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Responding to the recent posts about the Army’s Modular Handgun System and MARSOC’s choice to move to the GLOCK 19, many of TTAG’s commenters have stated that the pistol isn’t important to the service member, or that things have to get really bad for the service member to need a handgun.

On the contrary, the service pistol is more important than ever.

First, there is the simple reality that it’s faster to transition to your sidearm than to exchange your rifle magazine or to fix a malfunction. Today’s military operations include the cordon and search of urban areas, much of it inside homes and other structures. During these operations, if the enemy is close at hand and you are pouring out rounds to either kill them or break contact, the best thing to do when that M4 fails to fire is to let it hang on its sling, draw your sidearm, and keep putting rounds on target.

When my training changed to immediately transition instead of loading a new magazine or performing SPORTS, I strongly resisted the change. I just couldn’t see how drawing my pistol and firing was faster or more effective. But repeated, exhaustive trails proved that it certainly is. Especially inside a room, I could draw my M9 and fire far faster than I could exchange a magazine, no matter how much I drilled to change a magazine quickly.

Next, the reality is that sometimes you’re only going to be using one hand. For a medic, like me, this was often the case. There were times in combat where I was dragging someone, or kneeling down and holding pressure, that I just didn’t have two hands to spare.

The same could be true for any soldier or Marine. All buildings aren’t entered through a door. Some are entered through a window, some over a wall, some under a fence. During these times, the pistol in your hand is absolutely necessary. For anyone who’s ever climbed a ladder to get over a mud-hut wall, those last couple of rungs before the top can be pretty hairy, and your pistol needs to be in your hand, a role the service rifle can’t fill.

Finally, the US embeds thousands of servicemen with host nation militaries and police units. My job during my tours in Afghanistan was that of “military advisor.” My team and I not only trained and fought next to, but ate with and lived with the men we were assigned to.

Most of the time, I didn’t have my M4 on me, but I was never without my M9, and it was usually concealed. The need for the M9 was there, not because of the external threat of the Taliban, but because of the internal threat of the other members of the Afghan military and police forces I lived and trained with.

The reality is that, although the vast majority were solid patriots, others were either directly on the other side or would quickly switch sides for cash. Our host nation counterparts could, and did turn on us at times, and the pistol needed to be at hand and ready to deal with those threats.

The bottom line: the pistol isn’t an afterthought. It’s a vital weapon and often the only one available to the service member. So it’s important that the military gets that weapon right.

As an aside, in many cultures, the sidearm is only given to officers and is more often used for impromptu summary execution, (something I have personally witnessed), than for any kind of actual combat. The pistol then has a very different meaning to much of the members of the military there, as well as the civilians.

Holding your rifle means you are ready to fight. Drawing your pistol means you came to kill. I’ve personally witnessed one of my team’s officers sling his M4 and draw his pistol, eliciting an immediate attitude change in the Afghan man he was speaking with.

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  1. As an M1 Tank crewman my primary dismounted weapon is the M9, not the M4, even though we train and qualify with both. Also, when I was deployed to Kosovo as an LMT, we weren’t authorized to carry rifles or wear armor and were required to conceal our M9s as much as possible. I used to joke with my guys that if the fecal matter hit the rotating oscillator, the M9 was so useless we’d be better off dropping the mag and throwing it at the hostiles as we ran for the truck…

    I have no particular love or hatred for the M9 but I certainly want to be able to engage effectively with my primary weapon. The M9 is effective enough for now, but we need something better. Saying we don’t need a handgun is inaccurate, ignorant of the facts, and ultimately puts lives at risk.

  2. This is true. Iraqis could care less if you put an M4 or AK in their face. But a pistol or shotgun they sang a different tune.

    • That’s because Spider-hole Saddam killed his whole Olympic Swimming team with an M9. Word gets around. Shotguns were the same way, people knew what an M9 could do, they saw enough M16’s and M4’s walking around to know that the U.S. had one hand handcuffed to their ankle with regard to rules of engagement and escalation of force procedures. When the Iraqi’s saw a shotgun they got antsy.

      I’m not saying to give every servicemen a rifle and a pistol and good ammo, but if you issue a rifle a pistol is the mating-pair.

      When you DE-MOB out of a forward combat area, and they take your weapons [that you’ve been carrying ~ 9 mos.] away, you will wake up the next morning and nearly pee-the-bed when you immediately notice your weapons are gone (before you remember where they went). It’s sad, it’s tough to convince your brain that you had to do it, travel back home without them seems stupid and you feel naked and vulnerable for no reason. I bet that’s where PTSD really comes from.

