The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has made it official – they are looking to replace their current sidearms with a new handgun chambered in 9mm. On October 7, 2015, the FBI has submitted a Request For Proposals (RFP) to firearm manufacturers to fulfill an order providing FBI agents a new sidearm. There are over 10,000 FBI agents worldwide, and this contract is authorized for up to $80 million. This is a huge deal!
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The FBI just awarded Glock the $85 million contract for new article here detailing the announcement. Though the FBI RFP appeared tailor-made for the Sig Sauer P320, the efforts by Glock and their 20-year history with the Bureau ultimately won out. The new FBI Glock pistol is unlike any other and is not just a patchwork of old and new components. It will be exciting to see the enhancements Glock added to win the coveted FBI contract.)
So why does the title say they have already selected a new sidearm? Well, I’ll break down the RFP to show that almost every major handgun manufacturer has been eliminated from consideration due to the strictly written RFP guidelines. In the end, there really is only one handgun that could possibly meet the RFP’s restrictions. That handgun is from a very reputable manufacturer and has received very positive reviews since its release in January 2014. Keep reading to find out which handgun the FBI has selected.
F.B.I. Currently Issues .40 caliber Glocks
The FBI currently issues its agents either a Glock 22 in .40 S&W (full size) or Glock 23 in .40 S&W (Compact). It is pretty clear the new FBI RFP encompasses the FBI’s recent report on the performances of modern 9mm and .40 S&W cartridges. In that report, the FBI claims there is no significant difference in ballistic performance between the two cartridges.
Based upon that report the FBI recommended moving their duty issued firearm to a 9mm option. The report recognized the move to 9mm would be cheaper for the Bureau (it is), and would also provide fewer recoil problems for agents with smaller hands or stature (which is where I think the weight of the decision is found).
The last 15 years have seen an incredible advancement in firearm and ammunition manufacturing. There is no doubt that both components have improved dramatically. The 9mm round is a decent round, and with the right hollow point bullet placed in the appropriate targeting area (cranial vault, upper-middle chest) can definitely be deadly. Yet, without going into a huge debate on wound ballistics, there is much to be said about the energy damage potential caused by the bullet. In that regard, I still prefer the larger expanding, and more energetic .40 S&W over the speedier, but less expanding and less energetic 9mm. For nearly every comparison .40 S&W expands larger and has around 100 ft/lbs. of greater energy than their 9mm counterparts. Compare the expansion of bullets below over several intermediate barriers.
Glock handguns proved themselves reliable, accurate, and tough for over 30 years. Glock handguns continue to own the largest share of the American law enforcement market. The controversy over the .40 S&W (the FBI’s current duty sidearm) was way overblown in my opinion.
Despite a lot of anti-Glock rhetoric, the only viable issue was the shortened arms on the early model locking blocks that could allow excessive frame flex. The issue with weapon lights and feeding problems was really focused on one brand of popular ammunition. I’ve used a Gen 3 Glock 22 for over 15 years and a Gen 4 Glock 22 for over 5 years. The only issues our department officers have had are shooter-induced. We’ve used Federal, American Eagle, PMC, Remington, Cor-Bon, Speer, and Winchester ammunition with no manufacturer problems, or problems with the pistols.
F.B.I. Really Wants the 9mm Sig Sauer P320
The truth is revealed! The FBI RFP seems to be blatantly tailored to fit one particular firearm, the Sig Sauer P320. There is no doubt that government agencies often write tight standards when an RFP goes out, having specific requirements and needs for the product to be purchased. However, this RFP appears to be so specific that only the Sig Sauer P320 would fit all the FBI requirements. Let’s examine the RFP and show how many fine handguns are eliminated by the FBI requirements.
Now don’t get me wrong, Sig Sauer makes some incredibly good handguns and there have been many positive reviews of the P320. Sig Sauer is not a stranger to U.S. Federal law enforcement, as several agencies have or are still issuing their firearms. The U.S. military special operations units also are allowed to field Sig Sauer pistols. I would not be opposed to carrying a Sig Sauer, and believe the FBI would be well equipped if they do change to the P320. The RFP is what burns me, as I believe in a fair and open market system to get the best.
