New Pistol for the Army?

According to the Army Times the Army is planning to dump the M9 Beretta.  According to the Army Times editorial it has never been popular as it lacks stopping power, is inaccurate, prone to jamming, doesn’t fit comfortably in ones hands.

While I agree the Beretta is not my favorite handgun, I have fired over five thousand rounds in my personnel weapon.  I have never had a problem.  In fact my wife fired it last weekend and it was very accurate, never jammed, and is very easy to maintain.

So before we cast aspersions on the Beretta, and the Army rushes out to replace a weapon system in tight fiscal environment, let’s look at some of the charges:

Before I begin the discussion, here are the ballistic tables for the three rounds mentioned in the Army Times article (9mm, .40 SW, and .45 ACP).  I have only included Full Metal Jacket Ammo as that is the military standard.  Information taken from http://www.arizonagunrunners.com/handgunballistics.pdf.

Properties Energy Velocity (ft per second) Bullet Path
Caliber Bullet Type WT FT. LBS. Muzzle 25 Yds 50 Yds. 75 Yds. 100 Yds. 25 Yds. 50 Yds. 75 Yds. 100 Yds.
9mm Luger FMJ 15 344 1157 1100 1053 1013 979 0.64 0 -2.58 -7.27
9mm Luger FMJ 124 339 1110 1059 1017 980 949 0.71 0 -2.83 -7.86
40 S&W FMJ 165 374 1010 977 948 922 899 0.89 0 -3.31 -9.18
NEW! 40 S&W FMJ/FP 180 388 985 957 931 908 885 0.94 0 -3.44 -9.52
45 Auto FMJ 230 411 840 872 851 831 811 1.18 0 -4.12 -11.38
45 Auto FMJ-SWC 200 321 850 818 788 761 734 1.36 0 -4.84 -13.48

Some here are some observations:

  • · Pistols are a close in defense weapon; lethality is a combination energy and weight.  The 9mm 115 grain FMJ has a muzzle velocity of 1100 ft per second, and a velocity of 1100 and hits .64 above the point of aim at 25 yards and  a velocity of 979 and hits -7.27 below the point of aim at 100 yards.  The .40 S&W 165 grain FMJ has a muzzle velocity of 1010 ft per second, and a velocity of 977 and hits .89 above the point of aim at 25 yards and a velocity of 899 and hits 9.18 below the point of aim at 100 yards.  The .45 ACP 230 grain FMJ has a muzzle velocity of 850 ft per second, and a velocity of 818 and hits 1.36 above the point of aim at 25 yards and a velocity of 734 and hits 13.48 below the point of aim at 100 yards.
  • · The 9MM has a lighter bullet, greater velocity and accuracy at 25 meters, whereas the .45 is heavier, slower, and less accurate at 25 meters.
  • · It comes down to shooting.  One does not become an expert shot by merely qualifying twice a year.  50 rounds a year will not make you an expert.  Part of the problem is the lack of emphasis by the military on shooting a pistol.
  • · At 25 yards which caliber the Army chooses is immaterial; each has advantages and disadvantages.  Each requires the shooter to know some basic pistol marksmanship and in particular the ballistic characteristics of the round they are firing.  Again this comes back to training.
  • · One of the charges against the Beretta is the hand grips are too large.  This is a direct result of the Army wanting more capacity in the magazine than the seven rounds the M1911A1 provided.  While I do not have the largest hands around, I find the Beretta fits my hands much better than the old 1911.  There is a tradeoff, small grips and less rounds; or more rounds and larger grips.  Given my druthers I will take larger grips.
  • · Some complain the magazines of the Beretta are crap, perhaps so, but any shooter knows that if you keep rounds loaded in a magazine for extended periods it is prone to failure.  Also magazines, just like the weapon require maintenance.  Again this comes back to training.
  • · If the complaint is legitimate about the 9mm; then the round should not be considered.  If it not the round and it truly is the pistol, then Beretta should be eliminated.
  • · If the 9mm round is not found wanting then one of the considerations should be logistics.  The 9mm is the standard round of NATO, and is largely the standard round in most militaries.  Introducing the .40 or .45 will result in a logistics nightmare for the American military; given that we are largely supporting NATO logistically in Afghanistan this would mean we would still have to stock the 9mm.
  • · Another complaint is the current 9mm cannot be suppressed.  My only comment except for some conventional forces and special operations forces this is not something the average Joe requires.
  • · Addition of Picatinny Arsenal and the ability to add laser sites etc makes sense.
  • · If the Army is going to get a new pistol, and all things are equal and cost is a factor, I would see if:
    • o Beretta could retrofit the M92F to the M92FA1 configuration.  If so that might be the cheapest option; if not,
    • o Go with the .45 ACP.  It proved itself for over one hundred years, it has stopping power.  As far as a pistol I prefer the Glock, but then I don’t have vote, just an opinion, and like assholes my opinion probably stinks.

