DOD Procurement Plan for a New Semi-Automatic 9mm Pistol as the Standard Military Sidearm

Gao ID: 115923 July 27, 1981

The primary focus of current GAO work concerning the Joint Services Small Arms Program is to determine whether appropriate consideration was being given to other, possibly more cost-effective alternatives to replacing the .45 and .38 caliber pistols with a new 9 mm semi-automatic pistol. The Department of Defense (DOD) decision to standardize on one caliber is significant because all pistols, and perhaps other small arms, will ultimately be 9mm caliber. The majority of the current U.S. military pistols are .45 or .38 caliber. Because current GAO work is only in the preliminary stages, GAO has not reached any conclusion on the appropriateness of the decision to purchase new 9mm semi-automatic pistols. However, the current work indicates that the Army has not adequately considered the alternative of modifying the existing Colt Model 1911 and .45 caliber semi-automatic pistols to use 9mm ammunition. GAO found that the possibility of converting the existing .45 caliber pistols to a 9mm pistol was feasible. Modification of a .45 caliber pistol by substituting 9mm parts for .45 caliber parts produced a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. The estimated cost of this conversion is about half the cost of purchasing a new 9mm pistol. However, the Army rejected the alternative of modifying .45 caliber pistols because the specification for the new pistol could not be met. The users require features which are not now available on the .45. GAO believes that, before significant resources are committed to this procurement, the following questions should be considered and satisfactorily answered by DOD: (1) can a .45 caliber pistol, modified to 9mm, serve as a satisfactory personal defense weapon; (2) does the specific operational requirement result in overly restrictive, costly, or unnecessary specifications for a 9mm pistol; (3) how will the existing inventories of military sidearms be disposed of; (4) is the purchase of new 9mm pistols the most cost-effective means of satisfying the need for a personal defense weapon; (5) why has the Army indicated a willingness to accept a high risk schedule for procurement; (6) will an adequate production base and technical data package be acquired; and (7) what other weapons will be in the 9mm family of weapons.

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