5 reasons the Beretta M9A3 will be the next service pistol

Yesterday, much to the joy of Beretta fanboys (like me) Beretta USA announced the latest update to the venerable M9 pistol line, the M9A3. This pistol represents Beretta’s answer to the requirements for the Army’s proposed Modular Handgun System (or whatever they’re calling it this time around) and I am willing to bet that the Beretta M9A3 will absolutely be our nation’s next service pistol. But first, here’s what Beretta has to say about the new gun:


After delivering over 600,000 M9 pistols to the DOD and on the heels of being awarded a new contract for up to 100,000 M9s, Beretta USA announced today the presentation of the M9A3 to the US Army. The M9A3 introduces major improvements to the M9 that will increase the operational effectiveness and operational suitability of the weapon. The improvements include design and material enhancements resulting in increased modularity, reliability, durability, and ergonomics. They are being submitted via an Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) in accordance with the terms of the current M9 contract.

Made in the U.S.A. by an American workforce since 1987, the M9 has been the sidearm of the U.S. Armed Forces for nearly 30 years; serving with U.S. service men and women in training and combat operations throughout the world. The M9A3 is designed for the next 30 years – delivering 21st century capability and features while increasing usability and reliability.

“The M9A3 represents the next generation military handgun utilizing the best of the legacy M9 combined with proven COTS modifications that increase performance and durability” stated Gabriele de Plano, Vice President of Military Marketing and Sales for Beretta USA. Mr. de Plano added, “After listening closely to the needs of U.S. Army and other Service small arms representatives, we determined the M9, much like its counterpart legacy weapon systems (M4, M16, M240, etc.), was capable of being upgraded through material and design changes. The resulting M9A3 we are offering to the DOD will likely cost less than the current M9 and answer almost all of the Services’ enhanced handgun requirements.”

The M9A3 features a thin grip with a removable, modular wrap-around grip, MIL-STD-1913 accessory rail, removable front and rear tritium sights, extended and threaded barrel for suppressor use, 17-round sand resistant magazine, and numerous improved small components to increase durability and ergonomics, all in an earth tone finish.

“Furthermore, the M9A3 benefits from having a law enforcement and commercial variant that will be launched at S.H.O.T. Show 2015 in Las Vegas, NV” stated Rafe Bennett, Vice President of Product Marketing for Beretta USA. Mr. Bennett added, “The M9A3 offered to the DOD is the exact gun that consumers will be able to purchase in the second quarter of 2015.”

The M9A3 follows on the heels of Beretta and Wilson Combat’s collaboration, and represents a lot of the features that end users have been asking for in their Beretta pistols. The backstrap will allow users to switch from a traditional Beretta profile grip to the smaller and easier to manage Vertec style, the sights are replaceable, and the safety is convertable to a G-style decock only model. With this feature set, here are five reasons why the Beretta M9A3 is going to be the US service pistol for a long time.

1. Money
Hey, did you know that the military is currently undergoing all kinds of budget cuts? The Air Force (for example) by the end of FY 2015 will be at its smallest size since its creation in 1947, the Army is cutting costs wherever it can (despite getting new uniforms) so when Beretta presents a solution to the DoD’s desire for a new toy that doesn’t involve wholesale replacement of holsters, magazines, and small parts, the odds are that they’re going to go for it. Unless Sig nails the baksheesh.

2. Seriously, the money
Beretta did a smart thing: they submitted the M9A3 to the Army as an ECP, and engineering change proposal. What that means is that the M9A3 is part of the existing M9 contract now, assuming that the DoD accepts the ECP, which they will because follow the money.

In the Modular Handgun System proposal, the Army asked for a certain set of features on the new gun. The M9A3 has all of those features, which means that some bean counter in the Pentagon is going to look at this ECP vs the cost of an entire new handgun and go “well, this is a no-brainer.” Essentially, the M9A3 is presented to the Army as fait accompli by Beretta. “Oh, you want all these features in a gun? No problem Holmes, let’s just make that for you as part of the existing contract.”

3. We are not going away from 9mm any time soon
There are entire graveyards full of dudes that have been killed with 9mm ball ammo. Despite what the Warriors of the Keys will tell you, we don’t really need to switch up to .40 or .45, because in the FMJ form our line troops would be required to use, they still suck. To get serious though, we’re not ditching the NATO standard round any time soon. Everyone uses 9mm, and we are going to keep using 9mm as long as we’re the Big Kid at the North Atlantic Treaty Table.

