In Which We Fisk the Worst Article on the M17 Selection

Somebody had to write the worst article on the M17 Modular Handgun System program. And this guy did it, at Strategy Page. He knew just enough not to sign it, whoever he was, so he may not be a complete dullard. But almost every fact that’s in the story is wrong, demonstrably wrong, I-was-too-lazy-to-Google wrong, I-was-too-dumb-to-ask-anybody wrong.

We used to say in the Army “as wrong as two boys kissin’,” or maybe a slightly stronger version of that, but we can’t say that any more. But that’s how wrong this article is.

Let’s hit some of the high points:

First, the title: “The Low Bidder And The M9 Tragedy.” Er, what tragedy?

The U.S. Department of Defense has finally, after a ten year search, decided on a new standard pistol, to replace the much hated Beretta M9.

“Much hated”? Meh. Lots of guys prefer another pistol. We could always work with the M9. A pistol is too inconsequential to waste hatred on, and any professional just takes the pistol he is issued and works with it. That’s how the game is played, by the people for whom “game” is only a metaphor, not something executed on a colorful board, with cardboard counters and a polyhedral die.

The new pistol is a variant of the SIG Sauer P320, which lost out to the Baretta in 1985 because the Baretta 9mm was a little cheaper.

One brief declarative sentence, multiple factual errors:

  1. It is a P320, not a “variant” except in that it has the safety and anti-tampering options SIG has offered to “fleet buyers” all along.
  2. The P320 did not lose out to anything in 1985 as it was decades from being designed. Indeed, its forerunner the P230 P250 (which has little in common with the P226) was decades from being designed, and the 230 250 was on the market for a long time before the 320 design began.
  3. Beretta is not spelled Baretta. They’ve been spelling it with that first “e” since fourteen-hundred-and-something. Repeating the misspelling doesn’t make it correct. (But wait, he’ll misspell it twice more, but misspell it differently, down the page).
  4. The trials in which SIG and Beretta were both judged as suitable took place in 1984. And yes, the Beretta was less expensive. (Significantly, not “a little.” Especially when you’re buying hundreds of thousands of the things). Beretta won a previous trial outright (JSSAP), but SIG did not participate. Cost is a real-world part of every weapons buy, whether it’s a billion-dollar ship or a buck-fifty bayonet sheath.
  5. Some units had been using Berettas earlier than official adoption, and that may have given Beretta an edge, back then.
  6. The pistol that SIG entered was a P226. This is exactly like a P320, except that its frame is made of different material and designed differently, it was designed from the bones out for modularity, it has a completely different trigger system and controls and manual of arms that the 226, and has exactly zero parts that interchange with its SIG stablemate.
  7. For the innumerate, study this arithmetic: 226 ≠ 320. There will be a test.

We note that most of the errors this guy made seem to come from the Wikipedia page on the M9, which is almost as messed up as the Strategy Page article… but not as messed up, because copying guy didn’t understand what he was copying. One of Strategy Page’s 400-lb aspie wargamers?

Whew, that was the first sentence. Hey, are you guys ready to move on and try another? Because this whole fisking is around 4,400 words  (Holy Wall O Text Batman!), we’ll continue it after the jump.

Let’s go:

The M9 replaced the M1911 11.4mm (.45 caliber) pistol.

OK, so he’s probably a foreign fat aspie. Come on, even the French who invented the jeezly metric system understand what a .45 is. That is, if they know anything at all about firearms. (The Norwegians called their .45, the Model 1914, “11.43 mm”). Still, his basic facts are correct here: the M9 did replace the M1911A1 (we’ll spot him the A1, he’s probably from the Tee Ball Generation where no one teaches attention to detail any more), and the 1911A1 was indeed .45 caliber. OK, let’s tee up another sentence, and someone bring us our driver:

The M9 replacement entered service in 2014 and is a 833 g (29 ounce) weapon that is 203mm (8 inches) long and has a 17 round magazine.

“The M9 replacement” is a curious way to refer to what he apparently means is the P320. And actually, “entered service”? In US service, it hasn’t, yet. (Although it’s getting close). Remember, it took five years after Beretta won almost 40 years ago, for all the protests to shake out and Beretta to win again.

Experienced military and civilian pistol users agree that the P320 was the best choice.

“Experienced military and civilian pistol users” = who? Any pistol selection is going to be controversial among “experienced military and civilian pistol users,” because everyone has his favorites, but as we’ve mentioned, the guys will just take what they’re handed and do what needs to be done.

However, the P320 is so new it’s not really anyone’s favorite yet. And the military selection process has been so opaque even pistoleros generally confident about the military’s decision making can’t endorse it full-throatedly. The author’s claim of consensus is entirely imaginary.

It’s going to take a very long time to get through this article, isn’t it?

This decision comes after the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force joined forces in 2014 to speed up the seeminly unending selection process.

Um, yes and no. The Army was the proponent for this, but all the services had an interest. 

Another development that speeded things up was the fact the SOCOM (Special Operations Command) had already adopted a number of other pistols to replace the M9.

Actually, the special operations guys were buying their own stuff with MFP-11 money, and what they did or didn’t do made little impact on the overall M17 program, except in the requirements definition phase, where the pistol was specified as having a striker-fired system. A striker-fired system is, of course, characteristic of the Glock 19 pistols used by many special operations forces. (Others still use the M9; NSW uses the SIG).

It’s interesting that the author of this mess does not mention the Glock at all, nor does he “get” SOF’s evolution on caliber over the last 30-40 years at all right, but we’ll get to that.

For example in 2011 the U.S. Navy SEALS adopted the Sig Sauer P226 9mm pistol as their Mk25 standard sidearm. This pistol was actually the same Sig Sauer P226 the SEALS have been using since the 1980s, but with a better accessory rail, a few other minor changes, and a new name.

