The U.S. Army’s chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley recently gave a talk at the 2016 Future of War Conference slamming the slow, inefficient process of the Modular Handgun System, or MHS project. If Milley had his way he’d just go out and buy a bunch of guns off the shelf.
Currently, the search for a new military sidearm is expected to take up to two years and cost $17 million. The MHS project is an ongoing effort to replace the aging pistols currently in service as they reach their end-of-life. The bulk of the military carries Beretta M9-pattern pistols that have seen years of use and abuse.
Milley doesn’t think it’s necessary to hold multi-year pistol trials. He believes that today’s small arms have been proven effective by civilian users across the country and by other militaries around the world.
“We are not exactly redesigning how to go to the moon, right?” Milley said, reports the Military Times. “This is a pistol…and arguably, it is the least lethal and important weapon system in the Department of Defense inventory.”
“The testing–I got a briefing the other day–the testing for this pistol is two years,” Milley said. “Two years to test technology that we know exists. You give me $17 million on the credit card, I’ll call Cabelas tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine with a pistol and I’ll get a discount on it for bulk buys.”
The program calls for 280,000 to 550,000 handguns chambered for a to-be-determined cartridge. While the military isn’t opposed to 9mm NATO, they will be testing other commercial cartridges to see if they outperform 9mm in any significant ways.
The MHS program is also looking to test newer ammunition types. For decades the military has mostly adopted international ammunition conventions, but the MHS might change that. The program will also examine the possibility of switching over to modern expanding handgun ammunition.
The “Modular” component of the MHS is the request for a standard pistol that is also compatible with a compact pistol for officers and concealability for covert users. Depending on the level of parts compatibility needed between the models, handguns that share commonality between service pistols and compacts and subcompacts have not only been around for years, they’ve been established for years.
Other requirements include a frame with a Picatinny rail for accessories like lights and pointers, extended magazine options and extended, threaded barrel options for use with suppressors. Additionally, the MHS requires a modular grip system that can be tailored to fit the majority of soldier hand sizes.
The issue at hand, Milley points out, is that many, if not the majority of current-generation service pistols in production today meet these standards without needing any tests to prove them. Milley’s talk highlighted the extensive, potentially unnecessary volume of tests the military has required with the MHS program.
“I’m saying let me [select the sidearms] and then hold me accountable,” said Milley. “Let me figure out what type of pistol we need and let me go buy it without having to go through…years of incredibly scrutiny.”
He criticized the complexity of the MHS program. The requirement is 367 pages long. “A lawyer says this and a lawyer says that and you have to go through this process and that process and you have to have oversight from this that and the other.”
The MHS program, even in its early stages, has already stirred up a lot of long-standing debates, from handgun construction to cartridge selection. It’s clear that whatever next steps the military takes in selecting sidearms, there will support and criticism alike from all sides.