The 101st Airborne Division has officially become the first unit to field the new M17 and M18 Modular Handgun System.

The legendary Screaming Eagles received a shipment of over 2,000 M17 and M18 9mm handguns on Nov. 17, and unpacked, inventoried, inspected and test-fired the guns on Monday, Nov. 27 a Fort Campbell, Ky. It began fielding the MHS the next day.

The MHS pistol is based on Sig Sauer’s P320 and boasts an external safety; integrated MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail for light and laser attachments; self-illuminating night sights; and an Army standard suppressor conversion kit for attaching an acoustic/flash suppressor.

The Army says the system was tested by 25 soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, in addition to top brass like Maj. Gen. Andrew P. Poppas, 101st Airborne Division commander; Sgt. Maj. Todd W. Sims, 101st Airborne Division senior enlisted leader; Brig. Gen. John W. Brennan, 101st Airborne Division deputy commanding general for operations; and Brig. Gen. K. Todd Royar, 101st Airborne Division deputy commanding general for support. All sent rounds downrange at the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) indoor range after getting marksmanship instruction the day before.

Both the full-size M17 and the compact M18 received high praise from those involved in testing.

“It is an easy, smooth-firing weapon,” Poppas said.

Sgt. Matthew J. Marsh, a 1st Brigade Combat Team Soldier, agreed.

“It is easier to fire and simpler to operate,” Marsh said. “The pistol felt very natural in my hand. I am excited to take my experience back to my unit and share it with my Soldiers.”

The 1st Brigade Combat Team is the first 101st Airborne unit to put the M17 and M18 through its paces.

“We are proud to be the first unit to be fielded this new handgun,” said Col. Derek K. Thomson, 1st Brigade Combat Team commander, who was on hand for the event. “Our Soldiers have always been at the cutting edge of battle, so it’s fitting they are the first to fire alongside these leaders today.”

“I never thought I would be one of the first ones to field a new piece of [Army] equipment,” said Marsh. “It is a tremendous honor for my battalion and brigade, this division and me.”

The M17 and M18 MHS pistols will eventually be fielded to all units over the next decade. The guns will replace the M9, which was first introduced into service back in 1986.

“That’s pretty dated technology,” said Lt. Col. Steven Power, project manager Soldier Weapons, individual weapons product manager. “The specific performance improvements from MHS over the M9 include better accuracy, tighter dispersion, and better ergonomics, which combined result in a far more lethal pistol.”

“The world has changed since the strength and resilience of this division was forged during the maelstrom of World War II,” Poppas said. “In order to maintain our decisive edge, we must continue to outpace our potential adversaries with more lethal capabilities, from the modular handgun system we fielded today to the innovative and adaptive air assault concepts, equipment and training the 101st continues to perfect.”

Sig Sauer was awarded the $580 million contract to supply the U.S. Army with its new Modular Handgun System back in January.

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