By Ms. Dawn M Arden (Leonard Wood)February 14, 2019
Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. -- The U.S. Army began fielding M17 and M18 Modular Handgun Systems to the Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood in December to replace the force's aging Beretta M9, a weapon that has been in use since the mid-1980s and is quickly reaching its serviceability limits.
Sporting an integrated rail system, a polymer grip module and self-illuminating sights, the modernized 9 mm pistol produced by Sig Sauer couldn't have come at a better time, according to Mark Farley, USAMPS deputy commandant.
"The (Beretta M9s) we currently have are breaking more often, which causes readiness issues," Farley said. He explained that the school's M9s have fired on average about 20,000 to 30,000 rounds when a typical handgun will last through only about 10,000 before they start to have significant issues.
Gary Homer, USAMPS instructor, added, "With these 17 and 18s, you won't get degradation of the barrel until after 25,000 rounds. The new MHS has an exponentially longer lifespan or life expectancy."
Homer said every MHS is test fired before leaving the factory with 13 rounds -- three to break in the weapon and 10 to test accuracy. He said each one must hit 10 out of 10 at 25 meters in a smaller than 3-inch group attesting to the gun's accuracy level.
Both Farley and Homer agree one of the biggest selling points of the new MHS is the modular grips, which come in small, medium and large that allow for the pistol to be modified to the individual shooter.
"The Military Police Corps, is about 16 percent female Soldiers, so this is a big deal when you're talking about Soldier lethality and accuracy," Farley said. "For all Soldiers to be able to hold that weapon with a proper grip and use the right fundamentals of firing -- it's very important in order for them to be able to engage the target and thereafter. One size does not fit all."
In addition to being able to add lights to the guns with the rail system, John Scarbrough, USAMPS instructor/writer, said another thing he likes about the modernized weapons is the consistent trigger. He said this will help the MP students coming through the school's many courses.
"There is a more consistent trigger so you don't have to get used to 12 and then a 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 pound trigger," Scarbrough said. "Your first shot is the same as your 17th shot."
He said the trigger pull in conjunction with the modular grips will improve overall accuracy.
"We have had students before who had to use two fingers to pull the trigger due to strength because of their hand position, or they're holding the gun in an awkward position so it's not managing recoil," Scarbrough said. "Those are the two biggest things that I think will help out whomever is shooting them."
Farley agreed and said it's not just the equipment that's being modernized. He said USAMPS recently changed their qualification tables as well.
"It came at the right time where we were trying to make training a little more stringent and harder. This gun won't make it easier, but it will ease some of the transition on this new qualification table that is just now being exposed to Soldiers in the field," Farley said. "It wasn't coordinated but it worked out well."
Farley said they are excited about the new gun, adding that it's long overdue. "The sooner we can get it fully fielded to the operational units and the full training base then operational readiness will be enhanced."
So far the school has only received a few hundred of these systems, but is expecting to receive approximately 1,400.