SIG Sauer has won the coveted U.S. Army Modular Handgun System (MHS) contract, beating eight notable challengers including submissions from Beretta, FN, Glock and Smith & Wesson. SIG Sauer's P320-based XM17 (full-size) and XM18 (compact) survived extensive vetting as well as a recent series of objections that Glock made to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). On June 5, 2017, the GAO denied Glock's protest. SIG won.
The U.S. Army's selection of SIG Sauer's P320 is no small achievement. This elite list of chosen sidearms is a matter of historical record, and one that often yields decades of business. Depending on configuration, the pistols will be designated the M17 and M18, respectively, and a modular chassis could mean that these pistols serve troops indefinitely.
The 10-year award is estimated to be worth $580 million. It is extremely important to SIG Sauer's reputation. In the last 10 years, the manufacturer has enjoyed a series of credibility-boosting successes under the leadership of president Ron Cohen. The company remains on a mission to monopolize many of the categories that currently matter: pistols, rifles, ammunition, optics and suppressors.
The M17/M18 are very similar to the commercially available P320, which retails for $680 and shares mostâ€¨of the same modular characteristics. The M17 features the P320 Carry frame withâ€¨a full-size P320 slide. The M18 features the P320 Carry frame with a Carry-length slide. Both pistols were spec'd to be tanâ€¨in color. Steel components are given a physical vapor deposition (PVD), which is a uniform, durable and corrosion-resistant finish.
A big difference between the P320 and M17/M18 is the pin spanner screws specified by Uncle Sam to resist tampering and disassembly beyond an operator level. Maintenance beyond what's accessible during fieldstripping and reconfiguration of the M17/M18 is supposed to be accomplished by an armorer. During our test of both models, a spanner-head screw was placed on the back of the slide over the extractor andâ€¨to the right of the striker and one opposite of the takedown lever. As this article was written, G&A learned that the pin spanner for the takedown lever was changing because it would prohibit operator-level access to the chassis assembly. Lastly, the M17/M18 will feature a lightweight trigger (with the same curvature as the P320 trigger), an RFID and unique serial number as specified by the U.S. Army.
Per U.S. Army requirements, the rear sight assembly differs from commercial P320 models because the M17/M18 features a removable rear-sight plate with an adjustable orange-colored SIGLite tritium night sight. The steel plate covers and protects the footprint needed for mounting a Leupold DeltaPoint Pro red dot sight, a clue to the forward thinking of the U.S. Army given that red dot sight capability was spec'd in the request.
Since the MHS solicitation did not specify caliber, it is also telling that the military thinks a large capacity 9mm is still relevant despite the calls for a bigger caliber.
G&A's staff can report that SIG Sauer will offer an almost-identical consumer version (sans U.S. government markings) of this pistol.
More information and photos featuring the M17/M18 will appear in the September 2017 issue of Guns & Ammo magazine.