Comments

  1. LtCol P says:

    NINE-TEEN-E-LEV-EN.

    NINE-TEEN-E-LEV-EN.

    NINE-TEEN-E-LEV-EN.

    Just keep chanting it…

    :-)

    • UltimaRatioRegis says:

      NINE-TEEN-ELEVEN.

      NINE-TEEN-ELEVEN.

      NINE-TEEN-ELEVEN.

      I never stopped chanting it!

      If it is the preferred caliber for Mike Franks, it is good enough for me.

    • DaveO says:

      Y'all keep mis-spelling revolver.

      R-E-V-O-L-V-E-R

      There, that should fix it.

      • vmi warrior says:

        DaveO makes a good point…maybe we should look at revolvers again. They are reliable, cost effective, easy to train and have sufficient power (in .357). Autos may be "cool", but with few exceptions, a handgun is a weapon of last resort for most (or second to last resort, they can always fall back on the BFR). I never saw a need for all kinds of high-speed, low drag rails, lights, suppressors and other attachments that add so much weight to the weapon it makes it too heavy to carry at the combat ready for any length of time. The few that need specialized handguns (SEALS, DELTA etc.) can get them, but for CPT Joe Schmuckatelli I'd think a .357 would do just fine. Good point.

        • UltimaRatioRegis says:

          You'd be surprised just whom has had to clear rooms. No, siree, not a revolver task. Gimme a modernized, 10-round capacity 1911 in .45 ACP, and you are giving me a winner.

          • vmi warrior says:

            I've cleared many, many rooms here and yonder, and I could argue that many times it's not a task for ANY pistol (12 ga. or sub-gun is much better). A wheel gun that works is certainly better than an auto that jams consistently, has "lowest bidder/lowest quality mags" or an underpowered one like we currently use. Sure, issuing every Joe a Nowlin or a Les Baer would be great, but unless the training time is put into using it (and it won't be) you'll see ND's go through the roof and have nothing gained by it.

            In all honesty, I'd never given a lot of thought to bringing back the 6 gun, but all I'm saying is that it may deserve another look. USAF issued revolvers to pilots for many many years as their last line of defense. In most cases that's what a pistol is used for. I think a reasonable case can be made for them. I'm not sold on it 100% either, but I won't dismiss it out of hand.

        • blake mckinney says:

          Hey vmi warrior i totally disagree that the army should go to a revolver. I understand your points, but as an infantryman and a sniper in the army for 5 years I see quite a few problems with this. First the autoloader is so much easier to load if you are in a COMBAT situation. The last thing you want to be doing in a combat situation is fumbling around trying to get rounds in the chambers. Also if you have never been to the desert sand is a b*@#h. Your chambers are exposed and so is the barrel. That makes a for a very dangerous problem if you get sand or other crap between the bullet and the barrel. Also infantryman are rough on there weapons, meaning eventually the cylinders will become loose and might possibly cause the bullet to be cockeyed where part of the bullet is doing to go down the barrel and the other part is going to get shaved off and cause the gun to blow up. This does happen Tarasus (I know that they suck I would never buy one myself) had a huge problem with that when they were first getting started. I personally own a Springfield Operator 1911, which is probably the best handgun I have ever owned. There is a reason the 1911 has been around for 100 years. Its simple, parts are everywhere and fairly cheap, and its just a proven gun.

          • vmi warrior says:

            Generally speaking, I would agree that an auto is easier to reload…although speedloaders can be pretty quick as well. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DpCellB_UQ&feature=related)
            I am quite familiar with desert "moon dust" and the issues they can cause with all weapons. I would note that revolvers have been around for well over 100 years. And yes, the 1911 did very well for along time (I actually qualified with them myself just before they were retired out of service), IMHO training was far better "back in the day"…look how many soldiers are being injured/maimed by improper headspace and timing on the M2 now…far more than in past wars, becasue the training isn't emphasized enough.

