Mark Keefe of American Rifleman landed photos of The Glock that Wasn’t, the Glock 19 MHS. The Glock 19 MHS was designed to compete for the Army’s lucrative and prestigious Modular Handgun System contract. Unfortunately for Glock, the military awarded the contract to SIG for their P320 MHS. Glock protested the decision and the GAO responded. Now we know why the military went SIG.
The Modular Handgun System program sought out a replacement for the Army’s inventory of Berretta M9-series pistols. The Beretta pistols were at their end-of-life, and the military was looking for something that wasn’t just new, but modern and improved over the fundamentally ’80s-era M9.
From the contract’s description, it was very clear that the military was looking for something very close to SIG’s design. Other companies, including Glock, would have to modify their products to meet the demanding feature set outlined by the program.
Now we have a chance to see Glock’s entry into the competition. The Glock 19 MHS combines elements of the Glock 17 and Glock 19 models of 9mm pistols with the so-called “Gen 5” frame styling. In addition, the pistol sports an ambidextrous manual thumb safety, one of the requirements of the MHS program.
One of the biggest changes to Glock’s current production pistols is that the frame does not have fingergrooves. The contract specifically banned pistols with fingergrooves, a feature predominantly used by Glock. Other features included to meet program requirements are ambidextrous slide release levers and a reversible magazine release.
The Glock 19 MHS has a compact slide on what appears to be a full-size Glock 17-length frame. The MHS outline required a pistol that could be configured as a compact for officer use and for soldiers requiring a concealable pistol as well as a full-size gun with a greater magazine capacity.
It looks like Glock decided to split the difference by combining the compact and full-size components into one pistol. This is similar to what FN and Beretta did with their MHS competition entries. It’s possible that Glock also produced a smaller compact version that we haven’t seen. Ultimately SIG, with their fully-modular P320 MHS, met all the requirements to the letter.
The Glock 19 MHS does not have a fully-modular frame, but it does appear to use Glock’s interchangeable backstrap system to address different user hand sizes. It does have a redesigned lanyard loop that covers the hole in the back of Glock’s standard grip frames.
Of all of the entries into the MHS competition, it’s clear that SIG did the best at meeting all of the requirements. But we also know that meeting the requirements is just part of big contracts like these. Performance and reliability can affect outcomes. And ultimately price is a major consideration.
And that’s where the P320 MHS really shined in the eyes of the military. SIG underbid Glock by over $100 million, asking for just $169 million for the first batch of pistols and ammunition. Glock’s price: $272 million for the initial contract. SIG also offered better licensing rights to the military on their guns and ammo.
The P320 turned out to be a runaway success for SIG on all fronts. A commercial hit, the P320 quickly started snapping up police and agency contracts and is now firmly the official MHS pistol. The full GAO report on the decision to go SIG is available online (.pdf) now.