What is a Combat Handgun?


I pulled this out of the archives. Good stuff, and I thought I would add my two cents to the original piece. When I first got to the SEAL Teams in 98, most guys were rocking the Sig 226 (including myself).  The 9mm round will get the job done, especially when we focus on banging’em up (the bad guys) with head shots.  Then one day……

I was doing night ship take-down training and got back to the team area to download my gear (team gear, your gear, then take care of yourself) and noticed that all the rounds in my Sig 226 magazines were tumbled (upside down and sideways) internally.  It was a a scary awakening and I lost trust.  I think at the time we just had a bad batch of magazines because the 226 has been a SOF work horse in good standing.  However, this experience nudged me into the land of the H&K MK 23 SOCOM.  Guys started to bust on me for carrying it until I was out shooting them (that usually shuts people up).  The gun is big but stable.  Extremely reliable and accurate.  Check out Eric’s original write up…..


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Originally Submitted by Eric Daniel February 2008

Read this article the other day about the Air Force’s $90 million request for new pistols getting nixed and instead they were granted $5 million to “study” joint combat pistol needs with the Army.  This, in turn, reminded me of a piece I’d written several years ago on the H&K Mk. 23 Mod 0 SOCOM.  A lot of money was invested in building that state of the art pistol, and there’s no arguing that it is, in fact, one hell of a handgun; but you don’t see too many of them around.  Of all the SOF personnel I saw in Iraq, none had anything other than the M9 Beretta, and of the several I spoke to about the .45 SOF pistol, none had ever seen one.

To be sure, I’m sure there are more SOF folk than there are SOCOM pistols, and there might be some sort of SOP regarding the use of the SOCOM, but if that were the case, why go through all that trouble to make such a superlative firearm and either not issue it in greater numbers, or restrict the use of the ones you do have?

Now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I am not a “gun” guy.  As a soldier, I use firearms as the tools of my trade. I can take them apart and put them back together, and I know how to troubleshoot them when something does not work right.  What I can’t do, is quote chapter and verse on muzzle energy, knockdown power, stopping power, fit, feel, or functionality of any particular firearm or bullet.  This having been said, however, I think, even given my own limited “gun” knowledge, I could come up with a replacement for the M9 for less than 5 million dollars.

Take my experience with the M1911A1 .45 pistol and the M9 Beretta.  The thing I liked best about the M1911A1 was the fact that it was made out of forged steel; You could drop it, kick it, crawl on it, you could do anything to it short of melt it, and you wouldn’t affect it’s reliability.  Moreover, properly blued or parkerized, the M1911A1 was very forgiving of the elements.

Not everything on the M1911A1, however, was perfect.  I thought the ejection port on the slide to be too narrow and I remember that “stove piping” was a constant issue, where the spent casing would extract from the chamber, but would not eject clear of the slide.  Now, I don’t know if this issue was the result of the small ejection port or some other issue, but it was something I noticed with the pistol.  The lack of removable or adjustable sights seemed to me to be a viable point of improvement.  While I understand that the inclusion of such features would obviously drive up the price of the weapon, I would have, at a very minimum, liked to have seen replaceable sights on the pistol.  Many, many of the .45s I saw had mangled front and rear sights, no doubt the result of decades of service.  Adjustable sights might have been something of a luxury for a strictly “defensive” weapon, but I believe replaceable sights would have been an improvement.  Finally, some complained about the recoil from the .45, that it was too powerful, or that the weapon, being made from steel, was too heavy.  I personally thought the recoil was manageable (more than the M9 to be sure, but not alarmingly so) and when compared to all the other gear I was hauling around, the extra 2 pounds from the M1911A1 was hardly noticeable (not to mention a loaded M9 weighs almost the same.)