            Personally, I prefer an auto as well. I have the training and trigger time to be reasonably proficient and safe with it. But for a service weapon, maybe [that's a big maybe], maybe a revolver would be a better choice. I don't know, I just think that its something to look into without a reflexive ".45ACP 1911" answer. [And why a 1911, why not a Sig 220R, DA/SA capability and rails?]

          • DaveO says:

            Folks,

            The reason I prefer the Taurus Judge is its interchangeability of rounds. You can go in with 410. The pistol, regardless of revolver or automatic, is for close-in self defense. It is a weapon of last resort. Mindset = cautious offense (f*ck defense).

            If one has to clear a room (or drive on convoy), my preferred weapons were, in order: HE (artillery, I know, but a B-52 flying CAS is a wonderful, wonderful thing), AK-74, the AK pistol, and shotgun (one of the local, sawed-off versions). I want a lot of lead going down-range right away. If I have to use a pistol for anything other than clearing camel spiders from the sh*tter, I should have just called in CAS on my position.

  2. vmi warrior says:

    I carried a Beretta 92SB as my issued sidearm for 5 years until we switched to the H&K USP. The Beretta shot well and never jammed. On the downside, it was very heavy, not easy to conceal (immaterial for a military weapon) and did not perform well in actual shooting situations (even using controlled expansion JHP, not FMJ like the military uses).

    For comparison, I have also carried on duty H&K USP .40 Compact, Sig 220/220R and Glock 22 and Glock 27. They all have strengths and weaknesses.

    On the military side, I also carried a 92F and some of the last, ragged-out .45s just before they were replaced. I carried a Beretta in Iraq and found that under those conditions it was a horrible weapon (at least mine was). I considered it a single shot weapon it jammed so much. Maybe I had a bad apple, but I hated it and had zero faith in it.

    Of all of the weapons I have carried, I would have to go with Glock. I am by no means a Glock cheerleader, but the pistols do work flawlessly. As far as ammo, I do think that the 9mm is a terrible round, especially in FMJ…if you're at the point of shooting with a pistol, you need quick effects, not a slow bleed out. .40 or .45 is a much better choice for that, although it would cause logistical issues (for now). But why shoudl that be our problem? Maybe its time that the rest of NATO started pulling their own weight and provided their own ammo. And frankly, I think we'llsee the end of NATO within the next decade or so anyway.

  3. AFLogic says:

    One of the issues I heard with firing most weapons in the desert is that the oil used to clean those weapons also causes dirt and sand to stick, causing more jamming/firing issues than normal. Anyone able to confirm/deny this?

    That said, I've used the Beretta 9mm plenty, and am a decent shot with it, but my main gripe has always been the lack of stopping power. More rounds is nice, but you need those rounds unless you get a /really/ good shot on the guy. I'll take a 1911 over a 9mm(any model) any day.

    I agree with VMI that NATO needs to start supporting themselves. There was no reason for the US to have changed ammo types, we were (and still are) the premiere military in the world, people should be following us, not the other way around. NATO and the UN as military organizations need to go, we do the majority of the work for both and get nothing but crud for it.

  4. Homer2 says:

    I've carried the M9 and the M11 (SIG229) and prefer the M11. It carries two less rounds, but is better build and easier to operate to me. Plenty of M11s in the inventory, so switching over would not be too hard.

  5. Matt says:

    Maybe it is time for a product improved 1911. Maybe 1911A3. Improved sights (tritiums?), improved grip safety, change lock-up to that of the High Power or SIG. Thin out the grip circumference as much as practical,. High quality, high strength aluminum frame. Consider an external extractor that can double as loaded chamber indicator. Add a picatinny rail.

  6. Martin Morehouse says:

    I prefer the 1911, the M9 is a mass of compromises in the wrong direction. I've seen two M9's with cracked locking blocks, which locks the slide closed and unfireable. The M9 has a more complicated manual of arms, equaled only by the 1911 manual of arms prescribed by those who don't understand a single-action pistol.

