McCain: Army Handgun Selection Process ‘Wasteful’

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posted on November 2, 2015
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In a report issued last week, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee suggested the U.S. Army’s current method for replacing the Beretta M9 service pistol should be scrapped and the selection process simplified before bids are solicited from manufacturers. 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) blasted the Army’s Modular Handgun System, or MHS, and recommended it eliminate its current plan until it specifies a caliber and ammunition type. The Oct. 29 report criticizes the effort as a “costly misfire” and maintains the Army has taken “10 years and wasted potentially tens of millions of dollars in order to purchase simple handguns.” 

“The Army plans to conduct ‘an open caliber competition,’ which means the choice of caliber is left up to the discretion of industry. But the caliber of the cartridge and the type of bullet it launches is arguably the most important performance component of the handgun,” states the latest in McCain’s “America's Most Wanted: Indefensible” report series. 

The Army has been moving toward replacing the M9 Beretta handgun, the branch’s official sidearm since 1985, for nearly three years. It announced the MHS competition with a Request for Information from industry in January 2013. A draft solicitation was issued in September, 2014. In January 2015 the Army announced it was delaying the release of a much-anticipated request for proposals (RfP) for the replacement sidearm. 

After multiple delays and false starts, the Army formally launched its XM17 MHS competition in late August by offering gun makers the opportunity to supply the replacement pistol. However, some major U.S. firearms manufacturers have expressed doubt they would participate in the cumbersome process of competing for the government contract. 

“The Army should suspend or cancel the current [request for proposal] until it can conduct a caliber study to determine what caliber and cartridge is optimum for the next handgun to meet current and emerging threats,” the Arizona Senator’s report stated. 

However, Military.com reports the Army maintains it adopted the requirement for a new modular handgun from the Air Force in October 2013. In January 2014, based on validation that both requirements and adequate resources existed, the Army initiated the XM17 MHS program, according to a written response by Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jesse Stalder.

“The Modular Handgun System Acquisition Strategy has been designed to afford all potential vendors the maximum opportunity to submit multiple proposals, featuring both the handgun and ammunition, to promote consideration of a wide-range of available technologies,” said Stalder.

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