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Gun Makers Gamble in Vegas on Commercial Versions of Army MHS

  • Sig Sauer’s commercial MHS version with the frame-mounted manual safety. Photo by Matthew Cox/Military.com
    Sig Sauer’s commercial MHS version with the frame-mounted manual safety. Photo by Matthew Cox/Military.com
  • FN America’s FN 509 commercial MHS version. Photo by Matthew Cox/Military.com
    FN America’s FN 509 commercial MHS version. Photo by Matthew Cox/Military.com
  • Glock’s G19X commercial MHS variant. Photo by Matthew Cox/Military.com
    Glock’s G19X commercial MHS variant. Photo by Matthew Cox/Military.com

LAS VEGAS -- The pistol companies that competed in the Army Modular Handgun System competition are hoping to cash in at SHOT Show 2018 by marketing their commercial versions of MHS.

Sig Sauer won the $580 million MHS contract in January 2017, beating Beretta, FN America and Glock Inc. in the massive effort to produce the Army's next sidearm.

In addition to Sig, FN and Glock have unveiled commercial version the guns they designed to compete in the MHS effort, hoping to recoup the sizable investments they poured into their MHS entries.

Sig Sauer announced plans in December to release a limited number of a commemorative edition of the M17 MHS, but then unveiled two commercial versions of the M17 at SHOT and plans to sell "as many as we can," Phil Strader, pistol product manager for Sig, told Military.com.

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"We are going to do a commemorative version and we were planning on launching them at same time, but in retrospect it doesn't make a lot of sense," Strader said. "And because of the momentum that this gun has enjoyed, we feel like if we go to the market at any point in the life-cycle of this gun with a commemorative version, it will have legs."

One of the most noticeable differences of Sig's commercial MHS is that its magazine release, slide stop, take-down lever and manual safety are black, not tan like on the M17.

"This was something I wanted to do to differentiate it from current M17 design but, all in all, the gun looks very similar," Strader said.

Other differences are that "Sig Sauer P320" is written on the slide instead of M17.

Also Sig did not include the special coatings on the internal parts, which was a mandatory MHS requirement.

"We didn't spend the extra money to do the zinc phosphate springs and parts because it wasn't necessary," Strader said, explaining that most commercial uses would not require the extreme durability that the military requires.

"All in all, it looks really similar to the M17 ... and most likely by the next time an [engineering change proposal] is submitted to the Army, this actually may be exactly what the Army gun looks like with the black controls."

Sig is also offering a version without the frame-mounted safety. Each gun will come with two 17-round magazines instead of the 21-round mags issued with M17. They should retail for $650 to $750.

Beretta competed its APX striker-fired pistol in the MHS competition, but so far the company has not used MHS in its marketing campaign for APX.

FN America is marketing its model 509 as its commercial version of MHS, the platform FN plans to grow on for the "foreseeable future," Tom Victa, pistol product manager for FN, said at SHOT Show's range day.

Military.com requested a more detailed interview on FN's model, but FN officials were unavailable during the show.

The company used feedback from the Army to refine the 509 and make adjustments to the grip, improvements to how the slide stops, and refinements to front and rear cocking serrations, Victa said.

The 509 features a tan frame and black slide.

While FN is still marketing the gun hard to a law enforcement and military audience, it's exploring ways to make the gun more customizable to draw civilian consumers.

Suggested retail price for the 509 is $649, but Victa said the gun can be found for around $550, similar to some Glock 9mm models.

Glock's commercial MHS version is the G19X -- a pistol that blends the compact slide of a Glock 17 and the full-size frame of a Glock 17 in what appears to be a sweet marriage of full-size and concealable handgun designs.

Military.com asked Glock for a more detailed interview on the effort, but Glock officials were not available for the interview at the show.

The G19X holds 17 rounds with a standard magazine and 19 rounds with the extended mag, compared to the standard Glock 19 magazine, which holds 15 rounds.

The G19X is scheduled to retail for $749 and comes in the coyote color with the first-ever factory-colored slide. The nPVD slide coating of the Glock 19X prevents corrosion, resists chemicals, and stands up against the elements.

Additional design features of the G19X include the Glock Marksman Barrel with enhanced polygonal rifling and an improved barrel crown for increased accuracy, Glock officials maintain.

It has ambidextrous slide stop levers, no finger grooves on the grip and a lanyard loop for retention. Unlike the Glock MHS versions, the G19X does not include a frame-mounted manual safety designed to meet the Army's MHS requirement.

-- Military.com's Hope Seck contributed to this story.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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