense Ministry? Wasn’t there something about that? Officials and the department head, Ursula von der Leyen, had accused the firm of accuracy problems with the G36 in sustained fire and heat, and demanded damages. But the Koblenz State Court issued von der Leyen a setback in 2016: the judges ruled that, measured by the contract conditions, the rifle had no deficiencies. .

Essentially, the problem they found with the rifle was not a performance measure they specified when they were buying rifles, last time out. The courts ruled that Minister von der Leyen was in the position of someone who bought a car without air conditioning, and then demanded the dealer fix the AC.

But the Minister held to her decision to muster 167,000 G36s out at the end of this decade. In order to find a modern replacement, the Ministry is preparing a request for proposals….  Yet it’s not surprising that the Swabian gunmaker has thrown its hat in the ring. “You have to consider – Heckler & Koch is the official supplier to the Bundeswehr”, Wolf-Christian Paes from the Internationalen Konversionszentrum in Bonn explains. “We want the contract absolutely, for us it is also strategically important,” says Scheuch. His firm is heavily leveraged, but recently has reported better financials.

Does Heckler & Koch start off with a black mark for the big contract, due to the contretemps with the Ministry? “It’s going to be an objective competition,” company head Scheuch says. “The procurement branch of the Bundeswehr is large, versatile, and well organized — any disadvantage from a the person opinion of any individual involved is not a threat.”

Legal experts agree. “That’s not forced optimism from Heckler & Koch”, says contract lawyer Jan Byok from the offices of Bird & Bird. There will be “no whiff of discrimination”. If that were the case, the contract would be legally disputable — something the Government wants to avoid. In a pan-European contest, all participants have equal chances, Byok said.

Weapons expert Paes sees it similarly: from the Bundeswehr he has heard that H&K has considerable understanding there: the firm has provided what was ordered. Had they wanted rifles , that even in continuous fire remained highly accurate, they’d have had to pay more — but that didn’t happen, Paes says.

And then the writer takes a shot at handicapping the field:

Weapons experts see H&K somewhat advantaged, relative to foreign firms: should the US manufacturer Colt join in the competition, the “Bund” would probably prefer the German firm, somewhat, said Paes. “It’s an announced objective of the Government’s industrial policy, to retain manufacturing competence in the country.”

In 2016 H&K got a big contract from the French Army — and defeated the Belgian gunmaker FN. Such successes have consequences for the Bundeswehr contract, lawyer Byok said. … H&K also supplies the armies of Spain, Great Britain, and US special operations forces.

SIG-Sauer also wants the contract. But the Schleswig-Holstein subsidiary of a US business has only 120 employees, H&K on the other hand has 850. Is SIG-Sauer too small? A business has to have a certain minimum size to meet contract terms, says attorney Byok.

They could handle the contract in any case, a SIG-Sauer spokesman reports. “For one, because we have just now already expanded production capacity, for another, because the development of such a contract would take place over a longer period of time.  How the race ends is unclear. One thing is certain, for lawyer Byok: the contract will draw the attention of the entire small arms industry. Along with Colt and FN, the Italian gunsmith Beretta and the Czech firm CZ should throw their hats in the ring: “That would be everybody, who has a name and a rank” [in the industry].

That actually winds up being just about the whole article. Let us know if you spot any translation errors.

Exit thought: since nobody has seen the contract yet, what’s the over-under on it having some provision for limited dispersion of rounds from an overheated gun?

Ukraine to Buy 7.62 x 39 mm M16s… from Blimp Impresario?

We remember where we met Igor Pasternak — at the EAA Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the world’s largest airshow — but we don’t remember when. It might have been in the 1990s, or in one of those Augusts of the early oughts we didn’t spend in places named Stan.

Pasternak is a fast moving guy, bursting with energy, with a shock of hair that seemed to be stood up by the electricity within, as if he is his own Van Der Graaf generator. And he burned, inside, with the fire of the True Believer. There are several sub-strains of aviation that attract, well, wild-eyed zealots: one of them is lighter-than-air aircraft. Pasternak was a lighter-than-air True Believer: airships, dirigibles, blimps; the Age of the Zeppelin was ripe for return. And, indeed, he’s had some success with his company Aeros, making both airships (lighter-than-air-craft that can fly under control) and aerostats (tethered balloons) for military uses, even though his real passion is for really large airships for cargo transport.

