The Army recently awarded Baretta a contract to supply 100,000 more M9s, but this is separate. Thus far, Baretta has produced more than 600,000 for the Defense Department in all.
Army officials have spent five years working on a program to upgrade the service's handgun called Modular Handgun System, or MHS. Those service leaders said they want to replace or upgrade the M9 with a handgun that provides more accuracy, lethality, reliability and durability.
The M9A3 is Beretta's submission for a different program, though. It's the Engineering Change Proposal as part of Beretta's current contract with the Army.
Beretta officials maintain that this upgraded model meets the Army's requirements with upgrades that "include design and material enhancements resulting in increased modularity, reliability, durability, and ergonomics," according to the Beretta press release.
Improvements include a "thin grip with a removable, modular wrap-around grip, MIL-STD-1913 accessory rail, removable front and rear tritium sights, extended and threaded barrel for suppressor use, 17-round sand resistant magazine, and numerous improved small components to increase durability and ergonomics, all in an earth tone finish"
"After listening closely to the needs of U.S. Army and other Service small arms representatives, we determined the M9, much like its counterpart legacy weapon systems (M4, M16, M240, etc.), was capable of being upgraded through material and design changes. The resulting M9A3 we are offering to the DOD will likely cost less than the current M9 and answer almost all of the Services’ enhanced handgun requirements," said Gabriele de Plano, vice president of Military Marketing and Sales for Beretta USA.
Beretta said it would release a commercial version of the pistol at the National Shooting Sports Foundation's SHOT Show in Las Vegas next month.