      • I think it REALLY depends on your MOS. 03s? Sure, they could use them. For most of us POGs, however, it’s just an extra piece of kit to carry and take care of that we will probably never use. Keep in mind that a 1911 weighs 2.5 lbs EPMTY, and an M9 is actually a bit heftier. That’s 2.5 lbs on a load that could be better used carrying gear primary to the task of the Marine or Soldier in question. It might not sound like much, but you’re talking about 5% of a typical combat load’s total weight. (To put things in perspective, your standard ammunition load for your M4 comes in at ~7lbs.) Unfortunately, you have to keep size and weight considerations in mind any time you add a piece of kit to your standard load because at the end of the day, it’s always a zero sum game.

        • I guess that is where the Glock 19 shines. It is a lot lighter than either the 1911 or the Beretta, and it is still a very capable handgun.

        • Indeed. That’s why my “social work” gun is now a G34 rather than the P220 that’s been riding on my battle belt for several years. I now have twice the magazine capacity and a light for about the same weight.

        • Nah, Reservists are always slightly ‘overweight’ compared to regular Active Duty, and a human can ‘comfortably’ carry 1/3 of his [as a general pronoun] body weight when “humping” his gear, and 1/5 in Team America Beast Mode. Therefore gear favors the “fat”, or “prosperous” as we liked to say.

          The first day spent someplace sh_tty with your new-ish set of SAPI plates, you wondered why it felt like mountain climbing trying to get in your truck or turret. Those whom you replaced in place (RIPd) just said, suck it up, it’ll get easier, and you told the people who RIPd you the same thing as you looked at them fumbling around in their ‘heavy’ gear.
          Again, “war” ain’t ccw, you LIVE with it, it goes with you to the shower (I lay my M203 across the top of the shower and clipped my pistol belt around it) and did my business. I slept on the thing, and on our crew-serves. I walked to and from chow and everywhere else with it. I once even did the readings for Catholic services in a nice AF Chapel on the S.W.-ish Corner of Al Asad, AFB, Iraq. The Chaplain (Priest) said, “son, we have a weapons rack at the back of the chapel, you can put your weapons down if you’d like”. I’d just gotten off the road about 20 min. earlier, and I said “sorry, no I can’t Father, and if the shit hits the fan, I’ll throw you an extra mag, but don’t come for one of the five weapons I got on me”. He just smiled and asked me to do the readings.

      • Yeah. After Iraq my sleep actually improved when I got home and could sleep next to my gun again. Funny being a civilian I’m better armed than when I was in the army.

        • This is how its supposed to be in America.

          Those times when you flip shit looking for your weapons cards only to remember you are home on leave and your SQL/SNCO has them.

    • “…Iraqis could care less…”

      they could care less? then good!

      would definitely be worse if they couldn’t care less.

  3. “I’ve personally witnessed one of my team’s officers sling his M4 & draw his pistol, eliciting an immediate attitude change in the Afghan man he was speaking with.”

    Precisely why we need, and should have, the strongest military on the planet.

    • And precisely why they should never be deployed anywhere outside the borders of the United States for our army or outside the Western Hemisphere for the Navy. Policing the world is not the responsibility of the American tax payer.

      • Policing is a broke (D)I<k term. The U.S. NAVY PROJECTS POWER. And that is the job of the American Taxpayer, the NAVY just does it for you.

        You don't have any friends who you can't help in a pinch to pull some POS liberal_progressive_communist_globalist (D) off their back, and you can't do that flat footed INCONUS or just in the Western hemisphere.

        Friends or not, you don't have any "allies" that you cannot do the same for. And you cannot protect any allies [whether Ohole thinks their on the map or not].

      • If we don’t take on the role of “big brother, enforcer, defender of the free, etc” then there will be a lot more of the types of incidents like 9-11. There is a certain group of people that hate our mere existence and want nothing more than to destroy us and our way of life. Without the threat of retribution or worse then they have free reign to attack us at will. Besides, if our military did not deploy and defend our interests and those of our allies abroad then where would they be? Here at home? Doing what? Defending what? Enforcing what? Our own military should NEVER be used as an enforcement tool of the federal government on US soil against it’s own citizens. NEVER.

