Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Fort Campbell, KY, United States (4E) – Men of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky last week became the first fighting men in the Army to receive both versions of the Army’s new service pistol, the M17 (full size) semi-automatic pistol and its compact version, the M18.
Team leaders of the 101st Airborne will be issued the new sidearms, which are the military versions of the German SIG Sauer P320, as back-up for their Colt M4 carbines.
Germany’s SIG Sauer GmbH last January was awarded a $580 million contract by the Army to produce modified versions of its SIG Sauer P320 semi-automatic pistol as the Army’s new service handgun.
The announcement meant SIG Sauer won the United States Military Modular Handgun (MHS) System Competition.
The U.S. Department of Defense is expected to buy over 420,000 of the new SIG pistols for the service branches of the United States Armed Forces. The Army will receive 195,000 pistols; the Navy, 61,000 (M18 only); the U.S. Marines, 35,000 and the Air Force, 135,000.
SIG Sauer defeated Glock, Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, maker of the current M9 9 mm service pistol, in the MHS competition. In 1985, the Beretta M9 beat the SIG P226 to become the Army’s service pistol.
“It is easier to fire and simpler to operate,” said Sgt. Matthew J. Marsh of the 101st. “The pistol felt very natural in my hand. I am excited to take my experience back to my unit and share it with my soldiers.”
All Army units will get the M17 to replace the standard M9 Beretta over the next decade.
The M9 has become “pretty dated technology,” said Lt. Col. Steven Power, who oversees part of the weapon upgrade.
“The specific performance improvements from (the M17 and M18) over the M9 include better accuracy, tighter dispersion, and better ergonomics, which combined result in a far more lethal pistol.”
The new pistols are equipped with an external safety; self-illuminating sights for low-light conditions; an integrated rail for attaching accessories and an Army standard suppressor conversion kit to attach an acoustic/flash suppressor.
Both the M17 and M18 are chambered for the 9×19mm Parabellum, but can be adapted to fire larger calibers like .357 SIG and .40 S&W. Pistols chambered for the 9mm can load a 17-round magazine in standard. An optional 21-round extended magazine is available.
The ammunition chosen for both pistols is the “Winchester jacketed hollow point” round.
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