So it’s kind of amazing to see him and Aeros showing up as the Ukraine’s next vendor of military rifles. But a quick check shows that Worldwide Aeros Corp. has a manufacturer FFL at the same Montebello, California address as Aeros, the blimp guys.

But Aeros will not be building any rifles in its California digs — instead, they will set up the Ukrainians to build their own. From the Ukrainian press:

Sergei Mykytyuk, the director of Ukroboronprom subsidiary Ukroboronservis, told journalists at a January 3 press conference in Kyiv with Aeroscraft CEO Igor Pasternak and Ukroboronprom director Vladimir Korobov, “The first weapon for the pilot project will be manufactured in Ukraine – a model M16 automatic rifle designated the WAC-47. Weapons manufacture to NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] standards is an important part of the development and reform of the Ukrainian military-industrial complex.” Aeroscraft’s Mr. Pasternak added, “The M-16 project was conceived some time ago, as the Ukrainian armed forces, border guards and National Guard will, with time, switch to NATO standards.”

Ukraine’s decision to manufacture assault rifles compatible with NATO standards represents the most decisive break yet with the remnants of its Soviet military-industrial complex heritage. Moreover, it is a significant symbol of Kyiv’s ongoing interest in eventual membership in the North Atlantic alliance.

As for Ukraine’s interaction with the North Atlantic Alliance, Ukroboronprom noted, “Ukrainian soldiers are already participating in joint maneuvers with NATO, there are joint teams with Lithuania and Poland, and the creation of a similar unit with other NATO countries Romania and Bulgaria has been proposed. Furthermore, Ukraine consistently participates in joint peacekeeping operations. And in each case, one of the problems is logistics. For example, in the Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian brigade [LitPolUkrBrig], Polish soldiers use the Beryl assault rifle, caliber 5.56×45, while Ukrainian soldiers use the automatic AKM or AKMS, caliber 7.62×39.” The introduction of the WAC-47 in significant numbers to the Ukrainian armed forces would eliminate this logistical bottleneck (Ukroboronprom.com.ua, January 10).

More details of the supposed contract appear in the Western press, but many of these details are not credible. Indeed, there is a lot of nonsense being written about this contract.

In order to modify a Ukrainian M16 to use NATO ammunition, the bolt and barrel will have to be replaced, Brian Summers, a U.S. Army veteran and weapons expert, told The Daily Signal.

“The only items that would have to be replaced are what I would describe as items that would normally be replaced based on use,” Summers said. “The magazines are ammo specific, and would have to be changed to the specific caliber.”

The M16 rifle has two main components—an upper and lower receiver. According to Summers, for a Soviet-caliber M16 to use NATO ammunition, only the upper receiver needs to be modified by replacing the bolt and barrel.

The M16 weapons system is “one of the most versatile weapon platforms in configuration and caliber,” Summers said. “Your troops essentially can train on one platform and when switching over to a new caliber do not need to be retrained in a new weapons system … Core of the platform, lower receiver, does not change and any optics can be moved.”

In the 1990s, Colt Defense LLC, the original M16 producer, produced a special civilian version of the military assault rifle designed to use Soviet 7.62×39 mm ammunition.

“I own this variant and if I want to fire 5.56 mm [NATO ammunition], I simply switch the upper receiver with 5.56 mm bolt and mags,” Summers said. “Two minutes to change.”

Exercise for the reader. Take an AR, any 5.56mm AR. (Most of you have one). Take an AK magazine, any 7.62mm AK mag. (Most of you have one of those, too). Insert Mag A in Magwell B. Wait, what? (The Colt version, long discontinued, uses proprietary magazines, seen with a 7.62 upper and a crude mag made from a 5.56 mag and an AK mag. It was discontinued in part because it doesn’t work terribly well).

A regular AK mag doesn’t go. If you’re a weapons expert, or even an ordinary retired 18B, or even just any one of the ten million Americans that buys an AR every year, you know that. If you’re the kind of “weapons expert” that Newsweek finds, like this guy, you don’t know that. If you’re a reporter, you live your life in the death-grip of the Dunning-Kruger effect about everything, and you can’t tell a phony weapons expert who’s never seen an AR and AK in the same place at the same time from the real thing. But you work for Newsweek, where everything  is “too good to check.”

