Writing U.S. Military Characters: Out With the M9, In With the M17

The Sig P320 is the New Sidearm of the U.S. Military

Ever since it was adopted in 1985, the ubiquitous M9 Beretta semi-automatic pistol has been the United States military’s default sidearm. That’s about to change.

M9 Beretta military purposes

This is no longer the case. (Image via Beretta)

The U.S. Army put out a call for an M9 replacement in 2014. It took until January 2017 for trials to finish up and for a winner to be identified. Enter the Sig P320:

m9 replacement pistol

The Sig P320 replaces the Beretta M9, in use for more than 30 years. (Sig Sauer image)

In line with military naming conventions, the Sig P320 will be called the M17 when it’s used by the Army. That’s because the version the Army ultimately uses will be slightly different from the P320 available now to civilians. Expect other branches of the military to adjust the M17 to suit their own purposes as the M9 is phased out.

Regardless, the M17 will be similar to the specs of the compact version of the P320, as evidenced by this article at The Firearm Blog.

Caliber 9mm
Barrel Length 3.9″
Overall Length 7.2″
Height 5.3″
Width 1.4″
Weight (unloaded w/ magazine)
1.61 lbs (25.8 oz)
Sights SIGLITE Night Sights
Action Striker-fired single-action
External Safety N/A
Ammo Capacity 15+1 (that means 15 in the magazine and 1 loaded in the chamber)
Measured trigger pull weight ~7 lbs
Included Accessories Two 15-round magazines, injection molded paddle holster
MSRP $713 ($628 w/o night sights)

If you want to dive deep into how the P320 operates, here’s the PDF user manual from Sig.

About the caliber, it’s no surprise that a 9mm took the cake. This is the hot caliber. Thanks to a series of improvements, it can offer a punch on par with larger calibers without sacrificing magazine capacity. It’s no wonder the FBI also stuck with 9mm when it announced its new sidearm last year.

Here’s a video review that does a nice job showing off the P320’s features and operation:

What Does This Mean for Writing Fiction?

Here’s the gist:

  • Military characters can use M9 pistols so long as the story is set from 1985 to 2017.
  • Start using the M17 with military characters in stories set from 2018 to 2028. Although the contract for these guns was finalized in 2017, there’s an assumption that a large run will take time to manufacture and deploy. The contract is good for 10 years, although it may be renewed.
  • The U.S. Army selected the M17, but other branches of service will likely adopt it, too.
  • Don’t depict characters cocking a hammer back when using this gun.
  • This only applies to the United States military.
  • When referencing this firearm’s use by military characters, it’s appropriate to call it an “M17.” When used by civilian characters, call it a “P320.”
  • If you like writing about the M9, you can continue to assign non-military characters its civilian equivalent, the Beretta 92.
  • Military and law enforcement organizations around the world routinely change the firearms they use. This is a good reminder to check in from time to time if a character belongs to one of those orgs.

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3 thoughts on “Writing U.S. Military Characters: Out With the M9, In With the M17

  1. Let’s not forget that the supply chain takes time. My National Guard unit still had 1911A1s until 1993, and transitioned to the M9 wile I was in training, in ’94. They probably won’t see the Sig for a while.

    We had M16A1s for a bit longer, and had the old M60 until 2000 or so. Hell, until OIF1 in 2004, we had 2 M1D Garand sniper rifles in the arms room! I was disappointed when State took them back, Because I was going to have one issued- as I was one of the few that could run such an antique. My gun club was all set to provide a can or two of ammo for me. 30.06 M2 ball isn’t in the supply chain any more.


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