    The army ran a study in the early 80's that found excessive lubrication to be the primary cause of weapons failures. Fort Benning at the time was dipping full arms racks in solvent baths prior to storage between uses. It would take two days in the field before the solvent stopped dripping off, and by then you had accumulated your exercise quota of sand in the action.

  7. Diogenes says:

    Just for the record, for about the last five hundred years it has been spelled BeRetta (one 'R') . . .

    My opinion of the 1911 is a result of having carried one as an a) soldier and b) civilian for over forty years. It is mechanically simple, extremely reliable, adequately accurate and sufficiently ergonomic for most users. The .45 ACP cartridge very effective as long as the enemy is not wearing ballistic armor.

    What the 1911 is *not* is 'soldier-proof', and negligent discharge (ND) has always been a problem.

    My knowledge of the M9 Beretta is based on having fired several of them which were owned by friends. First of all, the M9 has a hammer-drop safety and the average grunt is less likely to have an ND. The fifteen round mag capacity is double that of the 1911 (which is convenient if you're planning to miss a lot). Other than that, I cordially dislike the M9. The grip feels large and awkward and the entire weapon feels bulky and clumsy. The reach to the trigger in double action mode is excessive and this is a real problem, especially considering the percentage of women currently in the armed forces.

    I've been told that the Beretta M9 barely edged out the Sig 226 based solely on cost. If so, that must be the most stupid weapon-procurement decision the U.S. military has made in the last century.

    Just my (ahem) humble opinion.

    • AFLogic says:

      When it comes to NDs, that comes back to training training training… which I've sadly noticed seems to be the first thing on the chopping block when it comes to budget cuts.

  8. Curtis says:

    I like the Beretta and love the 1911, but both have issues that can be traced to the fact that they are old, steel framed designs.

    -1911 and M9 both have exposed hammers. M9 has an exposed barrel. These make for intrusion points for dirt and debris.

    -steel frame increases the weight of the weapon.

    -Wear on the steel leads to corrosion.

    -The frame is not adjustable to hand size. Troops can't just swap backstraps or grips.

    -Neither pistol comes standard with an under barrel rail for mounting a flashlight or laser sight.

    IMHO, its about time for the military to start issuing a modern composite framed 9mm pistol.

    GLOCKs seem to have the clear advantage in reliability, but I think that other brands like Smith and Wesson and Springfield Arms could still potentially pull an upset in an open competition. I am personally a big fan of the Springfield XD series. The grip and trigger safety, plus the two "chamber status" indicators could make it a popular choice for the safety czars.

    We're stuck with the 9mm cartridge as long as NATO loves it. But I'd say that composite 9mm pistols have matured to the point that we can safely select one to replace the Beretta. There are alot of good designs to run a comp with.

    • AFLogic says:

      Heavier weapons make better clubs when necessary. My wife, who is all of 5'3", actually likes the .38 when it comes to handguns because they're small in size, but have enough weight she knows she can whack someone with it if it comes to that.

      The composite handguns are light, no argument there, but I don't like feeling like I'm holding a squirt gun. They can upgrade the 1911 to allow for mounting laser sights or flashlights.

  9. Paul Hirsch says:

    Anyone think the military would adopt a pistol for general service that doesn't have a manual safety? (And one on the trigger doesn't count!) That said, I've always thought that Glock's no-need-to-fit parts would be good for military applications. Back when Glocks first came out the reps used to take a bunch apart, mix up the parts, reassemble and they'd be just as reliable as factory-fresh.

  10. townie76 says:

    Great discussion. Glad I provoke such an intelligent discussion. I am going to list all the weapons from the Army Times article and let you vote on your pick. BTW my favorite handgun is.my 45 Long Colt with 7.5 inch barrel it shoots well and a tight shot group. SA and a joy to shoot. Put 50 rounds down range last weekend.

  11. Grandpa Bluewater says:

    1911. New manufactured, with improved sights. Geegaws such as laser sights and such? Put the money into ammo expended in realistic training. Interchangeable parts, but of course.Made in USA.

  12. Room101 says:

    I think there are lots of better options than the M9, but when I put it against a Cujo-esque sized pissed off Afghan dog that lunged at me and hit center mass at 2 feet, it's like a lighting bolt hit that thing. Good stopping power! I'd love a 1911 or a Sig226 as the standard.

