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  1. #1
    Senior Member bettercallsaul's Avatar
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    There's more than money in the Army's handgun contract

    I just read this and thought I'd share. What do you guys think the US Army will choose?

    ============================================

    by Tim Fitzsimons
    Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 16:22


    Today, the official handgun of the U.S. Army is the Beretta M9. But it may not be that way for long.

    The Pentagon is searching for a new handgun for its soldiers. The request for proposals envisions a modular handgun system. Sounds simple, but the Army has only been in the market for its official gun twice before, so gun manufacturers have a lot riding on the contract. And it’s not just about the money.

    Beretta learned that lesson when it won the Army's gun contract back in 1985. It was something of a coup for the Italian company — until then, the company was best-known for making boutique-type hunting rifles.

    Beretta has made the Army's M9s in its Accokeek, Maryland headquarters since 1987. At the height of the Army contract, it employed about 500 people, but today it’s around 300. Gabriele De Plano, Beretta’s vice president of military marketing and sales, says that when Beretta won the contract, the impact was immediate.

    "Law-enforcement agencies started to adopt the Beretta M9 or the equivalent commercial version, a lot of state-police agencies adopted the M9, the civilian market all of a sudden took greater note of our products," he says.

    But the Army’s new request for proposals for a modular handgun system is a sign that the military isn’t satisfied with the M9. There are some well-known complaints: its magazines get stuck in hot, sandy environments like Iraq and its grip is too big for those with small hands, like female soldiers. De Plano says Beretta tried to address some of those complaints with an updated version called the M9A3.

    "The pistol itself operates exactly the same way, which is one of the great advantages," he says. "If you know how to shoot the old pistol, you know how to shoot the new pistol."

    Beretta submitted this updated version as an “Engineering Change Proposal” to the existing contract, but the Army didn't bite.

    Brian Friel, a government-contracts analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, says that's because the government wants a wide-open competition for its new modular system. And it's no wonder Beretta submitted the M9A3 to try to keep its contract.

    "The value of a government contract is beyond its nominal dollar amount because there's something of a good housekeeping stamp of approval that comes with the Army or an agency picking your gun to put in soldiers' hands," Friel says.

    That nominal dollar amount is actually low, in the grand scheme of Pentagon acquisitions. The Department of Defense only spent about $400 million over the life of the 30-year Beretta contract. Contrast that with the overall civilian gun market in America, which is worth around $7 billion per year, or the hundreds of billions spent on the yet-to-be-delivered F-35 fighter jet.

    Mike Greene, an analyst with defense consulting firm Avascent, says gun manufacturers want this contract so they can be "The Army Gun."

    "There are six, seven, eight million concealed carry holders in the U.S., which is a lot larger number than most people realize," Greene says. "Those people are carrying a firearm, those are regular civilians who are carrying a firearm every day."

    Because the consumer-handgun market has grown so exponentially since the last Army gun contract in the 1980s, "in this case, the consumer market may drive what the military chooses," Greene says. "The research and development is all on the consumer side."

    Even if Beretta doesn’t win this contract, its relationship with the Army will continue to have cachet. Its predecessor, the Colt M1911, was the army’s gun for 70 years. And to this day, it still has a devoted following.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Petamocto's Avatar
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    Commonality counts for a lot in the Army. Every other small arm we use works on the premise of cocking the gun, then putting it on safe until you're ready to shoot something, at which point you take the gun off safe and engage.

    This is the same for our C7 (M16), C7 (M4), C9 (M249), C6 (GPMG), and even the shotguns.

    The 9mm Browning/Beretta is no different. I would be shocked if the Army chose anything that didn't have a dedicated safety lever/button of some kind, simply because of how the commonality issue works.

    You may think a police officer is just fine with a Glock in his holster, but that police officer has to learn 1-2 weapon systems, and isn't on shift for 100 hours at a time without sleep. A soldier has to learn a dozen weapon systems, and regularly suffers sleep deprivation and extreme fatigue. All of this leads to common drills, and that means a manual safety.

  3. #3
    Senior Member bettercallsaul's Avatar
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    Here's another article from last month. I guess we won't know what the Army chooses until 2017.

