Sunday, August 3, 2014

U.S. Military finally replacing 9mm Berretta M9 Pistol

The Berretta M9, 9mm, pistol above is finally being replaced, and yes its about time.

The U.S. Army is the biggest buyer of small arms among the four branches, and it usually sets the standard for what is being used in the military in so far as small arms are concerned.

For those Firearms Historians reading this, like you, I know that there has been exceptions to the rule.

For example, I know that the U.S. Air Force was the first branch to adopt the M16 rifle because they liked the "modern" look.

And yes, I know that the Thompson Submachine Gun might have been demonstrated for the Army in 1923 -- but it was not adopted for U.S. military use until the Model 1928 came out and the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps were the major buyers of "Tommy Guns" through the 1930s.

On the overall, for most of our history, the Army has been the folks who have tested and adopted the small arms that we have historically used on the battle field.

The M9

Officially known as "Pistol, Semiautomatic, 9mm, M9."

It is a 9×19mm Parabellum pistol adopted by the military in 1985. It is essentially a military specification Beretta 92F, later known as the 92FS.

The Berretta M9 won a competition in the 1980s to replace the warhorse M1911A1 as the primary sidearm of the U.S. military, beating many other contenders, and only narrowly defeating the SIG P226 for cost reasons.

It officially entered service in 1990.

As the standard sidearm of the Navy, Army and the Air Force, it replaced the Colt M1911A1 in the Army and Navy, and the Smith & Wesson Model 10 .38 Special in the Air Force.

Along with the M9, the M9A1 is seeing limited issue to the United States Marine Corps.

A large number of M9s and M9A1 pistols were ordered in 2006.

And yes, in 2009, BerettaUSA announced it had received a $220 Million contract for the delivery of 450,000 M9 and M9A1 pistols to the U.S. military by 2014.

In September of 2011, BerettaUSA announced that the U.S. Army's Foreign Military Sales program has purchased an additional 15,778 M9 pistols for the Afghan military and other Allies of the United States -- all under the designation of Model 92FS which is the non-U.S. military designation for the M9 pistol.

In September 2012, BerettaUSA announced that the U.S. Army had bought another 100,000 M9 pistols and stated that the M9 pistol "would remain their sidearm for the next five years."

Yes, Berretta USA is supposed to produce 450,000 9mm pistols for the military by this year, another 15,778 pistols for our Allies which we are paying for, and another 100,000 specifically for the Army -- yet the U.S. Army is now looking to replace the M9.

This is the sort of crap that drives taxpayers crazy!

Why order more than a half a million 9mm pistols that you are intending to replace because you are dissatisfied with it?

And no, it is not a dissatisfaction that only just came about. In fact, I found reports about the Army looking into another service pistol to replace the M9 as far back as 2004.

The reason is a lack of sustainable durability. Let's be honest here, the pistols in the service are passed from one person to another and can take a beating.

And no, the M9 should not be compared to the M1911A1 pistol which was in service for 82 years. The M9 was only thought to be around 25 years.

When the M9 pistol was selected as the main handgun for the U.S. Army in the late 1980s, it had successfully passed a variety of stress tests including being buried in mud, soaked in sea water, and exposed to temperatures of -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

At the time, the pistol was praised for its accuracy and the fact that its magazine holds 15 bullets -- which of course means that even the worse pistol shot in the Army has a 15 to 1 chance of hitting his or her intended target.

The military small arms experts who loved the M9 soon found that their new sidearm had its problems.

Just a few years after it was adopted, in the  the early 1990s, the pistol encountered mechanical defects as well as malfunctioning issues.

It became apparent very quickly that when solders rack the slide to alleviate a jam or stovepipe in the M9, they often inadvertently engage the safety — and won't realize this until they squeezed the trigger.

The open-slide design allowed contaminants and dirt into the system; the lack of a modular grip, integrated rail and night-sight capabilities; and its inability to suppress are among the limitations of the M9.

One mechanical defect which became very apparent was the springs in the pistol’s magazine which would malfunction.

The U.S. Army did not purchase magazines directly from Beretta, and in many cases the magazines had to be replaced.

The Army also wants a pistol that is more accurate and ergonomic. And yes, I'm happy to see that someone finally took note of how uncomfortable the M9 is to shoot!

As a matter of full disclosure, I once owned a Beretta 92FS in 9mm with a magazine capacity of 15 rounds.

Compared to the slimline of a single-stack magazine of a M1911A1, I found the Beretta's double-stack magazine design made the pistol grip thick -- and since it felt bulky and uncomfortable, I sold it.

