Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Saying good-bye to the M9

The Army has announced that it will be replacing the 25 year old M9 pistol.  This announcement came on Aug 28th, 2011.

M9 Service Pistol
The M9 has had a long and some what sordid history with the U.S. Armed Forces.  Starting early in its life cycle a now infamous slide failure injured a Naval Special Warfare member.  Other slide failures were observed during this time period which resulted in several design changes.  One of these changes was the inclusion of a device to capture the slide should it fail thereby preventing it from striking the shooter.

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan other problems were discovered with the pistol, among those were problems with the contract magazines that often failed in the sandy conditions.  This was remedied with a new contract being put out and a new vendor selected for manufacturing the magazines.

Unfortunately the problems didn't stop there with the M9.

The open top design of the M9 has also been criticized as it tends to allow debris into the action of the pistol relatively easily thereby causing malfunctions.

The locking block of the pistol was known for failures.  After 5,000 rounds were fired, it was recommended this piece be replaced.  It took several years, but Beretta finally fixed this problem and now the locking blocks are said to be quite durable.  The Army still claims that the M9 has a service life of 5,000 rounds, however Beretta contests this claim and says that the service life of the M9 is more along the lines of 35,000 rounds.  A test carried out under Army supervision fired 168,000 rounds through 12 M9's without a malfunction.

The slide mounted safety has also been a problem.  When Soldiers or Marines have used immediate action to clear a malfunction, they've inadvertently engaged the safety of the pistol.  Immediate action generally requires the operator to grab the slide firmly with their non-shooting hand and rack it rearward very quickly and positively.  Where the operator grabs the slide is where the slide mounted safety is located.

Walther P-38
But the M9 has also had its fans and supporters.  It is an elegant pistol that shares many of its innovations with the WWII era P38 Walter pistol.  The dropping block system of lock-up was borrowed directly from the P38.  The slide mounted hammer drop safety was also borrowed from the design, as was the open top design of the slide.

One thing of interest is that the Army has said that the M9 lacks lethality.  One of the requirements for a new pistol will be "an increase in permanent wound channel" which seems to suggest a caliber change might also be on the horizon.  I would imagine this will be a tough battle given our NATO allies use 9mm and if the US once again goes off the reservation with a non-standard caliber, our allies might protest.  That, or perhaps NATO is considering a caliber change too.  My guess is that the .40 S&W will be a strong contender.

It's also worth noting that back in 2008 the USMC adopted the M9A1 (4,000 delivered that year) which had several improvements including a beveled magazine well, 1913 type rail,  re-contoured trigger guard and a new buffer system.

I look forward to the new pistol trials to be carried out in 2012.  The field should be awash in competing designs including the Glock, M&P, Px4, Sig, HK P30 or HK45, XD, etc.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

When Tactical Goes Wrong

It seems that the rush to make a new "tactical" accessory or firearm continues.  We've seen this trend for several years by many manufacturers, but occasionally you'll stumble into a product that makes you think, "what the heck?".  I recently stumbled into two such products and interestingly, they're both from the same manufacturer.


Mossberg seems to be suffering from a bit of an identity crisis lately.  Mossberg made a name for itself early in the 20th century by designing and manufacturing classics like the Brownie pistol and eventually traditional rifles, shotguns and optics.  In the last couple of decades the Mossberg Model 500 shotgun has become something of an icon and is used by the U.S. military.  Mossberg is also one of the oldest firearms makers in the U.S. and is the oldest family owned firearms manufacturer in the U.S.

Despite being a seasoned firearms manufacturer, they've made some real head scratchers lately.

702 Plinkster
Take the 702 Pinkster .22LR autoloader as an example.  Here we have what almost seems to be a traditional semi-automatic .22LR rifle with a detachable magazine and polymer stock.  Where things get really strange is at the muzzle.  That's right, they've added what appears to be a .50 BMG muzzle brake to a .22LR, similar to the brakes found on rifles such as the Barrett M82 sniper rifle.  The massive Barrett brake is designed to tame the vicious recoil of the .50 BMG rifle cartridge.  I don't know why anyone would see a need to use such a device on a rifle that is generally accepted to have no recoil.  I would pay to be a fly on the wall during the conversations between the engineers and the marketing folks at Mossberg when this concept was being pitched.

But apparently the 702 Plinkster wasn't tacticool enough to stand on its own, Mossberg stepped up with yet another head scratcher, perhaps eclipsing the 702 Plinkster.

Model 500 "Chainsaw"
Enter the Model 500 "Chainsaw" 12ga shotgun.  This little gem looks like it's right out of The Evil Dead movie.  Take a pistol grip 12ga shotgun, add a tacticool muzzle device and a chainsaw grip to the front pump handguard and you have what's possibly the craziest looking shotgun ever created and sold by a major firearms manufacturer.  The image to the left is not photoshopped in any way, this is a real product.

I wish Mossberg well in their pursuit of profits, but honestly, I'm a bit dumbfounded with these two products.  When I first saw images of them I honestly thought it was a joke, that someone had photoshopped a couple of images for a gag.  But it's no joke, these are real products.

Mossberg Modern Rifle (MMR)
Mossberg has also stepped into the ring with another new product that's a little more conventional, the MMR or "Mossberg Modern Rifle".  The MMR is basically another AR15 clone which I would argue isn't "modern" in the slightest.  To me calling another AR15 clone based on a design that's 48+ years old "modern" is like producing another 1911 clone and calling it the MMH (Mossberg Modern Handgun).  About the only thing I can see that's unique about the MMR is the unconventional looking pistol grip they've added.

I honestly wish Mossberg the best of luck with these products.  It will be interesting to see how these products fare in the marketplace.  Perhaps they'll sell like hotcakes and I'll be forced to eat a hearty serving of crow.

*** Update 2/17/2012***

It looks like Mossberg out did themselves.  Words escape me when looking at their latest tacticool offering.  This one is called the 464 SPX and it's something to behold, for sure: