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.
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.
All branches of the U.S. Armed Forces have placed orders for the M17/18 Modular Handgun System according to Sig Sauer. (Photo: Chris Eger)
Though originally a winner for an Army contract, Sig officials report that every branch including the Coast Guard has placed orders for the modified P320 pistol platform.
Sig’s M17/18 pistol, the winner of the Army’s Modular Handgun System contract last year, is set to be fielded by not only the land service but the Air Force, Marines and Navy as well as the Coast Guard, according to company representatives.
The handguns will begin replacing a host of other platforms, including various marks of the M9 Beretta in the Army. As noted in the Navy’s FY 2019 procurement budget justification for the Marine Corps, 35,000 of the Sigs will not only replace M9s but also Colt M45A1 CQB .45ACP pistols and the newly acquired M007 Glock. In Coast Guard service, the gun will augment the Sig P229R which was adopted in 2005. The Air Force has been quietly acquiring the guns and testing their use for compatibility with aircraft ejection seats.
In the above video shot by my homie Ben Philippi, Sig’s Rich Morovitz talked to us at SHOT Show about the U.S. Army’s new M17 sidearm and points out some of the differences between the military’s variant and winner of the landmark Modular Handgun System contract and the standard Sig Sauer P320. Besides the manual safety– an Army requirement– Morovitz also goes into detail on the removable top plate for a Leupold DeltaPoint Pro sight, which is a big move for a MIL-STD handgun meant for the common Soldier in the field.
The flying service, which is purchasing 130,000 of the new Sig P320 variants, is testing the Army’s Modular Handgun System’s capability to resist damage during the demanding act of ejecting from a moving aircraft.
The Air Force released a number of images of the MHS contract winner, designated the M17 by the military, undergoing testing at a facility at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, earlier this month. The photos show a full-scale anthropomorphic dummy clad in a survival vest and flight gear strapped to a simulated stand-mounted ejection seat. On the dummy’s chest are a pair of M17 pistols, one oriented for a left-hand draw, another for a right, alternating flush-fit and extended magazines.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Samantha Stoffregen, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Public Affairs)
Soldiers of the Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne Division are now being issued the winner of the Modular Handgun System contract, the M17 and M18 pistols made by Sig Sauer.
The much-modified Sig Sauer P320 9mm in two frame sizes is being fielded at the Kentucky base first in full-sized and compact variants, then will be pushed out to all units over the next 10 years, replacing the aging M9 Beretta. The division received more than 2,000 M17s and M18s, on 17 Nov and unpacked, inventoried, inspected and test fired a portion of the pistols, Nov. 27. It began fielding the MHS, 28 Nov, with C Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment (“Currahee”), drawing the first pistols.
With the Army’s Modular Handgun System contract now firmly in the hands of Sig Sauer, images of Glock’s entry for the M17 and M18 pistol have emerged and they have a number of differences from their standard offerings.
These include a lanyard ring at the bottom of the grip, black ambi surface controls, a lack of finger grooves, a manual thumb safety, extended mags, and a flat dark earth finish. The models offered outwardly seem like otherwise variants of the Gen 4 G19 in 9mm and G23 in .40S&W. Not pictured are threaded barrels, a contract requirement, or ammunition, which was provided by Federal.