The P320 is a striker-fired, polymer-framed handgun that sticks with the huge trend in popular handguns on the market today. The lighter weight over steel handguns, consistent DAO trigger pull, and the ease of maintenance are extremely beneficial to law enforcement agencies. The P320 will have a similar grip to other Sig Sauer handguns, which has a very comfortable feel while not taking too aggressive of a grip angle.
The standard night sights are a great benefit, as is the enlarged trigger guard (gloved shooting), and enlarged magazine release. The P320 will have a 2-round capacity advantage over the Glock 22, but only because the caliber is changed to 9mm. The Glock 17 would match that number. The Sig P320 does have a metal framed and encased trigger group, that helps provide frame stability. Having everything in a nice unit structure is very beneficial for armorer work.
However, the P320 is not without some downsides. The full-size model is slightly heavier than the Glock 22 and has an overall greater width as well. This could be an issue for smaller stature agents. In addition, the P320 slide and frame are simply a modified version of the Sig P250, which is a polymer-framed pistol but with a DAO hammer action. Time will tell if the “patch” Sig Sauer used to plug the hammer slot will withstand heavy abuse.
I’ve attached a copy of pertinent requirements listed in the FBI RFP at the bottom of this article. The parts not listed are fairly generic specifications that most modern duty firearms would have. As you will see, there are several specific requirements that eliminate many of the most popular firearms on the market.
F.B.I. Request For Proposals Requirements
First, the RFP requires manufacturers to provide a Compact, Full Size, Inert (Red Handle) Training, and Man Marker Training Pistols (Blue – Simunition), along with parts and armorer tools as needed. The firearm must be chambered in 9mm. For the most part, most major firearm manufacturers could provide all the necessary firearms and trainers.
- BARREL LENGTH – Full size must be 4.26″ to 5.20″; Compact size must be 3.75″ to 4.25″
- HEIGHT – Full size no more than 6.0″; Compact between 4.75″ to 5.6″
- MAGAZINE CAPACITY – Full size at least 16 rounds; Compact at least 14 rounds
- MAGAZINE DISCONNECT SAFETY – None allowed
- COCKING – Only by trigger pull
- TRIGGER – Firing pin/Striker fired only
- TRIGGER PULL – 4.5 lbs. to 6 lbs.
- MAGAZINE RELEASE – Laterally pushed, no levers
- MANUAL EXTERNAL SAFETY – None allowed
- DECOCKING LEVER – None allowed
- GRIP SAFETY – None allowed
- FRAME/RECEIVER – No finger grooves allowed, must have (3) sizes – small, medium, large; can be accomplished through inserts or different frame sizes.
- PICATINNY RAIL – Required for pistol mounted lights.
How the FBI RFP Selects the Sig P320
- Action – Striker fired DAO – cocked only through trigger pull
- Overall Length – 8.0″
- Barrel Length – 4.7″
- Weight – 29.4 oz. (with magazine)
- Height – 5.5″
- Width – 1.4″
- Trigger Pull – 5.5 lbs.
- Capacity – 17 rounds
- Magazine Release – Button pushed laterally
- Sights – SIGLITE night sights
- Grips – Interchangeable
- Rail – Picatinny
- Not Included – External manual safety; Finger grooves on frame; Grip safety; Magazine disconnect safety.
- ALL THESE FEATURES MEET THE FBI RFP
How the FBI RFP Disqualifies Most
- Glock 17 & 19 – DISQUALIFIED – Finger grooves on frame
- Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm – DISQUALIFIED – Trigger pull is 6.5 lbs.; Barrel Length is 4.25″
- Smith & Wesson M&P 9c – DISQUALIFIED – Barrel length is 3.5″; Capacity is only 12.