As for the M9 Beretta, it fired well, it was easy to take apart and put back together, and since it was made of a non-ferrous alloy, it was again very tolerant of the elements.  Moreover, it did have a nice big ejection port (right out the top of the slide.)  On the downside, the M9 was made of a non-ferrous alloy, which made it significantly more susceptible to damage from what I would consider routine exposure to the combat environment.  I’ve seen M9s crack when dropped off of vehicles, suffer significant gouging, and pinching of the frame.  With the M1911A1 if I could get the slide to work I had faith that the pistol would work, and work safely.  Not so with the M9.  Additionally, the M9 was a SA/DA (single action/double action) pistol, which meant that you didn’t need to thumb cock it like you did with the .45 or rack the slide to cock the hammer, you could just pull the trigger and the hammer would cock itself and fire.  However, with the Beretta the trigger, in DA mode (hammer down) was WAY out there and for some folk, reaching all the way out there with one finger was literally quite a reach (I’ve even seen folk “double pull” the trigger where they pull the trigger partway and then readjust their finger position to complete the process.)  For me, coming from a M1911A1 background, I always thumb cocked my M9 during qualification.  This may not have been the standard, but it was how I “grew up” and I didn’t see the need to go to a different method simply because TRADOC said so.  Others have also complained about the “fat” double stacked, 15-round magazine, but again, with my big hands, that wasn’t an issue.  Finally, as with the M1911A1 the M9 does not have removable or replaceable sights, though again, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t really a deal breaker as much as it would have been means of maintaining the accuracy of the pistol over its service life.

(Now, before anyone mentions it, I intentionally did not address the physical characteristics of the bullets themselves.  Over the course of my military career the only thing I’ve ever “killed” with my pistol was paper and plywood, so I can’t comment on the combat utility of either the .45 ACP or the 9mm Parabellum.  But bullet lethality is a whole different story.)

  • JDsHandsomeSon

    Good article and an interesting read. After the last essay on the H&K .45 USP here I pulled mine out for a trip to the range and was reminded how well it does shoot. I also have the compact model and since then have been carrying that, rather than the G19. It’s also a “shooter”, for me at least. And the USP’s are good looking guns and while I know that’s a ridiculous reason to choose a weapon, I can’t resist being a sucker for the packaging.

    • Lane

      I have a USP .40, and I can tell you that it is an excellent pistol. I have upwards of 10,000 rounds of every brand known to man through it, and never a hiccup. If MK 23 is anything close to the USP, which I’m sure it is, I think it would be a fine sidearm for SOF. (in my unprofessional opinion)

  • Uncle Willie

    We had problems with M9 magazines when I was in Iraq. If you loaded more than 10 rounds, the thing would misfeed. When you got a new magazine (either from the armorer or the internet) it seemed to work fine. Other than that, I never had a huge problem with the M9, but I never understood why the Army didn’t go with a Glock in the first place. It’s not the end all be all of combat pistols, but it’s a work horse, and IMO a better weapon than the M9. Was it the lack of a safety switch? Was it that the magazines didn’t always drop clear when you hit the release, and occasionally had to strip it out? Anyone have any insight on this?

    • Jeff

      IIRC, glock did not enter the competition for the US sidearm.

      However, with the question of why the m9 was chosen? I’m gonna peg it as the reason for a lot of weapons malfunctions: like the non-chromed m16s of yesteryear, the ball 5.56 ammo of vietnam, the m9 slide failures, poor m16/m9 magazines, it all comes down to the fact that the military supplies the ‘best’ weapon made by the lowest bidder.
      Often, that means choosing an alright weapon in testing, and cutting corners in as many ways as possible. The Beretta 92 was a decent 9mm firearm, but they chose to skimp and buy third party magazines

    • FormerSFMedic

      I carried a Beretta in Iraq (1st deployment) and I was not happy with it at all. I was constantly having to clean mine to keep it running. I’m not talking about cleaning it everyday after we finished up our missions. I’m talking about at the beginning of OIF, cleaning the damn thing in a GMV on the way to a target! That sucked!

      My next deployment I went with the Glock 19. The G19 worked flawlessly. In fact I didn’t clean it for like 3 months (stupid, I know) because I was so confident in it. What might surprise you Uncle Willie,
      is that the G19 was a standard issue side for us in SF. I don’t think the conventional units have them, but I know we had a lot of them. Most Army SOF use Glocks these days. The D-Boys even went with the G22 in .40.

      The main reason the Big Army doesn’t like the Glock is because it lacks a manual safety. Unfortunately the Army is always DECADES behind when it comes to modern shooting techniques and methodology. They want a manual safety for safety purposes, but actually they’ve just made troops more unsafe by not training them properly. Obviously, a mechanical solution is not really a solution. We call that a training scar where I come from.

      If I had to do it again, I would probably go back to the G19 or a 1911.

      • SleepyDave

        Maybe cut the difference, folks want a big caliber, folks want a reliable gun, maybe something like the Glock 21 is in order. Me personally, I’m looking harder and harder at that Glock 19. The wife wants one, too!

