The U.S. Marine Corps is following the Army and Air Force in adopting the M17 and M18 for service. These guns won the Modular Handgun System trials last year and are quickly becoming the standard sidearms for the military in general.
This means that to some degree, the bulk of the U.S. military is switching to SIG. Some special units will continue to field other pistols including Glock handguns.
“The other military services, who were involved in the entire acquisition process including source selection, can also procure XM17/XM18 Modular Handgun Systems under the Army contract with Sig Sauer,” said PEO Soldier’s Debra Dawson to Military.com.
“All services have been involved in MHS since its inception … and they have all committed to ordering guns. The U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Coast Guard all have orders that will be fielded starting later this year and early next year,” said SIG representative Tom Taylor.
Developed by SIG Sauer, the Modular Handgun System or MHS pistols are based on the popular P320 pattern. The design was modified during testing and updated to meet military needs.
Along with the handguns the Marines are also adopting new ammunition as well. The M17 and M18 are built to use new ball ammo and hollow point “special purpose” rounds in addition to blank ammo and dummy cartridges for training.
The M17 is a full-size handgun with extended 21-round magazines while the M18 is a mid-size gun with 17-round mags. Both are chambered for 9mm NATO.
The bulk of the Corps is slated to adopt MHS pistols. These guns will replace older M9-family pistols as well as newer .45-caliber Colt M45A1 pistols. Select units including MARSOC will continue fielding Glock pistols.
Unlike most P320 pistols the MHS guns have ambidextrous thumb safeties and tamper-resistant takedown pins. They also have updated internals for better performance in extreme conditions and enhanced safety.
The decision to adopt SIG pistols for service has lead to some controversy. While the SIG design most closely met the military requirements, many people were surprised to hear that older, more established guns weren’t selected instead.
Glock pistols, in particular, are already in service with select users military-wide. Glocks have been the go-to replacement for units and services replacing their aging M9 and M1911 pistols prior to the MHS competition.
Just last year the Marines adopted the improved Glock 19M for service as the M007. Although it is limited to the Criminal Investigation Division, the M007’s career will be momentary as the Corps transitions to SIG guns.
Like the commercial P320, the M17 and M18 pistols are totally modular and can be converted back and forth as needed. All the components are interchangeable and easy to replace. The guns can even be rechambered for other cartridges if necessary.
These features — in addition to the guns’ solid performance — pushed SIG to the front throughout the MHS trials. Additionally, SIG deeply undercut the competition at the bottom line by practically giving the guns away.
Still, not everyone is happy with the continued adoption of SIG’s MHS by the military. Third-party testing showed that the original P320 design had a deep flaw and was not drop-safe.
SIG issued a voluntary recall of all P320 pistols in August to address the issue. Several of the MHS improvements, which made the platform drop safe, were carried over to the commercial models as part of the redesign.