Weapons: The Immortal M9


April 30, 2007: Congress has told the U.S. Air Force that they cannot go ahead and buy a new pistol, to replace the 9mm M9 everyone in the Department of Defense has been using for the past two decades. Congress told the air force to get with the other services and come up with a new pistol for everyone. That's what everyone has been trying to do, without much success, for the last few years.

Numerous and frequent complaints from the troops have the U.S. Department of Defense looking for a new pistol to replace the current M9 9mm weapon. It's not just nostalgia. When the U.S. switched over from the .45 caliber M1911 pistol, to the M9 in the 1980s, SOCOM (Special Operations Command) went to Heckler and Koch for a more powerful pistol. What resulted as the Mk 23 SOCOM. This .45 caliber pistol has a 12-round clip and the ability to carry a silencer. It is based on the Heckler and Koch USP45, which has been available for the civilian and law enforcement markets. The fact that there are several larger (than 9mm) caliber pistols out there for the law enforcement market gives you a hint at what is going on here.

It comes down to this. Most of the military people issued a pistol, will rarely have to use it. But those who do, like Special Forces, want more firepower than a 9mm round can deliver. The 9mm has been popular with police forces that don't encounter much opposition. But when the other guy is likely to shoot back, you want as much knock down power as you can get. Thus cops who shoot a lot, prefer 10mm and larger calibers (like the 11.4mm .45). The Special Forces, and SOCOM in general, have the authority to get any weapons they think they need, with no interference from anyone. SOCOM has lots of small unit operations that use pistols. The SOCOM operators believe that the 9mm pistol is not adequate, thus the adoption of the Mk23.

Many key members of Congress are determined that the Department of Defense will not end up with several different new pistols. If they don't like the M9, then agree on a new one. But so far, the services have not been able to agree. Thus the saga continues.


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