        • Nadnerbus

          non-military here, but I have three thousand rounds or so though my G19 over the last nine years, and nary a hiccup. Shooting the cheapest of the cheap Wolf/Tula, I have run into the occasional stovepipe, but other than that, it has run flawlessly. Was a little more finicky with hollow point defensive loads, had to try two or three before I found one that liked to feed reliably (Remington Golden Saber).

          As Uncle Willie said, it is a work horse. They are not Gucci, they triggers are “eh,” sights are just OK. But it goes bang almost as reliably as a revolver. That’s what I was looking for in a pistol, and I am happy with it.

  • Uncle Willie

    This is an interesting read, it’s a Report from the General Accounting Office to the Chairmen for the House of Representatives’ Comity on Government Operations, concerning the selection of the M9. Looks like S&W could have gotten the contract if things had gone differently


  • JSHjr

    Used the MK23 Socom for many years. Prefered it to the Glock. Switched to a 1911, loved it except for capacity, but an excellent weapon. I now use the FN45 (I keep it in SA mode – which is what I liked with the MK23 Socom). It all boils down to personal preference when personal preference is an option.

    Great article!

  • CavGuy02

    Funny thing is, my 1st tour in Iraq (Ramadi 2004) we had one container no one could identify ownership for. We cracked the lock and discovered 2000 new in the box Glocks that were shipped to be issued to the local Iraqi Police. Paperwork ID’d the purchaser as DOD. If the M9 really did have it all over the Glock, why were we buying and shipping Glocks to the IPs and not M9s? Wish I could say that we appropriated some but we did the right thing and turned them in to the LSA. Now, there was a chromed out 1911A1 I took off some Syrian “truck drivers” that fit really well in my tanker holster but that is another story…

  • triggerman

    Folks with smaller hands simply find that the grip is just too big on the HK SOCOM, but otherwise love it. A 9mm version of the HK SOCOM probably would have won everyone over. There are many many performance features of the HK SOCOM such as accuracy (2 inch groups at 50 yards, barrel has O-ring to keep it centered) and high reliability/low maintenance that were all out weighed by size and weight disadvantages compared to the M9. It would be great to hear from a SEAL who adopted the HK SOCOM and stuck with it. The .45 AC +P (180 grain teflon) ammo is IMPRESSIVE!

  • gunslinger6

    I have heard nothing but good things about H&K, but I like my old 1911. I have no extras or upgrades I like it how it originally came from the Springfield armory. I am looking to add another pistol to the collection the G19 is of course economical from a dollar stand point and, but I plan on waiting a little bit longer to save up for the H&K .45 USP.

    Brandon- Finally was able to run to the range after I got my Frog Lube. I only took the AK and AR to the range, and as always I took them apart to wipe down before range time. I was amazed! I thought I always cleaned the weapons well, but I was shocked at how much was still there that the Frog Lube took right off. Also when back from the range again I was surprised at how all parts simply wiped clean. Thanks for the recommendation of Frog Lube, I have been converted over from Hoppes #9 LOL. I will always keep the #9 in my box, but I think it will only be used when I am waiting for more Frog Lube to arrive in the mail when it runs out!

  • jake

    Hey man that was a great article!!!!!!!!!


    I really enjoyed the read. I am not a big fan of the M9 due to it’s reliability. Even after a propper cleaning and the replacement of the spring I have had issue with the slide not going all the way forward. Working numerous pistol ranges I have seen this problem in other M9s also. At Home I own a Springfield XD .45 which i like a lot and I do nto have these problems with. I am hoping that the DOD goes with a new pistol over the M9 and I hope that we get quality.

    I have not shot the HK or the SIG but now I want to really bad just to try them out.

  • Alex

    Great article! I remember visiting a Coast Guard GM workshop at a MSST station and a GM opened up a drawer full of cracked and broken M9 slides. I love the Coast Guard’s decision for a Sig 229 in .40…just I don’t like them having only double action triggers.

    Just a side note, I’m not in the Coast Guard, I am waiting for a waiver for it though but I don’t want to sound like I am.

  • EOD Bombbuster

    One of the Navy EOD teams in Iraq was packing around H&K .45 USP Tacticals (non-Mk 23’s) in 2007. The one major drawback I saw was they each only had one box of ammo. I could get 9mm literally anywhere. Of course it was usually suspect. Every unit had a .50 cal can (or several) full of unknown age, loose 9mm.

