Broke Army’s new pistol trials: Never happen.

M9-pistolThe US Army is broke. It hasn’t got the proverbial pot to piss in, and it’s looking at years of dwindling budgets, declining end strength, nonexistent Operations & Maintenance budgets, worn-out weapons and plunging recruit quality. In other words, a return to the Jimmy Carter-era “Hollow Army.”

So naturally, it is reacting to this state of affairs by planing a new round of pistol trials. You know, pistol, the weapon of which the highest-scoring Army operator was Major Nidal Hasan, playing for the opposing team. The secondary or tertiary weapon. That pistol.

The Army has a pistol that works OK, but they think they can do better and have a laundry list of bitches about the old M9. It’s less durable than alternatives, especially in intensive combat training; it has an open slide; half-trained bozos can put the safety on while playing rack-the-slide on what must have been YouTube-inspired “combat drills”; and the MPs, who always suffer from real-cop envy, weally weally want a .40, because FBI, or something. (There might be a more recent case, but as far as we know the last gunfight MPs were in was in 1999. And they killed that suspect with M9s. Dead as a mackerel).

Now, the one source we have on this new competition is the usually-wrong-because-they-really-don’t-like-the military Gannett Army Times, so take that with a grain of salt your horse’s entire salt lick. But they do quote an ordnance bureaucrat, and a lot of anonymous sources. Their laundry list of M9 beefs includes ones that simply aren’t true: “It can’t be suppressed… no night sights.” News to us, who’ve shot military M9s with suppressors and tritium sights (True, only the Glock night sights have an NSN, but that’s neither Beretta’s, nor the sight maker’s — Trijicon’s — fault. The Army doesn’t want to spend money on sights that wear out, except for SOF who can buy them with MFP-11 money without NSNs). And the trials they describe are like the beginning of the Book of Genesis: darkness is upon the firmament. And the Army’s head is up its fourth point of contact.

The trial is for a 9mm or .40 or .45. It’s a COTS play, except the Army wants specific things; they’re not really sure what specific things.


Ladies and gents, this is not a plan to select a new pistol. This is a trial balloon to see if the Army can get away with running a new round of service pistol tests. It is a product of wishful thinking, both of the ordnance officers, who would like to have something new to do, and of a variety of people who have the jaws at the M9 for one reason or other.

Hardly anyone in the Army has used a pistol in combat. Nearly as few have conducted extensive pistol combat training (as SF and SOF have done, especially during the period when hostage rescue and house clearing were routinely done with pistols — a period that began to draw to a close when SAS took down the Iranian Embassy hostage takers using MP5s over thirty years ago). Nobody engages with an M9 if he can engage with an M4A1, M249, M240, M2HB, 60mm mortar, etc., etc., you get the idea. We carry our M9s to give us a New York Reload in extremis — that’s all.

So we’re talking about a lot of money to replace a weapon that’s already little used.

We’re here to tell you: Will. Not. Happen.

The Army in the last few years have binned two attempts to produce a “better” combat carbine (the SOF-specific Mk 16 SCAR-L, and the Individual Carbine competition) on the rather sensible grounds that the candidates, while good, offered such a narrow incremental improvement on the M4A1 that the expenditure just wasn’t justified. And the SCAR-L cancellation (if not the IC mercy killing) was enacted in times of budget plenty, before the military budget became the deadly competitor of higher budget priorities, like food stamps and Obamaphones.

And did we mention, and we believe we did, the Army’s broke?


Army Times is hostile to hot links from military blogs or forums. So we’ll give you a text link you have to copy and paste:

12 thoughts on “Broke Army’s new pistol trials: Never happen.

  1. AndyN

    You’re probably right that this isn’t going to happen, but I have to say that I don’t find “the government is broke” or “there are a lot of things the government needs more than this” to be particularly compelling arguments for why the government won’t do something.

  2. McThag

    The M9 was a substantially worse pistol than the 1911 it replaced!

    The armorer cared if we nicked them up. They didn’t fit the holsters we were issued, because of that they got caught on the edges of the tank’s hatches. Magazines were scarce so we weren’t issued any to keep crud out of the magazine well…

    Ah, the heady days of 1989 in a tank unit.

    My favorite part of the transition was the Army took our 1911’s away, we packed up all the ammo in the bunkers, got our issue of ammo for the new guns and… no guns.

