Army says its new Sig Sauer handgun has some serious reliability problems

The crowned victor in the Army and Air Force’s convoluted Modular Handgun competition is proving to be a royal headache, with several complaints arising concerning reliability issues with the M17 handgun.

The pistol -a military variant of the Sig Sauer P320- was chosen to be the new replacement for the Beretta M9, which has been in service for over thirty years and is starting to show signs of age across the Armed Forces.

The MHS competition came down to two finalists- the Glock 17/19 MHS and the P320. However, the 320 was chosen before trials could even be completed, causing many in the Glock camp to cry of foul play or internal politics influencing the decision.

Following the decision, sales of the P320 boomed -and so did several reports of quality control issues, including accounts of P320s that would “go off” when dropped and failure for the slide to lock to the rear after all rounds were expended.

According to one report, repair and design changes by Sig Sauer seemingly created new problems.

“During drop testing in which an empty primed cartridge was inserted, the striker struck the primer causing a discharge,” the report read. “SIG SAUER implemented an Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) to correct this deficiency by implementing lightweight components in the trigger group mechanism. This fix may have contributed to the splintering of two triggers during the [testing].”

A more curious defect seems to be that of “double ejections,” where an unspent round is ejected along with the expended brass casing that had just been fired.

“Both the XM17 and XM18 pistols [compact and full-size variants] experienced double-ejections where an unspent ball round was ejected along with a spent round,” the report added. “Due to the increased frequency of occurrence during Product Verification Test (PVT), the Army stood up a root cause analysis team to identify the cause of the double ejections in parallel with continued PVT. As of this report, this analysis is still ongoing.”

In short, it seems that like most DoD pet projects of the 21st Century, a product was greenlit for acquisition -at great cost- before proper testing and subsequent re-design periods could be conducted.

However, one issue could be seen as a silver lining- the Sigs perform better with hollow point ammunition than with the traditionally-used ball ammunition, which has been largely hated and deemed ineffective by combat troops, particularly in the Global War on Terror era.

With this in mind, the US military could begin fielding 147 grain hollow points as a standard load for the new 9mm platform (the US was not a signatory of the 1899 Hague Convention and, while they have traditionally followed the protocol, is not forbidden from using hollow point ammunition), offering new levels of battlefield lethality to sidearms.

That is, if they can get them to function properly.

The issues likely come as bittersweet news for Glock, who lost the competition and was rejected yet again after filing a protest with the Accountability Office in 2017. While Glock 19s are standard issue for several special operations forces in the US military (including the US Army Rangers and the Navy SEALs), the loss of the MHS contract was no doubt a blow to the company, though the current ability to say “I told you so” might come as a small consolation.

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