As for updating the weapon to be more ergonomic friendly, Army officials seem opposed to an update version of the Beretta M9 -- despite the company offering to make changes.

The Army has been considering a change for several years and on July 29th will hold a so-called "industry day" to brief gun manufacturers about the competition requirements for a winning proposal.

The Defense Department will reportedly buy more than 400,000 new pistols if and when officials agree on a new model.

As the reports have stated, beyond the 9mm’s durability issues, which Army officials says are costing them too much in repairs, soldiers also say the pistol needs a more ergonomic grip.

Also, yes, its safety device too often locks inadvertently and its open-slide bullet chamber allows in too much dirt which of course results in jamming.

The Army first learned the limitations of the 9mm cartridge in 1903

That brings us to the issue of the 9mm "knock down" power which the United States Army has known about for well over 100 years.

Yes, the Army has been well aware that the "lethality" and "knock down" power of the 9mm round are some of its limitations -- all the way back since 1903 when it first considered the 9mm round for our troops.

Georg Luger developed the 9×19mm Parabellum cartridge.  He developed the round to fit his pistol - aka the Luger pistol which was first patented in 1898 in a smaller caliber.

Demand for larger calibers in military sidearms led to Luger to develop the 9×19mm Parabellum cartridge for his new pistol.

In 1902, George Luger presented the new round to the British Small Arms Committee as well as three prototype versions to the U.S. Army for testing at Springfield Arsenal in mid-1903.

While the Imperial German Navy adopted the pistol in 1904, and the German Army adopted the 9mm Luger in 1906, the U.S. Army turned down the 9mm because it failed to demonstrate respectable "knock down" power.

Many believe that it was political pressure from other NATO nations that finally pushed the United States to adopt the anemic round in the mid-1980s.

And now the Army is looking to replace the 9mm pistol with more reliable gun packing better 'knock down’ power -- something it has known about for a long long time.

The Army officially announced that is retiring its supply of 9mm handguns and trying to replace it with a more accurate and user-friendly model which has more "knock down" power.

Army officials now say their inventory of more than 200,000 semi-automatic Beretta M9 and Sig Sauer M11 pistols have suddenly become outdated, worn out and needs to be replaced with an updated model that also offers more reliability, durability, and punch.

Stopping Power, Man Stoppers,  Knock Down Power

Whether we want to call it "knock down" power, "stopping" power, terminal performance, or simply "man stoppers," we are talking about the ability of a round to cause a penetrating ballistic injury to a target, either human or animal, enough to incapacitate it where it stands.

While lethality (deadliness) and "stopping power" are not necessarily synonymous, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't think the .45 ACP is the most deadly "man stopper" that has ever come along -- especially someone who has used the .45 ACP in a combat situation.

The .45 caliber round simply has more "stopping power" and is more deadly than a 9mm round when comparing the both side by side.

Knock down power and deadliness is usually caused by the force of the bullet, and the damaging effects of the bullet.

The .45 ACP pistol round, like that in a M1911A1 pistol, has a reputation as a "man stopper."

The .45 ACP round has a relatively low muzzle velocity, it puts all of its energy into the target and does not over penetrate. The result was a round that is slow but hard hitting.

In a M1911A1 design pistol you'd have a weapon that could knock the enemy down even if you hit any point on the body -- as opposed to the 9mm in any gun.

The 9mm is lighter and faster, and some have even questioned its ability to penetrate through heavy layered clothing or ability in such a situation to stop a crazed enemy.

If history teaches us anything, then maybe the Army should have learned from its previous attempt at using a lighter faster bullet.

In the late 19th century, the U.S. military adopted the Colt Model 1894 .38 caliber double-action revolver as their standard sidearm.

The six-shot Colt .38 DA represented advanced late-19th century firearms technology and replaced the famous single-action Colt .45 caliber "Peacemaker".

The principle draw back of the new Colt Model 1894 was its anemic .38 round.

Soon the Army determined the .38 caliber round was significantly less effective against determined opponents, such as the warriors encountered in the Moro Rebellion of the Philippine–American War.

The .38 cartridge was certainly anemic compared to a .45 caliber round.

So yes, aside from the mechanical problems with the M9, the primary reason for replacing the M9 pistol is that of wanting  a caliber of ammunition that will mean knock down and kill the enemy without having to unload an entire magazine to do it.

Most experts agree that a person must be hit with several 9mm rounds to be killed.

Among those calibers likely to be considered in the Modular Handgun System competition are the .40 and .45 caliber rounds.

The argument against the .40 caliber round is that its heavier weight and stronger recoil causes excessive wear on a 9 mm pistol design.

