- The Army picked a new sidearm in January 2017 and started distributing it to troops that November.
- In the months since, the other service branches placed orders for the weapon.
- The Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps have confirmed the plan to buy thousands of the M17 and M18 handguns.
Months after the Army started distributing its new Modular Handgun System to soldiers, the other service branches are following its lead and buying thousands of the new sidearms for themselves.
The latest confirmation comes from the Air Force, which told Military.com on Thursday that it planned to buy 130,000 of the weapon to replace its current 9 mm M9 pistols. The Air Force released photos of its personnel performing some intense tests on the weapon in December.
An Air Force spokeswoman said the service planned to purchase the M18, which is the compact version of the weapon, as its standard handgun. The M17 is the full-size version.
According to Military.com, the Navy plans to buy 60,000 of the M18 variant to replace its Beretta M9s and Sig Sauer M11s. A Navy spokesman said this week that money was allotted for contracting this year and delivery was expected to start during fiscal year 2019, which begins in October.
The Marine Corps said earlier this month that its proposed fiscal year 2019 budget included money to purchase 35,000 of the new handgun.
The Corps mentioned the MHS in the Family of Infantry Weapons Systems portion of the Defence Department’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Estimates Justification Book, which said the weapon would be acquired “to replace the legacy M9, M9A1, M45A1, and M007 pistols” and will “provide modularity and greater shooter ergonomics over current models.”
The service may be eyeing the M18, according to a contract solicitation posted online.
Tom Taylor, Sig Sauer’s chief marketing officer, told Military.com that the Coast Guard has placed an order for the new handgun, but the service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“All services have been involved in MHS since its inception… and they have all committed to ordering guns,” Taylor said earlier this month, adding that all branches have orders that “will be fielded starting later this year and early next year.
The Army launched a competition to replace its M9 handgun in August 2015 and awarded a contract worth up to $US580 million to Sig Sauer for the new pistol, based on the company’s P320 handgun, in January 2017. The firm beat out FN America, Beretta, and Glock for the contract. Glock unsuccessfully tried to contest the decision.
The Army plans to buy 195,000 of the new sidearm – mostly the full-size M17 variant.
The pistols, which are striker-fired, can be equipped with suppressors and can take both standard and extended-capacity magazines. They come with a rail for mounting accessories.
The MHS is only the third handgun the Army has fielded widely in the past century. (Its predecessor, the M9, was first bought by the Army, but eventually adopted by all the service branches.) The MHS will be distributed to a wider portion of the Army that previous sidearms, which were mostly carried by officers or soldiers in special roles.
That decision comes as part of the Army’s effort to change the way soldiers fight, preparing them for dangerous, close-in situations or for meetings with local officials – experiences that were common during the force’s last 16 years of operations.
The Defence Department’s Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation reported earlier this year that the M17 and M18 exhibited problems during testing, including accidental discharges and stoppages. Both Sig Sauer and the Army downplayed the significance of the issues and said fixes had been applied or were being worked on.
The Army started distributing the weapon to soldiers in late November, putting it in the hands of members of the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
“The pistol felt very natural in my hand.” said Col. Derek K. Thomson, the 1st Brigade Combat Team commander who oversaw the initial fielding. “The [101st] has always been at the cutting edge of battle, so it’s fitting they are the first to fire alongside these leaders today.”
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