Smith & Wesson In ‘Final Review’ For Army Handgun Contract, Ruger Opts Out

Authors Brent McCluskey Military This Week

The Beretta M9 has been the official Army handgun for more than 25 years, but the Smith & Wesson Military & Police pistol may soon be in the holster of soldiers around the globe.

The Army wants to make sure their new pistol will last for the long haul, and the review process is exhaustive.

Their new Modular Handgun System must have modifiable grips, varied magazine options, ambidextrous controls, picatinny rails, and the ability to consistently reach out and touch a target at or beyond 50 yards. Smith & Wesson is in the final stages of review, but Sturm, Ruger & Company has opted out in the face of such stiff competition.

“We believe we pretty much know that it’s in its final, final review stage, so that’s a good thing,” said James Debney, Smith & Wesson’s president and chief executive officer. ‘With waiting the [request for proposal], our expectation is that that will be released very soon. It’s certainly in its final stages of review. We know that for sure, but for the exact timing we don’t know.”

But Mike Fifer, chief executive officer of Sturm, Ruger & Company, says the cost to benefit ratio of competing for the title may be too high.

“There’s enormous cause to participate and an extremely low likelihood for any one company of winning it,” said Fifer. “If you win it, obviously you’re in the capital receipt for the next 25 years, but I have a feeling competing for it’s going to be a little bit like being hit against a brick wall, and you’ll feel real good when you stop.”

“The risk factor of putting the huge investment of time, people and money into competing for something that there’s really very low likelihood of winning even it you have a much better product,” said Fifer. “And so those are kind of the pros and cons right there.”

While Smith & Wesson is still fighting for the massive contract, many other firearms manufacturers are also participating.

(This article was a submission by freelance writer Brent Rogers, H/T:

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  • KEN June 5, 2017, 6:33 am

    My sidearm of choice is s & w 629 8.375″ good ole 44 mag. A 5 seven cost more than a average hk. Government testing and proving is an oxymoron. What is next Uncle Sam using eminent domain for weapons use. When the m16 first was used in combat it was an utter failure. The lives lost due too an eager gov contract. I wonder what was the cost per unit for a rifle that has been great the last 3 decades. Just keep the same weapons and do a service pack (complete upper and buffer assembly) that should only be about half too about 2/3rds the cost of a complete. In the end it is like opinions, ” Take or leave it”. Here is an idea, let the ground troops do the testing and decide which is better. In the end it is their lives on the line not the Pentagon, White House or Capital Hill. Keep your arrows straight, your powder dry and good hunting.

    • Michael Smith March 16, 2018, 5:25 pm

      Sounds reasonable to me, a 30 yr. successful platform. Maybe it needs a dohickey or two, but if it isn’t broken don’t fix it.Of course the military industrial complex is almost never reasonable.

  • E.D. September 9, 2015, 5:18 pm


  • Magic Rooster September 9, 2015, 1:35 pm

    B bend
    O over
    H here
    I it
    C comes
    A again.

  • petru sova September 8, 2015, 2:19 pm

    Its often a circus when you read how some of these so called “Test Trials” are really conducted. In one trial they simply asked a bunch of raw recruits which gun they liked the best. In another the “Gold Standard” the 1911 jammed up more in the muddy bucket of water tests than did the Beretta or Sig did. So would we conclude because of this test the 1911 was not a very reliable pistol? Of course not, rather the test is so flawed that it cannot guarantee that an equal amount of contaminates will find their way into the mechanism of each pistol. I once got in an argument with a foul mouthed moderator on the Sig Form who ranted and raved because of his racial prejudices against the Spanish Star Model 28 for jamming up more in one of the tests. Little did this Moron know that the Star went 180,000 round without parts breakage in two different tests far out-besting every handgun ever tested by the U.S. Military. Of course today it would cost a few pennies more to make because it was made of steel forgings instead of junk plastic, castings, aluminum and stamp sheet metal and therefore would never be adopted.

    • Mick Dodge September 8, 2015, 8:59 pm

      We are all aware of your hate for the best semi automatic pistol and round ever produced for military sidearm carry, the venerable 1911. As well we also are aware of your love for the over penetrating nine MM semi auto anything. Damm, you must have stock in that POS round.
      As for the defunct Star clone you worship try J&G Sales, they always seem to have leftovers for sale.

      • Michael Smith March 16, 2018, 5:53 pm

        I had a couple of stars and I thought they were great pistols, To each his own ay?

  • Twig September 8, 2015, 10:24 am

    Other than cost, give me one reason why anyone would choose to carry an M&P over a Sig P320 or H&K VP9.

  • Shawn September 8, 2015, 9:50 am

    The quotes in the article seem to imply that S&W’s pistol is in the final review (as if the competition itself is nearing completion), when the actual meaning seems to be that it is the language of the RFP (Request For Proposal) that is in the final stages of review.

    Perhaps what the author meant to say is that S&W believes its submission can get past the on-paper requirements of the revised proposal language. That, of course, has little to do with actual performance in testing.

