US Gunmakers to Submit MHS Pistols By 2016; Fmr SecDef Gates Slams Program

    According to a recent Military.com article, US gun manufacturers are set to deliver their proposals to the US Army by the first month of the new year:

    Under federal rules, the Army is not naming the manufacturers who have expressed interest in offering a gun. Companies will deliver their proposed guns to Army officials in January. The Army will then select up to three finalists and put the weapons through more testing, including evaluations from soldiers. The first soldiers would receive it for official use in 2019.

    Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., a Massachusetts-based company famous for its revolvers, has partnered with military contractor General Dynamics Ordinance and Tactical Systems to offer a gun based off its M&P handguns, which are already used by police agencies.

    Beretta, which is moving its U.S. manufacturing from Maryland to Tennessee, Beretta offered the Army an improved version of the existing M9 design before the service announced its open search for a new gun. The company now intends to enter a new pistol called the APX into the competition. The new gun is a major engineering departure from the M9. It has a polymer frame like more recent handguns and can meet the Army’s other requirements. Finding the right design is a balancing act for engineers.

    The program, which has received considerable criticism from onlookers for the “package deal” structure of the proposals, has garnered the ire of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who deplored the lengthy process of the Army’s selection of the new weapon:

    In his first testimony on Capitol Hill since he retired in 2011 as the top civilian at the Defense Department, Gates singled out the Army’s Modular Handgun System acquisition program for criticism.

    Here’s what he had to say, as my colleague Richard Sisk reported:

    “In her questioning of Gates, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, complained about the 350-page request for proposals the Army came up with for a new handgun for soldiers and asked, ‘What should Congress do to fix this mess?’

    Gates said that lawmakers should become ‘disruptors’ of the process. They should call the Army secretary and the Army chief of staff before them and ‘ask why is it taking you guys 10 years? It’s a handgun for God’s sake.’

    Congress should also look in the mirror when trying to assign blame for the shortcomings of the acquisition process while trying to score political points off that same process, Gates said.”

    [emphasis mine]

    While MHS does aim to give the Army a modern, lightweight, modular sidearm, it does raise questions of why so much time and effort is being invested in selecting a last-ditch weapon that is rarely ever used, especially when even the best possible proposals will give the Army at best a modest improvement versus the existing legacy systems. Gates’ concerns that this program is also taking far too long are not unwarranted, either. The US Army has been seeking a new handgun since the beginning of the 21st Century.

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]


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