The Army's Big Mistake: Not Buying the Sig Sauer P226 Gun?
In the competition between the Beretta 92 SB-F and Sig Sauer P226, both rated very well, and a gun owner and enthusiast can justify buying either firearm. The lesson here, however, is that when large inventories of guns are involved, minor statistical differences can have a noticeable effect. For just about the cost of a single Abrams tank the Army could have had a more reliable handgun for the M9's thirty-year run, giving soldiers increased confidence in their handguns.
In a contract for 450,000 pistols, the Italian gun manufacturer would supply the nine-millimeter firearm to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and even the Coast Guard. The contentious competition dragged on for the better part of a decade, but doubts lingered in the minds of many. Had the Army picked the right handgun, and should the contract have gone to the Sig Sauer P226?By the late 1970s, the U.S. Military's handgun inventory was best described as aging and fragmented. The bulk of handguns in Pentagon service were Colt M1911A1 pistols in .45 ACP dating to World War II and lacking modern features, such as a high capacity magazine and ease of disassembly, while the Air Force relied on worn-out Smith & Wesson handguns bought in the 1960s.
Established in 1979, the Joint Service Small Arms Program (JSSAP) set out to select a single handgun for all the armed services. The program drafted up a raft of requirements, including the ability to fire nine-millimeter Luger rounds, the NATO standard for pistol ammunition, a minimum fifteen round magazine capacity, and an expected service life of 10,000 rounds. The contestants, including Beretta’s 92 SB-F pistol and SACO Defense’s (later Sig Sauer's) P226, with the 1911A1 acting as a control.
The Beretta and the Sig Sauer guns were both similar in specification. Both were European-designed guns chambered in nine-millimeter Luger, both carried up to fifteen rounds, and both had external hammers and decockers. Both fired the first round in double action mode and subsequent follow-up shots in single action. Both were 1.5 inches wide, while at 8.5 inches the Beretta was slightly longer than the Sig Sauer’s 7.7 inches. The Beretta weighed 33.3 ounces, and the Sig Sauer 34 ounces.