Defense Media Network

U.S. Army Explores Potential Modular Handgun Systems

The U.S. Army’s Program Manager for Soldier Weapons, on behalf of the Program Executive Office Soldier, has just released a Request for Information (RFI) to assess available handgun technologies as well as the production capacity of the U.S. small arms industrial base with an eye toward application to a notional Modular Handgun System (MHS).

To facilitate the Army’s assessment, the announcement seeks information “on potential improvements in handgun performance in the areas of accuracy and dispersion out to 50 m[eters], terminal performance, modularity, reliability and durability in all environments.”

In terms of accuracy, for example, the announcement states that “The handgun and ammunition combination should, at a range of 50 meters, have a 90 percent or better probability of hit on a 4-inch circle when fired from a test fixture. It must maintain this throughout the life of the system.”

“Systems are encouraged to utilize ergonomic and design improvements to minimize the effects of greater recoil energies, reducing the degradation of shooter-in-the-loop dispersion thereby improving the probability of hit,” it adds.

The “modular” aspects of the MHS vision include, but are not limited to, compatibility with accessory items to include tactical lights, lasers and sound suppressors.

“There is specific interest in designs that would be adaptable and/or adjustable to provide enhanced ergonomics that ensure 5th percentile female through 95th percentile male military personnel access to controls, such as the safety, magazine release, slide release and all other applicable controls,” the RFI reads. “There is also interest in designs that offer these enhanced ergonomics while providing full ambidextrous controls.”

While desired calibers are not specified for the MHS concept, the announcement notes that the terminal ballistics will be evaluated at ranges of 0-50 meters, over 0-14 inches of ballistic gelatin, “to determine whether it provides more lethality when compared to the current U.S. military M882 ammunition fired from the [9mm] M9.”

mhs 1

Service members from Indonesia, Australia, the United States, and United Kingdom fire 9mm pistols during an international match at the 2012 Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting (AASAM) in Puckapunyal, Australia. A desired caliber is not specified for the notional Modular Handgun Sustem. Department of Defense photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

“Ammunition evaluated will meet international law of war conventions that bound current general purpose military ammunition,” it adds. “The pistol evaluated must be capable of chamber pressures equal to or greater than SAAMI [Sporting Arms And Manufacturers’ Institute] specification for the given cartridge, with prolonged reliability equal to or greater than the current M9. However, the ability to accommodate higher chamber pressures in excess of 20 percent over SAAMI spec without degradation of reliability is of specific interest.”

In terms of handgun reliability, the RFI identifies interest in designs with ratings of at least 2,000 rounds MRBS [mean rounds between stoppage], 10,000 rounds MRBF [mean rounds between failure] and 35,000-round service life.

Industry is also asked to provide production capacity estimates on minimum and maximum monthly production rates for their handgun designs and associated ammunition as well as the lead times to achieve those production rates.

In addition, estimated pricing is requested for quantities of 250,000 to 550,000 handguns.

Interested offerors are asked to submit their RFI responses by March 11, 2013.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...

  • The Army’s biggest problem with pistols is accidental shootings. Read the Army’s stats on deaths and injuries from ADs in Afghanistan, for example. What is the ratio of soldiers who use pistols in battle, vs. soldiers who fire guns accidentally? That’s why 1911s have to be carried chamber empty — which only invites more accidental shootings during loading and unloading. The key feature of any replacement pistol must be accident resistance.
    As shown by a century of experience with the 1911, single action autos are leg-shooters. Glocks are even worse leg-shooters (Google “Glock accident.”) DA/SA autos add complexity to the manual of arms; complexity means more accidents. The ideal pistol for issue to large numbers of troops is the double-action-only autopistol. Those can be carried safely (at least more safely than anything else) with a round chambered. After that, you can worry about laser sights and grenade launching attachments. If you don’t start with a DAO platform, you are doomed to end up with a high-tech modular leg and bunkmate shooter.