The Beretta M9 is reaching the end of its service life, prompting the US military to look into possible replacements. At a June 29th press conference, the government released the latest details regarding what they’re looking for in a next-generation sidearm. Not surprisingly, they’ve expressed interest in a more modular pistol, something more in-line with the popular M4 assault rifle. The government has also released additional details, including what they agree to be the shortfalls of the M9 and some details that they’d like to see included by the latest round of service pistol candidates.
The call for a replacement hasn’t specified any particular caliber, and weapons chambered in .357 SIG, as well as .40 S&W and .45 ACP, are reportedly being explored. Still, since 9mm Parabellum is a NATO and UN standard, the US is widely expected to choose a sidearm of that caliber for logistical reasons.
Overall troop satisfaction with 9mm is reportedly pretty low, and in
general many deployed soldiers feel that the round tends to lack stopping power. 9mm ammunition was chosen for a variety of reasons, including reduced wear on the weapons and ballistic wounding, but soldiers tend to prefer a larger and more powerful round.
One of the largest problems with the M9 pistol is reliability. Because of its design, the slide is prone allowing dust and mud inside of the weapon’s chamber, resulting in extractor jams and sometimes even misfires. One of the biggest challenges that these new sidearms will have to overcome is reliability in harsh desert environments, something that critics claim wasn’t tested very well during the process of approving the M9.
Above all else, the military is seeking a modular system for their new sidearms, reminiscent of the current M4 assault rifle. All of the weapons under consideration should make use of picatinny rails, both above and below the barrel, as well as compatibility with screw-on suppressors and flash hiders. This modular system means that every pistol will be much more flexible, with different configurations suiting the needs of different branches, specializations, and units.
Decision Expected By 2016
With the standards already finalized and a press event held on June 29th, the powers that be have put the wheels in motion for a new sidearm. Although it’s impossible to guess exactly when the next pistol will enter service, the US Government is widely expected to choose a replacement by the end of 2016. In the meantime, the candidates are being submitted to a panel of testers in order to begin endurance and performance trials. The results should pare down the possibilities to a handful of potential new sidearms.