  13. Heartless Libertaria says:

    I haven't read the article, so I can't say what pistols it mentions (shame for not linking, townie), but off the top of my head, these are the pistols I see as probable entrants in the contest:

    FNP-9/45

    HK 45 (or 9mm equivalent)

    S&W M&P 9/45

    SA XD or XDM (WTF is the difference again?) in 9/45

    Appropriate Glock models

    Various product improved 1911 variants (M2011, anyone?) including polymer-framed, double stack variants

    If it were up to me, the choice would be a CZ-97B, upgraded with ambidextrous, decocker (HK type) safeties (given that my CZ outshoots my various 1911s, SiGs, and the HK USP I no longer have). Downside to the -97 is it's a huge steel beast.

    I do think the Army would probably DQ the Glock for safety (ND) reasons, because of the requirement to pull the trigger to disassemble the weapon. They would probably see that as presenting too high a risk of ND. Although, I don't recall the Dutch, Norwegian, or Swedes who carried them in Af-stan having a high ND rate. (And yes, the Dutch were actually doing combat ops, up in Uruzgan.)

    Although, if you want to look at what the other armies use, the winner might be JMB's other pistol, the High Power (UK, NZ, Aussie, Belgium).

    • Paul Hirsch says:

      @Heartless Libertarian: "the Dutch, Norwegian, or Swedes who carried them [Glocks] in Af-stan"

      Thanks for answering the question I was wondering about, i.e., does any military supply Glocks to its "regular" personnel. I assume wrt the the Dutch, Norwegian, or Swedes you aren't speaking of "special" troops?

      • Heartless Libertaria says:

        The one Swede I saw was 'special', the rest were staff officers. But I've seen plenty of pics of Swedish army troops on HK forums (with their G36s) and their pistols were Glocks.

        The Austrians issue Glocks as well, but that's to be expected.

  14. David R. Nemirow says:

    I was a weapons instructor in the 82d Airborne Division in the early 1970s. We were asked to evaluate the possible change from the M1911 .45 Cal to the Baretta 9mm. All of my fellow instructors voiced the same opinion.

    The 9mm seemed to be a sexy handgun, but it had features that were not in line with the main purpose of the 1911: To wit it did not have the same stopping power, and although more accurate at longer distances, the 1911 was meant for very close in combat. Furthermore, if you need greater range, perhaps a rifle would be more suitable.

    Also the M-1911 was capable of being disassembled down to the last pin, spring, and plunger with no special tools, or special pins. Now after over thirty years the idea of a handgun with more stopping power has taken the lead. A change now would not be needed if the change of years ago had not been made to begin with. Let's go Back To The Future!!!!!

    • mvaldez says:

      It sounds like you like NATO. That stinks and we should quit supplying NATO with nothing. They have there European Union, let them supply Afghanistan. I have two 9mm weapons, Glock and Beretta. The Colt 45 is a fighting machine and I still have one. I carried one while in the service and the 9mm are pop guns to the 45. You ask any service person and they will or would pick the 45 anytime before the 9mm. Really what we should have done is made the Europeans use the 45 and this discussion would not be happening. Heaven help us if we really get into serious problems with are so called allies while at the same time they are making our weapons.

      • Heartless Libertaria says:

        If "any service person …would pick the 45 anytime before the 9mm", why were the SEALS I met in Logar carrying SiG M11s to go with their (suppressed) HK416s? I figure SOCOM would let them have .45s if they asked nicely. MARSOC gets them.

    • mvaldez says:

      David, I could have not said it better myself.

  15. John says:

    They should keep the guns they have. There is only one handgun not classified as a defensive weapon (basically defined as a gun to use as a last resort or until you can fight your way to a rifle) and the beretta isn't it. The mark 23 is officially classified as an offensive weapon and it would be ridiculous to replace the standard defensive side are with it. Listen the beretta serves it's role just perfect and is the best price. You do realize that sig beat out beretta during the original testing but they refused to let anybody else make their design, as you know the military picks a design then sells the contract to the lowest bidding manufacturer. Beretta was ok with this and Taurus manufactured the guns for cheap. The .45 acp is really bad at body armor if they do change rounds they will most likely go with one of the newer developed hyper velocity handgun rounds in the 5 or 6mm offerings. Sorry guys .45 were tested again just recently and penetration was abysmal. You have a much greater chance of seeing a FN five seven making the cut before a 1911 :(