That’s technically correct, but it’s “Wikipedia correct” — it misses what’s actually important. The SEALs had problems with high-round-count Beretta 92 pistols (pre-M9s). These problems were not trivial — in two cases, slides broke at the locking cuts and the aft portion of the slide struck the operator, fortunately below eye level. These catastrophic failures, which were ultimately tracked to a heat-treating error, caused the SEALs to lose confidence in the M9, and select the 226, which (and this is important) had also passed the M9 tests. Only the Beretta and the SIG entrants passed. Ergo, the services were free to buy the 226 if they could justify the extra money. SOF elements just had to use their own money, not dollars Big Green / Blue / Haze Gray had appropriated for general purpose guns. They have this money for buying SOF stuff, but of course pistols are only one budget item, and they have to be prioritized.

The Sig Sauer P320 is an updated version of the P226.

As mentioned above, this profoundly wrong statement could only be written by someone who has not had eyes and hands on these pistols. Saying the P320 is an updated P226 is like saying the Colt Cal. .45 M1911 was an updated version of the Colt Cal. .45 M1873, and is massively disrespectful to the designers, engineers and testers who labored for years to produce, first, the DA/SA P230 P250, and then, the entirely new P320.

It also misses one of the key features of the P320 (and the unmentioned interim 230 250), its modularity. Yet modularity was sought by the initial RFP, and was even in the name of the, also unmentioned in the article, Modular Handgun Program.

He also misses — we ought to copy “he also misses” so we can paste it as we slog through this article — that somebody else adopted the SIG. That would be the Coast Guard, who use the compact P229R version with the Double Action Kellerman (DAK) trigger mechanism. Hey, they count; they probably point more pistols at more people on an average day than all the other services put together, given their law enforcement and smuggler-interdiction missions.

This is ironic because back in the early 1980s the Berretta and Sig Sauer pistols had both scored about the same on the American evaluation tests and the Berretta won mainly on the basis of price.

Here he spells Beretta wrong twice again, but differently from the first time. His description of the results of the 1984 trials is close. On a pass/fail basis, both pistols passed, and the other entrants failed. (He also doesn’t mention who these were. Smith, FN with the Fast Action and HK from memory, with Colt and Star only playing in the 1990 iteration of the tests, and we’re probably missing a couple. The Steyr GB was in there somewhere, even).

The P320 is cheaper P226 but the contract to replace as many as 500,000 army M9s is worth over half a billion dollars.

For the forty-eleventh time, 320 ≠ 226. Also, we’re not talking just the Army’s pistols, but everybody’s.

The current selection of the P320 was criticized mainly because it took the Department of Defense (mainly the army) a decade to select what their own evaluation team approved of back in the early 1980s and that SOCOM user experience confirmed before the 1980s were over.

Was criticized by whom? I think that we’ve established that this writer does not have sufficient expertise for his own criticism to be taken seriously, so we’re not going to let him get away with the passive voice here.

But for the forty-leventh-plus-one time, the P320 is not what “their own evaluation team approved of back in the early 1980s.”

SOCOM came into being a few years after the M9 was adopted and immediately began planning to bring back .45 caliber pistols for its commandos while also allowing the use of alternative 9mm pistols as needed.

This is wrong, wrong, wrong, on numerous levels. Very, very few units retained .45 caliber pistols after experimenting with the M9. The vast majority of SOCOM carried the issued pistol for the 1980s and 1990s. Units that retained the .45 included certain special mission units (SMUs) that had their own specialty armorers (gunsmiths, really), and certain Marine recon elements that had the service of Marine master armorers. At the time these SMUs made that .45 caliber decision, they had their own reporting chain to the National Command Authority. Only in time were they subordinated to the newly created Joint Special Operations Command. (All the command changes began with the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, and are beyond the scope of this article and the fisking thereof, but it seems as if the author of the piece doesn’t understand that any better than he does pistols, which is “hardly.”)

SOCOM always had the right to do that and the army and marines often pay close attention to, and adopt, new weapons and equipment SOCOM has selected and then used successfully in action.

Small stuff — Army and Marines are proper nouns, in English proper nouns are capitalized. Bigger stuff: there is a limited degree of cross-pollination between SOF and general purpose forces, largely created when personnel flow back and forth for career progression purposes (this personnel turbulence is inflicted primarily on officers). But the idea that the guys in the GPF are the little brothers hanging on everything SOF does is mistaken. Their stuff is driven by their very wide range of missions, too.

Thus the SOCOM decision to keep using the .45 and select a different 9mm pistol. Actually, many Special Forces and SEAL operators never gave up using the original army .45, as it was the ideal pistol for many commando operations.

There was no “SOCOM decision.” The very few pro-.45  decisions were undertaken on a lower level. The .45s that were retained at SMUs were not standard GI items but were significantly improved. Most of the SEALs and all the Special Forces (which represents specific Army units) kept using their issue 9mm pistols, the P226 and the M9 respectively.

The SEALs drove a joint SOF pistol program down the rabbit hole that produced the .45 ACP caliber HK Mk 23. In practice, nobody uses it, not even the SEALs; it’s too damn big. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” It was a gateway drug to more suppressor use, though, which SOF has used off and on over the years, and increasingly since the Mk23. He doesn’t mention the Mk23, so he’s probably already been burned at the stake by rampaging HK fanboys.

As the U.S. Army Special Forces discovered, if you are well trained and know what you are doing you should carry a pistol, in addition to your rifle. Not the official issue M9 pistol but something with a bit more stopping power.