    Literally days before we were supposed to deploy to the Czech border to cover for a unit rotating out for training. SNAFU.

    Our battalion CO gave us special dispensation to go to the rod-n-gun club and buy something in 9mm, anything in 9mm to carry if we wanted to. I took advantage of it and bought a Glock, but the day we were loading the tanks on the haulers the guns arrived. So we went to the border without training on them.

    I note, now, that it didn’t matter even the slightest. As our drills said, “If you find yourself in a fight with your pistol, you need to ask yourself where the tank went.”

    1. Hognose Post author

      I have an acquaintance who, in the same fight, managed to kill Iraqis with 9mm (M9), .45 (M3A1), 7.62 (Coax, from the TC position), .50 (from the deck of the tank) and main gun, which I think was 120mm (TC override). This is on top of all the guys his crew and the rest of his company whacked. It was a pretty intense fight. They hit one RPG crew with APFSDS because that’s what happened to be up the spout when the coax went click. At one point he was standing in front of the tank firing, unwilling to turn his back long enough to climb back up.

          1. McThag

            Depended on the unit. When we turned in our sixties the greaseguns went with them.

            Cav units seemed to keep hold of them better for some reason.

  3. Andy

    As for the 9mm for the military,it is here to stay,along with the .45 acp either as an issue weapon or Special Ops needs.The 9mm is NATO standard,and we have already signed on for it,as for the .40 S&W being adopted ,I really doubt it will happen.The Ordnance Corps just wants to keep their existence needed so that the soldiers in it can keep their jobs,when the Carter era type cuts from Boobama come down the pike.There are already actually three types of handguns for military service,the Beretta,the Sig,and the Marine Corps has the new Colt .45 acp auto.There is probably already millions of .45 acp rounds still in US military hands,that have been in storage for years,even though we supposedly went to the 9mm,most militaries keep such ammo and guns in surplus for years just in case.Be prepared and ready.Keep your powder dry.

    1. Hognose Post author

      There’s actually a couple more, because lots of SOF units issue Glocks in 9mm and/or .45. Shooters in the JSOC world they have a choice, and the Glock has been gradually supplanting the 1911 there. Blasphemy, I know. Also there are two SIGs, the M11 which is used by undercover MPs and CI agents, and the Mk 25 which is a P226 as used by the SEALs.

      SF used to issue Hi-Powers as deniable guns, also, but the supplies ran out, as far as I know, in the 1980s.

      ETA 1: there are good reasons not to go .40. I mean to put up a post on this.

      ETA 2: As late as 1983 we were still firing up WWII dated .45 and 9mm ammo. The 9 was supposedly made for lend-lease (how do you “lend” ammo?) and then not requested by our 9mm-using allies (UK, Canada, Australia, etc). I think most of it went up in the Great Ammo Blast of Grenada. Seems that the Rangers and 82nd brought every-damn-thing to the island, expecting I dunno what. Then some guys from USAF EOD said it was unsafe to reload on USAF airframes and would have to be guarded in place or returned by ship. So the command said blow it in place. Hundreds, maybe thousands of tons of ammo, including the complete worldwide DOD supply of 90mm Recoilless Rifle rounds (which is why that weapon went out of service in favor of the Carl Gustav. The Rangers, the only ones using the 90 any more, also were shooting decades-old ammo and no one was tooled to make it). Pistol ammo was in short supply for two or three years after that. We used to dope deal it from our NATO allies.

  4. Wa

    My unit is a NG infantry unit and we have a few sig m11’s. I thought that’s what big army was switching to

    1. Hognose Post author

      The M11 is supposed to be issued only to soldiers who have a need to conceal, namely CID and credential-bearing CI Agents, but I have also heard of aviation units issuing it (pilots are notorious for sniveling about the size and weight of their life support gear). But as we know, the Guard does its own thing sometimes. The SIG 226 passed the same round of tests as the Beretta M92FS, so it was approved for acquisition, but not bought initially because Berettas were much cheaper. (>$100 per pistol, which is a lot when you’re buying 200,000 guns). The SEALs used this to go to the 226 when they lost confidence in the M9. (This actually began before the M9 was type classified. ST6 had already gone to the M92S and later M92F, and had a couple of them with high round counts break).

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