Breaking down the Army's new handgun

Armorer Sgt. Lionel James breaks down the M17--literally. (Daniel Woolfolk/Staff)

For those gun aficionados who either love all things military or all things Sig Sauer, the company recently released 5,000 commemorative M17 pistols for sale — and, for some extra cash, you can even get it in a commemorative display box.

Sig Sauer, the firearms company that more than a year ago won the 10-year, $580 million contract for the Army and other services’ Modular Handgun System, built both the M17 and M18 to fulfill that program’s requirements.

Both are 9mm pistols; the M18 is a compact version for use by military police, investigators and special security details.

The M17 commemorative handgun is made to the same specifications as the U.S.-government grade pistol. Though the M17 is similar in design to the civilian Sig Sauer P320, the military version has more robust internal mechanisms and had been adjusted to fix a drop test misfire problem that caused a media stir last year following the contract announcement.

It is also fitted with an ambidextrous external safety since that’s what the Army wanted for its Joes.

Sig Sauer is releasing 5,000 Commemorative M17 handguns for sale to the public. The pistols are made to military specifications. (Sig Sauer)
Sig Sauer is releasing 5,000 Commemorative M17 handguns for sale to the public. The pistols are made to military specifications. (Sig Sauer)

The commemorative edition comes with two 21-round magazines and one 17-round magazine. It is in coyote-tan, with a PVD coated stainless steel slide and the same optic cut as the Army’s pistol, according to a company release.

The pistol retail price is listed at $1,122. The standard Sig Sauer P320, available since 2014, is priced at about $800 for the full size and $650 for the compact version at most retailers.

The M17 is the first service-wide pistol purchased by the Army and other branches in decades. It replaces the Beretta M9, a controversial sidearm that has been in the military inventory since the mid-1980s, when it replaced most of the .45 caliber 1911 variants, which were built more than a century ago and saw service in all of America’s wars from World War II to current deployments.

The commemorative handgun’s specs are as follows:

  • Total length: 8 inches
  • Barrel length: 4.7 inches
  • Weight (including 17 round magazine): 29.6 ounces
  • Height: 5.5 inches
  • Width: 1.3 inches
  • Sight radius: 6.6 inches

It ships to select dealers in August and collectors can also purchase a “Collector’s Case” to display the pistol. The case costs $200.

Sig Sauer is releasing 5,000 Commemorative M17 handguns for sale to the public. The pistols are made to military specifications. (Sig Sauer)
Sig Sauer is releasing 5,000 Commemorative M17 handguns for sale to the public. The pistols are made to military specifications. (Sig Sauer)

The pistols are serialized M17-0001 to M17-5000 and includes the Army’s unique identifier. It is sold in the same cardboard packaging as it is delivered to Army units.

“The U.S. Army’s selection of the M17 earned the Sig Sauer P320 a place in history. It’s regarded as one of the world’s most influential firearms as it enters service with America’s Armed Forces across the globe,” said Tom Taylor, chief marketing officer and executive vice president for Sig Sauer. “The M17 is the culmination of Sig Sauer’s steadfast commitment to providing the military with the very best, and our determination to never settle. We are excited that collectors and civilians have an opportunity to participate in this history.”

The decade-long contract branches out to not only the Army but all the other services as well. The quantities listed in recent federal budget documents are:

  • Army: 238,215
  • Air Force: 130,000
  • Navy: 70,000
  • Marine Corps: 35,000

The military’s MHS is not only the pistol. It includes a hard-plastic drop holster made by Safariland and will also feature a custom-made aiming light/laser combination currently under development by two companies LaserMax Defense and Streamlight.

The Army's small arms team at its Lethality Branch are evaluating two submissions for the future laser/light combination for the Modular Handgun System the same device will fit on both the full-size M17 (pictured here) and compact M18 pistols. (Army)
The Army's small arms team at its Lethality Branch are evaluating two submissions for the future laser/light combination for the Modular Handgun System the same device will fit on both the full-size M17 (pictured here) and compact M18 pistols. (Army)

The laser device will have to run continuously for 1.5 hours, be flush with the muzzle and no wider than 1.5 inches. That will allow it to be used on both the M17 and M18.

Army officials expect it to be ready for fielding by next June.