Millions of U.S. Army soldiers will get more lethal handguns as part of a half-billion-dollar, decade-long project, the first upgrade to the standard M9 sidearm in more than three decades.
The new M17 pistol—and a compact version called the M18—arrived at the 101st Airborne’s Fort Campbell, Kentucky, base on November 28. A small number of soldiers got to fire the new weapon straight out of the box, Military Times reports.
“It is easier to fire and simpler to operate,” Sergeant Matthew Marsh said in a statement released by the Army. “The pistol felt very natural in my hand. I am excited to take my experience back to my unit and share it with my soldiers.”
Initially, the weapon is being offered only to team leaders, but all Army units will get the M17 to replace the standard M9 Beretta over the next decade.
The M17 is a variant of SIG Sauer’s P320 handgun. In January, the New Hampshire–based SIG Sauer won the 10-year, $580 million contract with the Army.
The M9 has become “pretty dated technology,” said Lieutenant Colonel Steven Power, who oversees part of the weapon upgrade. “The specific performance improvements from [the M17 and M18] over the M9 include better accuracy, tighter dispersion and better ergonomics, which combined result in a far more lethal pistol.”
The new handguns are equipped with an external safety, self-illuminating sights for low-light conditions, an integrated rail for attaching accessories and an Army standard suppressor conversion kit to attach an acoustic/flash suppressor, according to the Army.
Soldiers seem quite happy with the handgun thus far.
“I never thought I would be one of the first ones to field a new piece of [Army] equipment,” Marsh said. “It is a tremendous honor for my battalion and brigade, this division and me.”