As you may recall, Beretta submitted the M9A3 Engineering Change Proposal to the Army in December as an alternative to the service's Modular Handgun System.
Besides its new earth-tone colors, the M9A3 features a MIL-STD-1913 accessory rail for mounting weapon lights. It also has a much-thinner, Vertec grip for smaller hands and an optional wrap-around grip for those with larger hands.
The M9A3 will also feature a redesigned, over-center safety lever that cants slightly upward to help eliminate accidental safety activation when the slide is racked during malfunction drills, Beretta officials maintain. The new pistol has improved, removable front and rear sights and a threaded barrel for suppressor use. Beretta USA has also increased the magazine capacity from 15 to 17 rounds.
The M9A3 has a lot of new features, but it's still an M9, according to pistol experts.
Army weapons officials, however, told Beretta in a Jan. 29 letter that the M9A3 goes beyond what a traditional ECP is supposed to do, according to a source familiar with the letter. As a result, Army officials said they could not alter the original M9 contract and the M9A3 would have to be submitted as a brand new pistol, the source said.
I'm not an M9 fanboy, but this doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you look at how other Army weapons have been altered over the years under the ECP umbrella -- M16, M16A1, M16A2, M16A4, M4 and M4A1.
Point being, the M9A3 seems to be just as much an M9 as the M4 carbine is a version of the M16.
After receiving the Army's Jan. 29 disaproval letter, Beretta USA sent a Jan. 30 letter to the Army asking the service to reconsider. It is interesting that the Army made its decision on the M9A3 without requesting any samples from Beretta or asking any questions about it.
Meanwhile, the Army unexpectedly delayed the start of its MHS competition Jan. 12, postponing the release of the formal Request for Proposals that was scheduled for January.
The Army began working with the small arms industry on MHS in early 2013, but the joint effort has been in the works for more than five years. The effort to replace the 9mm pistol with a more powerful handgun could result in the Defense Department buying 500,000 new pistols during a period of significant defense-spending reductions.
MHS is set to cost at least $350 million and potentially millions more if it results in the selection of a more powerful pistol caliber, sources said.