- Heckler & Koch VP9 – DISQUALIFIED – Finger grooves; Lever magazine release; Barrel length is 4.09″
- Heckler & Koch P30 – DISQUALIFIED – Capacity only 15; DA/SA action; Finger grooves on frame
- Ruger SR9 – DISQUALIFIED – Barrel length is 4.1″; No compact model or adjustable frame sizes
- Springfield XD9 – DISQUALIFIED – Grip safety; Barrel length is 4.0″
- Springfield XDm – DISQUALIFIED – Grip safety
- Walther PPX – DISQUALIFIED – Finger grooves on frame; Trigger pull is 6.5 lbs.
- Walther PPQ M2 – DISQUALIFIED – Capacity only 15; Finger grooves on frame
- Walther P99 – DISQUALIFIED – Finger grooves on frame; Lever magazine release; Capacity only 15
- FNS 9 – DISQUALIFIED – Trigger pull up to 7.7 lbs.; Barrel length is 4.0″; No size changes for frame
- FNX 9 – DISQUALIFIED – Decocking lever; Barrel length is 4.0″; No size changes for frame
- Beretta M9 – DISQUALIFIED – DA/SA action; Capacity only 15; External manual safety
- Beretta Px4 – DISQUALIFIED – External manual safety; Barrel length is 4.0″; DA/SA action
- CZ75 SP-01- DISQUALIFIED – DA/SA action; External manual safety
- CZ P09 – DISQUALIFIED – DA/SA action; External manual safety-decocker
The F.B.I. RFP Problem is 2-Fold
First, other firearm manufacturers will read right through this charade and make valid objections to the requirements in the RFP. Each specification will have to be justified and explained as to why it was required. The validity of some specifications may be susceptible to attack. I would definitely expect other manufacturers to present viable protests on some of the RFP requirements. The FBI will have to produce proof that each standard is necessary and not just preferred.
Second, the FBI has been doing everything they can to move away from .40 S&W to 9mm to accommodate weak or small-handed agents. Instead of setting a bar and requiring candidates to meet that level, the Bureau seems more than ready to lower the bar and use questionable testing results to justify the move.
The F.B.I. Began the .40 S&W
There is no doubt that the last 10 years have seen a remarkable advancement in firearm and ammunition manufacturing, but there are many who still question if the FBI’s report on 9mm versus .40 S&W was tailored due to internal personal preferences. In the last 20 years, the FBI has been hiring more and more agents with technical backgrounds in computer science, science, accounting, and languages, rather than agents with military or law enforcement backgrounds. Some of these agents have little or no firearms experience prior to entering the Bureau and have suffered from poor handgun shooting performance as a result. There are also more small-framed agents who complain about recoil.
It is really an amazing turn around from the very agency that commissioned the studies that led to the 10mm Auto’s use and later brought about the .40 S&W. In a nutshell, it was decided the 10mm ballistics made a lot more sense after the terribly tragic Miami Shootout in 1986. In that event, FBI agents armed with 9mm semi-autos, .38 and .357 revolvers, along with a shotgun, were outgunned by 2 bank robbers armed with a Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle, shotgun, and (2) .357 revolvers. The result was two dead FBI agents, and several more seriously wounded.
In the aftermath, including autopsies, the FBI agents’ rounds (many were 9mm) were found to be ineffective in stopping the murderous bank robbers. That was despite the fact that some of those rounds were determined to be fatal hits. The power and design of those 9mm rounds were just not enough to stop the committed murderers.
Today’s 9mm is a much-improved cartridge from the ones used in the Miami Shootout. The report from the FBI, and what appears to be a major move by the FBI away from .40 S&W is a huge deal. It will be surprising to see how this all plays out, and if this highly restrictive and selective RFP will hold water.
Part I – The Schedule, Section B – Supplies or Services and Prices/Costs:
B.1 DESCRIPTION OF SUPPLIES
The Government has a need for the following 9mm semi-automatic pistols, along with all associated replacement parts, in accordance with Part 12 – Commercial Items of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR):
Class I Compact Pistol: One (1) Class I Pistol with a barrel length of no less than 3.75” and no greater than 4.25”, minimum magazine capacity of 14 rounds, night sights, six (6) magazines, FBI approved gun lock (lock approval shall be post award), operator’s manual written in English, stackable hard plastic container.
