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This week, the U.S. Army will brief arms manufacturers on the design requirements for a new standard-issue handgun. Several gun makers will compete for the lucrative contract, developing weapons that are more reliable and more powerful than those currently in service.
Officials say the upgrade is overdue—it’s been nearly 30 years since the Army adopted the Beretta M9.
But the last time the military challenged the industry to make a better handgun, all the innovations intended for the battlefield also ended up in the consumer market, and the severity of civilian shootings soared.
Most of the manufacturers that had competed with Beretta for the military contract refined their prototype weapons and offered them for commercial sale.
Among these were the SIG-Sauer P226 and the Walther P88, which each had 15-round standard magazines.
Contemporaneously, Austrian engineer Gaston Glock used his expertise in synthetic polymers to develop a revolutionary lightweight handgun with a 17-round standard magazine. Originally intended for the Austrian military, the Glock 17 later became a favorite with American customers.
According to Defense One whatever new handgun the Army adopts to replace the M9, it will fire a more powerful cartridge than the Beretta’s 9mm. This could be the .45-caliber ammo currently used by the Marines or, according to an Army spokesperson, it could be the .357 SIG or .40 S&W, two cartridges that didn’t exist in the ‘80s, and which were developed for law enforcement officers to counter increasingly well-armed criminals.
It might be quite some time before the Army selects a winning design and awards the new contract. Once they do, you can expect to find an almost indistinguishable pistol in a gun shop near you.