The new M9A3 and the Army’s Billion Dollar Shenanigans

first published on November 12, 2015 by

Beretta M9A3

For 30 years the Beretta M9 has served our nation as the general issue sidearm. The switch to the M9 happened in 1985 when the U.S. Armed Forces decided to retire the 75 year old 1911A1, which admittedly had become a bit long in the tooth. As with most every change, the switch prompted critics to crawl forth from the woodwork claiming everything from Tomfoolery in the selection process to the guns being unsafe to fire.

Ultimately, with a few modifications here and there over the years, the M9 found a home in the U.S. military where many appreciate its rather graceful nature. It’s a big handgun with a very mild recoil impulse. Granted, previous generations of the pistol were a bit big for smaller statured Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, however this is one of the several issues the new A3 variant seeks to remedy.

In August of this year, the U.S. Army issued a formal solicitation for handguns to replace the M9 as the official service pistol. The new program is being called the XM17 MHS (Modular Handgun System) and the Army has set forth new requirements for contestants. In July of this year the Army hosted an industry day at Picatinny Arsenal in NJ for competitors to showcase their entries and to kick-off the party.

Beretta proposed the M9A3 prior to the kick-off of the new selection process in a bid to retain their contract, however the Army took a pass and opened the competition to see what else might be out there. As of right now up to 20 companies are competing for the $580 million dollar contract. Let’s not fool ourselves though, the estimated price tag only covers the cost of the pistols, magazines and spare parts. It doesn’t take into account the training costs for Soldiers (end users), armorers, or updates to holsters, armory hardware such as tools and storage facilities, etc. In the end, the actual long term cost will be far north of one billion dollars. In today’s trillion dollar deficit era a billion dollars almost seems like chump change.

But it’s not.

That’s a billion plus dollars we’ll have to borrow from China or some other sucker that’s still buying our debt. It’s another billion dollars in the bucket we’re kicking down the road for other generations to deal with. The bigger question is, “why now?” After 15 years of war the Army decides now is the appropriate time to adopt a new REMF weapon?

As noted previously, the M9 has its detractors as every weapon system in the military does. Setting that aside, let’s look at this practically. The M9 is a very serviceable weapon. I’ve used them for at least 20 years and found them to be quite capable firearms. The detractors clamoring for a replacement act as though we don’t already have a working handgun in inventory. Worse, many act as though spending a billion more Yuan’s really isn’t that big of a deal. They’re all wrapped up in the selection process and are consumed with cheering for their favorite team/company hoping their pet pistol gets the nod. It’s mindlessness of a magnitude I can’t comprehend.

Get a grip folks, we don’t need a new handgun. If we want to spend some deficit money to make valuable, yet fiscally sound, improvements we should adopt the M9A3 and spend the rest on training. What a novel concept! Why don’t we actually train our troops to use the existing handgun, something Uncle Sugar has neglected to effectively do since the M9’s adoption?

Adopting the M9A3 makes more sense than spinning up another trial that will likely end 2 years into the 3 year cycle, like so many before it, and subsequently waste millions of Yuan’s in the process.

The M9A3 is 100% compatible with major components of the existing M9 inventory and shares 76% commonality of individual small parts. It even meets 84% of the requirements under the new XM17 MHS program and Beretta claims with a few more tweaks it can reach 92% compliance. What does this mean?  It means savings hundreds of millions of dollars and still giving our fighting men and women a highly serviceable modern handgun for their rear echelon activities. After all, the brunt of all fighting is done with rifles in the big Army and not handguns. As for Special Operations? They can pick anything they want to use so this conversation doesn’t apply to them.

Here’s a few of the features of the new M9A3 you might find tantalizing.

The grip frame has been reduced in size by a good margin allowing it to fit smaller hands more comfortably. The dust cover under the barrel features a new 1913 pic rail for accessories and the slide mounted safety has been redesigned to help reduce inadvertent engagements during slide manipulations. If there’s still an issue with the safety, a few small parts can be swapped out changing the pistol to a “G” configuration which makes the safety a decocker only. In the “safe” position in the “G” configuration the pistol can still be fired as a double action. The sights are now dovetailed in, both front and rear, and feature tritium inserts for nighttime operations. The barrel has been threaded with a 1/2×28 thread allowing for the use of suppressors. Overall the improvements are solid and make for a very shootable pistol. The improvements don’t end there, this is but a sampling. I’ll delve into greater detail in a future blog post and Military Arms Channel video.

Beretta M9A3 target

Beretta M9A3 target fired at 21 feet.

Let’s get our heads on straight and stop with the deficit spending on non-frontline weapons. There are other areas the military needs to focus that might actually yield tangible results if Uncle Sam has some Yuan’s burning a hole in his pocket.

As you can probably tell, I’m rather passionate about this — enough so that I ask you to contact your Congressmen and Senators and let them know you are opposed to wasting time and money adopting a new secondary weapon we simply don’t need.