[Blasphemous imprecation deleted]. Yes, SF does carry pistols, but we didn’t discover that. Lots of soldiers and units over lots of centuries have understood that the benefits of a secondary weapon often outweigh the demerits of same. (“Outweigh,” literally, because weight is the predominant problem with toting a back-up pistol. Everybody’s carrying too much these days, but it’s all stuff you need, so nobody has an answer. But it was interesting to learn from the books of Joseph Bilby that lots of Civil War volunteers started off carrying a pistol as well as a rifle, and by the summer of ’62 they’d mostly sold, traded or thrown the “excess weight” away).

“Stopping power…” Lord love a duck. Welcome to Stupid Net Debates of the dial-up BBS era. We’ll just disregard that, except to note that the only sure way to “stop” someone with any handgun caliber is a central nervous system hit, or (if you can live with delayed action) a major circulatory system hit. All stopping power is a function of bullet placement, full stop.

Rifle calibers can have stopping effects with less perfect bullet placement, thanks to their much higher energy transfer, but we’re not talking about rifles.

The Special Forces prefer new model 11.4mm (.45 caliber) pistols, although 10mm weapons are also popular.

No, we don’t “prefer new model 11.4mm,” and neither do American SOF in general. The Marine Raiders (née MARSOC) recently ditched their signature .45 for the bland but dependable Glock 19. While at least two SMUs regularly carry pistols in .40 S&W, we’re personally unaware of any carrying one in the 1970s Wunderpatrone, 10mm Auto. The M1911A1 .45 is a perfectly good weapon, but it’s over a century old. We’re not carrying the M1903A1, either.

It may be that the author is a European, and this explains his confusion about SF and SOF, and his preference for metric cartridge names. But a cartridge has a name irrespective of your personally preferred system of weights and measures. The name exists, in part, so that you can distinguish one thing from another, which is why to any — what was this clown’s term? —  “experienced military and civilian pistol user” knows what you mean when you say 10mm, the 10mm Auto, or .40, the .40 S&W, even though these two different rounds fire dimensionally identical bullets from different-sized cartridge cases.

The reason for this is that you are most likely to be using the pistol indoors, where your target is going to be really close.

No idea where this comes from. But general purpose forces are quite likely to engage in military operations in urban terrain; targets can be plenty close outdoors, too; and pistol targets are generally close, or why aren’t you getting behind cover and bringing your rifle back into the fight? And close doesn’t matter to caliber selection. A hit that’s a “stopping” hit with a .45 is a stopping hit with a 9; a 9mm hit that doesn’t take your opponent out of the fight wouldn’t have done it with this guy’s imaginary “11.4 mm” either.

You want to knock the enemy down quickly, before he can get at you with a knife or even his hands.

True, but it has nothing to do with caliber. And, pistol or no (most infantrymen don’t carry pistols, except for crew-served weapons crews), the bad guy that takes on a trained infantryman with a knife or his bare hands is probably going to lose that fight. Mindset, remember?

Many troops are getting their own pistols and most commanders have been lenient on this issue.

Not in any Army the US has fielded lately. Some guys are carrying personal weapons but there is a “catch me, F me” rule in effect.

The army and air force do not have the same needs as SOCOM and simply want a 9mm pistol with fewer flaws and more of the latest pistol tech than the existing M9.

Any pistol is going to have “flaws,” some of which are only going to be exposed by widespread service. We’re all holding our breath for what Big Green does when going to a striker-fired pistol produces, as it did for police, a higher rate of negligent discharges. (At least you don’t drill to pull the trigger for takedown on the M17).

The air force tried to replace the M9 in 2007 and was ordered by the Department of Defense to back off.

Oversimplification, but we’ll let it go.

The M9 is a 914 g (2.1 pound empty), 217mm (8.5 inch) long weapon that has a 125mm (4.9 inch) barrel and a magazine that holds 15 rounds. It replaced the World War I era M1911 .45 (11.4mm) caliber ACP. This is a 1.1 kg (2.44 pounds empty), 210mm (8.25 inch) long weapon with a 127mm (5 inch) barrel and a 7 round magazine.

Hey, he can copy specifications from Wikipedia. Give him a gold medal, this is the Special Olympics of gun writing.

Both pistols were only accurate at up to about 50 meters. The M1911 had more hitting power, while the M9 was a bit more accurate.

The Army uses “50 m” as the effective range of any pistol. In fact, with training, anyone can make 100 m hits on man-sized targets (like the standard E-type silhouette) with either pistol. Any modern pistol is more accurate than the soldier shooting it.

Loaded, each pistol weighs about 230 g (half a pound) more.

By 2014 the army and air force had a more compelling case for change. The army, in particular, found that many of its oldest M9s were, literally, breaking. Some components (especially the barrels, frames and locking blocks) tend to break on older, especially heavily used, weapons.

[Blasphemy again]. Actually, the M9 breakage parts are the slide, frame and locking block.

The early slide failure on pre-M9 Berettas could be uncontained; Beretta modified the pistol to contain the rear half of the slide as shown, before the M9 was type classified. A slide failure like the above can often be caught as a crack during careful technical inspection.

Operator maintenance is likely to overlook this incipient failure.

The original machined locking blocks were never a problem, but “improved” processes produced frangible parts; both the Army and Beretta redesigned them independently, as we’ve discussed here before, and seem to have solved the problem. Typical failure below.

The barrels? Never heard of one failing. A really old one wears out and its accuracy declines… it’s still better than the average GI who shoots it, even when it flunks technical inspection.

Since September 11, 2001 the army has used its M9s a lot. There are also a host of other problems, like the shape (too awkward for some users), trigger pull (too heavy) and lack of a Picatinny rail for easily mounting accessories. The safety switch is in an awkward position and troops in combat often accidentally put the safety on when cocking the pistol.

“Often”? This is a training problem caused by (1) some gimmicky training moves and (2) some commanders’ brain-dead insistence on carrying chamber-empty, usually out of a bed-wetting fear of NDs (which is also a training problem).

