How about a big heaping bowl of 9 mm? To paraphrase the iconic 1972 commercial for Life cereal, when it comes to the next sidearm of the U.S. Army, the soldiers like it—“They really, really like it.” Judging from recent reports, it would appear soldiers did not follow the narrative of Mikey’s brothers, “I'm not gonna’ try it—you try it!” Remarkably, they all like it—so far.
As predicted, now that the Glock protest of the Modular Handgun System is in the past, the U.S. Army is talking. On July 21, the Army News Service’s Joe Lacdan reported that the SIG Sauer-made XM17s and XM18s will be heading to Fort Campbell, Ky., for the next round of in the hands of the 101st Airborne. The Army will be testing the guns with different units at different location from November of this year through September of next year.
While that information has been previously reported, there are some new details from Lt. Col. Steven Power, project manager of Army Soldier Weapons. According to the report, there has been “overwhelmingly positive feedback” from preliminary testing at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, and Lt. Col. Power told Lacdan there was “100-percent concurrence that the XM17 was an upgrade over the M9.” Initial soldier reaction bodes well for the change, “That's an uncommonly positive thing,” said Lt. Col. Power, “Typically even in our own households, when you're buying a new car, there's things that people like about the old car better than the new one,” he said.
Not to take anything away from the service delivered by the Beretta U.S. M9 pistol over the last three decades, but the U.S. M9 is a full-size 9x19 mm NATO service pistol with no provision for adapting the gun to differently sized hands. That was not concern or even a consideration in 1985. Even though the Beretta M9A3 (which I really like) addresses some contemporary ergonomic trends, the Army wasn’t interested.
Although the Army has not answered my question as to how important the adaptability of the grip frame—which started with the hammer-fired SIG P250 pistol—was on the decision to adopt the SIG P320 based XM17, it is looking pretty important.
“A big reason why the modular handgun system is such a leap ahead in ergonomics is because of the modular hand grips, instead of just making a one size fits all,” said Lt. Col. Power, “The shooter will have a handgrip that fits their hand properly which does a lot to improve accuracy—not only on the first shot but also on subsequent shots.”
“The specific performance improvements from MHS over the M9 are in the area of accuracy, dispersion (and) ergonomics. And ergonomics isn’t just about the comfort of the shooter.”
One thing is for sure, soldiers will continue to voraciously devour 9x19 mm, much like a 3½ year old with a bowl brimming with tasty breakfast cereal, as the testing continues.