Originally started back in 2011, the US Army has re-energized the Modular Handgun System program and has set an “Industry Day” for July 29th at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.
The Army Times interviewed key members of the Modular Handgun System back in 2011 explaining the reasons looking for a replacement for the M9. In short, its all the reasons the shooting community has known about for decades but is primarily motivated by the pistols reaching the end of their service life.
“The M9 is at the end of its lifecycle,” said Maj. Art Thomas, small arms branch chief at the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga. “It is an old weapon. We can do a lot better with what technology can provide us now.”
Lethality is among the M9’s several “limitations,” said Daryl Easlick, project officer for close effects. The requirement for a new pistol calls for “an increase in permanent wound channel,” which suggests something more powerful than a 9mm may be on the horizon.
Hamstrung by ball ammunition, the Army is completing a full caliber study at increasing wound potential. This study is currently being conducted by the Army. Considering high-pressure rounds like .40 and .357 SIG cause premature wear, this looks like an effort to move back to .45 ACP. Final cartridge selection will be discussed at the second industry day.
However, reading through the documents, it does not look like the military wants to move back to a 1911 platform. While an argument can be made for the platform like the USMC’s M45, the demand for modularity and advances in ergonomics. My guess is that the Army is looking for a polymer-framed, completely ambidextrous handgun with a external safety similar to the 1911. The striker-fired H&K’s, M&P’s, and Sig will certainly be considered. Defense Media Network sums up the intent of the program best:
“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.
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.
Currently, the Army is on track for an RFP to hit the street in August, with 60-90 days for industry to respond. From down-selection, there will be two years of testing and trails before a final decision. The full funding profile of the program will not be revealed to the industry, but likely numbers are replacement of all M9s in inventory (over 400,000 units).
Interestingly, the USG is looking to go down a “best value” contract lane, allowing them to pick their favorite, not necessarily one that performs satisfactorily at the lowest price. The specifications are not yet finalized, but the Government plans on releasing a draft RFP for comments and evaluation prior to the final RFP draft.
Vendors will be allowed to submit a maximum of two (2) designs each.
Details from FedBizOps on the second industry day Industry day are below. You can see the original RFI and Q&A from the first industry day at the Army’s web portal.