One thing that goes unmentioned in this dog’s breakfast of an article is that the political push for more women across the board has seriously shifted the demographics of the services, and thus the anthropometry of the 5th-to-95th-percentile soldier’s hand has changed.

That can be fatal (for the user) in combat. More modern designs (like SIG Sauer) have something more efficient (and less of a dirt catcher) than the open-slide and spent cartridge ejection system of the M9.

How one ejection port is more efficient than another is beyond our ken. But the open slide of the Beretta is quite a deliberate design feature, to allow sand, grit etc. to fall through without jamming the weapon. It is less popular than trying to seal the weapon.

Another sign of the times is that the M9 is not equipped to screw on a silencer, an accessory that is more commonly used these days.

Converting any pistol to use a suppressor is trivial. It gets complicated when you want a QD suppressor.

Indeed, most of the problems with the M9 result from the fact that it is a design that is over three decades old.

Great googly moogly, a factual statement! We didn’t think one would be forthcoming, but there it was. He ought to engrave it on a bronze plaque, and not risk trying again.

Pistol technology has improved a lot since the late 1970s and that can be seen in the pistols that are popular with police forces.

Hmm. First sentence — somewhat true. Most of the improvement’s been in ammo and on the manufacturing side, though; no modern pistol is much more deadly than its century-old equivalent, so all this pistol debate is really messing around on the margins.

Cops can often buy their own pistols and tend to get the most modern, but proven in action, models.

We’ll just let this sit here for you cops to comment on. The percentage of cops who are actually interested in their pistols is rather small, almost as small as the infinitesimal-but-consequential percentage of police work that involved shooting somebody.

Thus many troops in the combat zone leave the M9 they were issued back at the base and go into the field with a 9mm pistol they bought themselves.

Maybe in this writer’s imagination, but if he thinks this is happening in the United States Army or Marine Corps he’s severely mistaken. And we say this, having carried an (entirely verboten) back-up pistol in combat.

This is often a Glock 19, which is a police favorite and popular with troops in other countries.

The Glock 19s carried by United States special operations forces are not personal weapons but US government property carried o the books of the unit. Period, full stop.

Many armies do not replace pistols as frequently as police forces, or special operations troops. But in Afghanistan and Iraq regular combat troops used pistols a lot, and the M9 was showing its age.

They carried pistols a lot. These pistols saw more training use than they would have in garrison, given pre-mission training and (for some units) ranges at their base camps. But we’d bet that the Chicago PD shot more people with pistols last year than the US Army did.

As you can see, it’s not just the wear and tear, it’s also obsolescence in the face of advances in pistol design.

And again, we have a factual statement. That’s two. See, if you’re going to have to recapitalize worn-out equipment, whether you’re a widget manufacturer or an army, you can simply buy new, unworn copies of what you’ve been using, or take a look and see whether something better is available. Taking a look is what the MHS selection process did.

Meanwhile in 2012 the army had to order another 100,000 M9 9mm pistols, each costing $640. This was just to replace the M9s that were falling apart. The U.S. military (mostly the army) already has over 600,000 M9s and that purchase keeps the M9 in service at least until the end of the decade.

While a weapons design can last for a century or more (the M2HB is coming up on its 100th), you always have to budget for wear-out. Any service weapon has the disadvantage of being carried and used by people who don’t own it, but they’re generally well-maintained, at least in militaries which have a maintenance culture and (usually) a strong NCO corps.

We’ll just leave his closing paragraphs sit here, because they’re packed chock-full of fail, but we’ve gone on for over 2000 of our words about over 2000 of his words, so it’s time to wind it up. We’ve covered most of it already (there’s some new shotgun nonsense that we’re not going to bother with).

The U.S. military adopted the 9mm pistol in 1985 largely to standardize ammunition with NATO and to replace the M911 .45 caliber (11.4mm) pistol with something smaller and lighter. All other NATO states used 9mm for pistols. At the time it was noted that most 9mm pistols were carried by officers and support personnel, who rarely used them, in combat or otherwise. Many American combat veterans disagreed with the switch to a 9mm pistol but that advice was ignored, except in SOCOM.

But times have changed. Over the last decade American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan discovered, through combat experience, what types of weapons worked best at close range to take down the enemy. It was the same with SWAT teams and commandos all over the world. When conducting a raid and finding yourself up close and personal with someone trying to kill you, there is a need for a heavy caliber pistol or a shotgun (firing 00 shot or slugs). The premier pistol for ensuring you take down someone is still the .45 caliber (11.4mm) or .40 caliber (10mm, but only with a heavy bullet) pistols. There is also a .50 caliber (12.7mm) pistol, but only very large people can handle this one. The 11.4 and 10mm pistols are light and handy, compared to assault rifles or shotguns, and have a long history of quickly taking down an armed and determined foe.

The bottom line is this is someone ignorant of guns and the US military pontificating on guns and the US military.

As a source, Strategy Page is weird. Real people like Austin Bay write there, and other real people take it seriously. Sometimes it has insightful commentary on unusual developments in the world. But in our opinion, it never overcame its birth as a place for service-shy wargame nerds to sperg out among their own kind. Even assuming that this was written by one of those characters, this article is just embarrassingly, tragically (or maybe tragicomically), galactically bad. It is not only the worst article you are likely to read about the Modular Handgun System M17 selection process, but the worst article we’ve read about any firearms subject in the last couple years, and that’s really saying something. If you want to lose thirty IQ points, Read The Whole Thing™.


This post has been corrected. Due to authorial brainlock, we described the SIG-Sauer P250 in every instance as the P230. As the first commenter, Poobie, noted, we were wrong. However, unlike StrategyPage, we do correct our factual errors. (Good work readers, now go find us some more!)

