In future battles, U.S. soldiers will have a new sidearm for personal protection. The Army’s new pistol may see more action than the last thanks to a design that has great potential for offensive purposes like close quarter combat.
The Army has begun fielding the first Sig Sauer XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) sidearms.
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The Sig Sauer 9mm XM17, and the more compact version XM18, are replacing the M9 as the Army’s service pistol.
This is the first change in about three decades since Beretta’s M9 was first introduced as the Army’s sidearm in the Cold War era back in 1986.
Over the next 10 years, the Army will distribute the new handguns to all Army units.
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Cutting to the chase…what is better about this new weapon? Fans of the new weapon are citing factors like better accuracy and tighter dispersion that will enhance soldiers’ lethality. It is also hailed for being easy to use, as well as more comfortable and efficient. Read on for more details …
So what is this new weapon?
The XM17 and XM18 are variants of Sig Sauer’s publicly available P320 pistol.
The compact XM18 can be carried in a concealed holster.
First unveiled back in 2014, the P320 is a polymer striker-fired pistol that was developed as a service pistol. It is modular, with interchangeable grip modules. The user can adjust the caliber and frame size.
The P320 has a number of features handy for law enforcement and military purposes. The trigger has a short pull and reset. It can also be disassembled without having to manipulate the trigger – and also without tools. And it was designed to fit a wide range of hands.
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The military variants have a different paintjob. The Army also has different magazine requirements. Soldiers will be able to utilize both standard, and extended capacity, magazines.
Soldiers use the U.S. Army's new pistol (101st Airborne/U.S. Army)
Both pistols can be outfitted with suppressors. To attach lasers and lights, there’s an integrated MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail.
There’s also self-illuminating night sights for optimum combat effectiveness in challenging light conditions.
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What’s the XM17 advantage?
One of the primary goals in the shift has been to provide soldiers with enhanced performance, together with better durability and adaptability.
Feedback throughout the process has been that it performed very well and reliably on the range.
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The XM17 is an easy to shoot, simple handgun with virtually no resistance on the trigger.
Sig Sauer is providing the U.S. Army's new pistol (101st Airborne/U.S. Army)
In battle conditions, it is expected to give Soldiers more options. Once fired, the new sidearm makes it easy to quickly aim again accurately and shoot.
And the XM17 and XM18 have excellent potential for close-quarter combat.
More soldiers to receive weapons
Another key development is that younger soldiers will be able to get their hands on this new pistol. The Army will be issuing this new sidearm down to squad leaders and team leaders as well.
Previously, junior leaders were excluded from carrying the M9s. This new policy is expected to apply to all Army units receiving the XM17.
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Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division are among the first to get their hands on the new pistol. (101st Airborne/U.S. Army)
As a result, new training will most likely be developed focusing on skills like shifting from the M4 to the pistol and vice versa.
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Are they already in soldiers’ hands?
The Army has started rolling them out. The lucky first to receive them? The historic 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. About 2,000 XM17 and XM18 handguns reached them last month.
The military plans to issue the XM17s to three units by the end of the year with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas, next.
And the rest of the Army? Over the next decade, the Army plans to buy 195,000 pistols and will distribute them to all units.
Nothing should be more important than the opinion of the soldiers who will relying onthe new weapons.
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The Army’s testing was extensive before the new sidearm was selected. Committed to the goal of ensuring the best pistol was selected for soldiers in the future Army, a team traveled to different testing sites throughout the country.
Fort Bragg’s excellent ranges were used to test the pistol in realistic conditions. Different scenarios were used such as testing the new Sig while in cold weather gear.
In addition to the Army, testing was conducted through the military as well with sailors, airmen and Marines participating. Different specializations were also involved pilots, crew chiefs and infantry putting the new weapons through their paces and providing feedback.
Intense competition for selection
The Army launched the competition to replace the M9 back in 2015.
It was a hotly contested battle between some of the world’s finest gun makers with Beretta USA, Glock Inc. and FN America all competing alongside Sig Sauer.
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In the end it was Sig Sauer that won the deal for the New Modular Handgun System (MHS), which is worth about $580 million.
In January of this year, the Army announced that the XM17 was chosen as the new service pistol.
Other services also have embraced the XM17 and XM18 as well. The Air Force is scheduled to buy 130,000, the Navy plans to buy 61,000 and the Marine Corps plans to buy 35,000.
On shelves now
Looking for a new primary carry pistol? Or to gift one this holiday season? In terms of civilians, the Army’s variant is not publicly available but the base model, the P320, is available in 9mm, .357 SIG, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. It retails for approximately $713.
Allison Barrie is a defense specialist with experience in more than 70 countries who consults at the highest levels of defense and national security, a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees, and author of the definitive guide, Future Weapons: Access Granted, on sale in 30 countries. Barrie hosts the new hit podcast “Tactical Talk” where she gives listeners direct access to the most fascinating Special Operations warriors each week and to find out more about the FOX Firepower host and columnist you can click here or follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie and Instagram @allisonbarriehq.