        • Strangely enough, noone halfway around the world from them, seem to hate the mere existence and want nothing more than to destroy them and their way of life when it comes to the Tuvaluans or the Norwegians. Despite neither having much in the way of a Navy out there “projecting power.” It doesn’t seem like the Tuvaluans inability to exact retribution, has rendered them that likely to be hated and attacked.

          People don’t just wake up hating you, unless you first make them well aware that you actually exist. If America never had a standing army nor navy nor much of anything, instead relying on a rifle (or nuke) behind every blade of grass, there wouldn’t even be anything coherent for anyone to “hate,” as “America” wouldn’t be anything more unified, than a faraway place on a map where cool stuff originated and that everyone wanted to move to.

          Heck, we don’t even have any freedoms left to hate us for anymore, except the “freedom” to crawl on our knees and engage in various rituals designed to worship the progressive triumvirate of politicians, lawyers and banksters. While back when we still did have some freedoms, under Jefferson, people on the opposite side of the planet, somehow did not just randomly wake up and decide to hate us.

        • Stuki. That ship, pun intended, has sailed. We’re hated and have been for generations. We disarm now and we get clobbered. That’s the reality.

        • He didn’t say anything about disarming. But why go overseas looking for enemies, when you have a fortress with two oceans for walls?

  4. Excellent points John, but let’s be honest, what percentage of our troops are EVER issued pistols? Unless this has changed drastically as of late, it’s entirely possible for a Marine to go their entire career without being issued a sidearm (especially if they are in a non 03 MOS and don’t make E6.)

    • “Meh, it’s a sidearm that a Raider will practically never use.” It is important, I think, that you specified Raider there.

      • I regret the above post. It serves little constructive purpose. I am sort of on autopilot in the morning and it is in my nature to drag up possible contradictions pretty much reflexively.

      • I stand by my original statement. In most of the situations described above, details like caliber and stopping power are secondary to being available and easy to use.

        • My opinion is that, special ops soldiers should not have to carry a weapon chosen by bureaucrats when they could without very much stress on the logistics system carry the weapon they think is most appropriate for the mission they are on. I posit that they are likely qualified to make the decision and have earned a little extra flexibility.

        • Agreed, but let’s be honest, they already have a great deal of latitude in gear selection. It’s why you never see a Mk23 outside of an armory.

    • I get that for non combat MOS, but as infantry it was comforting to have a back up. And it served a very important role for our machinegunners to have, far more than anyone else probably. You can’t lug a 240B around a make shift combat outpost or FOB like a rifle. So ussually that weapon is put up or under guard. Also in combat if the MG goes down for whatever reason at least your MGer has some kind of gun.

    • “Excellent points John, but let’s be honest, what percentage of our troops are EVER issued pistols? ”
      Every solider I deployed with was issues a pistol. When I was temporarily assigned to MARFOR SOUTH, every one of the marines I was with had a pistol.

  5. Another former M1 crewman here. I think for normal infantry or cavalry operations it’s largely unneeded. I did a lot of walking since our unit decided to skip on the tanks and any time spent with the m9 was wasted weight. Not disputing your points since they’re valid but SF operations are the minority when it comes to arming the rest of the military. Unlike the above commenter our unit had us in body armor and schlepping our m4 in and out of the tank. Interesting take on the pistol debate none-the-less.

    • Glad to see another strapped booter here!

      I should probably clarify that during Armor maneuvers we were often fully-loaded with body armor and M4s also. Honestly, for our ARNG unit it mostly depends on what phase of our deploy/reset cycle it is. The closer to MOB/Deployment, the heavier and more extensive out load is. That said, once on the ground in Kosovo (KFOR16) the only time we saw our rifles for more than a few hours was when we made sure they were cleaned before going back Stateside. Our M9s were on us 24/7 though.

      I still think the old adage applies: I’d rather have it and not need it…

  6. yep,the NY reload is definitely faster than a normal mag change. the pistol is only to last you long enough to get to your rifle. so sounds like its still used that way.

  7. In my time very few of us were issued pistols. Officers, senior nco’s and machine gunners were the norm. But we all had an abiding fear and mistrust of the m16. We did what we could to arm ourselves with a back up. My first sidearm was a Russian tt33 with a GI issued pilots chest holster. I replaced that with a Dick Special.

    Somebody smarter than me said that a pistol did not win wars. It did not win battles. What it could do was save the individual soldier. That was good enough for me.