63 thoughts on “In Which We Fisk the Worst Article on the M17 Selection

  1. poobie

    Respectfully, sir, the P230 isn’t what you mean. The 230 and its PIP version the 232 are Walther PPK clones. Nice ones, with the expected SIG trigger, but still, 380 pocket pistols. The modular chassis hammer fired antecedent to the 320 is the 250.

        1. Hognose Post author

          Ewwwww… never actually shot one, just listened to FAMS complain about ’em. (I thought they were going to return ’em, but I think they wound up just writing them off and SIG refunding the money against new guns, and they’re cluttering a warehouse in DC that GSA rents for sick money. They are looking at the 320, but nervously).

          1. Tam

            FWIW, no less an authority than Bruce Gray gave production 250s a clean bill of health. The .380 Compact I put 2000 rounds through did well:

            “To recap the round count, the P250C .380 went through 2002 rounds without being cleaned or lubricated, with one failure to go completely into battery (#447) and one failure to fire (#1578). Ammo fired included the following brands of FMJ: TulAmmo, Fiocchi, Magtech, Sig Sauer, Remington, Federal, and Sellier & Bellot. Additionally, a few rounds of Hornady Critical Defense and Barnes TAC-XPD were fired, mostly for the chrono results.”

            It’s gone on to shoot a bunch more .380 and now, via a conversion kit, 250 rounds (and counting) of 9mm for a different project.

            If all my S&W revolvers had triggers as good as the 7.25# P250 trigger, I’d be thrilled.

            I think the gun was snakebit by a botched launch and the gunternet’s obsession with putting target pistol triggers in everything, rather than learning how to frickin’ shoot, but I may be biased. ;)

  2. Keith

    Reminds me a lot about the willfully ignorant stuff written about the M1/2/3/9 back in the 1980’s largely by the MSM of the day. Of course this is nothing new. You want a laugh go read what was written about the SMLE back 100+years ago when it was first adopted by the so called “experts” of the day.

    Keep your powder dry, your facts straight and your faith in God.

  3. Cap'n Mike

    It almost feels like English was this authors second language and they didn’t fully understand the meaning of the words they were writing.

    Or maybe its a a Google translation from Latin?

    Its that bad.

    I think you are giving the writer too much credit suggesting they were ashamed to put their name on this pile of excrement. As sloppy as it is with the facts, my guess is they simply forgot to add their name to the byline.

  4. Bill Robbins

    Thanks for the knowledge-packed evisceration of the M17 article. Your editorial blade-work reminds me of one of those Benihana chefs (back when they were actually Japanese, and spoke little English) slicing-up shrimp and vegetables at lightening speed, and bringing the show to an exclamation point conclusion by launching a final morsel of shrimp off a spatula into a giggling customer’s open mouth.

    Serious and innocent comment: Having used a 92FS and various Glocks, I do not understand why anyone would prefer a thumb safety (grip, as on the Sig, or slide, as on the Beretta) versus a trigger safety. Is it basically a matter of putting a handgun in the hands of hundreds of thousands of relatively inexperienced or lightly-trained 18 year-olds? What about experienced users? Is there any tactical advantage to a thumb safety, versus a trigger safety?

    I am just trying to elevate my level of knowledge (not looking for a fight!).

    1. Kirk

      “Serious and innocent comment: Having used a 92FS and various Glocks, I do not understand why anyone would prefer a thumb safety (grip, as on the Sig, or slide, as on the Beretta) versus a trigger safety. Is it basically a matter of putting a handgun in the hands of hundreds of thousands of relatively inexperienced or lightly-trained 18 year-olds? What about experienced users? Is there any tactical advantage to a thumb safety, versus a trigger safety?”

      I think (and my opinion is worth exactly what you are paying for it…) that the mechanical safety vs. the passive safety question is one of the foundational questions of design supporting intent for use. The folks who want the mechanical safety, i.e. the thumb safety and others that require you to “unsafe” the pistol as an act of will, are operating from a viewpoint that sees the pistol more as a display piece, a prop–Something which you will largely use to threaten someone with. The people who prefer the passive safety route are people who more see the pistol as a nearly pure killing tool, and want no obstruction between the shooter and the act of firing it.

      In other words, it is a foundational philosophic issue, with regards to how you intend to use the weapon.

      For examples in other firearms, see the French MAS-36, which utterly lacked any form of mechanical safety. The French trained their troops carrying this rifle that they were only to load a round into the chamber upon determination to fire, and not before. Transport of the weapon was to be done with the chamber empty.

      Form follows training. Glock and the other passive safety designs see things in terms of “Weapon in holster; safe. Weapon out of holster, in immediate use for self-defense.”. There are no half-way marks, where you use the weapon as a threat display, no “escalation of force”, no “force continuum”, where you are drawing and warning your target. There is just “Kill”.

      Or, at least, that’s pretty much the way the designers and advisers envisioned it.

      The folks with the mechanical safety designs envisaged things differently, and meant to use the pistol as an occasional stage prop, with which to convince subjects that they were “…really serious, this time, I mean it…”.

      I’m not sure I really support either approach as a one-size-fits-all theory. For military use, and civilian self-defense, I’m more in the passive safety camp. Police work, which I’ve never done, and perhaps in situations where I’d intentionally be using a pistol to “influence behavior”, I think I’d want a mechanical safety.

      It’s a philosophical thing, and you should go with a design that supports your intent to use, your training, and what your legal situation is. In general terms, however, I think a passive safety is the way to go, for civil self-defense. Supposing, of course, that you never intend to draw unless you have no other choice, and are then justified in killing your opponent.

