Simplicity is a must in combat, whether it’s the weapons involved, or the planning. Complex, fragile things fall apart when the bullets start flying. That’s why I was gratified to see the choice the Army made in its latest small-arms acquisition.
The US Army has recently made the announcement that the Sig Sauer P320 will be its next service pistol, they have dubbed it the M17. Some half of a million units will be ordered, the people at Sig are probably doing cartwheels of delight.
I have never fired the P320, but I do have some experience with its predecessor, the P226. It’s a dead reliable, very serviceable weapon. If the M17 is anything like the 226, as seems to be the case, it’s a fine choice for the Army.
Here’s why the M9 needed to go. First, let me say that the M9 is an awesome range pistol. It’s accurate and it has plenty of firepower. Its ergonomics are very good, it’s an easy to manipulate weapon. However, it tended to accumulate “moon dust” and grit in its locking lugs, and the magazines were prone to gumming up, too. This could lead to the unpleasant situation where your pistol doesn’t work when you need it most.
I’ve carried and used the M9 a lot, and its OK if you maintain the crap out of it in field conditions, the same as the M4. In terms of ergonomics and accuracy, both weapons get my thumbs up. The problem is the maintenance. In my opinion, this area is grossly underrated in weapons tests.
When an army hands a weapon to a soldier, it will be abused and used in ways the manufacturer could not have foreseen. It will be neglected, covered in mud or sand, and ran without lubrication or cleaning. If the weapon cannot perform reliably in the conditions I listed above, then it is of limited use. Yes, soldiers can be trained and supervised in minimizing the abuse of their tools, but there are always those who will be too tired, too lazy, or too stupid to take care of their piece. I’ve seen it again and again.
By adopting the Sig pistol, the Army seems to have chosen a winner. If it beat out the Glock, in my opinion the gold standard for reliability and simplicity, it has to be good. Time will tell, however.