In early 2017, SIG Sauer picked up the largest and most important military handgun contract in 30 years and had to meet requirements far more rigorous than previous generations.
The New Hampshire-based company came out on top in the U.S. Army’s $580 million Modular Handgun System award, one that stood to replace the service’s dated M9 (Beretta 92F) and M11 (SIG P228) series 9mm pistols.
The new MHS guns would be the full-sized M17 and the more compact M18, both models of SIG’s P320 series pistol but fitted with different grip modules and barrels.
Then the Navy/Marines and Air Force went with the gun to replace not only the M9 but also the Glock M007 and Colt M45A1 with the former and the M15 .38 K-frame with the latter.
Almost all of the larger M17s have been delivered, with the production of the M18s still underway
With more than 200,000 guns delivered and all four services almost complete with the build-out, while visiting SIG Sauer’s New Hampshire factory recently, I checked out the inspection and certification process to which the military submits each MHS series pistol.
This includes a strict accuracy test, with each pistol required to fire 10 shots into a 2.85-inch circle at 25 meters. For reference, this is about the size of a tennis ball.
The prior standard was 10 shots inside a 9×11 rectangle – an area just larger than a sheet of copy paper.
While SIG Sauer had its origin in a 1976 team-up of Swiss-based SIG with West Germany’s J.P. Sauer & Sohn (which itself dates to 1751), by 1985 a U.S. spinoff, SIGARMS, was up and running in Tysons Corner, Virginia. After moving to New Hampshire in 1990, the latter company started domestic production here in America– turning blocks of steel and aluminum into firearms.
And they haven’t looked back, now making over 1 million guns per year in the “Live Free or Die” State.
Check out the video if you have 10 minutes to kill.
Beretta recently announced the end of an era as the final M9 pistol left the factory for bound for a U.S. military contract.
A variant of the Beretta Model 92, which was introduced in the 1970s, was adopted by the U.S. Army as the M9 in early 1984 to replace stocks of the M1911A1 that dated back to World War II. The initial five-year $56.4 million contract, to produce 315,930 units for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, ended up running more than three decades, greatly surpassing those numbers.
The famed Italian gunmaker built a plant in Accokeek, Maryland to produce the pistol, then moved production to a new facility in Tennessee in 2014.
The last U.S. martial Beretta M9, shipped last week.
The hallmark of the Army’s 2016 Modular Handgun System contract was to be able to use the selected pistol in a lot of different roles, and the Air Force is taking that to heart. The service, which fields some 125,000 M18 pistols, a mid-size variant of Sig Sauer’s P320, is seeking to order at least 3,000 kits that will convert them to this bad boy.
Sig introduced the P320 XCompact in 2019— after the Army had already selected the M17 and M18 MHS pistols. It sports a small profile, just 7-inches long overall, while still providing an optics plate, accessory rail, beavertail grip, and double-stack 15-shot mags. Overall length is 7-inches while height is 5.3-inches. Weight is 25.3-ounces.
As the “heart” of the P320 is a serialized fire control group that can be swapped between grip modules, by ordering a kit with the 3.6-inch barrel and loaded slide, along with the shorter grip of the XCarry, the USAF can get an essentially a shorty new pistol without having to jump through the hoops of having to actually acquire an entire shorty new pistol. Welcome to modularity.
The Army’s recently announced budget request for the fiscal year 2022 includes at least $114 million for new rifles, handguns, and the next generation of small arms.
While the overall FY2022 Defense Department Budget is $112 billion, most of the non-operational dollars are for high-level R&D and big-ticket items like the F-35 fighter. The Army’s budget book for weapons and tracked combat vehicles meanwhile has a low nine-figure ask when it comes to individual small arms.
The bulk ($97 million) is to go to the Next Generation Squad Weapons, with much of the balance to acquire new Barrett-made Precision Sniper Rifles, and a few crumbs for M4s, M17s, and the like.
Sig Sauer has been trucking right along with deliveries of the Modular Handgun System pistols– the full-sized M17 and more compact M18– since 2017 and just announced they have delivered the 200,000th such 9mm sidearm to Uncle.
Of note, the M17 and M18 are in use by all four Pentagon-reporting service branches and some 451,586 are on the schedule.
The MHS system is a P320-based platform, featuring coyote-tan PVD coated stainless steel slides with black controls, utilizes both 17-round and 21-round magazines, and are equipped with SIGLITE front night sights, removable night sight rear plates, and manual safeties. The M18 is shown in the foreground while the M17 is in the back. (Photo: TACOM)
In 1951, arms maker J. P. Sauer und Sohn GmbH relocated from Suhl in then Soviet-occupied East Germany and set up shop in Eckernförde near the city of Kiel.
In 1976, the firm was purchased by Swiss firearms giant SIG, forming Sig Sauer– largely to have an outlet to fulfill overseas orders for guns like the P220 without having to cut through layers of Swiss red tape.
This also led to a huge series of West German police contracts for the P225/P6 handgun.
After that, Sig Sauer came to America, where it has expanded operations in a big way ever since. Today, the U.S. branch of the company employs 2,300 and is responsible for most of the recent R&D.
Meanwhile, the original German branch of Sig Sauer has atrophied to just 130 employees.
By 2021, there will reportedly be -zero- left in Germany.
Sig Sauer has a small number of military surplus M17 pistols that have seen varying degrees of genuine field use and is passing them on to collectors.
As explained by Sig, the guns were early military models with coyote tan surface controls. Since then, the M17 has been updated to black controls and the Army arranged to return those early guns to Sig for new ones. The now-surplus guns still have government control numbers and have seen a mix of action, with some pistols saltier than others.
Sig says these guns were previously fielded by the U.S. Army and their condition will vary, “making each one uniquely different, and making this truly an opportunity to own a piece of history.” (Photo: Sig)
New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer announced last week that they have reached a milestone in delivering new pistols to the U.S. Armed Forces.
Since winning the contentious Modular Handgun System contract in 2017, beating out big-name pistol makers from around the globe to replace the M9 Beretta, Sig has exceeded performance standards and recently delivered the 100,000th MHS series gun to the military.
The MHS system comprises the Sig Sauer M17 full-size, and M18 compact handguns, each based on the company’s P320 series pistols, as well as Winchester Ammunition’s 9x19mm M1152 Ball, M1153 Special Purpose, and M1156 Drilled Dummy Inert cartridges.
Over the coming five-to-seven years, upwards of 350,000 handguns and 100 million rounds of ammunition are scheduled for delivery to the Pentagon.
The M18, the smaller of the two variants of the Sig Sauer P320 adopted as part of the military’s 2017 MHS contract award to replace a host of legacy pistols, reportedly sailed through the recent Lot Acceptance Test conducted by the U.S. Army, according to the New Hampshire-based gun maker. While LAT tests allow for 12 stoppages in the course of 5000 rounds fired, three M18 used went to 12,000 rounds each, with no stoppages. The guns then went on to pass required interchangeability, material and accuracy tests.
You have to admit, they look pretty nice when compared to old beat-up M9s.