Several U.S. Navy SEAL’s and U.S. Marines Special Operations (MARSOC) selection of the Glock 19 as their primary handgun. It is reported the Army’s Delta Force carries the Glock 22. Previously the SEAL’s had mostly used the Sig Sauer P226, and the Marines had skirted with the MARSOC 1911.
This appears to be a greater, and more decisive move by the overall U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for a uniform handgun amongst the elite warriors. The selection of the Glock 19 by America’s elite forces strongly suggests the writing on the wall for the new U.S. Military sidearm, despite lengthy and costly handgun testing programs.
Why the Glock 19 is an Excellent Military Handgun
Immediately following the announcements by the SEAL’s, MARSOC, and Delta of the selection of the Glock 19 (or Glock 22) as their primary sidearm there were loud proclamations from Glock supporters and Glock detractors. Unfortunately, most of the attacks on Glock fall into the personal preference category, and not the performance category.
The Glock 19 is the “compact” version of the Glock 17. It was the Glock 17 that won the Austrian military contract back in the 1980’s and started the revolution of modern combat handgun designs. During that 30-year period there were numerous world militaries and police forces that switched to the lighter weight, striker-fired Glock, over previously carried DA or DA/SA hammer-fired handguns that were much heavier.
Some of the reasons for choosing Glocks include:
- Much lighter in weight (sometimes in pounds)
- Extremely durable
- Consistent trigger pull
- Simple break-down and maintenance (only 34 parts)
- Very accurate
- Very reliable
- Cost effective (hundreds of dollars less than competitors).
One of the reasons the Glock 19 has been selected over the Glock 17 is the slightly reduced size and weight of the “compact” Glock 19. The full-size version provides an additional 2-rounds of capacity, but comes at the price of adding nearly an inch in length, a half-inch of height, and 2 ounces of additional weight. When a soldier is already carrying 80-pounds of gear, every ability to reduce weight is considered beneficial.
Considering the Glock 19 can be handled by a wide range of shooters of all sizes the selection of the Glock 19 over the Glock 17 makes perfect sense. The reduction in dimensions create a lighter and more maneuverable handgun that is better capable of various carry methods. The slight reduction of capacity is more than offset by the reduction in weight.
The Glock is a proven performer. In military, law enforcement, and civilian markets the Glock design continues to hold true. Glock handguns may not be the prettiest looking sidearms, but their tenacious ability to continue firing accurately under extreme conditions is proven. With proper shooting instruction the Glock can produce very accurate results.
The simplicity of the design is a very attractive feature, especially when considering the need to train hundreds of thousands of troops in proper break-down and maintenance. The now Tennifer-like (Nitration based) coating on the slide and barrel provide nearly lifelong protection from harsh elements and even chemical exposure.
Glock 19 Specifications
- Slide Material: “Quality” steel with Tennifer-like coating
- Frame Material: Polymer
- Caliber: 9mm (9x19mm)
- Overall Length: 7.36 inches
- Barrel Length: 4.01 inches
- Height: 4.99 inches
- Width: 1.18 inches
- Weight: 23.65 ounces (unloaded); 30.18 ounces (loaded)
- Length Between Sights: 6.02 inches
- Trigger Pull: 5.5 pounds
- Sights: White dot front; horseshoe white bar rear; night sights optional
- Capacity: 15+1
- MSRP: $599.00 (much less for government purchases)
The Military’s decision to stay with the 9x19mm cartridge should not be all that surprising considering the significant improvement of cartridge manufacturing over the last 30 years. The selection of the 9mm for sidearm caliber also continues the mutual interchangeability of ammunition with our strongest NATO allies. Another valid reason is the ability to maintain a high-capacity for the sidearm, without increasing weight dramatically.
Comparison of the Glock 19 with the Beretta M9
Since the Beretta M9 is still in wide-spread use throughout the U.S. Military, a comparison with the Glock 19 should provide some insight into why the Glock was likely selected. The following chart is a side-by-side comparison of the two pistols:
Glock 19 vs. Beretta M9
|Comparison||Glock 19||Beretta M9|
|Slide Material||Steel (Nitride coating)||Steel (Bruniton coating)|
|Frame Material||Polymer||Aluminum Alloy|
|Overall Length||7.36 inches||8.5 inches|
|Barrel Length||4.01 inches||4.9 inches|
|Height||4.99 inches||5.4 inches|
|Width||1.18 inches||1.5 inches|
|Weight (unloaded)||23.65 ounces||33.3 ounces|
|Action||Striker fired||DA/SA hammer fired|
A quick look at the table reveals significant reductions in size, and weight. The change to the Glock 5.5 pound striker-fired trigger is a significant improvement over the double action/single action trigger on the Beretta. The first pull on the Beretta is long and heavy, but then follow-up shots are short and light. Having a consistent trigger pull assists shooters in avoiding common pistol shooting mistakes that throw off shot accuracy through jerking, anticipation, or grip influence.
