Weapons: Reviving the .45

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June 20, 2006: The U.S. Department of Defense is looking for a new " Joint Combat Pistol" (JCP) to replace the current M9 9mm weapon. But there are already a number of semi-automatic pistols on the commercial market that arguably meet most, if not all, of the specifications. The M9, a 9mm Pistol with a 15-round magazine, was selected to replace the .45 caliber M1911 after a competition that took years (from the late 1970s until the Beretta 92FS was chosen in 1985). That choice has caused a lot of controversy. The first contest, run by the Air Force, was disputed by the Army, which ran four separate trials from 1981 to 1985, and involved off-the-shelf pistols from FN, Smith and Wesson, and SIG-Sauer. The M9 comes in at a unit cost of $263 a pistol (retail price is higher at $691). The current JCP program was slated to take a shorter period of time (responses to a requirement for 50,000 pistols - down from a requirement of 645,000 - were to be submitted by June 7 from a RFP dated August 10, 2005), and a decision will come after tests. But which commercial pistols might be considered?

Para-Ordnance of Canada has been making a wide range of pistols firing the .45 ACP round. These pistols have come in four sizes, from subcompacts to full-sized pistols, starting with the P14.45 in 1990 (along with a smaller pistol known as the P12.45). Many of the pistols in Para-Ordnance's 2006 catalog come with 12 or 14-round magazines standard, and these pistols are largely within the size limits of the specifications of the Joint Combat Pistol. These pistols cost anywhere from $829 to $899 retail.

Another manufacturer, who already has provided a pistol firing the .45 ACP round, is Heckler and Koch. The Mk 23 SOCOM, with a 12-roundmagazine and the ability to carry a silencer, is about as off-the-shelf as one could get. This pistol was based on the Heckler and Koch USP45, which has been available for the civilian and law enforcement markets. The cost per pistol, though, is over $2400 for the Mk 23, and only about 7500 pistols were acquired after a five-year gestation from requirement (1991) to service (1996). The USP45 comes much cheaper, at a retail price of $827 - or about one-third the cost of the SOCOM model.

Glock also has a .45 ACP pistol, the Glock 21. Glock has widespread acceptance among the civilian and law-enforcement markets (including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration). The Glock 21 has a 13-round magazine. The only negative for Glock in the Joint Combat Pistol competition is its lack of an external safety. That said, Glock pistols have proven to be very durable, which is a good thing for military service, and they only cost $700.

Springfield Armory also has a pair of .45 ACP pistols coming out. These two pistols each have 13-round magazines, the difference being in their barrels (one has a four-inch barrel, the other a five-inch barrel). Like the Glock, these pistols also lack external safeties. These pistols also come cheap ($559 for the four-inch barrel, $595 for the five-inch barrel).

If SOCOM (Special Operations Command), which is handling the selection of the Joint Combat Pistol, is looking for possibilities with little or no development time, one of these might be the basis of the military's next pistol. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 


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