Breaking down the Army's new handgun

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

Army officials are evaluating two illuminators to add to the Modular Handgun System for a small subset of soldiers who need the light/laser capability.

Those same soldiers will also need a different holster to accommodate the device, which will attache to the built-in rail system of the M17 and M18 handguns that make up the MHS.

In a recent interview with Daryl Easlick, the small arms deputy for the Army’s Lethality Branch, Army Times learned that picking a laser/light combination isn’t as easy as going on a quick shopping trip with unit funds.

The equipment needs to have a white light function, common to the way military police use the device. But is also must be compatible with night vision goggles used by infantry and scouts so that soldiers can use the infrared pointer and illuminator, depending on the task.

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 key is to shrink that capability down to a size that won’t make the M17 look like a double-barrel shotgun.

“I can get a lot of white light, but that takes a lot of battery,” Easlick said. “But with a lot of battery I have a lot of size.”

The power goes beyond the brightness too. The ‘pistol enhancer’ device must run for up to 1.5 hours.

So, Easlick and his team must keep the device within strict parameters, fitting no further down than the height of the trigger guard on the M17, flush with or behind the muzzle and no wider than 1.5 inches.

Two companies, LaserMax Defense and Streamlight have submitted lasers that meet those requirements, Easlick said.

Those two submissions will be used by soldiers later this summer for soldier input and evaluation.

With the additional safety, budget planning and laser-specific testing required, the light is likely to be fielded by this time next year, he said.

Simultaneously, the service is looking at a holster that can accommodate the device when mounted on the pistol.

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 and compact M18 (pictured here) 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 and compact M18 (pictured here) pistols. (Army)

The Army will buy at least 230,000 pistols over the 10-year, $580 million contract, not to mention those being purchased by other services.

But only those in roles that require a light/laser combo will get the pistol enhancer, Easlick said. He didn’t have exact quantities to share but said that the number would be far lower than the total number of pistols being purchased.

The big takeaway for Army unit commanders though is not to rush out and buy a light that might mount on the pistol but not fit your future holster.