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The M9 Pistol - Sidearm of American Soldiers

After 20 Years, the M9 Pistol Remains Standard Issue

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Semi-automatic handgun
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With its durability and specifications, the M9 pistol remains the standard issue sidearm of the U.S. Army.

A Semiautomatic, 9 Millimeter Handgun 

The M9 pistol is a semiautomatic handgun that fires 9 millimeter bullets from a 15 round magazine. The weapon is manufactured by gun maker Beretta. It has been in use by the U.S. military since 1990. A modified version of the pistol – known as the M9A1 – has been in use by American soldiers since 2006. This newer version of the gun allows soldiers’ to attach lights, lasers and other sighting mechanisms.

Selected for Durability

The M9 pistol was selected as the main handgun of the U.S. Army in the late 1980s after it successfully passed a variety of stress tests that included being buried in mud, soaked in sea water, and exposed to temperatures of -40 degrees Fahrenheit. The pistol was praised for its accuracy and the fact that its magazine holds 15 bullets and that each bullet is 9 millimeters in size. These specifications complied with standardization of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance that the U.S. belongs to.

Problems and Controversy

Although still widely used by American soldiers, the M9 pistol has encountered problems and been criticized by some in the military. During the early 1990s, the pistol encountered mechanical defects. Specifically, the springs in the gun’s magazine malfunctioned. Controversy arose from the fact that the U.S. Army did not purchase magazines directly from Beretta, the gun’s manufacturer. In several cases, magazines have had to be replaced on the M9 pistol.

Despite these setbacks, the M9 and M9A1 continue to be the primary sidearm of American soldiers. In 2009, Beretta announced that it had secured a contract worth $200 million to supply the U.S. military with 450,000 of the handguns through the year 2015.  

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