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After a few misfires, Army’s newest pistol program is slow on the draw

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After a nearly decade-long effort to pick a new pistol for the US military, the Army’s Program Executive Office‑Soldier awarded its Modular Handgun System (MHS) contract to SIG Sauer on January 19, 2017. More than two years later, the Army says that the program is still on track for planned purchases—but the Army’s budget requests for 2020 indicate that the service is slowing its draw for at least the next year.

The MHS program is the Army’s effort to replace the pistol that has been the standard military sidearm since 1986—the Beretta M9, which had been the Army’s first service-wide pistol since the venerable Colt M1911 .45 caliber pistol. SIG Sauer’s pistols for the MHS program are based on SIG Sauer’s P320 pistol—a favorite of law enforcement. Like the Beretta M9, both the full-size XM-17 and compact XM-18 are chambered for 9-millimeter bullets. But the MHS pistols are primarily designed to fire a “special purpose” bullet—a jacketed hollow point round intended, as the Army’s requirements documents stated, to “create a larger wound channel.”

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