FORT CARSON, Colo. - It is a standard range qualification day on the high plains sage brush- laden surroundings on Colorado’s largest military post. With morning temperatures in the low-50s a, a slight breeze and partly cloudy skies, one could not ask for better weather in early November.
Soldiers - mostly officers from the U.S. Army’s 1st Space Battalion, 1st Space Brigade - fire their M-17 pistol downrange at green popup targets ranging from 10 to 31 meters. They must hit at least half their targets to qualify on their weapon. Everything up from there is extracurricular, to be displayed on their dress uniform in the form of a badge.
Two years ago the Army upgraded its standard issue pistol from the Beretta M9 to the SIG Sauer M-17. It’s received rave reviews ever since.
“It’s a more accurate pistol than the previous one,” said Maj. David Leydet, 1st Space Battalion’s training and operations officer. “It just feels better, it’s smoother, has a nice grip - a good upgrade.”
Leydet, a seasoned combat veteran with a tour in Afghanistan under his belt, said he once shot and killed a wild dog with his pistol that was rushing to attack an Army service dog during his deployment.
“You never know when you might have to draw your sidearm,” he said. “So you better know how to use it.”
Pistol training is standard for all Army officers, just as rifle training is for the enlisted troops. It is usually done biannually in active-duty units, and yearly in the National Guard and Reserves.
“Being in a space brigade, we are not the most kinetic unit,” said Maj. Steven Richards, 4th Space Company commander. “So it’s always good to get back to our roots as Soldiers with any kind of range. We are all still in the Army and this type of training is as important as any other for us. Everyone, at least at a minimum, needs to defend themselves in a fight.”
Private 1st Class Patrick King, a satellite systems communication operator of 1st Space Battalion’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company’s communication cell, was firing at the range for his German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency qualification - a badge awarded to Soldiers of any German allied nation for competing in certain Soldier tasks, one being pistol qualification. It was his first time shooting the M17.
“I shot a lot in high school growing up with my dad, but this pistol is new to me, as well as firing it on an Army range,” said King after firing his pistol. “Not sure how I did, but it was a good time nonetheless.”