      I’m also not a fan of legal structures wherein you’re required to go through a sequence of steps in terms of force escalation, as a civilian in a self-defense scenario. If someone is ill-mannered enough to threaten your life, I don’t see them as deserving some kind of “warning”. Undertaking that sort of risk is what police officers are paid for, and if you convince me or anyone else that you’re an actual threat to life, well… Tough shit. You should have behaved better. If you suddenly find out the hard way that the target of your abuse is armed, well… That’s just a pity, now isn’t it?

      1. B

        Or, it could be that they want the thumb safety as a device to prevent the sort of ND that Glocks (and other trigger safety) pistols are known for, reholstering with an obstruction (like clothing) to the holster. Or when handling in general.

        Yes, a holstered Glock is a very safe pistol. Drop wise they are safe. But in handling, where some folks MIGHT put their finger on the trigger (perhaps when loading or unloading?) a thumb safety is a nice second safety. There is no substitute for training and intelligence, I agree. However, it is for more than just a “Threat Display”.

        Those of us who carry 1911 bring the thumb safety off as a part of the presentation. There is no “use the thumb safety as a threat” .

        Thatstatement looks like you have watched too many movies.

        1. Kirk

          Read what I wrote, not what you think I wrote; the “threat display” is the pistol, and the safety is there to make that display safe. The safety itself is not what I’m talking about–It’s merely an enabler, to make displaying the pistol as a threat relatively safe for both parties. A thought process/tradition I’m not at all fond of.

          The issue you have with the passive safety being “unsafe to holster” is more one of poor training and poorer practice by the shooter. I’ve never encountered a situation in training or on the range where I had a problem with holstering and getting crap in the trigger guard, but then I’m not a complete idiot about which holster I use or what I’m doing when I re-holster the pistol. Like anything of this nature, it’s nine-tenths piss-poor training, one-tenth equipment, and a whole lot of user-level stupidity. I’ve watched guys who carry daily, like cops, do shit on the range that absolutely blew my mind. As in, taking far too casual an approach to what they were doing, and not paying attention to the pistol or treating it with the respect it is due.

          And, when you do that sort of thing, regardless of context, it’s gonna bite you in the ass. Same moron who holsters his Glock and gets his clothes caught in the trigger guard is going to be the same moron who winds up hanging dead from a rope when his clothes get tangled up in the rappel brake, too.

          To paraphrase Jerry Pournelle or Larry Niven (don’t know who actually wrote that line…) “…think of it as evolution in action…”.

          1. Tam

            Same moron who holsters his Glock and gets his clothes caught in the trigger guard is going to be the same moron who winds up hanging dead from a rope when his clothes get tangled up in the rappel brake, too.

            The firearms community could learn a lot about a healthy approach to safety-as-process from the aviation world.

  5. Scott

    Typo: Dubious period:

    over the last 30-40 years. at all right

    Extra spaces (yes, this Scott guy is really that anal):

    law enforcement and smuggler-interdiction

    an (entirely verboten) back-up

    And, we’d like to take a moment to bask in a properly punctuated parenthetical:

    (All the command changes began with the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, and are beyond the scope of this article and the fisking thereof, but it seems as if the author of the piece doesn’t understand that any better than he does pistols, which is “hardly.”)

    Bravo. : )

  6. KJ

    That vomitously incoherent article deserves to be shot, stuffed, and used to cure people of the hiccups. Being on the Autism Spectrum, I notice none of the usual literary hallmarks. I’m inclined to believe that we’re witnessing a new mental disorder being born, Plagiarism Tourette’s. Symptoms include infantile ignorance of the subject at hand, randomly stolen opinions from the Internet at large, and an astonishingly small native vocabulary.

    1. Hognose Post author

      In defense of the guy whose article I just spent a couple hours filleting, he may be writing in a language that is not his own. Not everybody can rise above his native language and become Joseph Conrad.

      1. KJ

        I just re-read the article, keeping that in mind. He still simply recycled and mutilated multiple pieces of “Ancient Lore”. I think that it’ll make a fine litmus test for gun savviness though. If someone can read that article and not point to a single incorrect assertion, they are not qualified to debate you about firearms.

        1. Sommerbiwak

          This is an excellent idea.
          I will keep it in mind and if some of my friends get into firearms discussions on the conscript expert level with E-1 pay grade I am going to pull out my smart phone and search for the M17 article on strategy page. :-)

          I am far from being a true expert, but sheesh. How often I still hear stopping power and being a german how awesome and war winning the G11 would have been…

          I have to mostly defaulted to going somewhere else if the talk at a party shifts to fireamrs discussions and I seek out the womanfolk to maybe pick one up. That is more useful than an ignorant discussion of firearms. ;-)

      1. KJ

        For a high functioning verbal Autistic (Aspie) look for…
        1: purple prose
        2: fundamental misunderstanding of questions, particularly those rooted in emotion. Curs’d ambiguous, those emotions.
        3: Precision. If something is stated as fact, it’s probably been verified by checking several sources. If it’s wrong an apology or correction is in order.
        4: Incorrigibility. If your cited sources don’t check out, an Aspie will keep repeating the facts they have verified until they get bored, and then they’ll just go elsewhere.

        That’s what I look for. YMMVIamnotapsychologistContentsnotshownatactualsizeMetaledgesaresharpResultsnottypical PleaseconsultwithaninvestmentprofessionalbeforebuyinganannuityTaxestitleandregistrationfeesnotincluded[YOUR DISCLAIMER HERE]

        1. Hognose Post author

          Interesting. We do have a kid who’s very high functioning autistic in the family, and the Blogbro and I both see some of our personality quirks and … what’s the word… cognitive “tics”? … in him, just in a very amplified state, whereas in us it’s attenuated.

          So brother & I both could probably be called adherents of a belief that there’s a continuous spectrum of related behaviors, which only get “called” or diagnosed if they hit certain thresholds or become disruptive to daily life.

