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Uncle Sam Has a New Gun
Jeremy Bentham Reports On: Army Names First Unit to Receive Service's New Pistol M17

“The third rule of the ethics of means and ends is that in war the end justifies almost any means. Agreements on the Geneva rules on treatment of prisoners or use of nuclear weapons are observed only because the enemy or his potential allies may retaliate.”

-Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals 1971, Of Means and Ends, p. 29.

“It ain't the smoke, it's the fire that gets the burnin' done. If it wasn't for the bullet, nobody'd fear the gun."

– Chad Brock , “Lightening Does the Work” “Lightening Does the Work”

The Screaming Eagles of the storied 101ist Airborne Division will be the first to be issued the Army’s new M17 pistol later this year.

Why did the Army adopt a new pistol? Because the M9 9mm Beretta pistols (AKA Beretta 92F) the Army bought back in the 1980’s to replace the M1911A1 .45 caliber pistols it bought back during WWII are wearing out now from hard use and need to be replaced, either by newly manufactured M9s or by an entirely new model of handgun. After some 30 years it can safely be assumed that there must be something new and improved on the market, so the Army opened trials for a new handgun. The winner was the new Sig Sauer P320, now type classified as the M17 Modular Handgun System (MHS). It bested or equaled all its competitors in the categories of accuracy, firepower/cartridge capacity (17+1 to 21+1 in 9mm), reliability, durability, versatility, user-friendliness, ease of maintenance and price per unit. The P320 got the nod in particular because of its completely modular construction. It can be fitted with different size grips, different sized frames and even configured in different calibers (9mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W and .45 ACP). The interchangeable frame sizes means the P320 can also replace the M11 (Sig Sauer P228) compact pistols used for concealed carry by Army CID, NCIS and other DOD special agents. It can also be accessorized with a silencer, flashlights and laser sights. The P320 is nothing if not versatile.

The ability to use different sized grip modules was a big selling point this go around as one of the complaints about the M9 is that female personal often find the handle to be too big for their hands such that they can’t get a good grip on the pistol and shoot it well enough to qualify.

Of course a gun is merely a bullet launcher, it’s the bullet that does the damage to the target. Provided that it is moving fast enough to penetrate sufficiently deep into the body to reach the vital organs, the bullet that makes the biggest hole is going to do the most damage. Stopping power is always a concern in a handgun/cartridge combination since handguns tend to be employed in close combat where it’s is highly desirable to able to incapacitate an attacker with a single hit to the body before he can do you harm with whatever weapons he is equipped with.

The Army has decided to stick with the 9mm Parabellum (AKA 9x19mm, 9mm Luger, 9mm NATO) cartridge for general issue of the M17 MHS, rather than switch to the .45 ACP or .40 S&W calibers. Not surprising given that the nine mil is widely regarded as the “Goldilocks” semi-automatic pistol cartridge: not too hot, not too cold, just right. That is to say powerful enough to do serious damage to a human adversary, yet the recoil is still moderate enough for the average shooter to handle without difficulty. Nevertheless, in full metal jacket (FMJ) configuration the 9mm Parabellum bullet lacks the stopping power of the larger .45 ACP FMJ bullet. On paper the 9mm P seems to be right up there with the.45 ACP. The 9mm NATO load of a 124 grain FMJ bullet with a muzzle velocity (mv) of 1150 feet per second (fps) produces 364 foot pounds/ 494 joules of kinetic energy, whereas the .45 ACP FMJ ‘G.I hardball’ load of a 230 grain FMJ bullet with a mv of 850 fps produces 369 foot pounds / 500 joules of kinetic energy.

However even with its additional 300 fps of mv the kinetic energy of the non-expanding 9mm FMJ bullet does not transfer its kinetic energy to the target and produce a more damaging wound quite as effectively as the .45 ACP FMJ bullets does, simply because the 45 makes bigger hole (.45 inch vs .355 inch /9mm). According to the actuarial tables complied of bullet perfromance in actual shooting incidents by police officers Evan Marshall and Ed Sanow, the 9mm FMJ bullet will drop a human adversary with a single hit to the torso 50% of the time, while the .45 ACP FMJ bullet can be expected to achieve one-hit stops 70% of the time.

