BEARING ARMS — U.S Army General Mark Milley is sick and tired of the military’s Byzantine and politically-compromised procurement system, and is looking for a COTS (commercial off the shelf) solution to replace the Beretta M9 pistol instead of waiting for years for the Modular Handgun System trials to complete.
He wants Glocks, and he wants them now.
The Army launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August to replace its Cold-War era, M9 9mm pistol.
Milley criticized the program’s 356-page requirement document and lengthy testing phase slated to cost $17 million for technology that has existed for years.
“The testing itself is two years long on known technology,” Milley told law makers at a March 16 House Armed Services Committee hearing.
“We are not talking about nuclear subs or going to the moon here. We are talking about a pistol.”
But behind the scenes, Milley has moved beyond criticism and taken steps to select a new sidearm for soldiers, including exploring the possibility of bypassing the MHS effort altogether.
Milley recently asked the Army Special Operations Command’s G-8 office, which oversees fielding of equipment, if there is room for the Army to join its pistol contract to buy Glock 19s, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The compact Model 19 is one of Glock’s most popular handguns. The striker-fired, 9mm pistol features a four- inch barrel and has a standard capacity of 15 rounds, although 17-round magazines are available. The polymer frame features an accessory rail for mounting lights.
General Milley has every right to gripe about a system rigged to satisfy the needs of lobbyists and pad the retirements of acquisition officers than it is to serve troops in the field.
Unfortunately, the fact remains that even if the Army could piggyback on the SOCOM contract, Glock’s pistols still have many of the same crucial shortcomings of Beretta’s M9, which has to do with the composition of the modern military itself than the it does the design of a given pistol.
The modern U.S. military has more women and smaller-statured soldiers than the military of the past. More specifically, these are men and women with smaller hands and shorter fingers than soldiers of the past.
One of the primary goals of the MHS program was to find a handgun with a grip that could fit the largest possible range of hand sizes, and therefore be shot well by a wider range of troops.
Glock’s handgun designs, including the 19 and 17, have not decreased in size from when they were first considered in the 1980s, and will not meet the key performance parameter (KPP) of fitting the 5th to the 95th percentile of hand sizes the modern military needs.
So what’s the right answer? What best suits the needs of the troops in the field?
I’d suggest that the Army should simply scrap the MHS tryouts, buy the intellectual property rights to the design that best meets the needs of the modern soldier, take the design in-house, and use the Army’s own small arms manufacturing capability to build the gun the military needs.
Is that so hard?