With respect to small arms, the U.S. military establishment has historically taken very conservative views and actions. The U.S. has started out behind the eight ball—with shortages of weapons for its troops—in all the major wars it fought in. Our country’s procurement of small arms has always been a slow process, marked by a good deal of foot-dragging when it came time to convert to more-modern firearms.

As for handguns, our first general-issue sidearm using a self-contained, metallic cartridge was the Colt 1873 Single Action Army chambered for .45 Colt. It was adopted in 1873, with a number of .45 caliber Smith & Wesson Schofield revolvers also being issued. These Colts were in the field until 1892, when the .38 Long Colt, double-action Colt Model 1892 revolver became standard issue. Next came the little-known Colt Model 1909 revolver in .45 Colt, which represented a transition between the Model 1892 and the Colt Model 1911 semi-automatic pistol. As the U.S. was in short supply of 1911s upon entering World War I, the military opted to contract with Colt and Smith & Wesson for Model 1917 revolvers, which would chamber the .45 ACP service cartridge. The 1911 served as the primary service handgun (besides the .38 Special and 9mm special service revolvers and pistols used from time to time) for almost 75 years, until it was supplanted in 1985 by the 9mm Beretta Model 92FS, or M9, which has since taken the second-place position in the longevity race with 27 years of service.

Rise Of M9s

In mid-September 2012, Beretta USA announced that the U.S. Army had awarded it a contract for up to 100,000 9mm M9 pistols. An initial order for some 4,600 pistols has already been released to the company, and these new guns will join the 600,000-plus M9 pistols that are already in service throughout the world. According to Beretta President Ugo Gussalli Beretta, “This order reaffirms the U.S. armed forces’ interest and support of the M9 pistol. The M9 remains the standard sidearm of the U.S. Army…these pistols will support American troops in the field for years to come.” All the pistols will be made at the Beretta U.S.A. manufacturing facility in Maryland, where a workforce of nearly 300 employees has been making M9 pistols since 1987.

For more information, visit

Up Next


With respect to small arms, the U.S. military establishment has historically taken very conservative…