In what is certain to be one of the most important small arms contracts of the last few decades, the US Army announced on Thursday that Sig Sauer of New Hampshire had been awarded a $580 million contract under the XM17 Modular Handgun System program. The program had been under fire in recent years, even being brought up by multiple Senators during the recent confirmation hearings of General James Mattis as the potential Secretary of Defense, with comments from the Senators that the program was an example of procurement processes in dire need of overhaul.
Whether or not the decision to award a contract so soon after the public rebuke of the program had anything to do with said rebuke isn’t known, but what is known is that Glock, the last remaining competitor after several down selects, is almost certain to contest the decision. This means that the already long and tortured process is about to become even longer and more tortured.
Sig’s P320 is a striker fired polymer frame pistol with a double stack magazine holding 17 rounds of 9mm ammunition. While Sig also submitted a 40 Smith & Wesson variant to the competition, it is not believed that the Army would choose to change calibers from the NATO standard 9mm. The P320 features a modular design which allows caliber changes and grip size changes, but with pistol “ownership” changing frequently in military units which issue pistols, it isn’t certain that the modular features will be practical at the small unit level without each unit being required to stock large quantities of each available grip size – especially as more women enter combat units and the range of potential hand sizes of soldiers expands accordingly.