I Was Wrong About the XM17
Article first appeared at American Rifleman.
So, I was wrong. There was a part of me that did not think the U.S. Army was serious about selecting and actually issuing a new handgun. I thought it may just be another Pentagon Power Point presentation to be shelved away next to the invasion plans for Manitoba. A variant of the SIG Sauer P320 was adopted on Jan. 19, 2017, and the U.S. XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) is proceeding with additional testing for general issue.
“We are both humbled and proud that the P320 was selected by the U.S. Army as its weapon of choice,” said SIG Sauer President and CEO Ron Cohen. “Securing this contract is a testimony to SIG Sauer employees and their commitment to innovation, quality and manufacturing the most reliable firearms in the world.”
The process of adopting any military weapons system (everything, even a pistol, is a “system” in DoD-speak) is laborious and confusing for anyone not intimately familiar with the military procurement process. And there was a high cost to entry for manufacturers. Essentially, participating companies were asked to provide not only the guns but the ammunition—even selecting their own chambering as well as bullet weight. So this precluded smaller companies from participating at all. And even some larger companies, Ruger for example, decided that the likelihood a big payoff was not worth the investment.
Frankly, there were a lot of reasons not to take the Army seriously on this. The Army mucked up and then killed the Joint Combat Pistol program (JCP), and looked at replacing the M4/M16 (finding nothing was actually better), and then also looked at an improvement program for the M4/16, the Individual Carbine competition. All of those really went nowhere either. Then, of course, there was the G36 and the OICW, but those are stories for another day.
Now we will reach out to the Army to find out more about the process and what it learned while making the decision on adopting the SIG Sauer P320. We would like to report on what happened during the testing, how the submitted guns measured up to the Army’s RFP and the testing process. After all, ensuring our soldiers have the best possible equipment is an important consideration for all American citizens, especially NRA members. Why the decision to stick with 9×19 mm NATO? How did the other entrants do in testing? What was the mean rounds between failures? How important a role did the modular nature of the P320 play in the selection process?
Was there any influence from higher up and did that play any role in the selection? When you have a top general saying you should go to Bass Pro and buy G19s over the counter, it understandably muddies already seemingly opaque waters.
Now that the trial is over and a winner selected, it is no longer time to be a nattering nabob of negativism. It is time to report on how this variant of the SIG P320 will serve America’s best—those who deserve the best—the men and women who wear the uniform of the U.S. Army.