    Ruger sells its product, the SR9. Without government help. S&W sells its M&Ps, also without much government help. A contract rejection, on the other hand, might cost more in future lost sales and reputation than can be easily measured in dollars and time.

    Glock reportedly told the US to “shove it” when it was told it would have to turn over its polymer formula and manufacturing rights to the government. Frankly, the only companies that need to deal with government BS are companies who feel they need a boost of some kind.

    “I’m from the government, and I have millions of dollars to give to you. We will only require that you hand over your technical data package so we can give it out to otheres, we will take away your ability to meet consumer demand, allowing others to fill that void, and after you kiss our butts for a couple of decades, we will reject any and all ideas you come up with on your own to improve performance for the soldiers in the field and dump you in the toilet like a pile of excrement.”

    Actually, Ruger is on to something here. Telling the government to shove it has not hurt Glock. And yes, for those who came in late, Glock was adopted in Austria in 1980 and was well established as a manufacturer in time for both the M9 and the M10 re-do.

    • Josh July 8, 2016, 10:11 am

      Exactly! I’m on the manufacturing end of these .gov contracts and I honestly have no idea why any company would want to win one of these contracts. Beretta has lost an absurd amount of manufacturing capacity and the ability to respond quickly to emerging markets mainly b/c the M9 contract is a monster. Yes, the contract is worth in some cases 10’s or 100’s of millions of dollars over decades but compared to the possibility of civilian sales and lost good will I just don’t see the long term value.

  • John September 8, 2015, 8:30 am

    Colt is in bad shape because of bad management.
    They ignored the commercial market and stayed with low bid government business.
    All while getting squeezed by ownership.
    They get what they deserve and good riddance…

    • Tom D. November 6, 2015, 5:56 pm

      On Colt, don’t forget the UAW runs the shop.

      Seriously? A Union made gun?

  • John September 8, 2015, 8:28 am

    This is S&W PR machine at work and using this forum.
    The world loves them right now and They are always good for a quote.

    The RFQ just came out, so everyone is at same stage.
    Ruger decided not to pursue….who can blame them?
    The gov owns your design and can then take it to lowest bidder……which is how Colt got the shaft.
    Kudos to Ruger for not wanting to deal with bureaucracy

  • fasteddie September 8, 2015, 6:37 am

    The answer is here between the lines….The risk factor of putting the huge investment of time, people and money into competing for something that there’s really very low likelihood of winning even it you have a much better product,” said Fifer. ….The decision ultimately is made by the politicians, lobbyists & back door deals with selecting the best product for our service people playing a much smaller part. It’s a shame our country runs this way and potentially risking lives in the process…..

  • Mike, MJW1911 September 8, 2015, 12:20 am

    I wonder if the HK-VP9 or VP40 is in the mix, I recently purchased a VP9 & think it’s great! As far as different size hands, you can also change the side panels along with the back strap. It also has great sights & is very accurate.
    Or maybe just go back to the old “Slab Side”, I had to stick that in there.

    • Josh July 8, 2016, 10:16 am

      The HK is really a great pistol but will never win simply due to cost. Between replacement parts and HK’s propensity for charging Knights-esqe prices it just won’t happen.

      1911 will obviously never happen for the litany of reasons that get brought up here daily.

  • Terry Price September 7, 2015, 9:24 pm

    Colt is in the shape their in because of lack of change internally, had Colt came out with a striker fire gun to compete with (glock,s&w,ruger,kahr )and countless others maybe some of their monster loans could have been paid back not just scraping up enough to pay the interest.

  • Robert Smith September 7, 2015, 9:04 pm

    As a taxpayer, I think the Army should make do with what it has got. The handgun is rarely used in modern warfare. The M9 is adequate for the limited battlefield use it actually sees. Of course, as a gun enthusiast, I have an entirely different answer. Yeah, go for the M&P, but make sure it’s a 45 ACP and has an Apex trigger. Or how about the FN 5.7? Can defeat enemy body armour with the right bullet. Superb down-range accuracy. Light weight. Easy to train with due to the minimal recoil. FN has a factory in the US, so it could be built here. There is even a carbine version available. It just makes so much sense the Army will probably never do it.

  • Kurt Feltenberger September 7, 2015, 5:27 pm

    Smith & Wesson is no more in the “final stages” of the contract process as is any other company or consortium that submitted weapons for consideration…the RFP came out a few days ago and the trials haven’t even started. Given that the Army has been recently buying Glocks by the thousand, I think S&W better think twice about counting their chickens before they’re hatched.

  • ron September 7, 2015, 3:36 pm

    After dealing with crappy ruger QC recently, it’s no wonder they chickened out.

    • Gary September 7, 2015, 4:54 pm

      I have several Rugers and have found them to be very reliable. If I recall Ruger should have been rewarded the contract in the 80s. Ruger had the only pistol that passed every requirement of the trails.

  • Tom Rice September 7, 2015, 10:49 am

    Should it concern S&W that the governments failure to honor gun contracts was listed as a major factor in Colts financial problems.