    • I also didn’t trust my M16. And 45 years later I don’t own an AR.

      I’m also not a fan of gadgets. I’ll take iron sights any day.

      My comfort came from an 1911 in my M7 shoulder holster.

      I’ll keep my Ed Brown’s and my old Colt’s and you can keep your polymer pistol with your bucket of bullets.

      Why are we trending back to the 9mm? Today the ammo is better? Right.

      • Today the ammo is good enough. And we now have a sufficiently large body of data available, to back that up.

        It won’t remain good enough forever, though. Improved weapons tolerances/inherent accuracy, along with more accurate sighting systems, perhaps along with body armor concerns, will at some point bring flatter shooting bottlenecks to the fore, for sidearms as well. Just as it once did for rifles.

  8. JWT, well written. You highlighted all the points that I considered when I read the comments in the referenced article. Your analysis is highly accurate and practical.

    Very few people have any idea what it is like to be deployed to Iraq today. The Iraq of pre-2012 is not the Iraq of post-2014. Too many people that have combat experience in Iraq that frequent TTAG are projecting their experiences on what they think is going on over here today. The majority of armed forces in the current fight against ISIS are carrying pistols. Not 100% of all enlisted soldiers are, but certainly a majority. Also, this is very much a Special Operations fight. I can tell you that whether in full kit, or civvies with concealed holsters, there are more pistols being carried than most would believe.

  9. It’s not that the pistol isn’t important, it’s just not as big of a deal as people are making it out to be. There were plenty of time that I was only armed with a M9 as a Navy Corpsman serving with the Marines, while I have no love for the M9, it did work, and as a 1911 fan boy I am sorry to see the 1911 go out of service. BUT, I get why it went out of service and I have to agree, the Glock 19 serves the Raiders better than the 1911 overall. I have a few friends who were at MARSOC, (before the name changes), and some were happy to get a 1911, only to get issued a G19. They were happy with it, enough so that they convinced me to buy a Glock 19 for myself. The Glock is lighter, carries more rounds, it’s cheaper to buy AND maintain, it also works well enough for what is needed. Sure, a few people over there aren’t happy about it, but no one is saying it’s the end of the world, except for the people who aren’t in that unit and have to post “stopping power” every 5 minutes online.

  10. This gives me more respect for my sidearm. The question I had was you personally witnesses summary executions? You must have had an interesting time over there. I would like to hear the rest of that story.

    • PaulID, I’ll try to make a longish story short.
      Assigned to an Afghan National Police unit in 2009, I was driving with my NCOIC in our 1151, with the police chief and an interpreter in the truck, with other vehicles in our little convoy as we drove up to the gate of a check point. When we pulled up, the metal bar did not raise, and no one came out of the guard shack. The chief (a man I would grow to deeply respect) got out of the vehicle and walked up to the guard shack. The guard inside was visible, seated, and obviously sleeping on guard.
      The police chief pulled out his Makarov, put it to the sleeping guard’s heart, and without pause or hesitation of any kind, pulled the trigger.
      We all kind of freaked out, and the chief just turned and said “you would do the same for me.”
      No, no we would not. We’d write him a stern warning or make him do some extra duty or maybe, just maybe, dock him some pay. But the chief didn’t play that game, and for endangering him and his guest (us), the sentence was death.

      • Wow, that’s fucking insane, you should send the guy a threaded barrel and a silencer for his Mak so next time he can be a little quieter. A friend of a friend of mine served for a long time, numerous deployments, went real deep down the Ranger track and wound up with a big award and really bad injury before it was all through. Him and his guys mostly left the sidearms alone, said the extra weight was not worth the trouble, said that if shit got so bad he had to transition to his sidearm because of a malfunction, it was probably game over anyway and preferred to have extra mags on him, said he could reload faster than draw a pistol. He was a little old school though, and war doctrine is constantly evolving so YMMV.

        • * and when I say the guy went deep, I mean fucking deep, him and his little team of pipehitters were given their own Stryker to roll around Iraq in and it was common place for them to be loaded on a chopper and not told details about where they were going unless absolutely necessary. At least that’s how the story got to me second hand.

        • JOshua. You know the difference in a fairy tale and a war story?

          A fairy tale starts out…”Once upon a time….”