In our opinion, the success of this program is uncertain. The Ukraine does have the aerospace industry necessary for AR parts manufacture, but the guy who’s going to teach them how to do it appears to have no significant background in firearms production. Now, of course, Gaston Glock has no significant background in firearms production before the Glock 17, and neither did many of the aeronautical-engineering experienced engineers at Armalite before the various 1950s Hollywood projects that would culminate in the AR-10 and AR-15. Perhaps some day we’ll all be lining up to buy awesome caliber-convertible carbines from Kiev.

But that’s not the bet that the oddsmakers would put the house money on.

Year of the Pistol-Caliber Carbine? Really?

We’re told that “2017 is The Year of the Pistol-Caliber Carbine” was one of the themes at SHOT this year. Online, it’s probably best developed by Michael Bane in this article.

This was, as I predicted, the Year of the Pistol Caliber Carbine. They were all over the place on the SHOT floor, and I don’t think we were able to even scratch the surface. While there were a lot of “Me toos!,” with many AR manufacturers rushing to get a pistol caliber product out the door, there were some interesting new products as well as substantial evolution from dedicated pistol caliber companies.

Do Read The Whole Thing™, because Michael does a fairly thorough run-down of available pistol-caliber rifles, leaving out only a few, like the Kriss and the Kahr Arms Thompsons. (The semi Thompsons, available as 16″ carbine or as SBR, date to Numrich Arms and the West Hurley, NY iteration of Auto-Ordnance, so they’re often forgotten out of sheer senescence. “New” is one of the most powerful words in the English language, and these are absolutely “not new”).

Now some people certainly think 2017 is the year of the semi subgun. Maybe SIG-Sauer is one of them, because, as we reported yesterday, they’ve raised the prices of their MPX pistol-caliber carbine from $61 to almost $300, depending on model. Bane likes that one, too. His conclusion (from the same post linked above):

Some things haven’t changed — the Sig MPX absolutely rules the roost. The venerable Kel-Tec SUB-2000, available in 9mm or .40 S&W with magazines for multiple platforms and a low-ball price of $500, remains the first choice for a first pistol caliber carbine — if you can find one! GunBroker is your best bet. MP-5 clones are coming on hard…I did an earlier post that covered MP-5 clones, including the HK SP5K. I’ll cover the RONI instant-SBR concepts in a different post (and I’ve talked about them on the podcast).

Here’s the link on my parts list for my QC-10 build.

Here’s my post on the advantages of a pistol caliber carbine for self-defense.

In our opinion, these are plinking curiosities, like .22LR clones of service weapons; for practical defensive use, the rifle-caliber carbine or SBR is generally superior, which is why militaries and cops have dumped most of their smorgasbord Stens, Stirlings, M3s, MP5s, and Uzis for a boring oatmeal of AR and AK.

One thing could change this calculation: if Congress were to lift the assignment of short-barreled weapons to the National Firearms Act, and make them Title 1 weapons instead. We don’t consider that likely this year, which is unfortunate because the People of the Gun might not have such a strong political alignment for a while. But if it were to squeak through the legislature and into reality, subgun clones would really take off.

US M17 Pistol Comes with Ball and Hollow-Point Ammo

From Mark Miller we learn the following:

According to Jane’s “The US Army has confirmed that its new XM17 handgun is to be a 9 mm Sig Sauer model P320 and the contract allows the government to buy Sig Sauer’s proposed XM1152 Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) and XM1153 Special Purpose (SP) ammunition and training rounds.”

The secret to making (new) 9mm outperform (existing) 9mm, which the RFP required, was, per Mark, “hollowpoints.” Presumably, the XM1153 is the holllow-point, and the 1152 an improved ball round. The actual RFP also requires numerous oddball rounds like blank and dummy.

It’s interesting that SIG introduced new hollow-points last year, and new ball ammo in 125 and 147 grain at this year’s SHOT Show.

Mark’s conclusion:

While the P-320 is a great choice for the M-17, we may find that hallow point ammunition makes a much more significant contribution to U.S. defense than their gun.

He’s probably correct there.

Mark’s site, The Arms Guide, is becoming a regular stop on the net. Check it out.

 

The 5.56 Timeline is Dead! Long live the 5.56 Timeline!

Use the links on the left of the page to navigate through the many html pages of the Timeline, organized by year.

One of the key resources for anyone interested in the long process of development of the small-caliber, high-velocity concept, leading up to the American adoption of the 5.56mm M16 and M16A1 rifles in 1963, and ultimately to every major army’s basic issue rifle today, has been Daniel E. Watters’s “5.56 Timeline,” developed over a lifetime of research and published until recently on Dean Speir’s site, The Gun Zone.