    I fully agree with Uncle Willie about the mags. They are horrible. I have used the same, 20 round Mec-Gar mags on my last 3 tours. I don’t know if the springs would have failed in them with 20 rounds, because I only loaded 15; leaving plenty of space. I also cleaded them every other week. Somehow they fit an extra 5 rounds and only add half an inch of Magazine. It must be voodoo magic.


  • Johnny Quest

    Unwieldy, heavy, cumbersome, LARGE +, boat anchor, are word/phrases that come to mind. Give me a manageable sidearm that isn’t almost the same size/wieght as an MP5-K. Fortunately, that wish has been answered with some of the newer offerings available.

    • Brent

      That is the singular drawback to the MK23. With suppressor and LAM it weighs as much as a G36C!

      After having done extensive research on this particular pistol, including talking to some SEALs about it, I can say that is the only reason SOF guys tend not to use it. But there’s no denying it is one of the best handguns ever, and really, HK gave SOCOM what they asked for.

      • T-9

        I don’t think you can go wrong with any HK sidearm. I carry a P2000. the mag release, the decock this thing is so well engineered I want to *(&^ it.

  • CavGuy02

    Any thoughts on the FN 5.7x28mm?

    • JSHjr

      Actually, when I need to go low profile, I use the 5.7. Excellent weapon! There is a lot of BS hype about the round but it gets the job done. For the nay sayers to come, shot placement is everything.

  • LRP

    if your 1911 is stove-piping using mil-spec ammo….you need to firm up your grip. Nuff said.

  • T-9

    I’m just curious as to why the 226 over the 229. The .40 over the 9mm seems to be the better pick and essentially it’s the same pistol.

  • Elee

    Carrying an H&K P2000 with customs and border protection, the only problem I had with this .40 is the cheap magazines they got with the contract, rubber base plates that don’t stay in place, traded them in at the armory for the USP magazines and it runs great. But I remember when I started in the sub service in 1992 and they gave us those old 1911’s that rattled when you shook them, but they always when “bang”. You don’t need a match grade gun to get the job done, just one that goes “bang”.

    • T-9

      that was precisely my only complaint! I’m glad to know it’s not just me: once you fire the first round the mag wiggles and doesn’t seat properly. I fixed it with epoxy.

    • Brandon Webb

      Elee-damn straight…..AK47????

    • T-9

      absolutely true. I carried a para ordnance nighthawg for a bit, but that thing misfired, misfed, and was truly a piece of poop. Their customer service is horrid. $800 pistol. Crap on a stick. It didn’t go “bang”

  • Lance

    That’s old news the article you listed is over 3 years old. JCP wont be going anywhere with the budget cuts its taking for next decade and there still buying M-9. As for the complaints of the M-9 is mostly from bad maintenance and handling the Army had over the last ten years. The Marines and Navy had much better lick with the design.

    • majrod

      You have stated the Marines and Navy have done better with the M9 several times. Sources? Could it be that there are anywhere between three times the number of Soldiers vice Marines deployed in theatre for 12 month tours let alone about 10 times the number of Navy personnel? Were magazines coming from the same sources? Were pistols in use more extensively by Army troops (e.g. the largest group of special op trigger pullers are sopldiers).

      The branch stuff gets old but its even worse when fanboys make up stuff. Saying the Army has problems with M9s because they aren’t trained as well is as silly and juvenille as saying the Marines complained about SAW reliability and are augmenting it with the M27 because they didn’t know how to maintain it.

      The Army’s problems with the M9 have been largely traced to crappy magazines. Prior to that there have been documented production problems with the weapon. In 1987 thre NSWG individuals were injured by malfunctioning M9s. The SEALs not trained well enough? Check out http://www.sightm1911.com/lib/history/true_story_… for a GAO sourced article on the story.

      • Johnny Quest

        They were notorius for cracked slides also.

        Since you bring up as an analogy the HK piston conversion of the M16 in lieu of a belt fed, another waste of time and money. Perhaps more training and a better and lighter weapon i.e. Knight’s LMG would suffice.

    • Uncle Willie

      Lance, your statement that the Navy had better “lick” (I assume you mean “luck”) with the M9 is demonstrably false. The first branch of service to have problems with the M9 was the Navy, specifically the SEAL teams. In 1987 a civilian model of the pistol had the slide fail, and it blew up in the shooters face. In 1988, two military pistols had the same problem. They had 3 pistol slides fail, resulting in 3 injured SEALs. Do you homework before you start typing, Google is your friend.

