This article reflects the opinion of the author, not necessarily of The Firearm Blog.
Since 2006 the government has been attempting to acquire a new pistol to replace the now well worn M9. There have been many starts and stops, claims of lack of funds to continue and other excuses ad nauseum. The most recent failure not only has Glock livid over the “final” decision but other companies as well who still believe the guns they submitted passed the basic requirements in the first stage of testing and evaluation.
I’m not going to go over all of the documents that have been presented on the Internet over and over again. I will show you a few I doubt you’ve seen before. My intent is to explain what was done in this competition and why. I’ll refrain from expressing a personal opinion of which pistol should have been chosen. That answer is simple it should be the best pistol for our warfighters use to defend themselves when the primary weapon malfunctions.
Our government had a two part test to determine the answer to the question which is the best handgun for the conditions our warfighters operate in. During the first part of the evaluation, the testing was simple and straightforward. Did the 9 pistols presented by several well known companies meet the basic criteria set forth in the solicitation? The bottom line is SIG and the P320 passed as did the MHS Glock.
After these two pistols were chosen to continue both were tested for ergonomics which only required a number of testers hold the pistols in various stances and shooting grips. Further test were done firing the guns while mounted in a Ransom rest type device. The purpose of this test was to determine accuracy and reliability. Testing a pistol for reliability by using a machine doesn’t really give a realistic idea only testing by a human being with all of our differences in stance, grip etc will provide that answer only after firing many rounds.
At some point in this very basic testing, the bids were released. The SIG bid was a great deal less that Glock. Mind you this includes pistols, magazines, parts, training as well as other ancillary equipment. Sometime during this revelation, the government in it’s usual consistency in decision making chose the lowest bidder and called a halt to the second and most revealing portion of the testing. The reasoning behind the governments decision was based on the first set of test where the government declared that both guns were so close in performance there was no need to continue with the second phase of testing and awarded the contract to SIG because of the much lower price that they believed Glock could never match or come close to.
This is when the government made it’s biggest mistake calling off phase two testing even though both the Glock and SIG were chosen to go head to head in the second phase. The second phase should have been conclusive but unless things change we’ll never know who would have won the realistic phase two testing. At this point and considering the pressure being applied it’s unknown if phase two will ever go forward.
Before I continue let me address something that has caused more controversy than anything else and that’s the manual thumb safety. Many people like the idea of a manual safety while many others deplore the idea. Let me clarify this straight from Glock. The solicitation called for a manual thumb safety but the winner would do away with the manual safety. The actual issue pistols would not have a manual safety of any kind. So why did the government ask for a manual safety on the test guns when they knew full well the issued pistols would not have one!
If you’ve studied what would be done in phase two you realize this would be close to real world use. Actual soldiers of every shape and size would fire approximately 35,000 issued 9mm rounds. Over a longer period, the ergonomics would be further tested as would the life expectancy of each entry. The expected figure before breakdown was right at 20,000 rounds. There would be the usual water immersion, mud test, sand, drop test etcetera which when done should have provided conclusive proof of which pistol was correct for our soldiers. Would the low bidder have been the best pistol for the job or the high bidder? We’ll never know unless the test are continued and completed with both companies guns involved.
So far with the track record of the past decade, I’m skeptical the government will get back on track in the testing and not base a decision on money as it appears they have done to this point. Which pistol is better? Let’s find out and go forward with phase two and give the soldiers the pistol they deserve to protect their lives and our countries freedom.