11 Jul 2014

More on the US Service Sidearm

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Commenter Tim, at Gun Nuts Media, defends the Beretta M9:

The Beretta M9 has actually been a pretty good sidearm.

We’ve talked a bit about the Beretta 92/M9′s track record as an issued sidearm for the military and law enforcement before, but it’s worth reemphasizing here that the biggest problem the Beretta has had in military service is bad maintenance practices by the military itself. Springs don’t get replaced, parts that aren’t supposed to be reused get reused, and the military went out and bought a bunch of cheap magazines for them that didn’t work well. Remember that this is the same organization which preached minimal or no lube on carbines like Jimmy Swaggart on cocaine and then seemed somewhat stunned by the fact that guns shut down when used in combat. When you talk to people from units who took maintaining their issued M9 sidearms seriously, and who bothered to actually lubricate them properly, you hear that they were pretty darn reliable.

And he doesn’t think getting a sidearm chambered for a round larger and more powerful than the 9mm Parabellum will make that much difference.

40 S&W ball ammo, .45 ACP ball ammo, or .357 sig ball ammo is going to suck about the same as 9mm ball ammo.

One of the stated reasons for pursuing a new handgun is to get one that’s in a chambering with better terminal ballistics. That’s really a non-starter unless the military is willing to start using ammunition with expanding bullets. It’s particularly amusing to see the .357 sig in the list of considerations because the .357 sig is a .40 S&W case necked down to take a 9mm bullet…as if a .355 FMJ from a .357 sig is going to perform better than a .355 FMJ from a 9mm. If the Army wants better terminal ballistics, start issuing Gold Dots. No, dear reader, we’re not prohibited from using JHP ammunition by the Hague convention…and to paraphrase an exceptionally astute comment from a forum discussion on the topic, it’s patently absurd to issue hand grenades and shoulder-launched missiles and then wring our hands and fret over whether hollowpoints for handguns are “humane”. It’s ridiculous that in our society a police officer can shoot another American citizen with JHP ammo without any human rights concerns but somehow there’s a big problem if a Marine shoots some foreign dirtbag with the exact same ammo. You know, shooting him with a handgun rather than calling in an airstrike or blowing the whole structure the dude is hiding in to kingdom come with an Abrams tank.


Tim may be right that drawing an ethical line at shooting foreign enemies with expanding bullets is silly when our own police get to shoot civilians domestically with hollowpoint bullets, but he’s mistaken about US obligations.

The Hague Convention of 1899 says:

The Contracting Parties agree to abstain from the use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as bullets with a hard envelope which does not entirely cover the core, or is pierced with incisions.

This Declaration was not ratified by the United States, but… “After World War II, the judges of the military tribunal of the Trial of German Major War Criminals at Nuremberg Trials found that by 1939, the rules laid down in the 1907 Hague Convention were recognised by all civilised nations and were regarded as declaratory of the laws and customs of war. Under this post-war decision, a country did not have to have ratified the 1907 Hague Convention in order to be bound by them.”

So, by the ruling of an international war crimes tribunal in which the US participated, everyone, including the US, is considered to recognize that abstention from the use of expanding bullets is one of the laws and customs of war.

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John Bernard Books

So, when we’re fighting a civilized nation we’ll use FMJ. Fighting “enemy combatants” that are not recognized under any of these conventions means we can do whatever we want.


Doesn’t matter in some instances whether the bullet is expanding or not. A friend in law enforcement was on a high risk entry team. They used 9mm. On one entry they put multiple rounds in a guy who wouldn’t go down. Finally, a shot to the ankle dropped him. The doc pulled the 9mm bullets from his skin with his fingers. Something about the guy’s fat and musculature gave him bullet resistance to the 9mm. Afterward, the team switched to .40 S&W and my friend never carried a 9mm as a duty weapon again.

Argument doesn’t matter. That story isn’t conclusive. But one a firearm or caliber fails to stop a threat, the natural tendency is to never trust it again.

Note, Tim, never goes above “pretty darn good” on the 9mm. Oh and make sure you do all the meticulous maintenance.

A caliber that hasn’t developed a reputation and a gun that isn’t high maintenance is what you want for an army.


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