As for the .45 caliber round returning to service in our military?

In 1985, when the Marine Corps replaced its standard-issue .45 caliber M1911A1 with the 9mm M9 -- there was an immediate outcry from many Senior Enlisted to bring back the old war horse.

Even though the M9 had a higher-capacity magazine, it was quite obvious that Marines still wanted the power from the legendary .45 ACP.

Because of problems with the M9, the Marine Corps System Command issued a formal Request For Proposal (RFP) for a new service pistol in March of 2010.

Though the .45 caliber round and the M1911A1 pistol are more respected for its terminal performance over the M9 and the 9mm round, all calibers were looked at -- although with some bias.

The Corps' RFP indicated "the pistol’s operating environment is characterized by high usage in training, rough handling and environments on deployments and limited access to repair and maintenance resources during high-tempo operations."

The RFP also stated that the pistol should function with a seven-round .45-caliber magazine the Marine Corps already had in the supply chain (NSN 1005-01-373-2774). This language in the RFP made it clear what pistol Marines wanted a .45 ACP.

The Marines wanted a "semiautomatic pistol in .45 ACP using a single-stack magazine that must hold at least seven rounds."

The M45A1 Close Quarters Battle Pistol (CQBP) was decided on July 20, 2012, from three submissions to a 2010 solicitation handed down by Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM).

Colt, Springfield Armory and Karl Lippard Designs each offered Leathernecks a replacement for the age-old rebuilt .45s.

It is also interesting to note that because the .45 round has a relatively low muzzle blast and flash, as well as moderate recoil, the low bolt thrust helps extend service life of weapons in which it is fired.

Colt's variation of the 1911 Rail Gun won, and right now there are Marines in Special Ops Units, Special Reaction Teams and such who are using an updated version of the war horse once again.

While there are those out there who don't like the fact that the 1911 design is now being used again in the Marine Corps, they might want to look at the Browning M2 Heavy Machine Gun.

Yes, the Ma Deuce, it being one weapon that is still seeing service and has not yet been replaced since its introduction in 1933.

And yes, there are other examples of designs that have stood the test of time -- including the M14 rifle which has been brought out of mouth balls, and of course the AK-47 which is still present all over the world.

As for the U.S. Army, following the Army's "Industry day," they will release a draft Request for Proposal, which seeks input from manufacturers.

The Army will then consider the manufacturers’ comments and modify the request, if necessary. It will then hold a final industry day before issuing a final proposal before the end of the year.

The next phase will essentially be a tryout and elimination process, which officials say will be based on technical results and will rely "heavily" on soldier feedback.

A spokesperson for the Army said, "One of the primary requirements for this weapon system is to provide the soldier with increased terminal performance. 

Feedback from soldiers in the field is that they want increased ‘knock-down power.’ And the MHS program will evaluate commercially available weapons that meet that requirement."

The Army may want to take another look at a pistol like the Marine Corps M45 CQBP.

With its Novak Low Mount Carry Sights with Dots, Enhanced Hammer, Extended Ambidextrous Safety Lock, Colt Upswept Beavertail Grip Safety, 3-Hole Aluminum Trigger, Lowered and Flared Ejection Port, M1913 Picatinny Rail, National Match Barrel, and Front and Rear Slide Serrations, the M45 CQBP is an impressive war machine.

And frankly, there is something to be said when a 1911 design is selected again for U.S. military 101 years after its initial introduction.

That in itself is just an incredible testament to the timeless genius of the design and the legendary effectiveness of the Colt 1911 and the .45 round.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa


  1. I read an article several years ago about the FBI conducting extensive tests on handgun ammo. From the test results the FBI concluded that the .357 magnum was the most effective round on a human target. I know that there are issues with recoil, muzzle blast, and wear and tear on the pistol with the .357; however, can't these drawbacks be overcome with modern materials and engineering? The .357 round is lighter allowing the soldier to carry more ammo and smaller in caliber which would allow more rounds in the gun's magazine.

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  3. Without standard corrections such as creating space and length in the spine and hips at the bottom of your squat, stepping up to the pistol too soon will almost certainly lead to back and knee injuries.

  4. If they were gonna replace the 9mm Beretta, they could have gone with a Glock or a Ruger Blackhawk or a Ruger Wrangler or even a Ruger LCR. I would even suggest the Colt Python. I imagine the next war we have will be with both sides dressed as cowboys carrying Colt revolvers and Winchester rifles but still fighting overseas. Now that would be a war. But if that doesn't work, we'll always have the 1911.


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