Replacing a Legend

Sig Sauer P320-M17 Specs
Caliber: 9mm 
Action Type: Semi-Auto 
Accessory Rail: M1913
Mag Capacity: 17 or 21 rd. 
Weight: 29.6 oz
Barrel Length: 4.7 in 
Overall Length: 8 in
Height: 5.5 in  
Width: 1.3 in
Sight Radius: 6.6 in

FN USA 509 Tactical
Caliber: 9mm
Action Type: Semi-Auto
Accessory Rail: MIL-STD-1913
Mag Capacity: 10 or 17/24 Rd.
Weight: 27.9 oz.
Barrel Length: 4.5 in
Overall Length: 7.9 in
Height: 5.75 in
Width: 1.35 in
Sight Radius: 5.79 in

In 2013, the U.S. Army sent out a request for information to handgun companies for the Modular Handgun System (MHS) contract. The purpose was to replace the Berreta M9, a Cold-War era adoption and standard-issue sidearm since the late 1980s. In 2015, the competition took flight with Sig Sauer, Glock, FN America and Beretta USA all vying for the contract. Sig Sauer eventually won out, but a closer look at what goes into gaining a contract worth $580 million boggles the mind.

The U.S. Army demands high standards for its gear. The MHS is no different, requiring the pistols to be more effective, accurate and reliable than the M9 pistol. MHS contract requirements called for a non-caliber specific firearm with modular features. The U.S. Army wanted the system to allow for the adaptation of different fire control devices, pistol grips and alternate magazine options. In addition to these, they wanted a pistol that fits various hand sizes, possesses ambidextrous controls, an ability to mount suppressors and have a non-reflective neutral color.

Within the contract, the U.S. Army also required a 90-percent chance of hitting a four-inch circle out to 50 meters throughout the pistol’s life. They also wanted an ergonomic firearm that is incredibly reliable. Each firearm was held to strict standards, which included: 2,00 rounds between stoppages, 10,000 rounds between failures and 35,000 rounds of service life. All this for a contract that would outfit the U.S. Army with roughly 300,000 or more new pistols. Two pistols stood out to me during this process. The Sig Sauer P320-M17 and the FN 509 Tactical.

Both firearms were born for combat. By the tale-of-the-tape both contenders held similar specs. Although the FN 509 Tactical didn’t win the contract, there’s plenty to love about FN America’s latest launch.

FN 509 Tactical
Perhaps it’s an easy callout, but the two extended 24-round magazines are astounding. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they wished they had less Sight Housingammo in a firefight. It also comes with one 17-round magazine, but I consider that the third option here. The FN 509 Tactical sights stand out as a noticeable difference. The three-dot, suppressor height sight system is easily acquired when firing. A rear sight housing plate can be removed to mount any of today’s popular red dot sights from Burris, C-More, Leupold, Trijicon and Vortex.  

The cover plate itself has an interesting design that protects the rear sight. Shooters notice two wings that enclose the two-dot rear sight, allowing for protection no matter the situation. As an added benefit, the wings add for a great surface to rack the slide when one hand is all that is available.texturing

The FN 509 Tactical’s slide is equipped with deep, forward and rear serrations for better grip. The tan, polymer frame has aggressive squared checkering on both front and back of grip. Folks of all grip sizes have options with small and medium interchangeable back straps. Larger interchangeable back straps are an aftermarket purchase. One cool feature, was a bit of added texturing where the thumb rides when firing the 509 Tactical, a very nice when conditions worsen.

The 509 Tactical is comfortable in hand. When firing the pistol, I noticed I could get a higher purchase on the gun because of the undercut trigger guard. It allowed me to choke up on the gun, which in the end allowed me to get back on target more quickly.509 Tactical

Overall, I encountered zero problems with the 509 Tactical. One minor detail I would have like to see is a non-threaded barrel included. It would be a quick switch so I could carry with the 17-round magazine.

Everyone knew the 509 Tactical would perform well, especially after FN produced a one-million round count performer with the original 509. The options seem to be limitless with the 509 Tactical. If shooters want a red dot, add a red dot. How about adding a red dot and suppressor? Yes, shooters can do that too. One thing is for sure, the 509 Tactical works for anyone.

Sig Sauer P320—M17full 320
The winner of the coveted contract comes in two flavors – a m17-Commemorative and P320-M17. Sig Sauer had the wherewithal to offer a commemorative M-17 and a civilian version. For our look, we received the P320-M17 civilianized version.

Right off the bat the M17 just feels right in the hand. It’s equipped with ambidextrous, manual thumb safety and slide release. Not a fan of the manual safety? Don’t worry, Sig plans to release a non-manual safety version later. The entire pistol is finished with the coyote-tan PVD finish, all-black controls and SIGLITE night sights. While we are on the subject. For my OCD, I wish Sig would have 320 tacticalfinished the adaptor plates in the same coyote-tan color. I do understand my OCD tendencies are a personal problem not all possess.

Keeping in line with the MHS contract, the M17 includes a removable night sight rear plate for after-market red dot sights. Modularity is a big reason why the Sig P320 was high on the list of finalists. The body of the pistol is an internal frame fire control unit. Serial numbers are on the fire control unit and not on the frame.

What I find unique about the P320 platform are the grip modules. Instead of replacing a back strap, shooters choose between three grip units or modules. This accommodates a wide range of shooters, which was requested in the RFI that 320 gripthe U.S. Army sent.  

Unlike the FN 509 Tactical, the slide serrations on the P320-M17 aren’t as pronounced. Slide serrations on the rear of the slide travel all the way to the top, but front serrations only go midway from bottom to top.

I’m a fan of the grip on the P320-M17. The texturing is softer, but holds true even in wet conditions. The ability to switch between calibers continues with the P320-M17. Shooters can convert from 9mm to .357SIG or .40S&W. I like the idea of switching between calibers, but I am searching for a situation where I’d want to. Why not just buy another P320?

What’s not to love about the P320-M17? It’s got every feature that the U.S. Army was looking for in their new service pistols. This is a complete modular system that shoots easily and handles beautifully in wretched conditions.

Either way you go, the FN 509 Tactical or P320-M17 perform as advertised. The U.S. Army places very high standards on equipment indeed and moving forward these two firearms are the new standards which all others will be held. ~ KJ

Kevin Jarnagin
Kevin Jarnagin (KJ) hails from Oklahoma, but quickly established Louisiana roots after joining the Gun Talk team. KJ grew up as a big game hunter, and knows his way around a bass boat. Whether it’s making his way to British Columbia for elk or training with pistols, Jarnagin always seems to find a gun in his hands and adventure on his mind.