    • SleepyDave

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Brandon pointed out this is an old article that he was pulling out of the archives…

  • majrod

    Brandon – Good read and interesting story. How about one on holsters? Heard a lot of buzz ref the serpa.

    BTW, personal carry is a P10 and zombiepocalypse weapon is a P14 LDA. Any info on the use of paraordnance downrange?

  • steelcobra

    I spent a few years in an SF SIGDET and deployed twice, and carried a MK 23 as sidearm both times. We had our own range with steel targets, and popping the star spinner just rocks.

    Sure, it’s a bit big for the smaller guys, but I had no size issue with it. Blade-Tech makes pretty nice holsters for them, too.

  • Darrel

    I like m1911s. Nice slim profile. Of course that doesn’t really matter unless it’s pressed up against your chest or something.

    Never shot anything else in my life, so excuse my ignorance.

  • hamchuck

    I own a 1911A1, and I’d prefer to carry it on my next deployment in place of my issue M9, if I was sure I could get ammo for it. I shoot better with it for the simple reason that it’s more comfortable in my hand, and especially because I’m stuck with ball ammo, I have more faith in the battering-ram punch of a .45. I need it all the more, since like most non-SOF soldiers, I don’t get the training time or ammo allocation to count on headshots. Center of mass–that, I can handle.

  • Sean Spoonts

    As a SAR Aircrewman we carried a S&W Model 10, I thought that was a great handgun. It would shoot no matter what you did to it. I own a Baretta M9 in Inox and I love its accuracy and grip(I’ve got big hands link Brandon too I guess), but to conceal it you need a violin case. My personal Favorite is a Taurus Millenium 145 pro in .45 cal. I think it’s perfect in terms of concealment size,(licensed of course) grip(medium frame) capacity(10+1) and African Water Buffalo knockdown power. Oh and price, they can be had easily for under $500 bucks.

  • Brandon

    Thanks for pointing that out!

  • Lance

    Yeah majrod The article states the problems where fixed long ago. And that the M-9 is a fine weapon and better than some other 9mm pistols like the SiG or H&K USP. Most problems service wise is that Marine and Seamen are thought to lube there weapons while the army lacks to give lube to its personnel and the pistols like any design would fail due to friction of none lubricated slides after firing a few hundred rounds. The Difference in the M-9 is tactics and training solders vs marines are learned.

    I can tell most of you are Glock lovers and no matter what pistol is out there you hate it if its not a Glock. ;) SiGs suck worse;)

  • Ben

    The Dutch military uses the Glock 17 since ’95 and some P226’s for SF though they’re going for 17’s now too(easier logistics using just 1 gun).
    Never had any problems with it, getting some cracked slides at the range where I’m stationed at the moment but thats what you get with 16 year old guns that are being abused.
    I like the 226/USP/1911 for accuracy and faster follow up shots, but ultimately the Glock is a decent reliable gun.

  • GeR

    JSHjr, correct me if I’m wrong but don’t the FN Five-Seven and P-90 use the same round? What would you think of carrying the pair of them?

    • JSHjr

      GeR :

      I have both in my go bag, plus 1000 rnd of ammo. Total load out weight for the weapons (5.7 w/ 3 mags loaded & P90 w/ 10 50 rnd mags loaded plus 500 rnds boxed) and ammo is less than 20 lbs. The P90 breaks down such that all can be carried in a small pack very descretely. My wife ( a critical care nurse) carried the med and survival bag (20 lbs). Water, food and extra gas is preloaded in a box ready for the truck. Within 5 minutes, we be out the door. All extremely low drag, light, and God forbide, will seriously get the job done.

      • GeR

        Thanks JSHjr

        I’d heard that the P-90 was one of the best CQB weapons out there, but had not thought of it as part of one’s go bag, Sounds like an excellent and deadly choice.

        I hope you never have to use it though.

      • Ben

        I’ve heard the Belgian secret service uses that combo too.
        And I know Dutch SF uses the P90, not the FiveSeven though (as far as I know).

  • Marc

    >battering-ram punch of a .45.
    Oh, please! Get real. Shoot a man-sized log with .45 and say that battering-ram nonsense again after it barely moved – if it moved at all.

