It’s About Time: Army Looking at JHP Ammo

9mm_124grain_jhpThis week industry contenders met with Army evaluators in the final Industry Day for the XM17 Modular Handgun Program, and the most interesting news is that the JAGs are finally on board with using jacketed hollow point ammunition in the new pistol.

This has several consequences, assuming that these lawyers are overruled by other lawyers somewhere down the line:

  1. It increases the defensive utility of the firearm against unarmored enemies, although not nearly to the level of a rifle or rifle-caliber carbine.
  2. It just about guarantees that, modular or not, our next service pistol will be firing the 9mm. The 9mm is as effective — with modern JHPs — and much easier to shoot than .40 S&W or .45 ACP, and it offers greater magazine capacity. (See Loose Rounds’ repop of the FBI report that justified the Bureau’s return to 9mm from .40).
  3. It means that most of the “modular” advantages the XM17 proposal wants are kind of pointless. The Army wants a service pistol and a max-commonality concealment/compact pistol. Since users seldom go from requiring one to requiring the other and back — the set of concealment/compact pistol users is small, as M11 procurement numbers show — the whole “modular” theme of the procurement is a bagatelle.

Bob says these are the criteria, apart from improved ergonomics relative to current service pistols.

  • non-caliber specific
  • modular grips
  • grip that accepts a wide-range of hand-sizes (5th to 95th percentile)
  • ability to accept different fire-control devices/action types
  • ability to accept various magazine sizes
  • suppressor compatible
  • ability to mount “target enablers” (lights, lasers, etc) on a picatinny rail
  • match-grade accuracy (90% or better chance 4″ circle at 50 meters)
  • low felt recoil impulse

Not all of these are widely useful (explain to us why a military unit will need their pistols “to accept different fire-control devices/action types”?) but some clearly are. The ones that are most clearly useful, of course, are widespread in modern handguns.

As far as the pistols go, according to Owens, the interesting contenders are the STI/Detonics, the SIG P320, and the Beretta APX. We find it hard to believe that the 1911-based STI/D is seriously in the game, or that the brand-new APX is sufficiently developed. The 320 (with a safety) does seem to meet all the requirements. Unlike Owens, we’re not ready to write Glock and S&W off, and would be very surprised if both of them didn’t  make serious and credible proposals.

Here’s Bob’s story on the JHP reveal at the briefing, and here’s his story on what he considers the leaders of the modular handgun competition. Note that there is one small error or oversight in his JHP story, and that’s his statement that US SOF have used 9mm and .45 JHPs. To that, we’d add .40s. (Certain specific units use this caliber). The Gun Zone’s Dean Speir wrote a post years ago on the legalities as observed by SOF since 1985.

Don’t Get Too Excited

Given the marginal role handguns play in combat, the adequate supply of current M9 and M11 service pistols (as well as non-standard pistols in some units), and given the rampant downsizing of the Army (it has less than half the combat power it did in Cold War days, and is scheduled to lose another 40,000 men, mostly “tooth” not “tail”), this entire program is a waste of time and money. If the contract goes forward, the Army will buy about a half-million service pistols plus some tens of thousands of compact variants for all services. The Air Force and Navy are accustomed to having the Army do their small-arms purchasing. The Army plans to force-feed the new modular pistol to the Marines, who are explicit about their lack of interest in it.

We’d be very surprised if this proposed procurement came to pass. If the Army doesn’t kill it, Congress will.

But the final approval of JHP ammunition for non-SOF pistol users is long overdue. In fact, it’s the single biggest thing they can do to improve the utility of current service pistols, and it can be done without out tests and contract disputes (hollow-points are already in the supply system for DOD police).


Soldier Systems Daily has the PEO Soldier press release with direct quotes from Richard Jackson, Special Assistant to the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General for Law of War.

Debi Dawson, PEO Soldier spokeswoman, also noted that by “modular” the Army means “allows adjustments to fit all hand sizes.”