    • RobertR September 7, 2015, 12:07 pm

      Colt had a lot of problems with the main one being they abandoned the civilian market thinking they could survive and prosper servicing the government. One of their former CEOs was against civilians owning guns and made no bones about it. They got what they deserved. You never put all your eggs in one basket. Especially when the basket is the US Government or any government for that matter.

  • MMBSR-USA, RNBSN September 7, 2015, 10:10 am

    Another ridiculous & unnecessary waste of DOD money initiated by politicians to ‘punish’ Beretta for leaving Maryland.
    The Beretta M9A1 9mm is easily convertible to .40SW and .357 Sig by simply swapping barrels, giving the service member a choice of three calibers. Magazines are identical and no other modifications to the firearm are required. This is all a mute point though, as long as ball ammo is used; There is no discernible difference in the permanent wound cavity of ball ammo from one centerfire pistol caliber to the next & there is no such thing as one shot stops.
    This money would have been better utilized going into service members payroll.

    • RobertR September 7, 2015, 12:22 pm

      You may believe that the Beretta is a quality handgun. When it first came out we had officers who bought them intending to carry them as duty weapons. They were severely lacking in accuracy and they were bulky, clumsy and not suited to be carried as police duty weapons. To this day I do not know of a department that issued them to their officers as duty weapons. In fact I know of NO officer who carries one as their duty weapon.

      OTOH the M&P is winning contracts in municipal and state police agencies consistently now. The officers find them to be very dependable, accurate and accommodating to their individual grip size. Hand sizes very greatly from the small male, female officer to the big 6’5″ country boy. One size doesn’t fit all and that’s what you get with Beretta. Were it not for the military contract I would contend that the gun would have been discontinued by Beretta by now. I spent my life carrying a gun as a peace officer. I started with a Colt Python and finished up with a Walther P88. My life was on the line and I wanted the best handgun that I could find. Why shouldn’t our soldiers be given the best handgun that we can buy? We spend billions on various aircraft. Spending a few billion on finding a good dependable handgun that everyone will carry makes sense.

      • Ralph Zobjeck September 10, 2015, 9:50 am

        Back 15 or so years ago all my new 92 did was jamb. It didn’t matter what ammo it was fed. Sent it back to Beretta and they said all was fixed. Tried again and could only shoot Federad FMJ RN ammo without incident. Gun traded in and never looked back.

  • Mick Dodge September 7, 2015, 3:15 am

    You must grease the wheels of progress in order to keep the bearings from screeching .
    And the word for the day is “grease” as in greasing the hand of those screeching contract providers.

    • Joe McHugh September 7, 2015, 7:27 am

      Mick Dodge, You’re right. The government contract process is akin to an incestuous relationship. The private company and the government bureaucrats represent the parents while the child being abused is represented by the people.
      Alas, this is what happens when power corrupts the greedy.

  • SuperG September 3, 2015, 11:58 am

    All I can say is that if you had a better product, you would not have bowed out. But anybody who has watched government contracts knows that it depends on whom bribes whom. Oops, I said bribe. I meant “honorarium”. My bad. I guess my Freudian slip is showing again.

    • RobertR September 7, 2015, 12:09 pm

      Exactly. No one with a winning product would throw in the towel at this point. They see the writing on the wall and know they can’t compete so why waste time and money? For S&W the government contract would just be icing on the cake which happens to be growing by leaps and bounds,.

    • CalH October 8, 2015, 7:17 pm

      Military weapon trials seldom end up being about who has the best weapon. In 1892 Mauser submitted two different versions for consideration by the Army Trials Board. In the end politics and Generals looking toward the past selected .30-40 Krag citing it’s superiority for fighting the Plains Indian, even though the Indian Wars were largely over. A few short years later Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” armed with a mixture of weapons including the Krag faced the superior firepower of the 7mm Spanish Mauser. It had nearly double the effective range of the Krag. Few rifles have had a shorter duration as our standard arm, and it was one of Roosevelt’s first acts as President to order the Army to acquire a new standard rifle based on the Mauser.
      The result was the 1903 Springfield and appropriate royalties were payed to the German firm allowing the US to copy their design.
      During the same time period, much the same thing happened with the adoption of the Double Action Colt in Caliber .38 Long Colt. After replacing the .45 Peacemaker, it was found to be woefully underpowered when pressed in to combat, and the Army had to rush the trusted .45 Colts back in to service on an emergency basis for the Moro campaign in the Phillipines.
      In many ways, little has changed today in the way the armed forces award contracts, and a smart company does just what Ruger is doing now. Look at the award vs. cost ratio. Ruger doesn’t have any problem selling their guns to the general public.
      Interestingly enough Smith &Wesson came to the same conclusion 1873, and didn’t bother to compete with Colt even though they had a revolver that was superior in every way. They had a huge contract with Russia for those guns, and decided it was more lucrative to concentrate on filling that contract.
      They later were awarded a supplemental contract for the Schofield revolver which proved itself to be a better weapon than the Colt.

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