The capacity in the table reflects the Beretta M9 and M9A1. The Beretta M9A3, which entered service in 2015 and has limited exposure to the troops, increased magazine capacity to 17 rounds. Both pistols offer a Picatinny rail for adding weapon mounted lights or lasers, though the M9A3 increased those rails from 1 to 3. The Glock 19 only has one rail toward the front of the receiver, but fits most lights and lasers.
Finally, a Center for Naval Analyses report sought input from soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only soldiers who had fired the Beretta M9 were included in the findings. The results speak for themselves, and unfortunately cast a rather unfavorable light on “America’s Defender”:
- Only 58% reported satisfaction with the M9
- 76% were dissatisfied with the M9’s accuracy
- 66% of the troops complained of the M9’s range
- 88% complained of rate of fire issues
- 26% of soldiers reported a stoppage of some kind
- 46% reported a lack of confidence in the M9
- Many commented on the difficulty of maintenance.
Now anyone who has served or known someone who has served in the Military knows that soldiers know how to bitch, so this report has to be viewed with an open mind. However, the numbers reveal a remarkable lack of consistency and confidence in the Beretta M9’s performance. Consideration has to be made for older and well used M9’s showing their age, but a military firearm must still be able to perform at minimum life-saving abilities. The M9 apparently leaves a lot of questions.
Selection of the Military Sidearm
For 30 years American military forces were equipped with the Beretta M9, the military designation of the civilian Beretta 92FS. However, as the pistols aged and modern firearm manufacturing has rapidly advanced, the U.S. Military command began to consider other options for a universal sidearm. One of the biggest drivers for a new handgun has been the Army’s Modular Handgun System (MHS) testing program. Like most government procurement processes (especially military ones) the MHS was scheduled to take at least 2 years at the cost of $17 million.
As politicians sought to benefit from the Army’s selection through a manufacturer in their State or District, the whole process began to grind to a painstakingly slow trudge. This politically influenced slow down apparently struck a nerve with the Army’s Chief of Staff and he let Congress know his opinion. During a Congressional hearing on the MHS, General Milley told Congressional leaders, “We’re not figuring out the next lunar landing. This is a pistol. Two years to test? At $17 million?” General Milley continued pointing out the ridiculous process saying, “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk-buy.”
General Milley pointed out the costs of the MHS testing program were much greater than simply allowing him to purchase new handguns for all the troops. The politically motivated testing process was going to make any new pistol contract cost twice as much as simply deciding on a worthy pistol and moving forward.
A good military handgun needs to be rugged, accurate, easy to maintain, with decent sights and a Picatinny rail for weapon mounted lights or lasers. The Army has highly trained instructors and armorers that could properly vet (and report) on a sidearm selection. A valid testing process could be developed, implemented, and a selection made within months and at a cost in the hundreds of thousands rather than millions. The F.B.I. selected Glock in about 6 months, proving a large Federal Agency could indeed make a big decision in a reasonable amount of time. And that included a brand new pistol from Glock.
Despite General Milley’s statements, which highlighted the problems with massive bureaucracy, the Army has stated the Modular Handgun System testing process is still going, and the Army has not pursued or decided to award Glock the full military contract. Still, I think the wheels have been successfully greased in favor of the Glock 19 when the time comes for the final decision to be rendered. We shall see. At least for now, the Glock 19 is the solid choice for America’s Special Forces.
Unfortunately, the decision to charge ahead with the MHS trials comes on the heels of the Military’s failed testing program for a new service rifle and carbine that cost taxpayers several millions of dollars. The end result was to stay with what the Military already issued – the Colt M4. Obviously there was a lot of controversy over that decision as well.
Many can dream about the ideal military rifle, but at least for now, the cost to move away from the M4 does not outweigh the familiarity and performance of America’s longest standing rifle. I do believe the next 20 years will see a new American service rifle and carbine. Perhaps the new service rifle will come in a new caliber like 6.5 Creedmoor, which has produced amazing accuracy, trajectory and ballistic performances.
As I have said about the transition of other Special Forces groups to the Glock 19, I believe this is a good and solid decision by the Army Rangers. The reduction in size and weight, while still maintaining 15+1 capacity are key winning points. The change from a DA/SA trigger to the consistent Glock striker-fired trigger is another great improvement.
The Army Rangers are tasked with preparation and readiness for immediate global deployments. Many times the Rangers are inserted into hostile territory well in advance of regular troops, and often are required to maintain their position or mission requirements for long periods before relief. Though the sidearm is not the soldier’s primary weapon, having a proven and simple pistol like the Glock 19 should restore the troops confidence in one of their last-resort weapons.
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