          A war story starts out…”This is no shit,man…”

        • jwm,
          Yeah, well, once upon a time, I heard a story about some spooky type dudes that if “they” were so inclined, then “they” could interrogate you and then wipe your memory. The only signs that you might be left with that said interrogation took place would be some loss of time, maybe, assuming you didn’t just wake up in your own bed. Better not to attract the attention of “they” in the first place, if you can help it. But now I’m digressing into some real Oliver Stone, Jesse Ventura level type conspiracy stuff, when the closest I’ve ever been to a real warzone is playing C.O.D. on my ps3. No shit, man.

        • * I’m just gonna shut the fuck up now and let the big boys do all the bragging…er…I mean, talking, just gonna let the big boys do all the talking, yeah that’s it. Keep your head on a swivel boys.

  11. I was in Golf 2/24 USMCR 0311 (basic rifleman) grunt from 1994-1999. I shot the M16A2, M249, M240G, M203, M2, Mk19, the AT-4, and threw hand grenades. I never once shot the M9, even as a platoon sergeant.

    However, I’d be happy to have a Glock 19 as a backup to my rifle. Clearing a jam can be as quick as Tap Rack Bang, or it can take a lot longer. That’s time you don’t have in an unfriendly environment.

    Hopefully there are decent JHPs making their way out to the fleet. Otherwise that 15 +1 capacity with reloads is going to be needed even more than a 2 & 1 triple tap. Hope their are night sights and lights on those guns, too. Target ID is important.

    • As long as our politicians and military insist on slavishly adhering to a Declaration to the Hague Convention that the US rejected, our men in the field will not receive all the quality ammo that they need and deserve.

  12. I know that this is unlikely, but I have always been of the opinion that all “fighters” should be issued their rifle/carbine/ AND a pistol. If they’re going to be fightin bad guys, they should have a backup.

    Always struck me as odd. Give the guys the best chance of staying alive and killing the bad guys- thus winning the war and keeping our side whole.

  13. I’d be interested to know who in the military is issued a sidearm these days. When I was in the Army in Vietnam, only our CO had a pistol. I knew some tank guys had pistols, but generally speaking, if you weren’t an office or chopper pilot, you had an M-16 or an M-79 grenade launcher AND an M-16. Is it different now? Ordinary infantry grunts have pistols?

    If everyone gets a sidearm, then of those I own (Colt XSE, Glock 19, SA XDM-45, and Sig P227), if I could choose, I’d take my Sig P227 with extended 14 round (.45acp) magazines. If limited to 9mm, the G19 with added thumb safety is a great compromise. That’s my concealed carry pistol. Small, light, but still a 4″ barrel, 15 round mag, and full 3-finger grip. About 60% of the weight of an M-9.

    • Navy quarterdeck watches, peer watches, and topside rovers are all issued sidearms. Topside rover gets a rifle (M16) and M9. The others get M9s. In an emergency situation, one of the quarterdeck watches may get an M500 and M9. Navy VBSS and Ship Emergency Reactionary Force (SERF) get M9s and M4s. Not every SERF member may get an M4, and one or two may get an M500 (if any).

    • At least in the combat units I’ve served with, everyone carried a sidearm, but I’ve never served in anything other than a “far forward’ position.

  14. When I imagine being a Marine at the Chosin Reservoir, I think my morale and survival chances would have been boosted by a Glock 21 or 19 with two spare magazines.
    Many of the complaints here are about the weight of the M9 and 1911. The G19 is just 21 oz., unloaded. Problem solved ?

    • The Marines at Chosin had M-1s and M1911s. They did right for themselves. You are extrapolating from a private citizen’s 1 on 1 view of engagements. Even at the squad level the differences in capacity wash out. The squad rate of fire with an M-1 is not significantly less than that of one equipped with an M-4. The squad automatic weapon be it the M1919, M-60 or SAW provides over half the rounds going down range in an infantry squad.

  15. I always smirk when somebody trouts out the pistol as being a useless last resort, because it’s usually in tandem to when they are complaining or justifying the caliber of choice in said sidearm.

    That said, I’m fine with 9mm in the military. It represents spammable firepower where weight is a serious consideration. While DRT would be nice, I’d be content with just getting them to go f*ck off too. In civilian life where I’m not wearing a full rig and am expected to be the first responder, I run 45acp.

  16. Two is one and one is none I’ve heard it said. If I was in combat I would definitely have at least two guns on me. Maybe three.

