Military.com is reporting that the U.S. Army has rejected the engineering change proposal (ECP) made by Beretta that would have kept a modified Beretta as the U.S Army’s handgun of choice. The ECP was an attempt to undermine the Army’s Modular Handgun Program.
U.S. Army weapons officials will not evaluate an improved version of the service’s Cold War-era 9mm pistol, choosing instead to search for a more modern soldier sidearm.
In early December, Beretta USA, the maker of the U.S. military’s M9 pistol for 30 years, submitted its modernized M9A3 as a possible alternative to the Army’s Modular Handgun System program — an effort to replace the M9 with a more powerful, state-of-the-art pistol.
The improved M9 features new sights, a rail for mounting lights and accessories, better ergonomics and improved reliability, Beretta USA officials said.
But by late December, it was all over for Beretta’s engineering change proposal for the M9. The Army’s Configuration Control Board decided not to evaluate the M9A3, according to a source familiar with the decision.
The move clears the way for the Army to release a pending request for proposal that will launch the MHS competition.
I don’t fault Beretta at all for the attempt. The ECP was a brilliant business decision, attempting to maintain a lock on a lucrative and prestigious government pistol contract with a minimal of expense.
The House Armed Services Committee has been attempting to sink the Modular Handgun System (MHS) program, and the “A3″ upgrades to the M9 paid lip-service to a number of the features required of the MHS program, while also hinting that Beretta could make the upgrades at a reduced cost.
Unfortunately for Beretta, the M9 is simply an outdated platform (it is an evolution of the M1951, a design more than 60 years old) and is simply outclassed by most modern pistols. Even with the enhancements that the A3 ECP offered, the attempt was, in colloquial terms, “putting lipstick on a pig.”
A number of major companies are vying for the Modular Handgun System contract, as well as a handful of smaller companies with superior designs. General Dynamics and Smith & Wesson are teaming up to build at least one design for submission, and Sig Sauer is expected to be bringing a variant of the P320. Not having all their eggs in one basket, Beretta is expected to submit some variant of the PX4 Storm.
Purely on technical merits, the Detonics Defense STX is the apparent front-runner in the competition, at least on paper. It is the only all-metal, truly modular pistol design known to be in the competition, and independent testing data suggests that the design offers better felt recoil mitigation than any pistol on the market.
While the MHS contract does not specifically exclude polymer-framed pistols, the military has traditionally prefer metal-framed guns for durability. Under certain conditions that may be encountered in military service, the polymers used in the frame construction of some handguns may crack or delaminate.
The “knock” on Detonics Defense is that they are a pistol technology/engineering firm, and do not have the manufacturing capability to make the 260,000+ pistols that would be part of the contract. The best hope Detonics has to win the MHS contract is to partner with another company that does have the manufacturing capability if the government requires manufacturing capability to be part of the contract. If the government is indeed looking to procure the best design, they can simply request intellectual property package contracts (IPPs), and then have subcontractors build the winning design.