Sig Sauer Wins U.S. DoD Handgun Contract (P320)

P320 New Modular Handgun System (MHS) Wins American Contract

Sig Sauer P320

The U.S. Military does not make major moves like changing handguns very often. In fact, there have only been three primary weapons used by the military for the past 100+ years. The M1911 (.45 caliber) had been in service since World War I, through the Korean War, through World War II, as well as Vietnam War and into the early 1980's when the M9 Beretta started the handgun contract. Now, Sig Sauer is rolling out it's modular M17 and M18 (compact version) into the 21st century.

New Modular Sig Suaer Replaces M9 Beretta

After 35 years, formerly the M9 Beretta, a 9mm handgun made in Italy, was the weapon of choice for the military since 1982. A new contract has been granted to the German company Sig Sauer for its more advanced modular handgun system called the P320. Also, a 9mm NATO handgun, however, the modular capabilities allow it to be configured to shoot .357, and .40 caliber sized ammunition. The interchangeable grips allow for all hand sizes to find the perfect fit for shooting the weapon ambidextrously.

The Army will be purchasing up to 500,000 of the new Sig Sauer P320 which has been thoroughly vetted by gun experts since it has appeared on the market since 2014. Sig Sauer contract could be worth up to $500 million with all the weapons and parts being made in the manufacturing plant in the United States (New Hampshire).

In November 2017, members of the Army received the first P320 handguns which will be designated the M17 and M18 pistols. This first batch went to the 101st Airborne. Now, all combat units carry the M4 as a primary weapon and a secondary handgun. Within the next few years, all Army units will be replacing the M9 with the M17.

What Else Does the P320 Have?

One of the key features of the P320 is an internal stainless steel frame and control unit. Rust has been a problem with weapon systems of the past, especially when exposed to salt water. The weapon also has an ambidextrous slide release (one on each side of the pistol). Modular weapon system means, the fire control unit allows the user to interchange differently-sized slide assembly or polymer grip frame modules as well as chambering conversions to adapt the gun to the individual user and address different needs (larger caliber ammo, hand size, etc.). One of the soldier friendly features is the P320 can be cleaned and field stripped with no tools. There are four side slides on the weapon allowing for a variety of rail mounted laser sights, tactical lights, and other accessories.

Breaking With A 35 Year History

As recent at 2009, Beretta had secured a contract worth $200 million to supply the U.S. military with 450,000 of the handguns through the year 2015. However, from 2015 – 2017 the contract was open for competition and finally after a long and drawn out bureaucratical mess, the Department of Defense decided to break ties with Beretta and accept the Sig Sauer proposal.

How significant is it that the U.S. military change course with its selected firearm? The Beretta (M9) pistol was originally selected as the main handgun of the U.S. Army in the late 1980s. Beretta, in fact, a few years earlier was the replacement weapons manufacturer to the M1911 handgun that was originally adopted by the U.S. Army in 1911. The Beretta pistol was praised for its accuracy and the fact that its magazine holds 15 rounds and that each bullet is 9 millimeters in size. These specifications complied with standardization of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance that the U.S. belongs to.

Problems and Controversy With Previous Handgun

The Beretta M9 pistol has encountered problems and been criticized by some in the military. During the early 1990s, the pistol encountered mechanical defects. Specifically, the springs in the gun’s magazine malfunctioned. Use of the Beretta was limited within the military after problems with easily rusting magazines and springs after getting wet. If wet with salt water, it was not long before rust was part of the weapon and needed to be cleaned immediately. This is largely due to the fact that the U.S. Army did not purchase magazines directly from Beretta, the gun’s manufacturer. In several cases, magazines have had to be replaced on the M9 pistol. Despite these setbacks, the M9 and M9A1 continued to be the primary sidearm of American soldiers until 2017. 

The Sig P320 is not without its issues. There have been accidently firings of the weapon when dropped on the ground. In fact, a few police departments placed the weapon on hold until Sig has corrected the problem. In August of 2017, Sig Sauer has started to correct the problem. 

As of July 2019, the U.S. Army approved Full Material Release (FMR) of its new 9mm Modular Handgun Sig Sauer M17 / M18. Nearly 60,000 have been delivered to military armories so far and more than 350,000 of the pistols will be delivered throughout the next several years. The adoption of the M17 and M18 Sig Sauer is military wide with all services making the change.