Five years ago, mentioning a resurce Daniel had turned us on to, we wrote, “For an overview of M16 development with lots of good links, you can’t really beat his page at The Gun Zone,” (adding a link that is now pining for the fjords).  A year later, we mentioned it again.

By 2015, we were calling Daniel’s 5.56 Timeline “indispensable” and it truly was, so it was pretty shocking when The Gun Zone closed down, and it went off the net… for a while.

Daniel explains it as follows:

This article was originally published at The Gun Zone — The Gunperson’s Authoritative Internet Information Resource. My friend and mentor Dean Speir has graciously hosted my articles at TGZ for nearly 16 years. These articles would likely have never appeared online without his constant encouragement and assistance.

With TGZ’s closure in early 2017, Dean encouraged me to find a new home for my scholarship so it wouldn’t be lost in the dustbin of the Internet. Loose Rounds has welcomed me with open arms. In the future, I intend to expand my legacy TGZ articles and add new contributions here at Loose Rounds.

While we regret the demise of TGZ, we’re thankful that this priceless Timeline was saved.

It’s now a permanent Page at Loose Rounds.

One thing that would make this Timeline really come alive is adapting it to an actual graphical timeline. Just thinking out loud, the 5.56 Timeline would make a great application for Scott ‘s internet startup, WhenHub.

Some More SIG Updates: MPX, M17 (P320) Pistol

MPX Price …Going Up!

Word at SHOT was that the MPX versions that are shipping — pistol, carbine, and SBR — are selling well, but that the company was planning to raise prices by $300 a unit, and to delete the accessories that used to come with one: QD sling, cleaning kit, etc. The backup iron sights are still included, as is one magazine. Source of that “word”? The staff at the SIG booth!

In 2015, when MPX pistols began to ship, Max Slowik wrote in Guns.com:

Along with the announcement SIG is publishing the official MSRPs. The base SIG MPX-P is listed at $1,576, the SIG MPX-P-PSB at $1,862 and the  SIG MPX SBR at $2,062. While guns often retail for less than suggested prices, we don’t expect that to be the case with the MPX for a while until demand drops off.

The numbers on the SIG website have already changed, although the price increases are less than $300 a unit. Here’s a table of what’s what.

SIG MPX Models List Price
SKU MPX Model 2015 2017 Δ Price 2017-15
MPX-P-9-KM MPX-P Pistol $1,576 $1,852 $276
MPX-P-9-KM-PSB MPX-P-PSB Pistol with SIG Brace $1,862 $2,084 $222
MPX-9-T-KM-SBR MPX SBR 8″ Short-Barrel Rifle $2,062 $2,123 $61
MPX-K-9-T-KM-SBR MPX-K SBR 4.5″ Short-Barrel Rifle $1,957 n/a
MPX-C-9-KM-T MPX-C 16″ Carbine $2,016 n/a
© 2017 Weaponsman.com

Friends asked a SIG rep, “Why?” The booth guy didn’t know, and called someone else over, who said, and we quote: “We’re not making enough profit at the present price.” So presumably they’re making some profit on an MPX, and the $200-300 price increase and the deletion of $50in accessories should drop right down to the bottom line. (They don’t expect many buyers to use the online accessory discount vouchers).

For comparison’s sake, the MSRP on the CZ Scorpion Evo 3 S1 pistol is $849 in black and $899 in FDE. The carbine version is $999 (muzzle brake) and $1049 (fake suppressor). There is no factory SBR.

Humility and a Sense of Honor

That’s what Lee Williams said he found at the SIG booth after the MHS M17 selection was announced. One of the SIG personnel told him the contract was “daunting,” and they’re going to be busy. Read The Whole Thing™ and the rest of Lee’s SHOT coverage.

Humility and a sense of honor today at the Sig Sauer booth

Andrew Branca on the SIG Buy: $207/each

Andrew had an interesting write-up at Legal Insurrection, the most interesting parts of which to us were (1) that he’s been carrying a 320 for a while, and really likes it, and (2) that according to sources of his (how come our sources didn’t have this?) the Army is paying for the SIGs (exclusive, we presume, of such accessories as suppressors) only $207 a pistol.

That might explain where the extra $300-400 per MPX is going.

Andrew is also a rare user of a manual-safety SIG, and that brings us to…

What a SIG P320 Safety Looks Like

Because most of you haven’t seen one in the flesh-and-blood (or steel-and-polymer), here’s an excerpt from the P320 Manual.