  17. Back in the 80’s, when I worked at ONI, we used to joke that the Air Force was our real enemy because we competed for dollars with them. You could satisfy the Army’s desire for shiny new toys with out spending much. This is the entire point of the new pistol competition. The Army wants a shiny new toy. Accepting JW’s point as true doesn’t make the case for brand new pistol. 1911, M-9A3, Glock etc all will meet the basic requirement. So let’s just buy the latest and greatest Beretta because logistics train is already their and they have addressed all the A1s short comings.

  18. “First, there is the simple reality that it’s faster to transition to your sidearm than to exchange your rifle magazine or to fix a malfunction.”

    I can agree about the malfunction clearance, not sure I agree about a rifle mag change being slower than a pistol transition. I am thinking about a mag change from a competition mag holder ala 3 gun…maybe a soldier’s mag holder is more complex to remove the mag?
    Somebody must have made a timed video somewhere

    • It’s MUCH more complicated. The thing to keep in mind is that competition rigs are not designed for the sort of retention you have with closed top magazine pouches. While a lot of people have gone to bungee toped pouches to improve accessibility while maintaining good retention, it will never be as fast as pulling a magazine magazine clipped on your belt.

      Personally, I’m a big fan of closed top pouches because they help keep crud from building up by your magazine feed lips and possibly introducing said crud to your action. It may make the magazine harder to access, but I’ve seen what happens to an M16 when you shove in a magazine you just pulled from a pouch half filled with grit.

      • “I’ve seen what happens to an M16 when you shove in a magazine you just pulled from a pouch half filled with grit.”
        Which is to say… nothing happens.

        • Yeah… Not the experience I had. The top two rounds came out coated in a talcum powder consistency dust. It’s not common by any means, but it only takes one case of click – no bang to make you reconsider your life priorities.

      • Two serious questions:

        (1) Why not store your M4 magazines upside down so that they do not accumulate crud at the feed lips — or anywhere for that matter? (And don’t blob grease on your magzine feed lips so that crud doesn’t stick to them in the first place.)

        (2) Why not have one (and only one) emergency M4 magazine that is simply attached to the front of your vest with velcro that you can instantly access and insert into your rifle? Accessing it would consist of nothing more than ripping it off of your vest since there would be no straps, pouches, or flaps to deal with. And I say limit it to one so that you have only lost one magazine if it manages to peel itself off unintentionally and you lose it.

        • The answer to “Why not” is gravity, that pesky thing we have with us pretty much all the time. Gravity makes dirt, grit, leaves, and anything else which manages to infiltrate your magazine pouch fall to the bottom of it, where the top round and magazine lips are, generally fouling them and subsequently the chamber of your somewhat finicky M-16 or M-4. Really, it’s not so uncommon sense.

        • 1. The fine sand and dirt accumulates at the bottom of the pouch and pushes up into the magazine. I found my feed lips and first rounds stayed less gunked up if they were upright.
          2. That velcro’ed magazine will never be there. It gets ripped off when you are getting in and out of a vehicle, moving around buildings, searching cars and people…all the day to day stuff. That one “emergency” magazine will be the first thing that gets ripped off and gone in a fight.

    • “I can agree about the malfunction clearance, not sure I agree about a rifle mag change being slower than a pistol transition.”
      That’s the way I felt too, but I was wrong. Give it a shot yourself. The fastest magazine changes done by the pros aren’t as fast as the simple transition.

      • Maybe, but then you are left with approx 15 rounds of 9mm instead of approx 30 rounds of 5.56 and when it comes time to reload again, then what? If/when your m9 runs dry or malfunctions and you have to get back to your primary that could be kinda problematic too. You’re probably losing whatever time you gained in the first place. Not to mention moving with an m4 dangling and flopping and maybe catching on shit, depending on your sling set-up, isn’t ideal either.

