The Coast Guard (USCG) is latest service to announce that they are buying handguns off of the Army Modular Handgun System contract. The Coast Guard will field the smaller M-18 version. The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security. It has a broad mission which includes combat deployments overseas and law enforcement in territorial waters and on the high seas. The USCG currently carries the P229R-DAK, chambered in .40 caliber, the same gun carried by Immigration and Customs Security (ICE).

ICE has selected a SIG P320 variant in 9mm as their next handgun. They are currently taking delivery and fielding their new P320s. The contract was written with a maximum 17,000 pistols. I expect other federal law enforcement agencies to buy P320s off the ICE contract. Sources indicate that ICE has selected an X-Carry variant in 9mm, the same size frame as the M-18. The ICE handgun will not have an external safety like the M-18 but they will share ammo, magazines and many other parts.

Top M-18, bottom M-17 photo US Army

The Army’s 10-year MHS agreement calls for full-size M-17 and compact M-18 versions of its 9 mm pistol. The Army intends to purchase 195,000 MHS pistols, mostly in the full-size M-17 version. SIG has shipped approximately 7,000 to date; predominantly M17s . The first 5,000 handguns were delivered last year fielding to 101st Airborne and 82nd Airborne.

Reports indicate that the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment has deployed with their M-17s to Syria.

The Army awarded Sig Sauer an MHS contract worth up to $580 million in January 2017. The Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard have all placed orders to purchase the M-18 under the Army’s Modular Handgun contract.

XM1153 Special Purpose cartridge firing a 9mm 147 grain jacked hollow point projectile.

One of the overlooked aspects of the MHS contract is the Army’s announcement that the M-17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) will shoot hollow points in combat. The contract selected ammunition provided by Olin Winchester , the XM1153 Special Purpose cartridge firing a 9mm 147 grain jacked hollow point projectile.

A recent study by the Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded that 9mm hollow-point rounds produce reliable incapacitation. This has not been lost on the Army, always looking for increased performance and force protection.

There is a misunderstanding about the law of war that all hollow points are forbidden. U.S. military lawyers argue that that the shift to jacketed hollow point (JHP) ammunition by conventional forces does not increase suffering and reduces risk to non-combatants. U.S. Army Military Police have been authorized to use hollow points on bases since 2010.

Since the beginning of the MHS program in 2008 all of the services have been involved. Handguns are support weapons which are used in many different roles across the services. Standardization reduces the stress on maintenance and logistics chains and allows the different branches to reduce the cost of spare parts and ammunition.


The MHS program was intended to select a handgun which could be easily reconfigured at unit level  for different missions and roles. The SIG P320 was the only handgun in the MHS competition which realized that vision. The rapid acceptance by every branch of the military and DHS bodes well for the success of the program.

Featured photo courtesy of the US Coast Guard.Shooter is firing the SIG 229R.

MHS photos courtesy of US Army.