4.2 Manual Safety Equipped Pistols

The SIG P320 is offered with an optional ambidextrous manual safety. The manual safety mechanically blocks the movement of the trigger bar so the trigger cannot be pressed to the rear.

To engage the manual safety, rotate the safety lever upward with the thumb of the firing hand. The manual safety is ambidextrous. Pressing up on the lever from either side will rotate the opposite lever upward, engaging the manual safety. The slide can still be manipulated with the manual safety engaged.

And one of our commenters found this fascinating little detail in the manual:

If your P320 is fitted with a Tamper Resistant Takedown Lever, removing the grip module is not authorized. You must evacuate the pistol to the next authorized level of maintenance to have this performed.

This certainly seems like something put in place for police agencies and military services, to prevent the Incredible All Destroying Lance Corporal from monkeying with the pistol. The Tamper Resistant Lever needs a tamperproof spanner screwdriver or bit to be removed, marking it as an armorer job rather than operator maintenance. (It would be a rare gunsmith who doesn’t have a set of these screwdrivers, these days. Several manufacturers use them on non-user-maintenance parts). No idea if the military’s M17 pistols will be equipped with this feature, but it would not be surprising.

Reactions to the SIG MHS Win

New Hampshire Reacts

As you might imagine, local media here in the ‘Shire is a little bit excited over this, especially as SIG is saying that these pistols will be produced here in what we call the Portsmouth plant (it’s actually across the Newington line — the former Pease AFB, where the factory is, straddles the town line. These towns are in Rockingham county, in the lower right corner of the map on the right). On the one hand, newspapers (the Portsmouth Herald, Foster’s Daily Democrat of Dover, and the Manchester-based Union Leader) all went with the press release rewrites or cribbing from military-news websites, and have no local reaction in their stories. On the other hand, local talk radio, and the comments at the newspapers’ stories, have been highly positive. On the gripping hand, gun-culture folks encountered at FFLs (it was a pick-up-the-GunBroker-haul kind of day) were beyond positive. Grouchy old men were emitting giddy chuckles.

SIG-Sauer Reacts

SIG itself totally confounded our expectation of a slow media response and got pictures of their XM17 winners (full-size and compact, replacing the M9 and M11)…

…and a press release out Friday — maybe late Thursday, SHOT time. Text of the press release:

SIG SAUER, Inc. announced today that the U.S. Army has selected the SIG SAUER Model P320 to replace the M9 service pistol currently in use since the mid-1980’s. Released in 2014, the P320 is a polymer striker-fired pistol that has proven itself in both the United States and worldwide markets. The P320 is the first modular pistol with interchangeable grip modules that can also be adjusted in frame size and caliber by the operator. All pistols will be produced at the SIG SAUER facilities in New Hampshire.

The MHS Program provides for the delivery of both full size and compact P320’s, over a period of ten (10) years. All pistols will be configurable to receive silencers and will also include both standard and extended capacity magazines.

“I am tremendously proud of the Modular Handgun System Team,” said Army Acquisition Executive, Steffanie Easter in the release. “By maximizing full and open competition across our industry partners, we truly have optimized the private sector advancements in handguns, ammunition and magazines and the end result will ensure a decidedly superior weapon system for our warfighters.”

Ron Cohen, President and CEO of SIG SAUER, said “We are both humbled and proud that the P320 was selected by the U.S. Army as its weapon of choice. Securing this contract is a testimony to SIG SAUER employees and their commitment to innovation, quality and manufacturing the most reliable firearms in the world.”

Well done, getting the word out, Ron and guys. We take back all our snide comments about your media shop.

Not Everyone Excels at Publicity

We’re not so thrilled with the MHS Team; in a world of increasing government transparency, they’ve emitted a lot more squid ink than information. When will we get a report on the course of the tests and how the various contenders did? The Army released this information from all the tests that led up to the 1911, and we got some information from the tests that led up to the M9. But the MHS Team has been treating the public like mushrooms: kept in the dark, and fed on horse $#!+.

A Glock Fanboy Reacts

Hey, you knew it was coming. Here’s Pete in The Firearm Blog. A taste:

Fanboy? Sure, call me names, throw rotten food at your devices, raise your torches and pitchforks. Listen to some Nickleback for crying out loud. But even if you pray to a different god, be it Sig, S&W, FN or some pot metal creation you got at a show a few years back – Deep down, you know the US Army should be carrying GLOCKs as their new handgun.