    • hamchuck

      Relax. It was a simile, a metaphor, an allegorical reference. A figure of speech, in other words. I’m not going to actually going to try to knock down a castle gate with it. And be nice–it’s Christmas.

  • mka

    Full size Glock firing full power 10mm.Flat point hard cast.Breaks thigh boneseasily,
    knocks heads off of shoulders. Basically a 41 magnum in a semi-auto trouble free
    (or as close as any) gun.

    • Johnny Quest

      Glock has a history of problems, some catastophic, with non-9mm pistols, particularly the .45 and .40. Not too many folks go for the 10mm. Nevertheless, it seems they have worked those problems out to some degree.

      Glocks problems rose out of the fact it was designed around the 9mm and did not transition well into bigger bore and higher pressure rounds. In any case, unless you can palm a basketball, few can handle the .45 and 10mm Glocks well.

      • mka

        The problems was with the 40 and were caused by the chamber not fully supporting the round, that and people shooting non-factory ammo trying to make the forty a 10mm.Shell would burst in the case and sometimes destroy the chamber.
        There has been no problems with the 10mm to my knowledge as it was designed for full power 10 mm loads.
        I have small hands and handle a 10mm fine.It certainly isn’t a women’s gun.

        • Johnny Quest

          Actually, the worst problems were with the .45 (.40 also) and it is well documented. The un-supported chamber was one aspect of the problem, but there were some other issues as well.

          The Glock was designed solely as a 9mm, not .40, not .45, and definitely not 10mm. All are derived from the 9mm which was modified to suit the larger and/or higher pressure rounds. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well for some time.

          As a contrast, the M&P was designed around the .40 S&W and has transitioned extremely well to 9mm and .45.

          If you have small hands and like the 10mm or .45 Glock, I find it hard to believe, but more power to you.

          • Marc

            The Glock 20 was certainly designed for 10mm. It was the first non-9mm Glock and as such has completely different dimensions.

  • mka

    If you special ops get a chance,try that 10mm full power in Glock platform.
    You won’t be dissapointed in the performance.

  • galloglas

    G.A.P 45, with a Browning Hi Power made to accept the round.

  • GunnersMate

    Question for the SEAL, was the 226 magazine clean and was the follower properly assembled?

    I ask because I have never had an issue with a 226 in any way. However, I still like H&k Better though.

  • Lance

    I’am talking about no days NOT the 80s when the 92F was improved to FS fixing the Navy problems encountered.

  • elee

    Of course if you want a gun that goes “bang” every time, shouldn’t we really be talking about revolvers? Most gun makers have a .357 that you can also run .38 through, or even the .44 special (no magnums) and they all have 8 rounds to it. With a full size revolver (duty carry size) you get very liitle recoil, and grips to fit most size hands. It can also come in any other caliber you want it to. No magazine problems, no slide problems, no backstrap issues, no feeding issues…as long as the round fits in the chamber it works. Revolvers were here long before autos and they are still alive and well today.

  • Lance

    Most Spec ops don’t use 9mm Glock most use .45 or .40 caliber versions of a M-1911 type weapon. Most Operators stayed away from the underpowered 9mm. .45 is the most used caliber in SOCOM pistols.

  • jerry nogueras

    we should start giving our troop 1911 45s thats a combat hand gun one shot will get the job done and its a well proven hand gun

    • Lance

      The USAF chose 9mm G19s for there size certain fighter aircraft have such small canopies that the gear on the pilot must be small enough for the pilot to fit inside of the plane. Most F-22 and F-15 pilots have enough room for a M-9. Fi16 pilots however have very small room to be so get the picture.

      Despite most posters here loving the .40 S&W and .45 AUTO calibers 9mm NATO will do the job fine LAPD and Portland Police used the caliber for years with no complaints. The main upgraded for the Armed forces pistols is not the Beretta but a switch from the light over penetrating 124gr NATO bullet to a 147gr FMJ or HP would do the trick and solve almost all the problems period.

  • SleepyDave

    So, I know a few people have brought it up, but I’m curious, what prompted USASF and a bunch of other units to go with the Glock 19, rather than the larger Glock 17, or the same size in another caliber? Its a rather specific selection.

  • Johnny Quest

    Marc –

    You said:

    “The Glock 20 was certainly designed for 10mm. It was the first non-9mm Glock and as such has completely different dimensions.”