If anything, the trend in rounds is towards smaller rounds. It wouldn’t surprise me if when I’m getting ready to retire in 30 years for the military to be issuing pistols that fire 5mm tungsten core beads to pierce power armor or something.

4. The M9 is fine
The big problem with the M9 (and the M4) isn’t the gun. It’s the way the military trains people to “maintain” their weapons. But that’s a post for another time. Fastidious attention to cleanliness at the expense of lubrication isn’t good for guns.

5. Logistics
All those mags. All those small parts.

There are circumstances where the M9A3 might not make it. The Army could, for reasons that are unfathomable to me, reject the ECP and force the MHS competition to go forward, and then pick a different gun. Sometimes they do things like that because of reasons, none of which make any kind of sense. But like I said above, I’m willing to make a considerable wager that in 2017, when the Army is supposed to pick its new handgun, the M9A3 will already be riding in frontline holsters, and doing just fine. Then it will be “this gun gives us what we wanted, so let’s just keep it.”

What do you think? Will the M9A3 effectively end-run the MHS competition?


  1. if they want a .45, they will get one. why dont they just use the Beretta PX4 in .45ACP? i think they should buy the new sig p227 in .45ACP OR THE GLOCK 21 .45!!!

    1. Brett – I seriously doubt that a Glock will ever be standard issue for mainline use, because a pistol without a manual safety gives senior officers the vapors. Special mission dudes sure, but regular Army? No way.

      1. If the Brits were able to get over their Hi-Power and take the Glock we can do it. *slapped by reality*

        You are probably right.

        1. A number of PDs at one time wouldn’t authorize the Glock because you have to pull the trigger to field-strip it. I know of one ND with injuries that occurred because of that feature. (The shooter recovered from his injuries and later, deservedly, became the chief of his department.)
          When I was a firearms instructor for a multi-agency academy, at the end of each training session, all non-Glock shooters locked their slides back, and all Glock shooters dropped their slides, dry-fired once at the target, holstered, and carried their weapons into the cleaning room with the slides forward. I knew it was perfectly safe, but it still bothered me.
          I think the military is more hidebound than LE, and I don’t foresee Glocks being authorized for regular troops. They’re not recruit-proof enough.

      2. The SIG P226 (no manual safety) passed the XM9 competition and lost to the Beretta 92 on cost basis. The SIG P228 (no manual safety) won the XM11 competition, which was the last US military service pistol trial. Pistols with no manual safeties have actually passed the two most recent service pistol trials and even been adopted by the US military. Is a manual safety specified in the MHS requirements? Even if so, Glock has produced manual safety variants in the past for major contracts.

  2. The more companies that try to design and tweak their handguns to win this contract, the better it will be for all consumers(ME!!). I hope it goes down to the wire.

    Maybe it will even coax S&W to figure out a manufacturing process that will make all new M&P9’s shoot like “frikkin’ laserbeams”, and Glock to design the worlds most ergonomic frame mounted thumb safety. And cure cancer.

        1. * Modularity includes but is not limited to compatibility with accessory items to include tactical lights, lasers and sound suppressors. There is specific interest in designs that would be adaptable and/or adjustable to provide enhanced ergonomics that ensure 5th percentile female through 95th percentile male military personnel access to controls, such as the safety, magazine release, slide release and all other applicable controls. There is also interest in designs that offer these enhanced ergonomics while providing full ambidextrous controls.

  3. I spose the M9A3 might NOT make the cut despite all the good reasons. Having been associated with DoD for over 40 years now, I can’t discount ANY illogical decisions or acts.
    I’m NOT a Beretta fanboy -or other than a relatively mild detractor either. The M9 was one of my last issue sidearms and neither it nor I were put to the test. The ordered improvements are good ones; but I’d still not get the giggles to have an M9A3 in my holster. As my somewhat faint praise of the piece goes “Better than an empty hand”. I’d be much happier if we went back to my GrandDad’s day and allow us to provide our own sidearms if they are in an “issue” caliber.

  4. The only question I have is why wouldn’t they submit these with the 18/20 round Mec-Gar Magazines? Particularly since the number 1 reliability issue with most military weapons, especially including the M9 & M4 is the cheap, crappy, GI magazines that have been beaten to death by private bubba and keep getting passed around.

  5. This pistol looks nice, very exciting. I think though that something the next generation pistol should be designed for is micro red dot capability. Red dot sights cut down training time and improve performance, especially in new shooters. Some people argue that red dot sights aren’t quite where they need to be technologically for service handguns, but they will be within the service life of the next military handgun. Optics have revolutionized long arms and within a short period of time they will do the same for handguns. The next military pistol should be ready for this coming change.

