When it was announced that the M17 handgun would be replacing M9s in military armories, some important decisions needed to be made. First and foremost, the US Army decided that more of these new handguns would be issued down to team leaders than M9s were previously.
This was a bold move since carrying handguns used to be the sole domain of senior leadership. Junior officers were not authorized to carry one.
The other pivotal change, one that will be crucial to the adoption of the M17, is their decision to select the Safariland 7TS as the Army’s holster of choice.
The soldiers of the iconic 101st Airborne Division were the first to field the M17 pistol in November of 2017. At the time, Maj. Gen. Andrew P. Poppas seemed more than a little enthusiastic about the transition, calling the modular Sig Sauer handgun an “easy, smooth-firing weapon.”
By December, Army weapons officials had officially unveiled the holster that will be issued with the XM17 full-size MHS (modular handgun system). The holster boasts a dual locking system which can be released with the shooter’s firing hand thumb. This makes it easy to get to the M17 in a flash.
Sig Sauer beat out other prominent firearms manufacturers for the coveted MHS contract which is said to be worth approximately $580 million.
The modular handgun was introduced to give soldiers a wider range of flexibility in close quarters.
According to Daryl Eastlick, the deputy of the Lethality Branch at the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, “We wanted to find a weapon system that was available as a non-developmental item that fit a more offensive capability, meaning I want to be able to take the fight to the enemy when I field this to those individuals that their job in the infantry is to close with and destroy the enemy in close combat.”
The gun is undoubtedly a solid choice as demonstrated by the remarks of those soldiers who first tested it out. “The pistol felt very natural in my hand,” said Col. Derek K. Thompson of the 1st Brigade Combat Team.
“The weapon itself is a very simple handgun; it’s a very easy handgun to shoot,” 1st Lt. Andrew Borer told Military.com.
Words like “awesome” and “cutting edge” were also bandied about, making it obvious beyond a shadow of a doubt that soldiers will have no problems acclimating to their new weapon. But the holster is another story.
Without an appropriate holster, it can be difficult to adopt a new handgun, particularly in situations that require it to be on one’s person at all times.
Many individuals prefer one of the popular IWB holsters available on the mass market. These inside the waistband holsters fit comfortably inside one’s clothing. The company behind the Army-issued M17 offers the Sig Sauer P320 Tuckable IWB KYDEX Holster which is specifically designed as a sheath for this model.
There are a number of M17-compatible holsters out there. Holsters and other tactical gear are widely available from websites that offer a military discount.
When choosing a holster maker, it’s obvious why the Army opted to sign a contract with The Safariland Group. Established in 1964, this manufacturer has been serving law enforcement and military personnel for over 53 years.
With their 7TS variant, soldiers get a lightweight nylon holster with the speed and simplicity of an open-top design. Designed to hold up against extreme weather conditions and protect the M17’s finish against scratches or marks, the 7TS is tailor-made for the rugged environment that most active duty soldiers find themselves in.
Safariland’s proprietary DuPont nylon blend is totally non-abrasive to a firearm’s finish and soldiers who have tested it out have been thrilled by the fast draw they are able to achieve with the thumb release.
It rides close to the body, so it’s easy to conceal, and its raised internal stand-offs permit moisture and dirt to clear in no time at all. Features include a concealment paddle and belt loop. ALS (automatic locking system) guards and hood guards can be added on, though it is unclear if the Army will be offering these options to their team leaders at the time.
Those who have tried one on are impressed by the thinness of the holster. The one piece design folds over to make a corrugation that improves the strength of the already strong body.
For the practical soldier, it makes more sense than traditional arms. As Corporal Jory Herrmann, a team leader with C Company, 1-506th, put it, “It’s more useful to have a handgun on your side than a rifle trying to low crawl under tight quarters.”
The standard issue side arm has a manual safety, combat trigger group, a full sized frame and a customizable grip to suit each soldier’s individual hand size. For special ops, a threaded barrel will be provided for mounting a suppressor, and tritium night sights will be installed.
M17s will continue to be issued down to a swath of service members. Fire team leaders in infantry squads and many more troops in other divisions will be issued these 9mm pistols for dual carry along with their standard M4 carbine.
The Army is expected to purchase 300,000 of them to completely replace the Beretta M9s that have been in circulation.
For civilians or retired Army veterans, a commercial variant will be available in a limited release of approximately 5,000 units.