While the M17/M18 pistols are entering service with the United States Army, let's face it, the M9 will still be around for quite a while. After all, since the M9 entered service in the 1980s, over 600,000 were produced. Also, the dirty little secret is that even though the M1911 was supposed to be replaced by the M9, it still hangs on as the MEU(SOC).
So, what is to be done while the M17 and M18 reach the troops? Beretta has an answer: An improved version of the M9 that the troops are using. According to a handout available at the Association of the United States Army expo in Washington, D.C., the world's oldest firearms manufacturer has made a number of improvements to your father's (or mother's) M9.
A look at the muzzle end of the M9A3. (Photo from Beretta)
While the M9A3 is still a 9mm pistol, it is very different from the first M9 to enter service. For one thing, its magazine holds 17 rounds as opposed to 15. The pistol also has an earth tone finish, a larger magazine release button, and a over-center safety lever. The biggest bonus: The troops already know how to use this pistol, and thus, no re-training is necessary.
The pistol also provides little burden on logistics, since all of its major components and over three-quarters of all individual parts, are compatible with the legacy M9s. Furthermore, this pistol could come in cheaper than the current M9. The magazine has also been improved to increase its resistance to sand.
A side view of the M9A3, showing, among other things, the new magazine release and providing a good look at the Flat Dark Earth finish. (Photo from Beretta)
The M9 was featured in an iconic photo of the Iraq War, when First Sergeant Bradley Kasal was gripping it while being assisted out of a building where he'd protected a fellow Marine from insurgents. With the M9A3, the M9 could be sticking around with some units for a long time to come, just like the pistol it replaced in the 1980s.