Weapons: January 19, 2005


: Who's got the best nine-millimeter pistols? Which is the best handgun for military service? Before we get going, it should be noted, that handguns are nowhere near as effective as rifles in combat. The bullets from handguns are much slower (1000-1200 feet per second) than rifles (which go from 2,400-3,600 feet per second).

A number of nine-millimeter service pistols are in service. In general, these pistols are around two pounds, about seven-and-a-half to nine inches long, with a barrel about four to five inches long, and usually hold at anywhere from 12 to 18 rounds. Some of the major designs are;

The Browning Hi-Power (or GP35) is in service with the United Kingdom, and carried thirteen rounds. The British have used this pistol for decades, and it was what the SAS carried in the takedown of six terrorists at the Iranian embassy in 1980. It was designed by the legendary John Moses Browning (who also designed the famous Colt M1911 and the Browning BAR). There are no real bugs in this single-action design (the operator must cock the pistol before the first shot can be fired), and it will be sticking around for a long time. It has already been around for a long time it was widely used by forces on both sides of World War II.

The U.S. military primarily uses the Beretta 92 (designated the M9). It is a double-action design, which does not require cocking for the first shot but there is a long tripper pull for the first shot, and a short pull for the second shot (an operator does have the option of cocking the pistol). It has a clip of 15 rounds, and drew controversy when it replaced the M1911, a .45-caliber pistol. Brazil and Egypt both make licensed copies of this pistol.

Germanys Heckler and Koch makes the USP, which comes in nine-millimeter, 10mm .40 S&W, and 11.4mm .45 ACP. It comes in a choice of double-action or double-action-only (which requires a long trigger pull each time). The nine-millimeter version in service with the German Army has a 15-round clip.

Perhaps the most notorious nine-millimeter pistol is the Glock 17. This pistol was designed by Gaston Glock and has spawned a family of over twenty pistols in various sizes. The Glock 17 is in service with Austria and Norway, and Glock has a huge following among law enforcement agencies around the world, albeit not all of them use nine-millimeter (the FBI, for instance, uses the Glock 22 and Glock 23 in 10mm .40 Smith and Wesson). Aside from its polymer frame, the Glocks other feature is its ability to function like a revolver just aim, and pull the trigger.

The nine-millimeter round is kind of weak, and the United States Special Operations Command has used the Mk 23 SOCOM, a variant of the USP that fires the 11.4mm .45 ACP round and has a 12-shot clip. This is very understandable. The .45 ACPs full-metal-jacket round is felt to perform better in combat situations. The Marine Corps uses an upgraded M1911 called the M1911 MEU(SOC) has an eight-round clip.

The best of these nine-millimeter pistols is probably the Glock. It is a simple pistol, and very reliable (with only 33 parts). It is also widely used, so in the case of a failure, spare parts can easily be acquired. It also has the highest ammunition capacity of these pistols. It has worked well in its twenty-year history for numerous military and law-enforcement customers. What is most impressive about the Glock 17 is that it was the first gun designed by that company, which has primarily made field knives and entrenching tools. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)


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