The Army Has A New Pistol But They Still Have To Learn How To Shoot.

Last year the U.S. Army decided to replace the Beretta M4 with a new battle pistol, the M17 made by Sig.  This is now the second time that the military has decided that no American gun maker can produce a handgun that works well enough to be carried by our troops in the field. Sam Colt and D.B. Wesson must be rolling over in their graves.

sig army              If we can’t design and manufacture a small arm that can make the grade, I would assume that at least the soldiers who will carry this new gun will at least know how to use it in the proper way. But thanks to a link in The Firearms Blog sent to me by one of our Contributing Editors, Dave Buchannon, I’m not sure that this is the case.

The 101st Airborne has released a video of some troops firing the new gun; they also have posted a bunch of pics on a Flickr site, with one pic (above) showing some kind of big-shot officer playing around with a gun. Of course he knew the gun wasn’t loaded, he’s only standing in the middle of a shooting range and everyone knows that guns are never loaded at a range.

But leaving aside the fact that Major Whomever-He-Is probably hasn’t held or shot a gun since who knows when, what I really found interesting are the numerous pics of soldiers actually banging away inside the range, in many cases with what appear to be firearm instructors telling them how to proceed.

I have to assume that these pics are going to show up in some kind of training manual for the men and women who have to learn the ins and outs of shooting the M17. And the reason I say that is because every gun manual that I have ever seen always comes with a chapter on the do’s of firing the gun as well as a chapter on the don’ts.  And I can tell you without fear of exaggeration that some of the photos of this gun being shot are definitely candidates for being put in the don’ts chapter; they certainly shouldn’t be included with the do’s.

There’s a pic, for example, of a Ranger holding his right hand around the grip and his left hand underneath the grip, what we call the ‘teacup’ style of holding a handgun, which basically means that you are trying to control the gun with one hand.  Now one-handed shooting works great in fast-draw contest at the turkey shoot held at my local range, but it’s not something you want to do when you’re trying to keep a military weapon on point of aim.

Then there’s another great pic, this one I really like, of a trooper whose left thumb is rubbing up against the slide. If he presses the slide hard enough with his thumb the gun might jam, if his touch is a little softer the felt recoil will basically result in his second shot going God only knows where.

If these pics represent how our armed forces have been trained to use a handgun I simply don’t understand why the military bothered to select and buy a new gun at all. The gun looks nice, it has a pretty sandy-colored finish and it comes in two sizes I guess because female soldiers usually have smaller hands. Actually, the smaller size is known as the ‘compact’ model, which will probably end up being worn by officers since the grunts are supposed to carry more weight. Either way, the U.S. taxpayer is going to be laying out $580 million bucks for a weapon which as far as I can tell, the troops don’t necessarily know how to shoot it straight.

For all we know, within a few years it won’t matter whether our military will know how to use any weapon at all because everyone’s talking about future conflicts being fought only with drones. If that happens, maybe we’ll see a lot of surplus Sig pistols coming on the market the same way that the Colt 1911 will be arriving soon.


The Army Buys A New Pistol But It’s The Ammunition That Counts.

It’s official!  After a year’s worth of testing at their Picatinny Arsenal, the U.S. Army has announced that after a forty-year run, they are retiring their current service pistol, the Beretta M9, and replacing it with the Sig P320, a polymer-framed gun featuring interchangeable backstraps to more snugly fit different-sized hands.  The pistol has been on the civilian and cop market for a few years, like every Sig it’s a nice-looking gun and there haven’t been any complaints about reliability or holding up under normal wear and tear.

sig320             The deal could be worth upwards of $580 million to Sig over the next ten years, assuming that various military units purchase 500,000 guns during that period of time. While this works out to $1,100 a pop, don’t think for one second that Sig is laughing all the way to the bank. Because in addition to the gun itself, Sig also has to supply holsters, cleaning rods, modular backstraps, multiple barrels, suppressors and ammunition, all of which will probably eat up half of the total cost that the military services will pay for each gun.  On the other hand, when the military decides to outfit its troops with a new weapon, the civilian version of said product usually sells very well, as does the gun when it is offered to consumers and tax-exempt agencies overseas.

Why did the U.S. military decide to outfit its troops with a new gun?  The actual design and functioning of the weapon was a secondary consideration, the real issue which has stayed in the background of all the chatter about this deal, has to do with the ammunition that the gun will use.  Because if you look at the official RFP that the Army published to define the testing for the gun, any manufacturer who wanted to submit a test weapon also had to submit the ammunition that would be used in the test, the gun  has to accommodate standard military ammunition known as ‘ball’ ammo, as well as something else called ‘special purpose’ ammunition, which must meet functionality and reliability standards as well.

The Army has been using ball pistol ammo since it first adopted the 45-caliber Colt pistol prior to World War I.  When the Colt was replaced with the 9-millemeter Beretta in 1977, ball ammunition continued to be used.  This ammunition is a conical-shaped bullet which is completely solid and hence, tends to easily slide up the loading ramp which moves the cartridge from the magazine into the barrel of the gun. It turns out that ‘special purpose’ ammunition is a bureaucratic euphemism for ammunition with a hollow point, which means the round expands on impact and makes a much wider and deeper hole. Problem is that such ammunition, although more lethal than ball ammo, also requires a slightly different angle for the feed ramp so that even without a solid tip, the bullet will slide right up the ramp and away we go.

The Beretta 9mm pistol was engineered only for ball ammunition because that’s what the military decided to use when they began buying that gun. The decision to stick with ball ammo has now evidently gone by the board.  But wait a minute – isn’t there something called the Geneva Convention which prohibits the use of hollow-point ammunition precisely because it’s considered too lethal and destructive even by troops at war? These treaties cover such things as the treatment of POWs, outlawing chemical weapons and hollow-point ammunition, among other things.  But guess which country never actually signed those treaties, which means that this same country isn’t bound by any rules about using hollow-point ammo, in case you didn’t know.

The reason the United States follows some aspects of the Geneva accords is because, for example, if we mistreat POWs of another country, then that country will no doubt mistreat American POWs as well.  But pistol ammunition?  Who cares, particularly when we’ll use that ammo to, as Mister 45 said today, “eradicate Radical Islamic Terrorism completely from the face of the Earth.”