    My guess is they choose something from Sig Sauer. All metal, proven record & manufactured in the USA. Also, since they want something with more lethality, and are stuck using ball ammunition, my guess is that they will go back to 45ACP. So either the P220 or P227.

    Smith & Wesson takes aim on Army pistol contract

    For Springfield gun maker Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., the target doesn’t get any bigger than this.

    The Army is shopping for hundreds of thousands of handguns for officers, military police, and other soldiers, in the service’s biggest wholesale pistol replacement in a generation. It’s a rare shot at a lucrative new contract during a period of reduced defense spending, and it could be just the seed of a money tree.

    If other military branches follow suit, as some specialists expect, the Pentagon’s upfront order could approach 500,000 weapons. Including ammunition and accessories, the initial deal could be more than $500 million — with additional payments likely to follow, as the military often rolls over contracts for years to come. The Army’s current handgun supplier, Italian manufacturer Beretta, has held the contract since 1985.

    Beyond a slice of the federal defense budget, the Army handgun contract will give the winning manufacturer considerable clout in selling to police departments, foreign militaries, and civilian gun owners.

    “I don’t think you can overstate the importance of a contract like this to a pistol maker,” said Brian Anse Patrick, a communications professor at the University of Toledo who studies guns in popular culture.

    Smith & Wesson has shown that it’s serious about the competition. Shortly after the Army published a draft request for proposals last fall, the company said it would partner with defense giant General Dynamics Corp., a veteran of Washington’s contract wars, to pursue the handgun deal. Most other manufacturers have kept mum about their interest.

    Chief executive James Debney said in a statement at the time that General Dynamics “brings us a wealth of experience . . . in federal government contracting.”

    The company declined to comment further, so it’s unclear how winning the contract would affect employment in Springfield, where Smith & Wesson has about 1,500 workers and does most of its manufacturing. But when Smith & Wesson tripled pistol manufacturing between 2010 and 2013, churning out roughly 600,000 more guns per year, the company added 350 employees.

    The Army pistol contract alone could roughly match a full year of revenue for Smith & Wesson, which projects 2015 sales to total between $532 million and $536 million. Smith & Wesson’s share price has risen more than 40 percent since the company announced its pursuit of the Army pistol contract.

    Smith & Wesson has the advantage of being an American company and an iconic brand, cemented in popular culture in the 1971 movie “Dirty Harry,” in which the Clint Eastwood character declared the company’s .44 Magnum “the most powerful handgun in the world.”

    “If you’re talking about who is viewed by the gun community as [being among] the leading contenders, Smith & Wesson is right there at the top,” said Richard Feldman, a former regional political director for the National Rifle Association who is now president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association in Rindge, N.H.

    In the past, Smith & Wesson has supplied firearms to the FBI and US Marshals, but its last federal contract came in 1996, according to the Federal Procurement Data System.
    Gun parts in the assembly area at the Smith & Wesson manufacturing plant in Springfield, Mass.

    Globe File

    Gun parts in the assembly area at the Smith & Wesson manufacturing plant in Springfield, Mass.

    The Army’s formal request for proposals, originally expected in January, could come any day. The competitive bidding process will narrow the field to three finalists, with a winner selected in 2017. So far, guidance on what the Army desires in a handgun has been mostly limited to the draft request, which reflected soldiers’ complaints about the M9, Beretta’s 9mm pistol that many troops carry as a backup to their rifle or use in close-range combat.

    The Army said it wants the new handgun to have “increased lethality, increased accuracy, improved ergonomics, and a higher degree of reliability/durability.” The Army also has said it will consider guns that fire larger bullets, such as .40- or .45-caliber rounds.

    A spokesman for the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier, which procures equipment and small arms, did not respond to a request for information.

    Firearms industry publications and message boards are rife with speculation about contenders, including Sig Sauer Inc.; Glock Inc.; and Sturm, Ruger & Co.

    One industry site, SoldierSystems.net, reported 20 manufacturers participated in preliminary meetings with Army officials in October. Another, Military.com, reported the Army already has ruled out a new version of Beretta’s M9. A Beretta spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

    Beating the field, and Glock in particular, would represent a massive validation of Smith & Wesson’s revamped business strategy. Known as a maker of revolvers for most of its 163-year history, Smith & Wesson launched a line of clip-loaded handguns made of polymer in 2005, branded as M&P pistols, short for military and police.

