Proposed Program for New 9-mm Handguns Should Be Reexamined

PLRD-82-42: Published: Mar 8, 1982. Publicly Released: Mar 8, 1982.

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Robert M. Gilroy
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Department of Defense's (DOD) decision to standardize its inventory of sidearms by purchasing all new, semiautomatic 9-mm pistols. GAO also looked at the feasibility of converting the current inventory of pistols to use 9-mm ammunition.

In response to congressional interest in standardizing handguns to save money on logistics and maintenance costs, DOD undertook a study to determine what handguns would meet service requirements and whether the United States should adopt the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) standard 9-mm cartridge. The study recommended a procurement program to acquire a new, single family of sidearms which use NATO standard ammunition. DOD rejected the ideas of either converting the existing inventory of .38-caliber revolvers and .45-caliber pistols to use 9-mm ammunition or of continuing to use the present mix of sidearms, because the pistols under consideration offer more features. However, only the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard expressed an interest in the new pistols, while the other forces indicated that the new sidearm would not be a major improvement over current sidearms. The cost of this procurement over the next 20 years would be about $133 million more than the cost of continuing to use the present mix of sidearms. In addition, most of the current inventory of sidearms are serviceable, and it is not yet clear how expensive the NATO standard ammunition will be. GAO also found that converting .45-caliber pistols is a potentialy less costly means of switching to the 9-mm cartridge. Considering these factors, GAO believes that a large-scale program to replace military sidearms is questionable. Subsequent to the completion of this study, DOD advised that it is reassessing its requirements and canceling the proposed procurement.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although the House and Senate Armed Services Committees denied funds for 9-mm handguns, the Army is proceeding to buy them using Coast Guard funds. The House Appropriations Committee denied fical year 1983 funds for .45 caliber hand gun parts and ammunition forcing the Army to buy the 9-mm. The fiscal year 1984 budget was $7.4 million for the first year's procurement for all of the armed forces.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should reexamine the new 9-mm handgun program. Such a reexamination should consider all cost-effective options that can meet valid military requirements. For example, if standardization on NATO 9-mm ammunition remains the dominant requirement, it may be possible, over time, to convert existing .45-caliber pistols, as they go through needed depot overhaul to a 9-mm configuration. Ultimately, those pistols that cannot be economically converted should be replaced with new 9-mm pistols.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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