The M17 and The Marine Corps. Will the P320 retire the M9?

By Travis Pike

Will the Marines Adopt the P320?

The big news in January was the Army’s declaration that the SIG P320 won the modular handgun trial. Needless to say, the folks at SIG Sauer’s Shot Show booth were quite excited. The SIG P320, equipped with a manual safety, would be the M17 in Army nomenclature.

The big question is will the other ground fighting force the United States Military uses adopt the pistol? I’m of course talking about the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps and the military as a whole has traditionally followed the movements of the Army.

Why the Marine Corps could adopt the Sig P320

  1. Logistics. Standardization is an important part of logistics for a combined fighting force. Plus the Army’s massive budget makes it capable of testing and evaluating new firearms more effectively than the other branches.

The Marine Corps can piggyback on their testing and save the funds necessary to test a completely different handgun. They can use the same contract process, and save a lot of time, and energy.

  1. The Marine Corps is looking to replace the M9 in the early 2020s according to the Marine Corps times. By then the SIG P320 will be in service with the Army and the Marine Corps will have a good idea of its success or failure.

Currently, the M9 is far from beloved with the United States Marines and troops have very little confidence in the weapon. The M9s in the armory are also quite old and have lived a rough life in my experience with the platform.

The Marine Corps has also expressed interest in having a modular handgun platform. The main fighting forces will be using the full-sized variant, and special operations may desire the compact variant. The SIG P320 offers that adaptability.

  1. The Marine Corps is currently working to modernize its combat fighting force. The Marine Corps is conducting experiments with infantry battalions to see what works and what doesn’t.

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines issued the M27 IAR to every infantry Marine during training and a deployment. The intent was to see how well an entire battalion of M27 equipped Marines could fight.

Three Companies from three different battalions issued every Marine a detachable suppressor for their rifles and machine guns. The intent was to see how the suppressors could improve on communication and warfighting ability.

If the Marine Corps is serious about modernizing, and want a pistol within the next 10 years the SIG P320 offers a very modern design.

  1. The SIG P320 appears to be the most modular handgun on the market. With the ability to swap different size frames and barrels with ease it makes sense for the Marines. One of the Modular Handgun directives was an option for accepting a suppressor. If the Marine Corps is interested in utilizing suppressor equipped weapons the SIG P320 is an off the shelf option.
The P226, like the M9, is a handgun older in service and may also be replaced by the P320/M17 putting military forces under one modular handgun

Why the Marine Corps may not adopt the SIG P320

  1. The Marine Corps is slowly edging away from standardization with the Army. The Global War on Terror made the Marine Corps’ arsenal unique. From the adoption of the ACOG to fielding the M16A4 until 2015. The Marines also kept the M4, instead of adopting the M4A1. They even decided to utilize a different 5.56 load than the Army.

The adoption of the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle to replace the SAW was the biggest major change and move away from the Army’s arsenal. Now the Marines may be adopting the M27 as the standard infantry rifle, putting them further away from standardization with the Army.

  1. The wars in the Middle East blurred the lines of the Marine Corps unique mission profile. The Marine Corps is still an amphibious fighting force, even though they’ve spent almost two decades in the desert. The SIG P320 may not fit well in an amphibious role. Then again it may fit the role perfectly. The Army’s testing data may not be sufficient for the United States Marine Corps.
  1. The Glock 19 seems to have a place with the Marine Corps Special Operations Command. MARSOC units have adopted the Glock 19 and standardized the Glock 19 over the 1911 and M9 handguns. If the Glock 19 proves to be popular with MARSOC it could leak into the main Marine Corps community as a Marine tested and approved handgun.

Will it be the SIG?

Following the modernization in a post-Iraq and Afghan War world will be interesting. Our current President is dedicating a big chunk of money to the military, so now is an advantageous time to start shopping for handguns. If they choose to go a different route than the SIG Sauer P320, it will be a fascinating experiment.

Author with an issued M9