By: Friedrich Seiltgen
The U.S. Army needed a replacement for its Beretta M9 service pistol. After the smoke cleared, the Army selected the Sig Sauer M17 as its new official service pistol.
In a deal worth about $580 million, Sig Sauer won the contract for the U.S. Army’s new M17 Modular Handgun System in January 2017. The M17, along with its more compact version, the M18, are the military version of the Sig P320.
It’s a polymer frame pistol chambered in 9mm with a muzzle velocity of 1,190 feet per second. Sig also eliminated the decocking lever used on many of its firearms and added a frame mounted safety like the old government model 1911. This feature allows the pistol to be carried in “condition one,” a chambered round with the safety on.
Not Without Problems
As usual, the selection of this new firearm was not without problems. After the contract was awarded to Sigarms, Steyr Arms filed a patent infringement lawsuit; Glock filed a formal protest claiming the Army did not complete all the tests specified, and a Pentagon report states the pistol is prone to malfunction!
The Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation published their report, listing the issues with the M17. The report stated the M17 is prone to go off if dropped, has the propensity to eject live rounds, and did not function properly with the FMJ Ball round.
The ball round is to be used for qualification training, and it “does not function properly”? Occasional malfunctions are good for operators, as it trains them to clear malfunctions quickly and get back into the fight. The M17 with ball ammo was only reliable only 75% of the time, and the M18 pistol was even worse with a 60% rating!
Upping the Ammo Game
The Army also decided to up its game when it comes to ammunition. They awarded Olin/Winchester a contract for 1.2 million rounds of M1152, +P, 124 grain, Full Metal Jacket 9mm ammunition, as well as the M1153 special purpose hollow point round. These rounds are similar in power.
As an officer for the Orlando Police Department, we qualified frequently on all the weapons assigned to us. For our Sigarms P226 pistols, we carried Winchester Ranger XRT hollow point ammunition, but we qualified with frangible ammunition.
The frangible ammo was chosen because it was cheaper than hollow point ammo and was cleaner in the range environment. When frangible ammo hits the back top, it disintegrates into dust. This prevents lead from being released into the air and made for a healthier range for us cops. The frangible ammunition usually functioned reliably, but due to its lighter weight, it usually hit the target slightly higher than our duty ammo.
‘Train the Way You Fight’
Both the military and law enforcement have embraced the concept of “train the way you fight.” Firearms trainers have changed the way warriors learn. Gone are the days where you stood on the firing line once a year with good light, conditions, etc.
Now, qualifications are frequent and performed under conditions as close to real life as possible. Practice conditions include shooting with low light, no light, and a handheld flashlight or a weapons mounted light, no light with sirens, and blue lights on inside the range, instructors yelling to distract you, etc.
Since the difference between training and real life is gradually becoming the same, the Army’s decision to use training ammunition that performs the same as duty ammo is a great idea.
Friedrich Seiltgen is a retired Master Police Officer with 20 years of service with the Orlando Police Department. He currently conducts training in Lone Wolf Terrorism, Firearms, First Aid, and Law Enforcement Vehicle Operations in Florida. His writing has appeared in The Counter Terrorist Magazine, Homeland Security Today and The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.