Army Says New War-Ready M17 Pistol Will Change Modern Combat

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Earlier this year, soldiers with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division were the first to receive the services’ new high-tech 9mm pistol engineered to give dismounted infantry a vastly increased ability to fight and close with an enemy in caves, tunnels, crawl spaces, houses and other close quarter combat scenarios.

By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

Service weapons developers and soldiers say the new M17 and M18 pistol, designed as a next-generation handgun to follow the Army’s current M9 Beretta, is expected to substantially change combat tactics, techniques and strategies for dismounted soldiers on-the-move.

“You can close with the enemy in close quarter combat and engage the enemy with one hand. It is tough to do this with the M9,” Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, spokesman for the 101st Airborne, told reporters earlier this year.

The new pistol is built with a more ergonomic configuration to better accommodate the widest possible range of hand grip techniques for soldiers and enable rapid hand switching as needed in combat. The M17 is said by developers to bring much tighter dispersion, improved versatility and next-generation accuracy.

“With this weapon, you can change quickly from right hand to left hand. If you are shooting something that is not comfortable on your hand and can't get a comfortable grip, it is not as accurate,” Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Flynn, 101st Division Master Gunner, said earlier this year.

The new handguns are built with an external safety, self-illuminating sights for low-light conditions, an integrated rail for attaching enablers and an Army standard suppressor conversion kit to attach an acoustic/flash suppressor, service developers said.

“It increases target recognition and increases capability with night sights,” Lt. Col. Steven Power, Individual Weapons Product Manager, Soldier Weapons, told reporters earlier this year.

The Army is now acquiring thousands of full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of the new 9mm pistol. The XM17 fires 147 grain jacketed hollow point ammunition.

When it comes to fast-evolving tactics now used in close-quarter combat, something with which Army soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan now have more than a decade of experience, an ability to maneuver with increased lethality in caves, tunnels, crawl spaces, attics or buildings allows soldiers to access life-impacting firepower more effectively - especially in “tight quarters” situations where a longer, larger rifle may not be available for use.

Fast emerging targets and quick-changing circumstances, fundamental to close-quarter combat, naturally require rapid decision making and on-the spot flexibility amid military confrontation. Requirements and technical improvements with the M17 were specifically designed with this in mind, Army developers emphasized.

“This adds a whole new dynamic to close-quarter combat. A standard pistol cannot change grips or allow a soldier to switch from a right-handed shooter to a left-handed shooter. This is a great capability for us to put in play,” Flynn said.

Close quarter combat, while considered indispensable to successful counterinsurgency warfare, is also something of significant relevance to large-scale force-on-force, mechanized combat against a potential near-peer adversary. Urban warfare - from urban combat in WWII to house-to-house fighting in Hue City in Vietnam - is naturally a long-standing component of major war as well.

Power explained that the Army’s M17 acquisition effort unfolded on a massively accelerated timeframe, moving to contract within 10 months.

“We are dual arming the infantry at the position of team leader and above,” Power said.

The fast-tracked acquisition effort, which merged work from the Army Research Lab and the Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, drew heavily from modeling and simulation to expedite development of the new weapon.

Prospects for the handgun have been well received across DoD; the Navy, Air Force and Marines are also receiving this pistol, according to a report from

The Army has been closely coordinating with the Special Operations community regarding training and development of the new handgun, given the consistency with which close-quarter combat is utilized by SOF.

The M17 and M18 pistols are manufactured by Sig Sauer, who earned the $580 million contract to produce the weapons in January of this year.

Other competitors included Glock, FN America and Beretta USA.

Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks.

---This Story first appeared several months ago - and is being reprinted due to reader interest and current news relevance --

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-- Kris Osborn, Managing Editor ofWARRIOR MAVEN (CLICK HERE) can be reached

Comments (6)
No. 1-5

Someone needs to teach that SSG how to grip and shoot a pistol. Now that the Army has a new, state of the art combat pistol it’s time to bring pistol training up to standard.


This is one of the funniest articles I've read in a long time. A handgun "changing modern combat"? Please. The carbine is still the go-to weapon for close quarters engagements. Pistols are rarely used in actual combat to a hyperbolic degree. Not since the machine gun has the introduction of a small arm changed how war is fought. A new pistol bringing a huge change or giving soldiers a big advantage over another pistol in any way is a laughable concept.


If you'd really like to change the basic equation for Infantry squads, re-invent the RPG. This has been one of the deadliest pieces of basic infantry hardware worldwide for about 60 years. How the US has been so utterly blind to the concept of a light, easy-to-learn-and use weapon like it is baffling. We have LAWs, TOWs, and other over weight, too complicated weapons, but nothing touches the RPG. Wake up DARPA!!


I'm not going to insult my intelligence by reading past the article's ridiculous title and what the author is insinuating nor would I ask other viewers to read it. The M-17 is still a 9mm pistol and its ball ammo won't pierce modern body armor. So where is the overmatch capability there? The selling points of the Sig aren't significant enough over any other current polymer 9mm on the gun store shelves today. In 15 years of war with insurgents and bad actors living in caves, cement and mud dwellings, has anyone heard it was the pistol that won the fight. The best chance our Soldiers have of killing the enemy with a pistol would be to toss it to him and ask him to shoot himself in the head. So Sig...enjoy the ride you suckered the Army into buying.


Here is the real problem with the USA and Nato militaries and it has nothing to do with fancy new firearms, self-acquiring sights or lasers firing from space.

We are fighting Terrorist threats with completely the wrong mindset! The USA will spend billions of Dollars developing new hightech weapons to fight in terrorist wars where as the enemy will only spend 10 cents on a box of matches and burn their target down. Secondly, we have to adhere to the international law of armed conflict and they don't... I have seen shooters fire at armed forces from in the middle of a crowd where they have placed women and children in the front, because they know that we dare not shoot back..... we cannot, and never will win a war against these enemies with our present tactics! Hence I say it's not about getting a new side arm it's all about how we are trained to fight, which is where the money should be going!