Read The Whole Thing™.

What’s a Nickleback?

 

SIG Wins Army MHS Contract – Up to $580 Million

A version of the SIG P320 modular pistol has won the Army’s Modular Handgun System contract, and has been tasked to provide pistols, accessories such as holsters and suppressors, and ammunition.

The pistol will replace the M9 and M11 pistols over the next ten years; then those firearms will join the M1911 and M1873 in honored retirement.

Is this what they want? The SIG P320 family. The compact is the “Goldilocks” midsize — about the same size as a G19.

The DOD slipped the contract out on the last day of the outgoing Administration, perhaps because of noises from the Senate that were encouraging incoming Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis to cancel the program, the initial phase of which has already cost $350 million. Alternatively, it could simply be that the Army’s bureaucracy at Picatinny just got done shuffling the papers today.  Complete text of the DOD contract announcement:

Sig Sauer Inc., Newington, New Hampshire, was awarded a $580,217,000 firm-fixed-price contract for the Modular Handgun System including handgun, accessories and ammunition to replace the current M9 handgun.  Bids were solicited via the Internet with nine received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of Jan. 19, 2027.  Army Contracting Command, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, is the contracting activity (W15QKN-17-D-0016).

OTR notified us from his sources at around the same time that one of our readers flagged us to Soldier Systems Daily in the comments to another post.  Soldier Systems Daily was, as far as we know, the first publication online with the story. CWCID.

The P320 has been well received, more so than the hammer-fired P250 that had teething problems that cost it the Federal Air Marshals Service contract some years ago. Tam Keel put a thousand or two rounds downrange from one last year; the NRA awarded it the Golden Bullseye for Handgun of the Year in June.

Stand by for an announcement from SIG (their PR shop works slowly and indirectly at the best of times). This is where their press release would be, if they had one.

This may fill in some of the blanks that we don’t know from the one-paragraph DOD contract announcement:

  • What color? The contract suggested the military preferred a brown or FDE shade of weapon, like the P320 Compact shown dismantled above.
  • What caliber? SIG submitted both 9mm and .40 S&W firearms.
  • Pure striker-fired, or with safety?

If the news hits before our post goes live in about 11 hours, we’ll add an update below.

Congratulations to the hard-working team at SIG, and condolences to the eight other teams that competed for this contract. The problem with any such competition is that choosing a “best” from a field of very good firearms (or anything else) is inherently subjective and difficult. If you recall the JSSAP trials that yielded the M9, runners-up included SIG’s then-flagship P-series DA/SA pistols, Smith & Wesson’s generation of DA/SAs, and several others that, like the SIG and Smith, found markets elsewhere, just as the rejects, this time including Smith and Glock among others, will this time.

Updates

The Firearm Blog has some details from SHOT, still sketchy, and this photo of what is the winning firearm, the P320 Compact, presumably in 9mm, with ambi manual safety. Nathaniel promises to keep that page updated, if and when the SIG bigs issue a statement.

TFB says this is the M17, or as close as SIG has at the show.

Here are some pictures of the P320 MHS manual safety firearm as submitted. These are all originally from SIG sources, although we ganked them from here and there over the last two years of the MHS program. The full size and compact submissions:

There’s a great deal of interchangeability. Eli Whitney, eat your heart out.

Here’s a close-up of the manual safety. It seems well-designed both to avoid snags and to be positive in operation. 

This does put the SOF Glock contracts at risk, for budgetary reasons. It would be very hard to quantify the superiority of the G19 over this pistol. Meanwhile, the SOF pistols come out of SOF specific money, Major Force Program (MFP) 11. MFP-11 is a finite amount; if SOF were to specify pistols that were a standard Big Green (Blue, Haze Gray, etc) NSN, the service would buy the pistols out of its general-purpose forces money, and that would leave the MFP-11 money for other SOF uses (other SOF-peculiar weapons, communications equipment, engineeer equipment, etc.).

This contract is big news in Gun Universe but back on Soldier Planet it’s not that big a deal. A pistol is almost always a secondary weapon, and the dirty little secret is that just about any service pistol will do — the SIG, the Glock, the SEALs’ P226, the Beretta, hell, the 1911. In combat, your big killers are your air and artillery, and then, your machine guns, and then, your rifles. The pistol is there for the same reason that there is a reserve canopy in your parachute rig — a backup, and a confidence builder.

