Modular Handgun System Update: Army Lays Out Plan to Replace M9 Pistol

Photo by Jeff Rose

The U.S. Army has worked towards replacing its current service handgun — the Beretta M9 — for several years, but now it has released a new official draft solicitation detailing specific plans for the replacement process.

On June 17, the Army released a new draft solicitation on the Federal Business Opportunities website that laid out the service's plans to replace the M9 with the Modular Handgun System (MHS) by 2018. Army officials intend to begin the competition next year and eventually award a contract to a single gun manufacturer for 280,000 new pistols.

The new draft solicitation explains the Army's latest proposed competition schedule, procedures and requirements for the XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS). These have all been modified following industry feedback and the decision of the Department of Defense (DOD) to allow the use of special purpose ammunition.

The draft gives the industry a final chance to provide feedback on the new strategy prior to the Army's release of the final draft solicitation. The Army also intends to hold another industry day — its fourth for this project — on July 7-8 at New Jersey's Picatinny Arsenal.

The plans report that the Army will unveil its final draft in a year and then select its new handgun through a full and open competition.

"We expect to release the final solicitation in 2016," Program Manager for Soldier Weapons, Colonel Scott Armstrong said. "This will be followed [by] a phased down-select process that will run through 2017."

"When all is said and done," Armstrong said, "the XM17 will provide Warfighters with greater accuracy, target acquisition, ergonomic design. The new handgun will also be more reliable, durable and easier to maintain."

Each vendor, or manufacturer, will be able to submit two separate handgun proposals with different calibers for testing.

"Vendors must submit mature designs that are production ready," Armstrong said. "They are free to select a caliber that best meets the XM17 requirements."

The current plans outlined in the new solicitation draft call for the Army to purchase 7,000 compact versions of the new handgun in addition to the 280,000 standard models. Other branches of the military participating in the MHS program will be able to order a further 212,000 handguns, which would bring the total up to nearly half a million.

The Beretta M9 has been the U.S. Army's standard service handgun since 1985 but has faced criticism throughout its tenure. Recently, Beretta produced the M9A3 variant as a possible upgrade to the M9 that would meet several of the MHS requirements, but the Army rejected the company's offering.

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