As soldiers conduct final tests on the new Modular Handgun System, the Army’s top officer has dismissed concerns about its performance in drop tests.

The Sig Sauer P320, the civilian version of the Army’s recently adopted XM17 handgun, recently was in the news after claims that it had fired when dropped.

Sig Sauer officials dispute the claims and have said that the weapon meets all industry and government safety standards.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Army Times in an interview Sept. 12 that the Army is investing in an “excellent weapon,” and he has reviewed reports from drop tests conducted by the military.

The Army awarded a 10-year, $580 million contract to Sig Sauer earlier this year to produce its new handgun, the first replacement to the M9, made by Beretta for the Department of Defense, in more than three decades.

The XM17 is a polymer striker-fired pistol and is the first modular pistol with interchangeable grip modules that can also be adjusted in frame size and caliber. All pistols also will be configurable to receive silencers and have standard and extended capacity magazines.

The handgun can be adapted to shoot 9 mm, .357 SIG and .40 S&W ammo. The Army chose the 9 mm, and the full size and compact versions of the weapon.

“We ran it through tests, we ran it through drop tests, and we went to the company and said ‘[Change] this, this this, this,’ and they said ‘Roger that, we’ll change it,’ ” Milley said.

Sig Sauer said in a release that the XM17 does not have drop test performance problems.

“The civilian version of this weapon is not the same weapon we’re buying,” Milley said.

The four-star declined to describe specific differences between the military and civilian versions of the handgun, citing proprietary issues for the manufacturer.

“But I can tell you with certainty, the guts and the internals of the military version of that weapon are different than what you’re going to buy in the gun store or what police are going to be fielded,” Milley said.

The Army ran even more tests after Sig Sauer came back to the service with the requested modifications.

“We took the modified version and put it through the test, and it passed with flying colors,” Milley said.

The handgun will soon be in the hands of soldiers.

“They’re still going through some final testing that they’re doing right now, and then we’re going to field them,” Milley said.

Soldiers from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and members of the 3rd Infantry Division took part in recent Modular Handgun System testing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

They fired the sidearm in cold weather gear and tested its interoperability with the M4, according to a release by the U.S. Army Operational Test Command.

The release noted that testing would continue through mid-September at Fort Bragg and include sailors and Marines as well as soldiers from various occupational specialties.

“We wanted to make sure that we have a huge sample to make sure that we’ve got this right — that the Army has it right,” said Capt. Christina Smith, program manager for Individual Weapons.

In May, Lt. Col. Steven Power, product manager of Soldier Weapons for Program Executive Office Soldier said that soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, will be the first to be issued the XM17 later this year.

Editor Michelle Tan contributed to this report.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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