MCGREGOR RANGE, New Mexico - Eager Soldiers shared looks of excitement and awe under the watch of the immense New Mexico golden mesas as they awaited their opportunity to finally fire the newly fielded M17 pistol.
Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division fired the M17 pistol for the first time during a qualification range, October 10. Within 1AD, 3ABCT is the first brigade to field and fire the new weapons system.
"The M17 pistol is an adaptable weapons system. It feels a lot smoother and a lot lighter than the M9," said 2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR. "I feel like the transition to the M17 will benefit us greatly in combat. Just from being out here today I was able to shoot well and notice that it felt lighter."
The M17 is a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, which offers a lighter weight than the previous M9 pistol, weighing 30.8 ounces. It has an improved ergonomic design and a more modern internal striker firing mechanism, rather than an external hammer firing mechanism, to reduce trigger pull and improve accuracy and lethality.
The striker design of the M17 is less likely to snag on clothing or tactical gear when firing than an external hammer and furthermore, the M17 has a capacity of 17 rounds, two more than the M9.
The M17 pistol is the full-sized variant of the Modular Handgun System which also includes the compact M18 pistol, designed to replace the M9 and M11 pistols.
Soldiers using the new M17 pistol will potentially have greater maneuverability and operational flexibility while in combat, due to the reduced weight and improved design compared to the M9 pistol.
"When we climb out of our tanks, less weight is good," said 1st Lt. Shannon Martin, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR and native of Scituate, Massachusetts. "Every ounce that you shave off the equipment is less weight for Soldiers to carry. So for those infantrymen who are rucking miles at a time, it is good for them to have less weight that they're carrying so that they can focus on staying fit for the fight and being ready to go."
The Modular Handgun System has an ambidextrous external safety, self-illuminating tritium sights for low-light conditions, an integrated rail for attaching enablers and an Army standard suppressor conversion kit for attaching an acoustic/flash suppressor.
"Coyote brown" in color, it also has interchangeable hand grips allowing shooters to adjust the handgun to the size of their hand.
The primary service round is the M1153 9mm special purpose cartridge, which has a jacketed hollow point projectile. It provides improved terminal performance against unprotected targets as well as reduced risk of over-penetration and collateral damage compared to the M882 9mm ball cartridge and the Mk243 9mm jacketed hollow point cartridge.
The M1152 9mm ball cartridge has a truncated, or flat, nose full metal jacket projectile around a solid lead alloy core. It provides improved terminal performance compared to the M882 ball cartridge.
The fielding of the M17 pistol has generated great excitement and energy among 1AD Soldiers, most of whom have never fired a handgun other than the M9 pistol.
"I think having a new weapons system has sprouted interest. We have Soldiers who say 'Cool, I'm so excited to go and shoot these', so it creates more interest in qualifying with a handgun," said Martin. "During our deployment to Korea, we saw the M17 and we were all excited to get our hands on them, train with them and to see what's different about them."
The adoption and implementation of the M17 pistol reflects the Army's continued commitment to modernization, ensuring that Soldiers are best equipped to deal with any threat and to project lethal force with efficiency.
The division began fielding and distributing the M17 to its units in August and have used classroom training time with these live-fire ranges to familiarize their Soldiers with the new handgun, ensuring that they are ready and proficient with the weaponry.
Soldiers learn through innovation and iteration. As part of ongoing modernization efforts, research teams rapidly develop new prototypes and arm Soldiers with new technologies, including protective gear, weaponry and communications capabilities.
"Adopting the M17 pistol is good for our readiness and lethality," said Martin. "It forces us all to go out, shoot and be familiar and proficient with our new weaponry."