Class II Full Size Pistol: One (1) Class II Pistol with a barrel length of no less than 4.26” and no greater than 5.20” , minimum magazine capacity of 16 rounds, night sights, six (6) magazines, FBI approved gun lock (lock approval shall be post award), operator’s manual written in English, stackable hard plastic container.
Class I Inert Training Pistol (a.k.a. Red Handle): One (1) Class I Pistol, deactivated with full articulation, red frame and slide, night sights, four (4) magazines with red floor plates, FBI approved gun lock (lock approval shall be post award), operator’s manual written in English, stackable hard plastic container.
Class I Man Marker Training Pistol (a.k.a. SIMUNITIONTM1): One (1) Class I Man Marker Pistol, blue slide or slide with blue inserts, four (4) magazines with blue floor plates, FBI approved gun lock (lock approval shall be post award), operator’s manual written in English, stackable hard plastic container.
Class I & Class II Pistol Replacement Parts: Replacement parts which comprise Class I & Class II Pistols to include standard and non-standard parts manufactured or provided by the Contractor of the pistols.
C.3 GENERAL REQUIREMENTS
- C.3.1 Pistols shall safely fire 9mm Luger ammunition in all operational and training environmental conditions.
- C.3.2 Class I & II pistols shall have the same operating system and control mechanisms with the only difference being the slide, barrel, frame, and grip dimensions.
C.4 SPECIFICATIONS C.4.1 CALIBER
- Pistols shall be chambered for the 9mm Luger cartridge and must be capable of firing 9mm Luger ammunition which is in compliance with the specifications as outlined by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI)3.
- C.4.14.a Material shall be made of steel and capable of withstanding: 20,000 round endurance firing cycle.
One-handed immediate action drills where the shooter will utilize the front edge of the rear sight by supporting it against the edge of a ballistic shield, holster, etc., and cycling the slide.
Shall be black and non-reflective.
- C.4.14.b Characteristics
Front and rear sight must allow the shooter to acquire the proper sight alignment rapidly.
The proper alignment of the sights will be consistent with “equal height, equal light” sight alignment. The information line for the FBI is the top of the metallic sights.
- C.4.14.f Low-light Sights (a.k.a. Night Sights)
The front and rear sights shall be equipped with self-luminous capsules that allow the shooter to align the sights in low light conditions.
Night sights shall allow for a horizontal sight alignment of the three self-luminous capsules in a row.
The front sight shall contain one capsule and the rear sight shall contain two capsules which will align on the left and right of the front sight.
The night sights shall contain tritium or an equivalent self-luminous material all of the same color.
The self-luminous material shall appear green in color.
WARRANTY: The sights shall have a minimum service life of 10 years from date of receipt by the FBI.
WARRANTY: The sights shall be impervious to damage by commonly available gun cleaning solvents and lubricants.
The luminous portion of the sights shall not be visible from the muzzle end of the pistol.
The luminous portion of the sights may have a white color outline visible to the shooter.
The sights delivered on the pistols shall be Trijicon7, Bright and Tough NightTM Sights, or similar.
C.4.2 PISTOL PHYSICAL DIMENSIONS
- C.4.2.a Barrel4
Class I: Barrel shall be a minimum of 3.75” not to exceed 4.25”
- Class II: Barrel shall be a minimum of 4.26” not to exceed 5.20”
- Barrel lengths between the two classes of pistol shall not be closer than 0.5”.
- C.4.2.b Height5
Class I: No less than 4.75” and no greater than 5.6”
- Class II: No greater than 6”
- C.4.3.a Capacity
Class I: Magazine shall hold a minimum of 14 cartridges
- Class II: Magazine shall hold a minimum of 16 cartridgesNone allowed. The pistol shall fire with the magazine removed and a live round in the chamber.
