A press release sent out yesterday by Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier, the organization responsible for the prototyping, procurement, and fielding of equipment for the US military, stated that the Army will be considering new ammunition types beyond full metal jacket—including expanding and fragmenting ammunition.
The announcement was made by a representative of the Army Judge Advocate General’s Office at an industry event related to the Army’s ongoing search for a new sidearm to replace the current M9. With more than 20 companies in attendance—and vying for the coveted contract for the Army’s new XM-17 Modular Handgun System—the bombshell dropped: the Army was considering jacketed hollow point ammunition.
“Expanding the XM-17 Modular Handgun competition to include special purpose ammunition will provide the Warfighter with a more accurate and lethal handgun,” said Richard Jackson, special assistant to the Army Judge Advocate General’s Office and an expert on wartime law.
But are hollow points legal for military use? That was the question that many industry observers asked after the announcement. Contrary to popular belief, the United States was never a signatory to the 1899 Hague Conventions article section that outlawed so-called “dum dum” bullets, or expanding ammunition. Furthermore, that specific section of Article IV that concerns the use of expanding bullets only applies to wars between signatory powers, which is not likely to occur anytime soon. The United States was the only major power at the time to decline signing the article.
Jackson further argued that even in signatory nations, hollow point ammunition is still used by law enforcement agencies due to its effectiveness and for the “increased capability it provides against threats.”
The Army has also already fielded hollow point ammunition before, although infrequently and usually only to snipers. With the search for a new combat pistol, the Army is now considering a much wider roll out.
“Other types of ammunition allow the XM-17 Modular Handgun System to be optimized by vendors, providing a more capable system to Warfighters across the spectrum of shooter experience and skill level,” Jackson stated.
That said, the Army has yet to indicate what caliber it will ultimately settle on, although it does seek an improvement over the M882, the 9x19mm NATO 124-grain FMJ currently in service.
The contract for the XM-17 Modular Handgun will only go to one manufacturer, but the Army has not detailed how ammunition will be procured.