The US Army has officially indicated that it is potentially looking to replace more than 200,000 Beretta M9 pistols currently in service with a more powerful and precise firearm. According to Military.com, the Army will be holding a meeting with major gun makers later this month to talk about the Modular Handgun System (MHS), a project that is aimed at providing soldiers with a more effective handgun.

“It’s a total system replacement—new gun, new ammo, new holster, everything,” said Daryl Easlick, a project officer at the Fort Benning Army Maneuver Center of Excellence.

One of the objectives of the MHS is to replace the M9, which is chambered in 9x19mm, with a handgun capable of firing more powerful ammunition. One complaint common among soldiers is that the 9x19mm round is underpowered compared to other calibers. The US Army adopted the M9 in 1985 when Beretta won a competition to replace the venerable M1911A1 chambered in .45 ACP, which had served as the standard-issue sidearm for many branches of the US Armed Forces since 1911. At the time, replacing the larger-caliber 1911 with the Beretta M9 was controversial. To this day, many are still calling for the return of the M1911 pistol due to its perceived greater “stopping power.”

The Washington Times reported that the Army does intend on evaluating firearms chambered in .45 ACP during the selection process, as well as .357 SIG and .40 S&W. According to Guns.com, the MHS is also looking for a firearm that is less high-maintenance than the current M9. This would include a handgun that has a closed slide and no slide-mounted safety—two factors that disqualified the M9 from MHS competition.

“The M9 doesn’t meet it for a multitude of reasons,” Easlick told Military.com. “It’s got reliability issues; the open slide design allows contaminates [sic] in. The slide-mounted safety doesn’t do well when you are trying to clear a stoppage—you inadvertently de-cock and safe the weapon system.”

The M9 does have its supporters, especially those who have become familiar with the weapon. Critics of the MHS claim that shot placement matters more than bullet size, and that the 9x19mm round allows for larger magazine capacities. Others question the need to replace over 200,000 working handguns with new models in a time when the military is tightening its belt with budget cuts. However, Easlick insisted that it would cost more to repair and maintain the Army’s aging collection of M9 pistols.

If the MHS ends in a new handgun being chosen, the Defense Department could end up buying more than 400,000 new sidearms for service members.

Image courtesy US Army

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  • maodeedee

    Here’s what they should go with but probably won’t because military procurement is often more about politics than what makes the most sense. It is the Glock model 35 caliber 40 S&W. The smaller version of this gun, the Glock model 22 is used by a majority of police agencies nation wide and has an excellent reputation for extreme reliability and durability of both the gun itself and its feed mechanisms or magazines. The model 35 is the target version of the standard police-issue model 22 and is more accurate and has a longer barrel which produces higher velocities with standard ammunition.

    Glocks are extremely strong and can handle higher than standard velocity ammo. Glocks have no external safety to have to manipulate under stress, the have a trigger safety and internal safeties and can be carried with a round in the chamber ready to fire. the experience over the last 20 years or more has shown that Glocks are not prone to accidental discharges. Glocks are lighter weight because of their polymer frames which also help both the gun and the shooter to absorb recoil.

    Finally a 40 caliber is slightly more effective than the 357 sig caliber when both are loaded with Geneva Convention-mandated non-expanding projectiles. The 40 can accommodate anything up to a 200 grain bullet while the 357 cannot use anything heavier than the 124 grain projectiles that the current 9mm uses, though it can propel its projectiles at increased velocities compared to the 9mm.

    Glock Model 35
    Length:204 mm / 8.03 in
    Width:30.00 mm / 1.18 in.
    Length Between Sights / 165 mm / 6.49 in.
    Height / 138 mm / 5.43 in.
    Barrel Length: 135 mm / 5.31 in.
    Weights / Unloaded: 725 g / 25.59 oz.
    Unloaded: 780 g / 27.53 oz.
    Loaded: 1025 g / 36.18 oz.
    Trigger Pull / Travel
    Trigger Pull / ~2.5 kg / ~5.5 lbs.
    Trigger Travel: ~12.5 mm / 0.49 in.
    Barrel Rifling / Length of Twist
    Barrel Rifling: right hand, hexagonal
    Length of Twist: 250 mm / 9.84 in.
    Magazine Capacity: Standard: 15 rounds
    Optional: 22 rounds

    • Murphy

      Point of clarification it is the Hague Convention that requires non expanding projectiles. Not the Geneva Convention. Everything else is spot on accurae just like a Glock. There is another advanage to the Glock. The angle of the grip allow for a more natural pointing ergonomic.

    • zipper

      “Glocks are lighter weight because of their polymer frames which also help both the gun and the shooter to absorb recoil.”
      right about the l.w. polymer frame, but Wrong about that absorbing recoil. the more mass a firearm has, the less the felt recoil; simple physics.

  • POP

    As long as the military is limited to FMJ ammo, the 9mm will always fall short. The advantage of higher-capacity is moot if the cartridge can not deliver reliable stopping power, as I’m sure any soldier will agree. With the number of reliable high-capacity .40 and .45 caliber pistols now available, it’s time to look for something better. While the Glock is an excellent weapon, the SIG-SAUER is already in service in some branches and can be had in several configurations. Just my two-cents-worth.