    1. Great Point. Nothing stops the Beretta from being redesigned again to include this, nor does the MHS include this requirement.

  6. SIG offers a shorter trigger reach trigger that doesn’t impact function or weight of pull in any way, just a bit different angle of the dangle. Can’t tell if Beretta adjusted theirs but that seems to be a no brainer on the “fit short fingers better” factor.

    1. Beretta also offers a short reach trigger. It was included on original Vetecs. The trigger pull is not heavier, however it feels so for many people.

  7. #1 These days why would you even want a ,45 the modern 9mm does everything a .45 can do (with additional rounds in the mag. too boot). #2 I’m sure the military has a serious supply of 9mm ammo available why waste money on replacing it. #3 With the recruits today training is easier with a 9mm than a .45. I vote the new Beretta.

  8. It looks like a brown Vertec with a 1913 rail on the dustcover… or is there something I’m missing?

  9. IIRC, the XM2010 upgrade to the M21 was similar. When the original rifles were ordered, they had a long action, specifically so they could be upgraded without being replaced. The XM2010 project did just that, and basically gave the Army brand new rifles in 300WM, without all the rigmarole of a new weapons system.

    Somebody was thinking ahead.

    1. Except that to my knowledge no m2010s were actually fit from old receivers. As I understand it they are all new.

  10. These changes address all the things I dislike about the M9. It really is a great upgrade.

  11. Unbelievable! The M9 was a poor choice when it was originally selected over 30 years ago. It is heavier than many of its betters, has a horrendous DA trigger pull, is freakishly big for a 9mm, and is left in the dust by nearly all of its competitors. Now, we’re going too replace it with more of the same, big with some polymer bits and a rail? As far as safety goes, if you can teach a service member to safely operate an M4, you can do the same with any of the current lot of striker fired guns. I carried a Glock for nearly 25 years as a deputy sheriff and still have a Gen 1 Glock 17 that shoots as good as the day I bought it. . The are economical, light weight, practically indestructible, shoot as well as any service pistol on the market and are very easy to train on and maintain.

  12. Caleb, you’re a smart dude and make some good points but I’m not sure you’re right on this.

    Yes, money is a big deal, but since when has the government not been willing to spend money they don’t have?

    1. SIG is the knot competitor that actually embodies the MHS proposal. It’s a design that if proven to work, could last 50+ years, a huge range of calibers, technologies, etc. Of course it can not be chosen.

    2. S&W teaming up with GD. This is far bigger than most imagine. I bet the M&P MHS from them stomps all over the price of the Beretta

    3. Glock. There is a manual saftey coming. They have been, are, will continue to be the elephant in the room for selections

    I just really don’t see the DoD “replacing” the gun they aren’t happy with, with basically the same thing. Then again…. That is the level of incompetence I should expect.

  13. Honestly as a former grunt, who carried an M9 I think changing the weapon is stupid, for pretty much every reason listed here. One other reason, handguns actually be used in the military is like seeing a Unicorn. It’s exceedingly rare that the weapon will be fired in anger, so why replace it? Outside of the safety’s placement I thought the weapon was fine, and while polymer is cool, it’s not a big enough reason to change handguns. I actually doubt the M9A3 will be adopted simply because there is no need for those few improvements. I never even saw a M9A2 when I was in.

  14. With you 100% percent, because money. I also think you’ve reached the right conclusion because a new firearm means re-training and a new manual of arms, both of which cost money–lots of money in the case of re-training. If the military, the Army in particular, can find enough reasons to stick with the M9 and Beretta, they will. Being able to get the handgun they want and NOT having to issue a new contract (having their cake and eating it too?) represents millions ($) of reasons to keep the M9.

    Don’t sleep on Glock as possible competition though, Army contracts for Glocks (particularly 19s) already exist as well.

    Good post Caleb.

  15. As the Brit say, you are “spot on.” The M9, with it few moving parts and incredible reliability is not the problem. It is the FMJ 9mm round used. While the “lawyers” at the DOD have given some opinions that since we are currently fighting non-state terrorists, we don’t need to adhere to the Hague Convention of 1899, that is generally what we are doing. It is a questionable reading of the provision in the Convention anyway. If our troops were furnished with a good self defense round (like all police agencies are) the 9mm would be perfect. With all due respect, the 45 ACP and the 1911s were great in their day, but now they belong in the history books, not on the battlefield.

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