The U.S. Army is moving forward to replace the Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol with a more powerful handgun that also meets the needs of the other services.
As the lead agent for small arms, the Army will hold an industry day July 29 to talk to gun makers about the joint, Modular Handgun System or MHS.
The MHS would replace the Army’s inventory of more than 200,000 outdated M9 pistols and several thousand M11 9mm pistols with one that has greater accuracy, lethality, reliability and durability, according to Daryl Easlick, a project officer with the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“It’s a total system replacement — new gun, new ammo, new holster, everything,” Easlick said.
The Army began working with the small arms industry on MHS in early 2013, but the effort has been in the works for more than five years. If successful, it would result in the Defense Department buying more than 400,000 new pistols during a period of significant defense-spending reductions.
Army weapons officials maintain that combat troops need a more effective pistol and ammunition. But experts from the law-enforcement and competitive shooting worlds argue that tactical pistol ammunition — no matter the caliber — is incapable of stopping a determined adversary without multiple shots in most cases.
One of the major goals of the MHS effort is to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm, weapons officials said. The U.S. military replaced the .45 caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.
Soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have complained that the 9mm round is not powerful enough to be effective in combat.
“The 9mm doesn’t score high with soldier feedback,” said Easlick, explaining that the Army, and the other services, want a round that will have better terminal effects — or cause more damage — when it hits enemy combatants. “We have to do better than our current 9mm.”
The MHS will be an open-caliber competition that will evaluate larger rounds such as .357 Sig, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.
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