The oft-maligned Beretta M9 is slated for retirement. On July 12th of 2014 Fox News reported that “The Army wants to retire its supply of 9mm handguns and replace it with a more accurate and user-friendly model that also will provide soldiers with more “knockdown” power.” The Army has stated it requires a hammer-driven pistol with a manual safety: our apologies to Glock and M&P fans.
The advances in ammunition in the past decade have created more and more options for defensive carry in the United States. Better propellants and better projectiles have led to better ballistics out of all rounds, but particularly the 9mm. There are two main issues why this does not factor into the Army’s new service pistol.
Firstly, the faster +P and +P+ loads increase wear on firearms. This leads to shorter service life, and when we are discussing 400,000 pistols, service life is a major concern. The 124grn+P 9mm NATO standard is what has worn out the current inventory of M9 and M11s.
Secondly, the Geneva Convention limits troops to Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) rounds. All the high-tech hollow point ammunition is a no-go for the military, at least non-SF units.
Due to theses two above reasons we are left to choose a caliber other than 9mm. .40 Smith and Wesson should be ruled out immediately, as its higher pressures produce even more wear than 9mm+P ammunition, and firearms chambered in it are typically 9mm sizes, which further shortens the service life. .357 Sig is an option, but it is a high pressure, high speed round, and is not produced in nearly the numbers as the option I advocate – the venerable 230grn .45 ACP.
The chorus of “Bring back the 1911!” comments begins immediately as you attempt to engage in any discussion involving service pistols or the .45 ACP. There should not be any debate around bringing the M1911 back into service. John Browning devised that workhorse before manned flight. The storied M1911’s place in history is secure, but our service personnel deserve more than a 7-8 round magazine. They need the best chance to live, which means higher magazine capacity. Also, the M1911 was not a perfect design. There has been much progress in firearm design since the 1890’s.
The Army is seeking a pistol with improved ergonomics, higher capacity, and better “knockdown power.” The answer in .45 ACP is simple: FN’s FNX-45. With a 15-round capacity, fully ambidextrous controls, interchangeable backstraps for ergonomics, and excellent accuracy, the FNX-45 meets all of the Army’s requirements. Its polymer lower receiver is cheaper to replace than the all-metal lower of the Sig Sauer P227, which lacks the FNX’s fully ambidextrous controls (specifically the de-cocker) and is limited to a 10 round capacity. A 14 round magazine exists for the 227, but it is quite extended.
The FNX also bests the Beretta PX4 Storm, with it’s lower-capacity 9 and 10 round magazines. The Heckler and Koch HK45 is another option, but again, has a 10 round magazine. The Colt M45CQB is a wonderful pistol no doubt – the pinnacle of 104 years of development since the design’s adoption by the US Army – but a 7 round magazine is unacceptably low on the modern battlefield. We can and should offer our service members better.
As of 14 February 2015, on Gunbroker.com, the FNX-45 is selling around $650-700, the Sig 227 around $1000, the Beretta around $550-600, Heckler and Koch’s HK45 runs $1000+, and a sole Colt M45CQBP is listed at $2295.00
No doubt Government contracts will involve a different cost per unit, which brings me to the FNX’s strength; single source integration. FN America manufactures the M4, M16, M249, Mk.46, Mk.48, and M240 families of weapons, as well as the M2HB and GAU-21 systems for the US Military in their Charleston, South Carolina plant. There are numerous advantages to awarding the contract to FN, but the largest one is keeping production in the United States and assuring American jobs.
The only consideration the Army should be looking at with a new equipment purchase is soldier survivability. The FNX-45’s 15+1 round capacity gives a soldier a 5-7 round advantage over other pistols. That’s 5-7 more chances to neutralize the threat. If a soldier is down to their pistol, a reload is likely not happening. In that situation, I would want the best pistol I could have. That is the FNX-45. The unit cost, American manufacture and jobs, and single-source maintenance advantages all point to FN. Let us know what you think in the comments.