    That is an inaccurate statement, and I think you are missing the point. The larger caliber Glocks were oringinally just “expanded” (if you will) versions of the 9mm. Simplifying it a bit, other than different recoil springs, they encomapssed the same design, only accomodating the other rounds. We all understand it is a larger pistol, but little was done to the general 0mm based structural design, hence the failures they experienced.

    I think Glock was riding the crest of their success in 9mm sidearms, and that they felt it was a given that Glock’s intial design of the 9mm pistols would naturally transition to other rounds with minimal change to that design potentially necessary to accomadate rounds that American shooters wanted. In their haste to satisfy that market, they dropped the ball to some degree. Remember, no one in Europe at least at the time the other calibers started showing up, was shooting .45 or .40. They were only for the American market and probably are to this day.

    Don’t take this as berating Glock, I carried a 19 for 20+ years, it is simply a statment of facts.

  • Skip McGranahan

    I feel that a Glock has all the good looks of a cheap hammer, I still prefer my 1941 BYF, #5119 Lugar, you point, it hits where you wanted it to. My wife now has it in her kit, I carry a Sig .45 with light and laser (These things help with age) I also still carry my fathers Colt 1911, it has never failed me.

  • Evan

    And this expert opinion is based on what facts? What are your sources.

  • Ben

    The funny thing is, most of the comments posted are about personal preferences, we might be missing the point a bit.
    What is a Combat Handgun?
    -A gun that goes bang every time you pull the trigger.
    Looks arent really relevant and even calibre is more preference related.
    Can you drag it around for days, jump out of planes, crawl through the dirt, get blasted by sandstorms and cross a river without your gun failing to go bang?
    -Yes = Combat Handgun -No = Piece of ******** weight.

    • Skip McGranahan

      If you want a true Combat Pistol, I can only astest to the Colt Model 1911, my first kill in Viet Nam was a NVA Major that was occupying the same piece of ground that I wanted, I won he lost. I’ve never had to deal with sandstorms, except in El Paso, TX, other than that have made 28 jumps and one ejection from an OV1 Mohawk, had 1500 hrs as a combat pilot my second tour and taught airborne to South Viet Nam Rangers at Long Than North my first tour.
      My first tour we had Browning 9mm and a Gerber dagger, still have the dagger and the Rolex GMT watch.
      However, for a True Combat Pistol, nothing can match the Model 1911, and now for some history, the 1911 was a replacement for the Army .38 during the Moslem uprising in the Phillipines when our first five star general, “Black Jack Pershing” Staked out 50 Muslims and killed 49 of them and burried them with a fresh killed hog, the last one was allowed to live and tell the story to the other Muslims, the .38 would not kill the insurgants, the .45 got the job done, trust me, the best combat pistol is still the Colt Model 1911!!

  • SleepyDave

    Um, no. No they don’t. First, there are not any .40S&W 1911s in inventory. In fact, as far as I know, MEUSOC is the only Special Operations unit that uses a 1911, and only in .45. Delta, the only other unit that did, just dumped them for Glocks in .40. Where do you come up with these little tidbits?

    • jerry nogueras

      ive seen what a 1911 45 can do to a man and ive seen what a 9 mm can do to a man very big diffrent

  • hitthedeck

    All the talk about sights and easy use and dependability of handguns is a lot of talk and that’s it. The handgun is the last resort for a close combat situation. It’s not a bull’s-eye situation it’s a stop them kill them situation. Give me that 45 round and power to knock my enemy out of his boots. In close combat you don’t have time to look through sights to hit the center of the target. With a 45 you can hit any part of the target and inflect enough damage to stop your enemy in time for the second kill shot. The 1911 series has always been updated for dependability.

    • Mark S

      There is something good to be said of a 1911 when you run out of ammo and smack someone across the head with it and it will still shoot when reloaded. I have a pimped WW2 1911 and this thing is tough.

  • hitthedeck

    My Grandfather served with General Blackjack Pershing in the Philippines fighting the Muslim native Moro’s. The real story was the fact the navy issue 38 revolver did not have the stopping power. The Moro’s would tie vines tightly around their arms, legs and bodies. They would charge our troops armed with bolos and the bullets would pass through bodies but would stop them from killing our troops. The 38 was replaced with the 1911 45 which would pick up a man off the ground and knock him backwards. My Grandfather was sixteen years old serving as a medic.

  • hitthedeck

    I am seventy and have a concealed carry permit. I carry a Para double stack 45. It holds 13 hollow points and my old hand is not steady like it was when I trained troops back in the sixties in small automatic arms. I can fire my para with machine gun cadence. I don’t have to worry about missing the target on the first shot because I know one out of thirteen is going to kill the SOB.

