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Good Call on the M9

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Military.com contributor, Capt. Eric Coulson, who wrote a thought-provoking article on the failings of the ACU, has penned another story for us that calls into question the call by an increasing number of shooters that the M9 pistol is a dog...

Read his entire article below:

The biggest failing of the M9 Beretta pistol has always been that it was not the M1911 in .45 ACP. More than 20 years after the pistols adoption as the standard sidearm of the US Armed Forces, many devotees of the 1911 and the .45 caliber claim that was a better pistol. In fact the M9 has proven itself time and time again in combat with US Forces in Panama, Desert Storm, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Although a combat proven pistol, I decided to put the M9 through its paces when I arrived in Iraq. There was nothing scientific about my testing. We do not have a fancy range to do precision shooting and make measurements. I wanted the subjective hard day-in-day-out test of the firearm with the dust and sand: Could I pull out the weapon and run through 15 rounds and make them all lethal shots at 25 meters?

I attempt to maintain my pistol on a daily basis, however I will not exaggerate and claim that it is always spotless. So when I realize we had a range and some 9mm ammunition available, I decided to forgo cleaning my M9 to see what the real consequences would be if my weapon was not clean.

On range day, I took my Beretta that had more than its fair share of dust and sand on it, four Checkmate magazines and 60 rounds of 9mm Full Metal Jacket ammunition to the range. Over a half-hour period I fired the pistol from kneeling and standing positions. I fired single shots and controlled pairs. I used the slide release and manually charged the weapon. In those 60 rounds, I had no failures to feed, no failures to eject, and no failures to fire. Had I needed the weapon that day to save my life, it was up to the task.

Shooting itself is a perishable skill, but I found that I had not lost a step after spending much of the last two years shooting my Glock 19 on private ranges back in the United States. I would not have won any competitions, but at 25 meters on a man-size target, I was able to place all of my shots in the torso or the head.

The biggest complaint from users during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom has been failures related to the Checkmate magazines. Evidently, the Department of Defense has worked with the manufacture to eliminate these problems.

I am curious if some of those problems might not be related to the amount of time the magazines remain loaded. Considering the pistol is used as a backup weapon in most instances, the magazines can remain loaded for weeks at a time if not longer. The lengthy compression of the springs can cause the springs to lose some of their strength. I rotate mine on a weekly basis to prevent excessive spring use. Users might consider this if they experience a problem.

There have been no significant developments in pistol design since the adoption of the M9 that would warrant the adoption of a new pistol. However, there are two things the Armed Forces should consider in equipping service members with pistol.

Laser sites: a pistol such as the M9 has fixed sights. The fixed site requires the shooter to focus on the blade of the front site, while aligning the rear site and the target, causing the latter two to be fuzzy. Laser sites when properly aligned allow the shooter to focus on the target, where the focus should be. There are two types of lasers on the market, external and internal lasers. The internal lasers replace the guide rod and as such replicate the path of the bullet most accurately. The next contract for pistols should include an internal laser requirement.

Night sites: even if the military adopts an internal laser, one should always have a back up. On this pistol this means relying on the iron sites. The current sites on the Beretta are three-dot plastic. The dots have worn off over the years on many of these weapons. Replacing these with high visibility tritium sites would make more sense.

The Beretta M9 is a good pistol with a proven combat capability. My own experience has increased my confidence in the weapon system. While one should always do their utmost to ensure their weapon is clean and in optimal firing condition, it is also good to know the weapon can save your life, if it has seen a few hard days moving around the battlefield. The Department of Defense has done well by this pistol selection.

-- Eric Coulson

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