MagPul Relocation: The Cost to Colorado

During the 2013 debate over Colorado’s anti-gun proposals, which included a ban on standard-capacity magazines, Colorado-based Magpul threatened to relocate, and other Colorado injection molding companies realized that they’d have to follow their largest customer, at least in part. We covered this debate extensively.

The other molders had once had customers like OtterBox, a maker of phone cases, but OtterBox and its imitators relocated production to China, leaving the entire Front Range injection-molding industry hanging by the thin thread of Magpul contracts.

Now, four years later, it’s time to assess the economic cost of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s virtue-signaling (and positioning for a stillborn 2016 Presidential run). And Colorado politicians were grieved to find that, not only has Magpul relocated its manufacturing and HQ to Wyoming and Texas, but it’s now landed a contract to make magazines for the USMC.

In 2013, when Democrats controlled the state House, Senate and governor’s office, Colorado passed a 15-round limit as a measure to curb mass shootings, particularly in the wake of the 2012 Aurora theater assault that left 12 people dead and more than 70 wounded. Among James Holmes’ weapons was a semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine.

The political and legal fallout came swiftly. Gun rights supporters recalled two legislators and another resigned.

By resigning, she mooted the recall, and let Hickenlooper appoint another anti-gun extremist, which he did.

State sheriffs sued in vain to block the law. The economic cost is still adding up.

Magpul moved its production, distribution and shipping operations to Cheyenne and its headquarters to Texas last year. Besides principle, the move was fueled by cash—the  Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board ponied up $8.3 million

At the time the deal closed in September 2014, the Wyoming Business Council said Magpul would pay back about $3.7 million, but Laramie County, Wyo., stood to gain another $14.3 million in taxes, income off leases and other benefits from growing its workforce.

Hickenlooper’s Folly, a punitive strike on Colorado gun owners rather than targeting the state’s plentiful criminals, keeps paying dividends… for other states. One of the things Hickenlooper accomplished was throwing the state Senate to his opposition, an opposition embittered by the anti-gun laws and their consequences:

Frustration was in the voice of Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham Tuesday.

“My take is there is no big surprise here,” said the Republican leader from Canon City. “You tell a company they can’t sell a product in your state, when it’s a good product and a popular product. They move across the state line, they get a lot of support and they get a big contract. We lost not only the jobs they had when they were here, we lost  the jobs they’ve grown into since and we’re losing all the jobs they’re going to grow into in future years with this contract.”

It’s actually worse than than, Kev. It wasn’t just Magpul that got on the bus to Texas and Wyoming. Colorado also lost a bunch of out-of-state hunters and fishermen. They also lost Michael Bane’s TV productions — probably small money as politicians reckon money — after all, politicians all seem to retire to houses made of gold bars. But he’s influential in the sporting world, and he used to be a walking, talking, tv-casting advertisement for Colorado outdoor sports.

Can you think of an animal you can hunt in anti-gun Colorado that you can’t hunt in pro-gun Wyoming? We can’t. Maybe Michael can.

How many jobs are we talking about?

Magpul took about 100 employees out of Colorado in early 2015. When the gun law was passed in 2013, it had about 200 workers in a 100,000-square-foot in Erie. The payroll has since grown to 380 and added a second shift in 185,000-square-foot facility in Cheyenne.

Got that? 380 workers in Laramie County are now working two shifts to make magazines and other products, and the company’s hiring. Meanwhile its Colorado headcount went from 200 to 100 (2015) to 0 (2016). Colorado not only lost the 200 jobs, but the 180 gained so far in Cheyenne, and the jobs gained in Texas as well.

And that’s not counting the rest of the Colorado injection molders, several of whom are supposed to have set up in and around Cheyenne.

And that’s not counting the cost of reintegrating laid-off Coloradans. By early 2014, less than a quarter of Magpul’s Cheyenne workforce had been with the company in Colorado — just a couple dozen people. That suggests around 150-180 of the Colorado workers got the chop in situ. Thank you, Governor Hickenlooper.

State Senate President Grantham notes that the Marine switchover increases the odds that the other services, too, will adopt Magpul magazines. He’s missing something, though: the armed services are not the major buyer of standard rifle magazines. With some two million AR-15 type rifles selling every year, civilian demand for these basic accessories far outstrips military demand; and Magpul’s regular product improvement schedule lets them resell new product to already satisfied customers, with none of the politics and bureaucratic tomfoolery of military contracts.