The way to improve the stopping power of the 9mm then is to change the bullet configuration and use a bullet designed to expand on contact with a hydraulic medium (like flesh), such as the jacketed hollow point (JHP) loads used by all American law enforcement agencies. For example the high pressure/high velocity 9mm +p+ “Illinois State Police” load of a 115 grain JHP propelled at some 1400 FPS that Winchester developed for the ISP was determined to have a one-shot stop rate of 91%. Upon contact the bullet in the ISP cartridge mushrooms to a diameter of about .55 caliber dumping more energy in the target and creating a larger wound channel as it passes through the body. Police departments throughout in the USA , and Canada, have uniformly adopted hollow-point ammunition for their service handguns because of the greater stopping power and because of the reduced risk of over-penetration with the use of expanding bullets. When a hollow point bullet is fired into front of a perpetrator’s body it will typically lodge in the large muscles of the back. It is much less likely to pass out of the body of the perp and risk hitting innocent bystanders.

For example the NYPD uses the Speer Gold Dot brand 124 grain JHP in its 9mm Glock 19 Handguns. So the principle way to change the performance of a gun/ cartridge combination, as far as it terminal ballistics is concerned, is to change the configuration of the bullet it uses. If you are prohibited from changing the bullet configuration you are limited in how much you can improve such performance.

This brings us to what is really the revolution in US. Army handgun use: “The ammunition chosen to go with the Sig Sauer is a "Winchester jacketed hollow point" round, Power told” The U.S. Armed Forces has used FMJ small arms ammunition exclusively for better than a hundred years now in compliance with the strictures of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 on the international law of land warfare. The Hague Convention Declaration (IV,3) enjoins its signatories to “agree to abstain from the use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as bullets with a hard envelope which does not entirely cover the core, or is pierced with incisions”. This is interpreted to eschew the use of hollow point and soft point bullets, such as are commonly required to be used for big-game hunting in most jurisdictions to ensure a humane kill of the game. For some reason the representatives who attended the Hague Convection were of the opinion that using such hunting bullets on human enemies was excessively cruel and ought to be banned from the civilized rules of war. Especially, I must suppose, when used against the soldiers of another civilized nation, men who are likely to be hapless conscripts involuntarily snatched from civilian life rather than savages from uncivilized nations raised to be warriors from childhood. One often hears the term ‘Dum-Dum’ bullets used in the news. This is simply a British colloquialism for hollow point and soft point bullets, such as were experimented with at the Royal Army arsenal in Dum-Dum India at the time of the Hague conventions.

In any event, the U.S. Military has, until now, scrupulously complied with the Hague Convention’s proscriptions on small arms ammo, EVEN THOUGH, the USA has never signed and ratified that declaration of the Hague Convention and EVEN THOUGH that declaration “is only binding for the Contracting Powers in the case of a war between two or more of them”.

OK so WTF? Why the precipitous change of policy? Certainly using Winchester JHP ammunition will greatly improve the stopping power of 9mm handguns used by the military, just as it has for those used by American police. Has the Department of Defense (DOD) Judge Advocate General (JAG) office now determined that the use of hollow point bullets in the new handgun is not a violation of the law of war? Certainly one can make the case that the various Islamic Jihadist groups American forces are currently fighting against are "illegal combatants”, criminals by any other name, and thus not entitled to the protections of the Hague and Geneva Conventions. Normally what enforces the observance of the rules of war is the threat that the enemy will retaliate in kind for any willful violations. Fear of retribution is what ultimately keeps people honest in every walk of life. The Islamic Jihadists have operated outside the boundaries of the civilized rules of war from the very beginning. So if they decided they didn’t like being shot with hollow point handgun bullets what atrocity could they threaten to commit against Americans in retaliation that they haven’t committed already? The political Left in the West certainly won’t support this policy change, but they want America to suffer rebuke and defeat in everything it sets its hand to, so why pay any attention to them? No doubt as time passes this will get more attention from the media and more insider information on how this decision was arrived at will be revealed.

Army Terminates XM25 Contract; Airburst Weapon’s Future Uncertain

Too bad. The XM25 “Punisher” reportedly performed well in the ‘Stan. Grenades air bursting over their heads did a bang up job of driving anti-government bushwhackers out from behind the rocks they were using for cover. So what’s next for the XM25?

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Add Comment
Jeremy BenthamMay 19, 2017 11:33 AM UTC

Indeed Ishmael. See "Size Matters":

Also a rifle the uses caseless ammunition is under consideration. Only time will tell which way the Army will go, but its safe to say that the leadership in both the Army and the Marine Corps appears to be in the mood to make serious changes in the Infantry rifle.
IshmaelMay 18, 2017 1:26 PM UTC

Jeremy, I hear the army is looking for a new battle rifle, 6.5 or 7mm, to replace .5.56?