  • Marine Gunner

    As Jeff Cooper always wisely insisted, first choose the bullet, then choose the gun to launch it. It’s the bullet that gets the job done. FMJ is required, so expanding bullets are not an option. This makes 230gr .45 ACP the bullet, although .40S&W is second and acceptable. Now for the launcher. Probably the two most functional and reliable handguns in the world are Hk USP and Glock, in that order. This is born out by numerous trials and extensive testing that I won’t go into because it is well documented and publicly available. Hk USP is more expensive than Glock by almost twice the price commercially. However the Hk USP design is simpler and would require less maintenance or armorer support in the field. Lastly, the Glock is easier to shoot and point, recovers more quickly to allow faster shooting in CQC. Both the Hk and Glock have advantages and I wouldn’t hesitate to carry either into combat.

    • Lujan

      Except that they are too big. Now if they can significantly reduce recoil, so that even a small statured soldier( which is a requirement) can shoot with some proficiency, then sure. However another requirement is to be able to consistantly hit a 4″ circle at 50 meters from a fixed testing platform could give the larger calibers trouble.The .357 sig may be the best cal. for that requirement. The new HK VP9 was described as beefier construction for a 9mm, as well as modular grip panels for smaller or large hands, & it has some recoil reducing innovation going on. And given that Germany is pissed at us…good time to say I’m sorry is when you’re about to throw them money. And they’re priced cheaper than your average HK. I’ve been checking this was actually publicly published about this MHS last year. Some of these companies probably already have examples that are being readied. It’ll be interesting to see who has the leg up.

      • Marine Gunner

        If you go with .357 Sig, you’re back to 9mm by another name. Same problems with stopping power in FMJ rounds. The round needs to be at least .40. If size is a consideration for handling by women, the Glock 23 in .40 is ideal. Sig makes a good pistol but they have some reliability issues regarding feeding under some conditions. Still, the Hk USP may be the most reliable handgun in the world and reliability, it seems obvious, may be one of the most important features in a handgun. And accuracy is not a challenge for Hk. That said, any of these three high quality pistols would be a good choice but in .45 ACP or .40 S&W.

      • actionjksn

        I have a Glock 23c and I love it! But I don’t think the US military will go for the lack of a manual safety. I think they should but I don’t think they will. Which is a shame because these Glocks are extremely reliable and easy to work on and field strip. Plus they are really good under harsh conditions and tolerate dirt and stuff like an AK.

      • actionjksn

        I like the simplicity and reliability plus price of the Glock. But I don’t think the US Army will go for a pistol without a safety. I guess they could engineer a safety into their current design. The new HK with its recoil reducing tech sounds like it may be a good choice if the price is right. If they were allowed to use hollow point I would say they should stick with 9mm, and this is coming from a .40 cal guy. but unfortunately they can’t. I think that point alone makes the 9mm a poor choice for the military, With that being said .40 cal is probably their best choice. My full metal jacket .40 rounds have a flat nose on them as opposed to the more streamlined looking round of the 9mm. It just seems to me like the flat nose would cause more damage than a rounded tip. The right .40 round is also a good penetrator and the capacity is still pretty good with the .40 vs the .45 They should be able to come up with a nice 165 gr round that clocks a good 1100 + FPS in a gun with an effective recoil reduction system. If an American company can come up with at least an equal choice then I would really rather see that. How about an extensively modernized double stack 1911 style? That would be cool.

  • Chris

    I love Sig’s. In the field. Glock. I’ve carried both. Neither failed. Both superb. There may be other contenders. I can’t comment due to lack of experience. I find it interesting that the posts I’ve read “seem” to come from people that would damn sure know the difference in the “real world “. I only comment on my own experience. Both are excellent. F. The safety. My thumb grips. My index finger fires. They shouldn’t be competing to ready my sidearm. Period. I would like to believe that a United States Soldier or Ally would be proficient enough to NOT rely on a manual safety disengagement before engaging a target. After-all. It’s only one finger that we have to think about. My vote is .45.

  • mick45

    Since they made the last choice based on the hype from the movie “Lethal Weapon”, where Mel Gibson dispatched bad guys with his invincible Beretta M92 with bottomless magazines on the silver screen (seriously these things never run out of ammo, you can fire them hundreds of times, I saw Mel do it! Every “gunstore Rambo” had to have one… I will bet dollars to doughnuts that they will pick the H&K USP that Jack Bauer carries, LOLOLOL!!!…. Just watch, they probably will… If they had picked a gun in the 70’s it probably would have been “Dirty Harry’s” S&W “Make my day” Model 29 .44 Mag… Idiots…

  • zipper

    i would say if a soldier needs to pull a sidearm, the enemy is damn close. that necessitates Stopping ability. forget messing with these lesser calibers and go with a new .62-cal(20 ga.) cartridge. a large, lightweight pistol firing a 1-oz slug at low velocity should flatten the bad guy.

  • eric adolphson

    I belive that “our” next side arm (MHS) should be a SIG #320 with Guard Dog hollow point and FMJ 357 Sig amuniton. A-way with the ban on hollow tip bullets. This is what Obama has in the secret service’s side arms. Time and time again it’s the bullet, supply, then a seamless gun. If you want to change the bullet, the new SIG can go from 9mm- 45 acp in one min with the same guts of the gun. It’s all about price! I for one believe that our military desirves the best in every way. I would bet my life on a SIG and my Daughter’s life as well.

    God bless our men and women in uniform.

    Eric