The United States Air Force is in the market for a new sidearm, and the Army’s new M17 Modular Handgun System has taken their fancy. They are considering it as a new sidearm for their pilots, replacing the SIG Sauer P226 and Beretta M9 pistols they are currently armed with.
But before deciding, they wanted to run a few tests of their own, to see if they are up to standard. What tests did they run I hear you ask? Well, they launched that bad boy off in an ejection seat and watched what happened!
On December 6, the Operational Test and Evaluation Centre at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio buckled up a test dummy in an ejector seat, with two M17 pistols holstered across his chest. The dummy was then slammed into the bottom of a vertical deceleration tower.
The purpose of this test was to ensure the new handgun doesn’t pose any safety problems to those who may have to use the conventional Martin-Baker ejection seat during flight.
The standard underseat rocket-assisted catapult system can put pilots under forces up to 14g, which is enough to expel personnel from the cockpit under pretty much every circumstance, while also aggressive enough to fracture bones and leave pilots bruised. So, the last thing they want is a bulky sidearm getting caught in something during a bailout.
Speaking of the test, an Air Force public affairs official wrote: “The test addresses the new modular handgun system’s capability to resist damage during ejection and still function as designed after sustaining ejection forces. This is the first time any service has conducted this type of demonstration to ensure a sidearm is safe for aircrew to carry in ejection seat aircraft.”
With the Air Force planning on snapping up a whopping 130,000 pistols, they need to ensure that it truly is the right way to go. There have also been reports of accidental discharges from the M17 from other agencies who have used it, so this is bound to be on the Air Force’s mind.
One of the photos from the tests shows one official checking an empty shell casing from the M17 for any indication that the firing pin struck the primer during the tests.
As of yet, there is no word on the outcome of the tests, so it is still to be seen what sort of the pressure the M17 can survive under… And why stop there? We’ve got plenty of guns we’d like to see fired in an ejector seat, although, as sturdy as they are, we can’t imagine something like the Air Arms Alfa Proj air pistol would live to tell the tale…