        • *And while I defer to your personal experience as a medic, I worry about the cool guy factor clouding judgement. For awhile, everbody wanted a shorty, now a lot units realize it best to mix it up a bit. In far forward deployed units, or any unit really, guys need to pack for the mission. In some situations, like when an officer carries, to be used for effect, like you mentioned above, carrying a side arm certainly has merit. Also, sometimes a medic, for mobility like you mentioned. But that medic still has the weight of his now dangling m4 to contend with if dragging a body and whether one arming an m4 or using an m9, if you’re in the process of dragging a casualty, the most you can realisticlly hope for is that you are engaging in suppressive fire. So again, 15 rounds of 9mm while an m4 is slung or dangling, or, one arming an m4 with 30 rounds of 5.56 and no holster weight to flop and maybe catch or slung m4 to flop and catch. Hopefully if you are dragging a casualty your team is covering you anyway and you can use both hands and get the fuck back to solid cover to treat. If you do get stuck and have to dig in, an m4 beats an m9 every time, you can’t treat and shoot at the same time anyway and if you get real stuck you may want several extra m4 mags rather than several m9 mags and the extra weight of a 9mm. You make a good point about obstacles and ladders, hopefully your team provides cover, if you need a pistol and you dont have one, you could always borrow one from someone who does, say maybe one or two guys out of every 12 or so, because at the end of the day, the speed you save transitioning from primary to secondary only be if it’s a very small portion of the overall mission, namely kicking down doors, and even then, it only helps if your engagment is over by the time you have to reload your 15 rounds of m9, rather than your 30 rounds of 5.56. Weapons malfunctions are bitch, but if your primary is dirty, your secondary likely is too, hopefully you have a great armoror and good hygene, because there is a weight penalty with a sidearm and a sizable loss of firepower. Again YMMV.

      • JOshua, there are some realities to combat that don’t have the experience to consider. Chiefly, the most important thing in a gun fight is to have a gun. Those two seconds extra you use to change magazines are the 2 seconds someone is putting bullets into you. How many rounds of what caliber you have doesn’t matter when you are dead.

  19. Choice of pistol is important… to AF REMF like moi.

    In 2006 when I went to Iraq I was issued a pistol by the AF (no ammo which I had to scrounge in country). When I got to my unit in the Green Zone (near MoD for those who were ever there) guy I was replacing handed over his rifle to me and took off. When the Army, who ran my FOB, found out they took the rifle away and said if you need it we will issue it to you.

    This was after a battalion of Iraqi Army that was approximately 70% insurgents was almost assigned to the Green Zone. This was at a FOB that straight back from the gate by MOD to us was maybe 200 yards. If the fit hit the shan there would have been no time to issue me a rifle.

    My pistol and the 27 rounds of ammo I was able to scrounge was all I had to protect myself. I was not and am not an operator operating operationally but then and now I am fond of the life I have. Best pistol possible for the military because Fobbit Lives Matter.

  20. Sailors in the US Navy who participate in VBSS and/or SERF/BERF also appreciate the pistol. Those p-ways and compartments are narrow and cramped, and ladders are everywhere. The Navy doesn’t often issue more than the pistol for peer watches and quarter deck watches either.

  21. Ever seen a SAW gunner perform room clearance with his LMG? Yeah, some guys need pistols, preferably with extended mags. Even our interpreter knew the score in Afghanistan, he got himself a pistol from some ANP, it was bent but he was going to fix it.

    Pistols command fear and respect from the middle east because usually officers carried them.

    • Yup. I’ll +1 that. everyone in afghan owned a rifle of some sort… but hand guns were explicitly for officer use, and I guess after seeing lots of execution at the hands of the taliban or the Haqqani Network they’ve developed a cultural fear of handguns.

  22. “Next, the reality is that sometimes you’re only going to be using one hand.”

    Pfffftttttt. Just heft your minigun and fire one handed like Arnold Swarzenegger ala Predator or Commando or whatever.

  23. Although I never considered a pistol as a backup for mag switch (thanks for the tip JWT), NEVER went anywhere in the sandbox without my sidearm, usually concealed. Didn’t worry about side switching after G1, but fear of ambush making that right turn into camp Doha, 15 years later it happened.

    Not enough coin in the world to get me back on that side of our rock.

  24. Ok, so the handgun in the military has threat and operation specific roles, just like the shotgun does. That’s great, now I’d like to hear from those in the military which handgun they’d rather have. I assume they want as light a weight as possible and dead nuts reliable, but also has power to stop a threat and penetrate light cover. What’s the all around best to do this? 9mm, .40, .45, .357 Sig, 10mm Auto? Should the military stick with 9mm, go back to .45, or try something new?

  25. I don’t think sidearms are superfluous. Hardly.

    I just don’t see the need for the idiotic specification/development process happening for a new sidearm just now.

    Does the M9 work? Yep. Is the company that makes them still in business, supplying parts? Yep.

    Is the current pistol using the round that will likely be the next round selected by the US/NATO for sidearms? Yep.

    So… where does the need for a new pistol come from?

