Changing weapons systems isn’t something that happens every day in the Marines. The last time it happened, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, and New Coke and Nintendo were just being introduced in America.
But starting in late 2020, Marines started moving away from the Beretta semi-automatic M9 pistol to the Sig Sauer’s M18 Modular Handgun System. The new weapon will replace every pistol in the Marines’ inventory by 2022, including the upgraded M9A1, the Colt M45A1 close quarters pistol, and the Glock Moo7 conceal carry weapon.
The Army first moved to the full-size M17 and the compact M18 in 2017, and other military branches have been following suit. The Marines worked with the Army to integrate the M18.
“For some Marines, having two trigger pulls, like with the M9, is difficult to get used to because different forces are acting upon the gun,” said Sgt. Randall McClellan, pistol program manager with the Weapons Training Battalion aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
Airmen based in Italy gave the pistol rave reviews last summer, but it wasn’t expected to be easy for the Marines. When the switch was announced, leaders at Quantico expected pushback. “This is the first new service pistol in more than 30 years, so it’s going to be a very emotional transition for Marines,” said Gunnery Sergeant and Project Officer Brian Nelson.
A few months later, and Marines seem to be over it. The M9 is a mostly metal gun that weighed in at 34 ounces, while the polymer M18 weighs 26 ounces, a half pound lighter. The new pistol has an interchangeable grip so Marines can make the pistol fit their hand size.
The M18 also fires with a single trigger pull, unlike the old pistol that had two trigger pulls.
The requirement for Marines to qualify with a pistol will not change. Those required to qualify annually will still do so, said Nelson. Combat Marksmanship Trainers will qualify with the M18 during New Equipment Training, and these individuals are responsible for qualifying other Marines.
“The only thing changing in the qualification course now is the verbiage in regard to single-action/double action and the decocking,” said Nelson. “WTBN will hold the marksmanship symposium later this year, and they will review data to decide if the course as a whole will need to be changed.”
Quick Review of the 4 Weapons safety rules:
Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.
Never point a weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot.
Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.
Keep the weapon on “safe” until you intend to fire.
The ultimate test is on the range, and the M18 has been performed. Nelson explains that in early tests at Quantico, pistol qualification scores are up an average of 10 points—an effect that weapons trainers were anticipating. Marines looking to jump from marksman to sharpshooter or sharpshooter to expert have a new friend in the M18.
“With the M18, the trigger is going to be the same weight every time,” said Sgt. Randall McClellan, pistol program manager with the Weapons Training Battalion at Marine Corps Base Quantico.
“This pistol is definitely easier to shoot, is a lot more accurate, and should improve Marines’ qualification score,” said one Marine. Eight months into the transition, the only emotion Marines are feeling is enthusiasm for the new weapon.
"The scale of this effort and length of service for the M9 is what made us believe it would be an emotional event. However, for the most part, Marines are excited to transition away from the M9 service pistol,” Nelson says. “The MHS increases Marine lethality with a more accurate 9mm pistol and covers down on multiple requirements.”