Yes, you read that right, after almost 30 years of using the Beretta M9, the US Army has finally come to the conclusion that they may need a larger caliber handgun. Well, duh. Since the adoption of the 9mm M9, mainly because 9mm became the NATO standard way back in 1985, the US military has been using Beretta’s 92FS which was then assigned the official military designation of M9.
The M9 replaced the Colt 1911 that was chambered in .45, a round known to put targets on the ground. The 1911 served the US Military from 1911 to 1985, an impressive time frame for any weapon system before being shelved in favor of the M9. Lets take a step back and look at the 9mm. NATO, an organization comprised of mostly European countries, countries that for the most part, know two things about pistols, Jack and Shit. NATO’s utmost wisdom was to make all handguns that the member nations of NATO were issued to be in the same caliber, 9mm.
But, and this was coming, the M9 uses a staggered stack magazine which increases the grip width meaning that soldiers, male and female, that have small hands, won’t be able to properly grip the weapon. Sure, the magazine capacity increased and the rounds were lighter but, for the most part, only senior NCOs and officers were issued sidearms. The basic ass in the grass grunt is only issued his rifle. The 1911, old slab sides, was an excellent sidearm but was limited to 8 rounds in the magazine. When it was introduced, in 1911, the idea was that it would replace the revolver with a semi-automatic handgun.
There was and still is a lot of contention about the M9 replacing the 1911. There are entire weapons forums online discussing the pros and cons of each weapon. The point is, after all this time, the US Military is realizing that the M9 isn’t a viable replacement for the 1911 and is now seeking another handgun in a larger caliber to replace it. That means another level of training. On average, the US Military provides about 5 days of handgun training. Yes, you read that right, about a week’s worth of training on how to use a sidearm. The only units within the US Military that continuously practice with handguns are Special Operations Forces.
For the most part, a sidearm allows a soldier to fight his way to a long arm, his/her rifle. Let’s not forget the mention of the M11 in the above linked article. The M11 is the SIG Sauer 228 that was mostly issued to CID personnel. The SIG 228 is also found in Special Forces and SEAL arms rooms along with the M9 and the HK MK23. The MK23 is a .45 caliber special operations handgun but, due to its size, most units leave them in the arms room and select something else.
So now we have another program with a fancy name, Modular Handgun System, that will run for months to several years until it finally chooses a handgun/sidearm to replace the M9.
On a personal note, I’ve used and carried both the M9 and the 1911 and found both handguns to be adequate for the task they were employed for. While I like the M9 because, hey, Mel Gibson used one in the Lethal Weapon series and it has a larger magazine capacity then the 1911 and it looks cool. OK, honestly, I like the M9 for EDC where obviously carrying a rifle would not be conducive, and the 1911 for field work where a rifle is usually carried.
Both handguns have their detriments and their merits. It all comes down to personal choice. My train of thought regarding the whole M9/1911 issue, the 1911 was a great sidearm, it served the US Military for 74 years without any major issues. The M9 has served for less than half that time frame and is already on the list to be replaced with something else. That says something.
The 1911 falls into this category: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.