          1. KJ

            That certainly fits what I’ve seen in my family as well. One entire side of the family exhibits some level of social awkwardness coupled with nigh obsessive interest in their chosen hobbies. Only two or three of us have actually been diagnosed as Autistic at any level.

            On the downside nobody is poised to make the fortune 500 anytime soon. On the upside we’ve got a truly massive talent pool on call when life throws any one of us a curve ball. The other side of the family works construction, so home improvement happens quickly and cheaply. I can’t remember anybody in my family actually hiring a roofer, electrician, plumber, painter, or mechanic.

        2. Kirk

          I’m of the opinion that an awful lot of what the layman identifies as “autistic” is actually someone else demonstrating thinking skills and attention to detail that those laymen find difficult to understand or follow. In other words, a lot of the time when you encounter it, what is actually going on is that the subject being described as autistic is simply operating on a different level than the person describing them to you.

          I sat down once with a headshrinker, and by the time I was done talking to her, I was convinced that she was a low-grade moron educated far past her capacity for cognitive thought, and she’d diagnosed me as having a fully-blown case of Asperger’s Syndrome. While it’s possible that both of us were right, my heartfelt belief is that all too much of this stuff is coming from the mentally deficient and incapable looking at their peers who are not similarly disadvantaged, and creating excuses for their own lack of effort and/or capacity.

          I don’t know how many times I ran into people in the Army who were putatively well-educated, intellectually capable people, based on the ranks they’d been granted, but who were actually intellectual pygmies with no real ability to think past the rote crap they were force-fed in some school they attended in their youth, and who possessed not a single whit of intellectual curiosity about the world around them.

          Somehow, the system has managed to pick these people out to run the institution, and it really shows in everything we do. There’s a flaw to how we are doing business, and that’s about as far as I can take it for you–I can think of some fixes that I think might work, but whether they would actually do so…?

    2. RT


      As a fellow aspie I agree heartily….

      However if he is one of ours do let us know, we’ll take him behind the clubhouse at our next meeting!

  7. DaveP

    In regards to “10mm vs .40”: There’s a certain type of coffee table book on guns, usually out of Europe, that’s filled with lots of beautiful color photos taken at a museum or military arms room… but only scanty ‘wikipedia’ style info, because this is Europe and the author may never have been closer to a handgun than the distance between his lens and the display model.
    I once owned one of this sort of book that referred to 9mm Para, .380 ACP, 9mm Mak, .38 and .357 all as “9mm”.

    The only time I remember anyone not from across the Atlantic using “11.43mm” for .45ACP, it was Kevin Dockery back in the ’80s.

    1. Daniel E. Watters

      FWIW: The Argentine .45 pistols are marked 11.25mm. Given the typical military practice of using bore/land diameter instead of groove/projectile diameter, 11.25mm is more accurate than 11.43mm.

  8. Steve From Downtown Canada

    Lord love a duck. I’m Canadian and all that metric crap was beginning to seriously annoy the hell out of me.

  9. Daniel E. Watters

    Don’t forget, there were quite a few M9 delivered before the 92FS hammer pin was adopted. Back in 2015, a Soldier was injured when his early M9 suffered a slide fracture. The pistol had somehow missed the March 1989 MWO for the hammer pin/slide modification.

    1. DSM

      A weapon that has had its inspections pencil whipped for over a couple decades. There’s a solid example of willful and blatant negligence. The worst part is that even a simple visual check during routine PMCS would tell you it hadn’t been fixed.

    2. Kirk

      That, right there, is one of the big problems with the way the Army and other services manage maintenance and modifications to equipment. You have no way of knowing whether or not the guys running the show where that weapon was assigned were actually doing their jobs, and ensured that the MWO was applied.

      Aviation and the Air Force do it better; you really have to be trying when an aircraft suffers a similar issue. It would be nice if similar sensibilities and budget prioritizations were applied to things like firearms, but that’s the way it goes: They don’t care, until someone gets killed. Then, it’s a big deal.

      I remember when the 900-series 5-ton trucks had that “minor” issue with their brakes not working right, at highway speeds. I discovered, the hard way, that the one vehicle in my unit that hadn’t had the MWO applied to it was one of mine, and that, oh, jeez… you’re not gonna be able to drive that thing back from the exercise. Until we get the folks up from third shop/depot to do the work. Which took months–That vehicle sat out at Yakima Training Center for about two-three months, getting stripped by all and sundry, because we had to wait for someone to go fix it. Which never happened–We finally had to get the damn thing hauled back over by civilian haulers, and when it got back, well… Straight to Third Shop, who promptly coded the damn thing out due to it having been stripped for parts by whoever drove by the yard it was stored in up at Yakima. Irritating as hell–I still don’t have an explanation for why the mods hadn’t been applied to that truck before we drew it, but somehow, it snuck through the system.

    3. Daniel E. Watters

      During congressional hearings in September 1988, there was mention of five documented complete slide separations.

      The first was in early 1984 with a Navy SEAL using a 92S commercial pistol with an unknown round count.

      The second occurred on September 23, 1987 with a Navy SEAL using a 92SB commercial pistol. It had fired approximately 30,000 rounds during its lifetime, including 147gr subsonics.

      The third occurred on January 7, 1988. Yet again, it was a Navy SEAL; however, this was the first with an issue M9 pistol. It reportedly only had ~4,500 rounds fired at the time of the incident.

      The fourth occurred on February 8, 1988. It was another M9, but it was being tested by ARDEC in an engineering study of the M9’s barrel. It failed at round 6,007. Most troubling was that the pistol had undergone magnetic particle inspection at round 6,000, and had shown no evidence of cracking.

      The fifth occurred July 14, 1988, yet again with a Navy SEAL. The M9 was believed to have fired 8,000-10,000 rounds, and had been Magnafluxed just 7 days earlier. Oddly enough, Secretary of the Army John Marsh was touring a nearby facility and claimed to have seen the SEAL as he was on his way to seek medical treatment.

