Air Force testing crews from Eglin AFB in Florida were recently in the news as testing the Army’s newly adopted Sig Sauer 9x19mm MHS handgun for pilots being ejected out of their aircraft. Actual testing was conducted at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio at the vertical deceleration tower as a part of the 711th Human Performance Wing. Two MHS’s were attached to both sides of a dummy pilots survival vest to test for both right-handed and left-handed carry. One MHS had an extended 21 round magazine while the other had a flush fit 17 round version. It would appear that the more compact M18 would be a better fit for the Air Force, but at this point, it is hard to tell if the version in the testing is an M17 or M18.
From the Air Force-
The test is meant to demonstrate the safety and durability of the new modular handgun system when exposed to the stresses associated with ejection from an aircraft. This is the first time any service has conducted this type of demonstration to ensure a side arm is safe for aircrew to carry in ejection seat aircraft.
Testing for Realism
Upon first looking through the photos, I thought that putting the handguns in nylon holsters, MOLLE-ed to the flight vests was maybe just a testing procedure and that fighter pilots didn’t actually use Walmart-like nylon holsters with plastic clips. But through some investigation, they actually do! From a shooting performance standpoint, these holsters are not very desirable. However, for a fighter pilot, it makes some sense. These service handguns aren’t being constantly drawn; if they even are drawn it is because the pilot has been ejected from his aircraft and must either hunt animals for food or immediate self-defense against an enemy. Having a high-speed Safariland holster isn’t entirely necessary for this matter, and might actually be detrimental with modern day jets looking to cut down on as much weight as possible (every ounce counts right?).
It is interesting to note that some Air Force fighter squadrons used to allow pilots to carry personal sidearms. If there are any TFB readers that know if this is the current procedure, please chime in. But if it were the case, it makes one wonder what the tests could be for, if pilots can opt out of the service handgun, to begin with?