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Army To Hold New Pistol Competition Next Year

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U.S. Army weapons officials announced it plans to launch a competition to replace the M9 9mm pistol in January after a recent meeting with interested pistol makers.

Program Executive Office Soldier hosted a third industry day for the Modular Handgun System Oct. 28-29 – an event that drew representatives from 20 companies, according to Debi Dawson, spokeswoman for PEO Soldier.

Attendees discussed the Army’s draft solicitation for the new weapon system, which will replace the current M9 standard Army sidearm, Dawson said in an Oct. 31 Army news release. The Army issued the draft solicitation, which identifies design and performance requirements for the new handgun system, Sept. 29. The draft solicitation calls for a commercially available weapon tailored to the unique needs of the military services.

The solicitation specified no particular caliber, but the Army is seeking a handgun system that outperforms its current sidearm. The Army is also seeking a modular weapon, meaning it allows adjustments to fit all hand sizes.

Since the M9 entered the Army’s inventory in 1986, handgun technology has advanced significantly with the introduction of lighter weight materials, ergonomics and rails for accessories, Dawson said. Through the competition, the Army intends to replace the M9 with a state-of-the-art handgun.

Current plans call for the Army to purchase more than 280,000 handguns from a single vendor, with delivery of the first new handgun systems scheduled for 2017. The Army also plans to buy approximately 7,000 sub-compact versions of the handgun. The other military services participating in the MHS program may order an additional 212,000 systems above the Army quantity.

Army officials plan to release a final solicitation for the MHS in January, Dawson said in the release.

The Army held two previous industry days at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., Dec. 18, 2013, and July 29. The purpose of these industry days was to enhance vendor-government communications by involving likely competitors throughout the planning process. The days also allowed the Army to obtain their feedback on whether the products and proposed strategy are achievable and affordable.

During the industry day meetings, Army representatives discussed details about the “more accurate, ergonomic, reliable, durable and maintainable” handgun system the service seeks to buy through full and open competition, Dawson said.

Throughout the process, the Army encouraged industry attendees to suggest ways in which the Army can improve the plan and process. The Army has adopted a number of suggestions and ideas, according to the release.

The competition itself will choose a handgun that performs best in the hands of warfighters who will play a critical part in the evaluation. More than 550 military personnel from all of the services will participate and provide feedback on the performance of each of the candidate system after firing them in simulated combat scenarios. This particular warfighter assessment is an important part of the evaluation process.

The Army spent years on an effort to search for a replacement for its M4 carbine, but ended up terminating the competition before it was complete and adopting the improved M4A1 version used by special operations forces.

Beretta officials maintain that the company has offered to upgrade M9 many times. The Marine Corps adopted the M9A1 in 2006 that features a rail for attaching lights or lasers, checkering on the front and back of the grip and a beveled magazine well for smoother magazine changes.

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