10 thoughts on “It’s About Time: Army Looking at JHP Ammo

  1. DSM

    I’m not convinced the JHP standard is meant for combat use at all but just an afterthought that the pistol has to be able to reliably feed and chamber them. We carried the Mk243 rounds on duty CONUS so I’m seeing this as their guarantee it’s being designed with more than just hard ball in mind. Like the older 1911’s that needed some extra fitting to shoot them.

  2. S

    What is the legality of a soldier buying and carrying his own pistol and ammunition?

    1. Hognose Post author

      Generally frowned on by the SJAs. Widely done on a “catch me, F me” basis in SF. Lots of privately owned backup handguns in Afghanistan, at the end of tour guys worried about customs inspection (yes by then the MPs, whose officers are very antigun, were running a customs office) just gifted them to their Afghan counterparts. s

    2. DSM

      The widely generic General Order #1 first issued way back during the Gen Zinni days, IIRC, prohibited personally owned weapons and ammunitions in CENTCOM. It’s been many moons since I was over there but seeing that it was recycled and still referenced so many years later I’d bet it’s still on the books.
      I can’t speak to the other services but the AF has instructions for arming, UoF and weapons handling/storage. General issue weapons have to maintained per the TO’s the same as everyone else. But, while deployed and depending on the unit you’d see some personal use of slings, lights or other giddy gabbers. The CCT and PJ units had their own CATM guys, usually, and no one outside their chain really worried about what they were doing anyways.
      Side story about that with no bearing on anything at all, but I remember when the STS unit over in Mildenhall in the mid/late 90’s had gotten their SOPMOD kits. I knew their CATM guy and asked if I could be nosy to check them out. At the time my rigidly structured, pre 9/11 garrison-accountability-at-all-times mind couldn’t fathom just seeing squad boxes full of serial numbered parts not being neatly organized and accounted for. KAC suppressors, ACOGs, M203’s, the works. Different mission, different mindset.

  3. Neil S.

    On certain units using .40 – for what purpose? My usual carry gun is an M&P .40, but I’m considering going to 9mm for the reasons you list above. The only (perceived) advantage I have over 9mm is a little more zip at extended pistol ranges (50+ yards), but I shoot at that range for fun. If I’m engaging the enemy at 50+ yards with a pistol, something has gone pear-shaped. Are these units using .40 as “bad day insurance”?

    1. Hognose Post author

      I was not privy to their decision process but I believe the decision was made >10 years ago when you could argue the position that the .40 was materially better in terminal-ballistics terms than the 9mm. It’s a good bit more difficult to shoot, to shoot accurately, and to shoot accurately rapidly. Also, these units had used handguns much more extensively when first formed (70s/80s) and came very slowly to use rifle-caliber carbines for indoor work. There was an intermediate stage with a lot of MP5 use, but the SEALs’ experience on Grenada put the MP5 into eclipse as a combat weapon.

      FBI identifies 2008 as the year when 9mm closed the terminal ballistics gap with the .4x.

      1. Neil S.

        Ahhh. I was thinking that it was a recent, Long War decision. If it was from when submachine guns were en vogue, it makes more sense.

        Reading some of your past posts had given me the thought of directly comparing my own shooting with a .40 vs 9mm. I was switching between my M&P and my uncle’s 92FS (in 9mm) last weekend, and I noticed that I was developing a flinch at the end of a long string when shooting the .40, and I just didn’t have that problem with the 9mm. (I do seem to remember .45 ACP having a lesser perceived recoil impulse than .40 S&W as well, but I haven’t shot enough .45 to trust that judgment.) I was equally accurate with both, but I was just plain faster with the 9mm.

        The M&P is a fine pistol, but the more I type about it, the more I’m thinking that I’m going to shoot up my stock of .40 and trade it in for something in 9mm with a thumb safety.

  4. Andy

    Unless the military , through the Senate and the president , go back and do away with the NATO treaty signed years ago , the general caliber will be 9mm , as for special ops any weapon can be used . Be prepared and ready . Keep your powder dry .

  5. Cap'n Mike

    Im ashamed to admit I had to Google bagatelle.

    “Adding to the readers vocabulary one word at a time” :)

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