New military gun, history shows new civilian gun to follow

The Beretta M9 Handgun

According to The Atlantic, the U.S. Army plans to select a new standard-issue handgun. If history is a guide, similar pistols will soon start appearing at gun stores, crime scenes, and even in the movies.

Gun makers will compete for the U.S. Army contract, striving to make a weapon more powerful and accurate.  The U.S. Army will soon issue design requirements for a new standard issue handgun.  Many think the upgrade is long overdue.  However, the last time the military choose a new gun, similar weapons appeared in the consumer market.  The result was a rise in multiple gunshot civilian shootings.

Studying the D.C. area in the 1980s, Daniel Webster of John Hopkins University noticed more patients were arriving at the emergency room with multiple bullet wounds. During that same period, the Joint Services Small Arms Program asked the firearms industry to develop a handgun with more capacity.  After analyzing prototypes, Beretta won the contract and the Army ordered more than 300,000 M9 pistols.  To meet demand, the production site was moved to Maryland.

Beretta already offered a nearly identical handgun to civilians, the Model 92FS.  There were also other high capacity guns on the market but none took hold like the Berretta.  Thanks to the film industry, it became a pop culture icon.  Stars like Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris wielded the gun in their high intensity action movies.

The Atlantic reported that most of the manufacturers that had competed with Beretta for the military contract redesigned their prototypes and offered them for commercial sale.  The new guns hit the streets running, during the height of the crack epidemic and the era of drive-by shootings.

Although military contracts drive innovations that make guns more lethal, the same contracts can also produces advances in safety through design and law.  In 1994 Congress adopted an assault-weapon ban that capped magazines to 10 rounds.  However when the ban expired in 2004, guns with 15 rounds or more capacity were used in mass shootings like the Virginia Tech massacre and the attempted assassination of Representative Gifford.

Whatever new handgun the Army chooses to replace the M9, it will be destined to fire a more powerful cartridge than the Beretta’s 9mm. No matter how long it takes the Army to select a winning design and contract, there is one thing for sure.  Once they do, you can expect to find an almost exact replica in the consumer market too.


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