  10. DSM

    “The barrels? Never heard of one failing. A really old one wears out and its accuracy declines… it’s still better than the average GI who shoots it, even when it flunks technical inspection.”

    The forward barrel lug (where the falling locking block pivots) will sometimes crack at the junction to the barrel when it’s a very high round count pistol. Our group of training pistols would bust one or two a year but it’s important to note those pistols were used to train/qualify everyone on post requiring a qual. I never recall a correlation of this failure to an earlier locking block failure on the same pistol but I know some have posited it.
    As to the locking blocks, once we got the redesigned versions we never saw another busted lug. That fix worked quite well.

    1. Kirk

      Word I got on that issue with the locking blocks/lugs was that there were a bunch of US-produced ones that did not get proper heat treatment, and that was why they were more prone to breaking.

      Anecdotally, I’m also remembering that the initial lots of 9mm ammo the Army used back in the 1980s were loaded somewhat more heavily, and with a powder whose pressure curves tended to break the M9. I forget what QASAS guy told me that, but it was interesting to hear.

      One of the things that really tends to blow people’s minds is just how sensitive weapons can be to minor little changes like which powder is loaded into the cartridge. A fast-burning high pressure load can be something that a particular design eats like candy, while another one suddenly develops a rash of parts breakages from it. And, when you’re looking at a fleet that numbers in the hundreds of thousands, well… Weird shit starts to turn up. That’s why a lot of “NATO standard” ammunition really isn’t–Try sticking some of the British stuff for the L85 into an M16, sometime, and you’ll really start to question the benefit of that little “cross-in-circle” headstamp. You’ll also see some really weird side-effects in the L85, when you feed it US-spec ammo.

      “Minor changes…” often really aren’t, in the small arms world.

      1. DSM

        It could have been new-old stock parts however this was rather recent, in geologic terms anyhow! About 10-12 years ago now so the replacement parts we were ordering to correct them were obviously new. Those pistols were just getting worn out and we even had a few frame failures there to the end of my time there.

        As to you last note, yessir, M855 will make an L85 beat itself to pieces. On the flip side, their blanks had more oomph behind them. Also a longer, tapered crimp so they fed better.

      2. Daniel E. Watters

        The pressure issues with early M882 Ball tracked back to where the pressure measurements were taken: case mouth versus midway down the case’s sidewall. Lots that measured safe at the case mouth were showing excessive pressures when measured at the lower position.

  11. Steve M.

    The faulty article could have been written by a fellow from India. I read somewhere that Indians were getting jobs writing articles for various websites. Poor grammar and jumbled cut and paste facts were indicators of such ….. uh, journalism.

      1. Steve M.

        Unfortunately, the stupidity that is the New York Times is indigenous to this country. I am not so sure if India were to dredge the Ganges that they could produce such trash.

    1. John Distai

      Comment tangential to the article (as my comments usually are) – That article could have been written by some of the incompetent people I work with.

      The comment about attention to detail struck a nerve. I was raised with very forceful lessons about “paying attention to detail!” “Do the job RIGHT!” Otherwise, you will be doing it again until it is right. My belief was that these lessons were taught to all children. Sadly, very sadly, I’m learning that this is not the case.

      I’m wondering if society is trending towards an apathetic norm of producing “turds” that are viewed as “caviar” (See Bonfire of the Vanities)? I certainly hope not.

      1. DSM

        If you don’t have time to do it right, do you have time to do it over? That’s the phrase we always were told.
        It carried over to my time in uniform and then in weapons maintenance. My first big task after retraining was servicing a crate of woefully neglected and very fuzzily surface rusted M240s. Boss said use my judgment on what I could salvage and I rebuilt every single one instead of just scrubbing off the rust with some CLP. I knew those people who’d be taking those guns out again and I’ll be damned if the cost of spare parts was worth more than any of one of them.

      2. Steve M.

        No need to wonder, John. We’re most certainly heading that way. It’s all part of the judge not/acceptance/everyone gets a trophy/snowflake (or whatever the new term is) direction the country has been heading for the last twenty years.

        Work to a high standard came from my dad. It’s on my mind every time I do something.

  12. DSM

    So far the only images released of the M17 are showing a common frame assembly and only two different slide lengths. Does anyone have any Intel if these are the only two configurations? Or, any info on stock numbers if they’re issued as a kit, or, each version has its own NSN?
    The civvy P320 has all the various options but was the .mil’s version including all of them? I haven’t seen anything one way or another in what I’ve read so far.

  13. Aesop

    God god, Hognose, the barrel you put those articles into before opening fire must be made of six or seven inches of solid titanium to take such a shellacking, and not have any of the rounds penetrate the side walls.

    I haven’t seen anything in water that shot up since the pool scene in Battlefield Los Angeles, and they followed up by dropping a frag on the alien’s @$$.

    Nice work!

  14. McThag

    I’d like add something in support of something Hognose mentions.

    “We could always work with the M9. A pistol is too inconsequential to waste hatred on, and any professional just takes the pistol he is issued and works with it.”

    I detest the M9. It just doesn’t fit my hand well.

    But when my unit did the transition from M1911A1 to M9, my shooting improved.”

    My not liking the gun did not have a deleterious effect on my shooting because the sights were better and the guns were bleeping new. Because even a tanker is a professional and works with what we’re issued. FFS, we even made M73’s and M219’s work, after a fashion, sort of…

  15. Docduracoat

    A striker fired pistol with a thumb safety that does not require a trigger pull to take apart?
    So maybe Glock design CAN be improved upon?

  16. Pingback: In Which We Fisk the Worst Article on the M17 Selection

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