With the competition heating up on the Army's Modular Handgun System bidding process, expected to garner as many as a half million new pistols to replace the military's current stock of sidearms, the short list includes seems to include a certain polymer wonder from Austria.
(U.S. Army soldier with the 1st Infantry Division deployed downrange in the sandbox. Note what's on his body armor?)
What is the MHS?
In 2013, the U.S. Army requested bids for what they called their Modular Handgun System. This would be a commercially available off the shelf replacement for their current handguns, namely the Beretta 92F (adopted in 1986 as the M9) and the Sig-Sauer P-228 (adopted in 1990 as the M11). The former is used by all branches of the Department of Defense military (the Coast Guard uses P-229R pistols along with most of the rest of the Department of Homeland Security). Primarily investigators and military police use the M11.
What the Army wants to phase these guns out is an accurate handgun (at a range of 50-meters/164-feet, it has to have a 90% or better probability of hit on a 4 inch circle when fired from a test fixture). It needs an accessory rail and capability to have a threaded barrel to accept tactical lights, lasers, and sound suppressors as needed. It also should have enhanced ergonomics so that most females can handle it. Other requirements are an at least 35,000 round Service Life and the ability to provide up to 550,000 handguns with U.S.-based production after the third year of the contract.
Oh yeah, and it will likely not be a 9mm.
In an interview earlier this year with Army Times, Daryl Easlick, a project officer with the Army's Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga, said that the legacy round, adopted in 1986, is somewhat dead in the water.
"The 9mm doesn't score high with soldier feedback," said Easlick, explaining that the Army, and the other services, want a round that will have better terminal effects -- or cause more damage -- when it hits enemy combatants. "We have to do better than our current 9mm."
Since .40S&W doesn't suppress well, and service life of guns chambered in that round is not seen as being as long as that of .45ACP caliber weapons, the new round may be the good old .45-- which is still in service with Marine special ops units and the SOCCOM commando's Mk.23 offensive handgun.
Why Glock is a contender
(Norwegian Army commando rocking the Glock, which is near NATO standard for European armies )
The Glock was originally designed from the ground-up to meet strict Austrian Army requirements in the early 1980s. Since then it has gone on to be adopted not only in that Central European country but also in France, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and many other NATO and Western allies. Just this year the closest U.S. military ally, Great Britain, announced they are setting their long-standard Browning Hi Power to the side in favor of the Glock.
(A Coalition Forces trainer in Afghanistan instructing local protective forces there. Note what's on his side)
Unofficially, the Glocks to include G22 and G19 series have been used by individual soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines deploying downrange since 9/11. Further, the Federal government loves Glocks, with most of the Department of Justice (FBI, DEA, ATF, etc.) issuing the .40S&W Glock 22 in various models over the past decades.
With the Army's list of demands in mind, certain moves by Glock have proved interesting. Already having enhanced ergonomics with the 4th Generation models and long having a standard accessory rail, the company announced just six months after the MHS bid request hit the streets that it would offer factory threaded barrels -- especially for the .45ACP G21 series.
Further, Glock maintains a U.S.-based military sector section of their website which show, among other things, what appear to be individuals in uniforms very similar to those current used by Uncle but equipped with what look like G21's, with both the SF and Gen 4 variants of that gun linked prominently from the page. Internet archives show this was only set up in the past couple years.
(Photo by Glock)
Barrett weighs in
Thursday, Paul M. Barrett, the author of the controversial book Glock: The Rise of America's Gun, wrote a column that spelled out that the Army competition is going to be between Glock and Smith and Wesson. While of course others such as SIG, Ruger (who made more handguns last year than any other maker in the country), and FN will no doubt enter the fray, only Smith has made announcements that they were very serious about the competition.
How serious? Enough to collaborate with huge defense contractor General Dynamics who has their fingers in everything from warships to artillery pieces to fighter jets.
"Over the years, Glock has won the business of two-thirds of municipal and state police departments in the U.S., as well as federal agencies such as the FBI and DEA. A number of military special-ops units that choose their own small arms outside of the main Army procurement channels use the Glock, as well. The Austrian gun is known for its ease of use and reliability under adverse conditions," wrote Barrett.
If you worry that the Army wont select a company based in Austria, keep in mind that Beretta, who has provided the handguns for the past 30-years has always been an Italian company. Further, Belgian-based FN produces M249 and M240 machineguns for the U.S. military as well.
An outside expert consulted by the reporter further confirmed that Glock is "...undeniably a powerful contender."
The submissions will start in January 2015 and run for the next two years.
Which means in 2017 we may be writing an article about the Army's new Glock.