Not only has the U.S. Army announced which units (I'll give you a hint: It starts with "101st" and ends with Airborne") will conduct the next phase of testing and first field issue for the XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS), but other services have indicated how many units of the new pistol they are interested in acquiring.
To borrow from an insurance company's popular TV commercial, when it comes to the U.S. Army's new XM17 pistol, "It's happening, sweetheart."
At the National Defense Industrial Association's recent armaments systems forum, Product Manager for Individual Weapons Lt. Col. Steven Power announced that things are progressing well. According to a military.com post, Lt. Col. Power said of the MHS pistol, which is based on the SIG Sauer P320 in both full-size—XM17, and compact—XM18, frames, "It has increased lethality with faster target acquisition, better reliability." Power continued, saying the testing is going well, as "this largely focused on the shooters hand size in the enablers that the weapon is compatible with."
Of course, Glock's protest of the Jan. 20 award for the XM17 MHS is still undecided. According to U.S. Government Accountability Office documents, the bid protest will be decided by June 5.
This has not been a process without controversy. Speaking of Glock, the company thought it was a shoo-in when Pentagon officials considering just tacking the army’s next handgun on to the existing contract SOCOM has for Glock G19s. Too, Beretta hoped to shortstop the whole process with the introduction of the Beretta M9A3 as merely a change to its existing contracts. The plot and confusion over the procurement process thickened when the Army Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, said, "We are not talking about nuclear subs or going to the moon here. We're talking about a pistol." He also reportedly said, "You give me $17 million on the credit card, I'll call Cabela's tonight, and I'll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman, and marine with a pistol and I'll get a discount on it for the bulk buys."
Speaking of bulk buys, the other services have chimed in on their plans to purchase MHS pistols. The contract is worth $580 million over 10 years. It was recently announced that the army plans to eventually buy 195,000 pistols, the Air Force 130,000, the Marine Corps 35,000 and the Navy is on the hook for 61,000—but only the compact XM18, not the full-size XM17.
According to an Army Times report, soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky., with the 101st Airborne Division will be the first to receive the SIGs. Again, according to Lt. Col. Powell, "The latest budget was our first real knowledge of procurement dollars which will adjust fielding schedules." Not knowing what the funding will be like in the future, it's not like the Pentagon is sitting on $580 million just for handguns. It is unknown which or when other army units will receive the MHS. Reports indicate that the 5th Special Forces Group and elements of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment—also stationed at Fort Campbell—may receive XM17s as well.
While SIG Sauer won the contract based on the June 2015 RFP, it is now known that the other competitors included Smith and Wesson (which dropped out), CZ with its P-09 pistol, Beretta with its APX, SIG, of course, Glock with a version of its pistol fitted with a manual safety, Heckler & Koch, KRISS, STI and FN America (509). And, much like after the ill-fated JSP that went nowhere, civilian variants of the guns submitted for MHS are already starting to appear. That's good for American consumers. And it appears the XM17 is doing well for soldiers. And this is supposed to be about making sure our soldiers have the best tool for the job.