    When we went away from the 1911, a case could be made that a) the 1911’s in inventory were pretty well worn, and b) Colt and the other companies that had made them had allowed their tooling and production lines for these weapons to degenerate and fall idle – so there was a case to be made for at least a new primary contractor. A case could be made that the 9×19 round was in keeping with the 5.56 idea in rifles – more, smaller rounds – and it has lower recoil, is more readily available in supply chains, etc.

    None of those salient points can now be made. The current “modular” handgun selection process is about as useful as putting dump trucks full of cash in a pile and setting it alight. It’s just a way to hand out taxpayer monies to defense contractors & Beltway grifters.

    • Um… You do know that some of the M9s in inventory right now are older than the people they are being issued to? Right? Guns wear out. Especially issue guns. That means you need to buy new guns anyway. That being said, it makes sense to get the best available as you rotate inventory.

      • Yes. And last I looked, Beretta is still in business. We can get parts, we can refurb or replace what’s there. We have B-52’s flying that are old enough to be the pilots’ grandfathers. We’re still flying the wings off those things.

        There is no need to qualify a new pistol, let various single-source contracts, wait for the inevitable cluster-f to proceed for a new pistol to launch a 9×19 round when we already have a pistol that launches a 9×19 round. We have a pistol that launches a 9×19 round. The holsters are already in stock. The armorers already have the necessary toolkits, gages, etc to service M9’s. The training manuals are in place and on the shelf, etc.

        If the military wants to launch something other than 9×19 from a handgun, then we can talk about a new pistol.

        Otherwise, you have a 9×19 pistol with a “high capacity” magazine already in inventory: the M9.

        This is the sort of churlish scrivening you should learn to expect after military & beltway types have engaged in intellectual onanism like the OICWS. Oh, and some of us are old enough to remember the forerunner of the OICW, the ACR – also an exercise in piling up money and burning it. Some of us remember these small arms programs and their utter failure at great expense. If you’re going to keep handing out money to Beltway Bandits, after awhile, you can expect those of us who actually still pay taxes to become rather skeptical of these boondoggles – never mind such fantastic exercises in self-abuse like the F-35.

        • Yeah… The fact that you brought the F-35 into this conversation proves that…

          1. You’ve got an irrelevant axe to grind.
          2. You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

        • Yea, we’re $20 trillion in debt, with 10’s of trillions of unfunded liabilities on top of that, and I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about.


          But you still haven’t made a case why you (or any other taxpayer-funded agency) needs a NEW pistol to launch a 9×19 round, when the pistols you already have do the job. If they need new parts, then go get new parts. That’s what the armorer MOS is all about, right? Changing parts on weapons that are out of spec.

          So we get to the bottom line: you’re just like a little kid. You want a new toy, and anyone who gets in the way of you getting a new toy gets to hear your tantrum.

        • Ok…

          Your blatant bias is showing…

          1. If “I” want a “new toy” I go out and buy it. Uncle Sam hasn’t paid for my ammo in almost a decade.
          2. Most (80%+) of that debt and unfunded liabilities is from leftist vote buying programs. Get rid of them, and the US is solvent overnight.
          3. National defense is not where you cut corners, get back to me about trimming the DoD budget when welfare, social security, medicare, and medicaid don’t get one red cent. You voted for it and paid into it? Sucks to be you. It’s not my job to subsidize you bad decisions, go talk to your kids.
          4. Finally, the point is that you need to buy new pistols regularly anyway. What do you think an armorer can do about slide rails worn to twice their tolerance or a frame that’s so worn out it’s starting to crack? If you’re going to spend the money, get the better gun. (Oh, and Glocks are a shitload cheaper than new M9s.)

  26. Are pistols important? Based on comments, depends on job, area & what the alternatives are. Priority one is to those for whom it is the main weapon. Pilots, mp’s. Medics/medical, crew served systems, bomb techs, officers & the office folk. A rifle is not a real option and true PDW is not close by. Also these may not all be served by a full sized gun. Thus, the need for a compact frame module. Priority two is the Snipers & spec ops. The pistol is needed for defense/ offense use. They need the hi cap full size gun. They need supressors & tac lights. Then we get to joe blow infantry…… Better than a bayonet but the M-4 or Saw is the main fight tool. With armor, 80 lbs. Of crap and grenades, every joe blow does not get a pistol. The Sig 320 is the best way to go. Fits all needs and users with a simple frame/ barrel swap. Fits all hands, safer than the single action M45. Replaces the M9 and M11.


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