Desperately Seeking … the Modular Handgun System

First, a side note. This past winter, I tried out a .30/06 load using IMR 4831 that had given me .600 groups when the temperature was in the 70s, but which fell apart (1.70") when the temperature was 60 degrees colder. It could only be the powder, I concluded. Today, with the temperature in the 70s, I tried it again and the groups went right back where they were originally. It was the powder, all right. "Of that there is no manner of doubt, no probable possible shadow of doubt, no possible doubt whatever."

Anyway. After years of studying our military weapons procurement philosophy, beginning in 1965 with the debacle of the M-16, I believe I now understand it: “If you have something that works extremely well and has the total confidence of the men and women who use it, that weapon is outmoded and must be replaced.”

Thus we have the Air Force frantically trying to get rid of the A-10 Wart Hog over the furious opposition of the people who actually use it. The A-10 is ugly, slow, can be picked up by radar, and does what it’s supposed to do, which is unpardonable at the Pentagon.

Perhaps the most infamous instance of this philosophy in action came in 1985, when the U.S. Army decided to drop the Model 1911 .45 pistol. The 1911 at that point had been our standard military sidearm for 74 years, had served with distinction all over the planet in two world wars and a host of lesser conflicts, and was easily the most successful military sidearm in history. But our fleet of 1911s was worn, and instead of replacing it, the Army opted for something more modern.

They also opted to drop the .45 ACP in favor of the 9mm, which would enable us and our NATO allies to use the same sidearm ammo. But the fact is that from Korea onward, our NATO allies have essentially sat out every war we chose to get into. If we send a division, each of them sends a reinforced company. So logically, they should switch to whatever we choose, not the other way around.

As for the effectiveness of the 9mm round, Jeff Cooper once pointed out that Europeans consider the sidearm to be a badge of rank, not a serious weapon, so the pissant Parabellum is perfectly suitable for them. Americans, on the other hand, still smarting from the inadequacy of the .38 Colt, designed the .45 ACP with serious mayhem in mind. In 1985 there was ample evidence that the 9mm did not pack the pork, but the Army chose to ignore it.

The handgun on which the Army settled—the M9—was greeted by incredulity, rage, and eventually, a major thumbs down by the troops who had to use the thing. So, on July 29 of this year, according to Military.com News, the Army will hold an “industry day” in a search for the Modular Handgun System, a replacement for its 200,000 worn-out M9s. Not only is the Army looking for a new gun and holster, but a new and more powerful cartridge. (Does this sound familiar?) The new handgun must have greater accuracy, lethality, reliability, and durability, according to a spokesman for the project. This means that the M9 failed on every count by which you can measure a handgun.

Since I’m one of the people who is going to pay for the MHS, I think I’m entitled to make a suggestion or two. Rather than coming up with the handgun version of the F-35 fighter (which doesn’t seem to work no matter what, at a cost of $124.8 million per plane) simply re-adopt the Model 1911. How much has shooting people changed? The 1911 works. There are plenty of companies that make it. Some of our elite units are still using it.

Ma Deuce, the beloved and damned near infallible M2 .50 machine gun, has been in continuous service since 1933. Has age dimmed her beauty? Say you’re sorry and, beret in hand, go back to the 1911 and beg her forgiveness.

Or call SIG-Sauer and put in an order for 400,000 P229 .45s. The P229 is made in Exeter, New Hampshire. It holds ten in the magazine (Good luck getting that tenth one in.), is accurate, light, has a grip that’s suitable for small hands despite the double-stack magazine, and comes from a design that had all the bugs worked out of it years ago. Thousands and thousands of cops carry it and like it.

But none of this will happen. Those who use firearms in combat are not the ones who get to choose what they must stake their lives on. So we will get the MHS, whatever it is, and people will wonder once again how we have come to lose our way so badly.