    The move came largely in response to Glock’s dominance in the law enforcement market, Debney told the Globe in a 2013 interview. Smith & Wesson’s share of the police market in the mid-2000s was “virtually down to nothing,” he said. “It was time to reinvent ourselves.

    “In terms of where we’re investing our resources and most of our capital expenditures to increase capacity, it’s all behind the M&P polymer family,” Debney said.

    Smith & Wesson has not identified the model it will pitch to the Army but has said it will come from the M&P line. The pistols typically retail for between $600 and $800 each, not including ammunition, holsters, sights, and other accessories.

    Smith & Wesson manufactured 872,106 pistols in 2013, the last year for which data were available from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It is now the third-largest pistol maker in the United States — and Debney has his sights on being top gun.

    The Army contract would help Smith & Wesson get there, but the competition among gun makers will be fierce, predicted William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, a Washington think tank.

    Gun makers will “pull every lever they have,” said Hartung, who has studied and written about defense contracting. “With that much at stake, I’m sure there will be political contributions. I’m sure they’ll recruit experts, former Army people, to speak and lobby on their behalf.”
    Last edited by bettercallsaul; 04-01-2015 at 06:25 PM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member bettercallsaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Petamocto View Post
    Commonality counts for a lot in the Army. Every other small arm we use works on the premise of cocking the gun, then putting it on safe until you're ready to shoot something, at which point you take the gun off safe and engage.

    This is the same for our C7 (M16), C7 (M4), C9 (M249), C6 (GPMG), and even the shotguns.

    The 9mm Browning/Beretta is no different. I would be shocked if the Army chose anything that didn't have a dedicated safety lever/button of some kind, simply because of how the commonality issue works.

    You may think a police officer is just fine with a Glock in his holster, but that police officer has to learn 1-2 weapon systems, and isn't on shift for 100 hours at a time without sleep. A soldier has to learn a dozen weapon systems, and regularly suffers sleep deprivation and extreme fatigue. All of this leads to common drills, and that means a manual safety.
    I agree 100%.

    What do you think they'll choose?

  5. #5
    Senior Member Zinilin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bettercallsaul View Post
    I agree 100%.

    What do you think they'll choose?
    A Glock with a manual thumb safety.

  6. #6
    Senior Member bettercallsaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zinilin View Post
    A Glock with a manual thumb safety.
    They make Glocks in the USA, so I'd say that's a possibility. It'll be interesting to see if they choose a polymer framed pistol or not.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Zinilin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bettercallsaul View Post
    They make Glocks in the USA, so I'd say that's a possibility. It'll be interesting to see if they choose a polymer framed pistol or not.
    Maybe they will see a ceramic barrel, slide and mag spring; and perhaps a ceramic magnetic recoil 'spring'.

    Loose the steel, it's so 18th century.

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  9. #8
    Senior Member Petamocto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bettercallsaul View Post
    I agree 100%. What do you think they'll choose?
    Hard to say. I think the Beretta surprised everyone, so it's not like it has to be a bread and butter US brand like S&W.

    I really can't say, because I haven't been in charge of small arms for a few years, and even then it was Canada and not the US, so I can't claim to have insider info.

    If Glock changed their gun to have a manual safety then maybe, but I can't see that happening.

  10. #9
    Senior Member CLW .45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Petamocto View Post
    Hard to say. I think the Beretta surprised everyone, so it's not like it has to be a bread and butter US brand like S&W.

    I really can't say, because I haven't been in charge of small arms for a few years, and even then it was Canada and not the US, so I can't claim to have insider info.

    If Glock changed their gun to have a manual safety then maybe, but I can't see that happening.
    The Beretta, according to my sources, was chosen as part of a deal that would allow the American navy to keep it's naval bases in Italy.

    What will be the over-riding factor on this go round?
    To show that men can travel to the moon and return, use the American experience.

    To show that public safety isn’t hurt by responsible individuals carrying to protect life, use the American experience.

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zinilin View Post
    Maybe they will see a ceramic barrel, slide and mag spring; and perhaps a ceramic magnetic recoil 'spring'.

    Loose the steel, it's so 18th century.
    ........
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