The Army is looking for a replacement for the Beretta M9 and Sig Sauer M11 pistols currently in use. According to Army officials, the pistols issued to soldiers now are roughly 30 years old, many have seen much use, and they’re looking to replace them with a harder hitting round than the 9mm provides. Furthermore, many soldiers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have stated that the 9mm round just isn’t powerful enough for combat use; that something with more “knockdown power” is needed. On top of that, there are some reliability problems with the Berettas; the safety is easy to inadvertently put on, and the pistol is subject to jamming due to dirt getting inside it because of the environment and conditions in which combat troops operate. These are valid concerns, and I’m glad to see the Army, and hopefully the other military services will replace their present sidearms.
I don’t want to be misunderstood – the 9mm is a good round, and it has the added benefit of high capacity magazines for many models. Although I no longer own it, the Browning Hi-Power I had used a 13 round magazine. That, in addition to one round already chambered, and I had 14 rounds ready to go instantly. No, the 9mm isn’t the largest or most powerful round by any means, but it’s good nonetheless. And the higher capacity magazine gives you the capability for laying down some serious fire when the situation calls for it.
But the Army wants a harder hitting round, and would especially like to look at a .40 or .45 caliber sidearm. I’m not familiar with the .40 Smith & Wesson round, but I’m very familiar with the .45 ACP I carried on occasion while in the Navy:
The M1911-A1 (pictured above) is what the military was using when I was in the Navy. Many, if not most of them saw use in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. They were manufactured by a number of different companies, including Colt, Remington Rand, Ithaca, and even Singer Sewing Machine. More impressive still is that they were in use, and in good working order until the mid-1980s. Sadly, the military abandoned them in 1985 for the 9mm. Admittedly, the .45 Automatic had one disadvantage I can think of when compared to the 9mm; the magazine only held seven rounds. The big, and I mean huge advantage for the .45 is that this pistol was serious firepower; a large, powerful round.
I want to dispel some myths about the .45, though. It won’t knock someone down, at least not to my knowledge, but no handgun I know of will, especially if your opponent is enraged, fanatical, or oblivious to pain or danger. You may have to hit them with multiple shots to bring them down. The 9mm gives you plenty of those, but in contrast, the .45 hits do more damage, cause more blood loss, and in general, will put your your attacker’s – or an enemy soldier’s system into shock sooner. In addition to that, the .45 is reliable under some of the worst conditions a soldier or Marine could find themselves in. A well broken in .45 will function exactly as it should under extraordinarily dirty conditions, so there shouldn’t normally be problems with misfeeding or jamming. Not normally, anyway. Things happen, but they can happen to any gun. I’ve heard all the stories about how you can drag a 1911 through the mud and it will work perfectly, but it’s simply not true – but they will work under far dirtier conditions than many automatic pistols, and they’re well suited for military use.
They’re simple, too. Easy to disassemble for cleaning, easy operation, and adequate safety devices that are instinctively easy to put on or take off. Granted, it’s an old design – the 1911 designates the year it was designed. Sometimes, though, when something works, and works so well, why change?
I can’t say for sure what the Army or any of the other services will do, but I know one thing for certain – if I were in a situation where things turned off ugly and there was no other choice left but to handle it with a gun, I’d feel much better about my own chance of survival if I had the .45 at hand. If you can still find a soldier or Marine from World War II or the Korean War, just ask them what they thought of the venerable .45.