- C.4.3.i Magazine floor plate shall: Be removable for magazine disassembly without the use of specially designed tools. Use of the supplied armorer’s tool is acceptable.Remain securely affixed when dropped from a height of 48” onto a hard surface regardless of the number of cartridges contained in the magazine or the orientation of the magazine upon impact.Aid in the positive seating of the magazine during loading.Enable positive gripping and rapid manual extraction of the magazine if the magazine is locked in place as a result of a malfunction (e.g., double feed) or if the shooter is wearing gloves.Have a small ledge (“toe”) on the front of the magazine to aid the shooter in rapid extraction of the magazine. This ledge must protrude forward of the grip (nominally 0.10” – 0.15”) to enable the non-shooting hand to strip the magazine from the pistol.
C.4.4 MAGAZINE DISCONNECTOR/SAFETY
- None allowed. The pistol shall fire with the magazine removed and a live round in the chamber.
C.4.5 MAGAZINE WELL
- The edges at the entrance of the magazine well shall be beveled in order to aid in the ease of reloading on both Class I & II pistols.
- It is preferred the Class II pistol have a flared magazine well entrance. This flare should extend no more than 0.100” beyond the outside of the grip on each side.
C.4.6 MAGAZINE CATCH/RELEASE
- C.4.6.a The magazine catch shall be located on the frame near the junction of the trigger guard and the grip.
- C.4.6.b The magazine catch shall be ambidextrous. It is allowable for this to be accomplished by moving the magazine catch button from the left side to the right side by a FBI gunsmith.
- C.4.6.c The magazine catch shall be activated by depressing the catch with a lateral movement by the shooter’s thumb/finger. It is not allowable to have a magazine catch which is activated by a downward movement.
- C.4.7.a Trigger Mechanism Type / Class I & IIThe trigger pull shall be consistent in both length and weight of pull for the first shot and all subsequent shots.Firing pin/Striker fired only.There shall be no method of manually cocking the pistol other than by pressing the trigger.If a trigger safety is present, it is preferred the safety match the contour of the trigger bow.
- C.4.7.b Trigger Pull Weight6 / Class I & II
Trigger pull weight shall be no less than 4.5 lbs. nor exceed 6 lbs.Pistol must fire with 6 lbs. of pressure and shall not fire with 4.25 lbs. pressure.Manually adjustable triggers are not permitted.
C.4.9 MANUAL EXTERNAL SAFETY
- None allowed. Only safeties which are disengaged by the rearward movement of the trigger are allowed (i.e., passive).
C.4.10 DECOCKING LEVER
- None allowed.
C.4.11 GRIP SAFETY
- None allowed.
- C.4.15.a Finger grooves on the frame are not permitted.
- C.4.15.b The frame must have a non-slip surface on the area of hand contact for both right and left-handed shooters.
- C.4.15.c Frames which allow different hand sizes are required. Regardless of how each Contractor accommodates different hand sizes they must be able to support at least 3 sizes commonly referred to as small, medium, and large.
- C.4.15.d Two acceptable methods of accommodating for different hand sizes are:
- Multiple Frame Sizes
Two alternate sizes must be available and supplied with each pistol.
- Grip/Frame Inserts
Two alternate sizes must be available and supplied with each pistol.
- It is required the size of a frame or insert be marked on an exterior surface (e.g., “M” for medium, “L” large) for rapid identification without disassembly.
- C.4.15.e The frame shall have a locking slot groove/rail to affix a tactical light.
C.7 AUTHORIZED BUYERS
- In addition to the FBI, the following U.S. Government entities may purchase pistols and/or parts under the contract:
- United States Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security
- United States Marshals Service
- Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
- United States Postal Service
- United States Treasury Department
- Drug Enforcement Agency
- United States Capitol Police
- United States Park Police
- United States Department of Energy
- Office of Inspector General (all Federal agencies)
- United States Department of Defense.