Weapons: Who Makes the Best 9?


February9, 2007: Which is the best 9mm handgun in service? Handguns are nowhere near as effective as rifles in combat, but they still have their uses, so this matter is relevant for troops. The bullets from handguns are much slower (about half as fast) than rifles.

A number of nine-millimeter service pistols are in service. In general, these pistols weigh around two pounds, are about seven-and-a-half to nine inches long, with a barrel about four to five inches long, and usually hold anywhere from 12 to 18 rounds. There are several 9mm pistols in wide service, that can be considered candidates for the best in class.

The Browning Hi-Power (or GP35) is in service with the United Kingdom, and carries 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). This design has been around for a long time, and was widely used by forces on both sides of World War II.. It will be sticking around for a long time to come, continuing in service around the world.

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 trigger 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 (11.4mm) pistol.

Germany's Heckler and Koch makes the USP, which comes in nine millimeter, .40 S&W (10mm), and .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 .40 Smith and Wesson). Aside from its polymer frame, the Glock's other feature is its ability to function like a revolver - to operate it, one just has to aim and pull the trigger.

The nine-millimeter round is kind of weak, especially in the full metal jacket configuration required by the Hague Convention. As a result, the United States Special Operations Command has used the Mk 23 SOCOM, a variant of the USP that fires the .45 ACP round and has a 12-shot clip. The .45 ACP's full-metal-jacket round is felt by many to perform much better in combat situations. The Marine Corps uses an upgraded M1911 called the M1911 MEU(SOC), which has an eight-round clip. American law enforcement agencies use a variety of pistols, from makers like Sig Sauer, Colt, Springfield, and Smith and Wesson. The American law enforcement scene also uses a variety of calibers besides nine-millimeter, not just the .45 ACP, but also the .357 SIG, .40 S&W, 10mm Auto, and the new .45 GAP.

The best of these nine-millimeter pistols is probably the Glock. It is a simple pistol, and very reliable. Glock has done some pretty extreme torture tests on the pistol, and it has continued to perform. The Glock is also widely used, so in the case of a failure, spare parts can easily be acquired. It has worked well in its twenty-two year history for numerous military and law-enforcement customers. It has arguably become the standard by which other pistols are to be judged. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)


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