SHOT Show 2017 - It is official: SIG Sauer P320 pistol will replace the venerable Beretta M9 as the U.S. Army's next-generation service pistol!
It is official: announced came during the 2017 SHOT Show that the era of the Beretta M9 as the U.S. military's service sidearm has come to an end.
Following press releases by many sources, the U.S. Army published the official contract details as a confirmation of the fact that SIG Sauer won the XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) trial, and was awarded with a contract worth over 580 million U.S. dollars to replace the Beretta M92-FS – first only with the U.S. Army, then in the future with all U.S. Armed Forces. The phasing-out of the Beretta M9 is slated to be total and gradual, at least within the U.S. Army, with the first SIG Sauer XM17 pistols being phased in within the year 2017.
The replacement of the Beretta M9 is a variant of the SIG Sauer P320 striker-fired pistol, a polymer-framed modular design that can be adjusted in a variety of aspects (grip size, barrel and slide length, magazine capacity) to suit varying operational needs.
The XM17 pistols showcased at the SHOT Show upon announcement of the contract award sported a desert tan camo polymer frame and a desert tan Cerakote-finished slide, but variants in other colors will purportedly also be issued.
Among the distinctive features of the XM17 pistol variant of the P320 are an ambidextrous manual safety (a tender requirement), a slide adapted to be fitted with a reflex optical sight. The caliber is 9 mm, while accessories such as optical sights and silencers will be provided by SIG.
SIG Sauer XM17 MHS pistol - Specifications
P320 / XM17 MHS
Semi-automatic striker-fired modular pistol
15 or 17 rounds
119 mm / 4.7"
117 mm / 4.6"
99 mm / 3.9"
Dovetailed replaceable; optical sight available
183 mm / 7.2"
200 mm / 7.9"
203 mm / 8.0"
836 g / 29.5 oz approximately
Beretta M9 - the end of an era
Thirty-two years after its much challenged entry into service, the Beretta M92-FS – adopted officially in 1985 as the U.S. M9 Pistol – has reached retirement age.
In a matter of ten years, according to the contract, all the M9 pistols used by the U.S. Army will be replaced; and it's safe to assume that the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard will soon get in line and follow the Army lead.
Unfortunately, the Italian company has its share of responsibility for losing such an important bid. For too much time Beretta has clinged on a technical platform that's still sound, but nonetheless no longer service-viable given the increasingly demanding needs of modern asymmetric warfare and of the Special Forces units – which are by far the biggest users of handguns in military service and which had a lead role in the Modular Handgun System trial.
The fact itself that the U.S. Army decided to go for a new pistol to address the shortcomings of the M9 instead of adopting newly-built pistols to replace those close to terminal wear is a sign of the fact that the Beretta M92 design has gotten far too long in the tooth and that no upgrade can make it suitable to fulfill modern requirements. That's the reason why, on December 2013, the U.S. Army decided to refuse Beretta's offer to close the MHS competition and go for a direct adoption of the improved M9A3 pistol – which was subsequently also refused entry in the MHS competition itself.
Beretta's entry in the MHS competition was the new polymer frame, striker-fired APX pistol, but it unfortunately failed to obtain the U.S Army's approval. As sound and reliable as Beretta's new pistol may (purportedly) be, the Beretta Holding was unable to offer the full package of accessories for the handgun (including reflex sights and suppressors) that the contract required.
The fact that Beretta has held back the launch of the APX for two years also hindered its path, since the lack of real-life experience with the platform didn't help the APX to gain the trust of the U.S. Army, which often refers to the shooting and operational experiences of civilians and law enforcement professionals. Beretta's commercial strategy has always been to whithold from civilian release any firearm that could be, in any form, be participating to a military trial – but this time their strategy backfired.
Of course we wish Beretta to achieve the greatest possible market success with the new APX, but in order to do so, the Italian company will have to drastically change its thoughtform – in terms of technology, marketing and communication. But this is just our personal opinion.