Friday, December 19, 2014

Firearms Friday: Army Sidearm Competition

Every once in a while, the United States Army makes it known that they are opening up competition to see if the current designs and technology are what they are looking for to replace the Beretta M9. Essentially, every time the Beretta contract begins winding down, there is new talk as to what will be the next sidearm issued to soldiers in the Army. While talks are frequent, it doesn’t mean that a change will be made as since 1911 the Army has only had 2 pistols, the aforementioned M9 adopted in 1985 and the M1911A1 adopted in 1911.

There are numerous factors that will be considered this time around that weren’t really part of the equation 30 years ago. Polymer frames have become an industry standard and preferred material for modern shooters, modularity is both readily available and cost effective as modern materials make for the faster and easier production of such parts, and manufacturing costs have gone down considerably with the advent of new processes and materials.

So what criteria will hold over from the last trial?

While there are some forces that prefer the larger .45ACP round, the Army is still set on issuing 9mm NATO rounds which provide greater round count, better recoil management, and less wear and tear on firearms in comparison to higher pressure rounds such as .40 S&W and .357 Sig. Parts interchangeability will be essential as servicing the sidearm will require readily available and standard sized parts… they want the armorer to be able to drop in a new barrel rather than have to fit it to the individual gun. Cost will be a major consideration as well especially given the history of Sig Sauer previously falling short to Beretta based on this criteria. Also, all firearms must be manufactured in the US.

Of course, the biggest requirements of them all are durability and combat accuracy. As was outlined in a recent Guns America article on the subject:

Whichever guns get entered will have to average 2,000 rounds between stoppages. The guns will have to run an average of 10,000 rounds before a true failure. And the guns will need a service life of 35,000 rounds. They will need to put 90% of rounds within a 4″ circle at 50 meters, which breaks down to about 7MOA. And they’ll need to be able to handle hot loads (at least 20% over SAAMI specs for their caliber).

While there are hundreds of potential participants, and even more opinions in the community as to what should be selected, there will no doubt be designs that we have seen previously and ones that will be a complete surprise. Those mystery entries are what is going to really make this competition interesting as there are always designs or features that will be developed for this competition that will eventually make it to the civilian market. I guess, in the end, the real question is how the previous finalists will fair against newer and younger competition?