  • A J Folger

    I’m a bit surprised that no one has even mentioned the SIG M-11. I often carry and shoot the commercial version of the pistol and have found it to be an excellent firearm.

    • Lance

      BiG reason The M-9 is far more balanced and accurate and the 1911 has more firepower.

    • TCA

      Reading the whole thread so far it seems that there are as many opinions as there are posters. The 1911a1 would knock a man or even a horse over. I personally prefer to shoot a Ruger in 41 mag. but that is considered a “hunting” weapon. 2 inch groups at 60 feet is good enough for any target or game I have ever shot at. My newest is a S&W M&P 40 and I love it. It seems as bullit proof as any I have used. There are no feed issues or stovepipes so far. 2 inch groups at 45 feet. 15 round mag with 180 gr. rounds is very managable by my wife as well. There seem to be a lot of Glocks and Sigs for sale since the M&P arrived on the scene. It takes everything I can throw at it and still goes bang every time. Enough for me.

  • Ripper

    Good article, as for caliber discussion I was always firmly in the. 45 camp with an acceptance of the .40. However, with the progress in ammunition technology I feel like there are plenty of 9mmthe +p ammo, such as hornady critical defense. That makes up for the 9mmchildren short fall. Ian not a fan of the barreta but that is really just a personal prefrsnce.

  • whiskers

    As a M.P. in the 60’s I carried a 45. I found it to be deadly at close range and as long as the slide was not worn excelent at mid range. Beyond that is is the reason we have rifles.

  • GeR

    All the comments about the M 1911 have reminded me of something my father (WWII vet and Ex Cop) told me back in the 60s. He really liked the knock down power of the 45 but said that the average guy found it too hard to mange and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with it.

    I’m wondering it that was a problem with the pistol itself or was it more likely that during WWII things were rushed and the guys just weren’t given adequate training with the weapon.

    He also thought the Walther p-38 was a good pistol (never asked how he got one).

  • Billy Richardson

    OK guys, I have the answer. I am an old Vietnam era Marine who carried a 1911 .45 which was not very accurate because it was worn out but I have always been a 1911 .45 because I saw what it does when you hit your target. I’ll make this short. I own 13 – 1911s in .45 cal and I have come to the conclusion that there is only one which I would trust to protect myself and my family. I purchased a 1911 .45 from Bill Wilson Combat Arms and I will tell you I have NEVER fired a finer weapon. They are expensive but if my life is on the line I don’t care how much it costs. Fired 500 rounds through this gun the first day and not one problem AND it is the most accurate I have ever fired. AMAZING gun. It takes 5 to 6 months to have one made but it’s absolutely worth the wait.

  • vic

    My friends, remember John Browning…the inventor of the 45 acp…real simple, slow moving big bullets work! The Indian wars of the west showed conclusively and more often than not…ONE SHOT KILLS..where common with the colt 45.The 45 acp was designed to give same proven performance.ALL gun corporations are into ”””’make money””’new calibars…new models…BUT THEY KNOW FOR MILITARY USE….The 45 acp is pretty hard to beat.Want a high capacity 45 and like the 1911 design, go para ordinance 16 round capacity double col. clip…personally prefer the para ordinace 1911 GI EXPERT 8 SHOT…iF YOU WANT HIGH CAPACITY FORIEGN GUNS H&k IS EXCELLENT ALSO…BUT THE POINT IS THE 45 ACP IS THE ONE THAT KNOCKS THEM DOWN AND KEEPS THEM DOWN.

  • Kentucky Mike

    It seems this thread has kinda devolved from talking about the HK SOCOM to what is the best combat handgun. Its kinda like picking which one of your children you like best.
    The best combat hangun is the one that works for you. Glocks are good, the complaint about the .40 is that the chamber is not fully supported, this is fine for a quality loaded ammo. The problem arises when a round has been fired in a glock 40 and then reloaded the bulge that was left behind is overly worked during the resizing process and then falls into place in the chamber the same way as it was fired the first time, resulting in a ruptered case. Best case a seized case in the chamber, worst case blown chamber.
    As far as .45 being higher pressure round that is not the case. A 45 ACP is actually a lower chamber pressure than a 9mm nato.
    When it comes to recoil, almost anyone can be trained to handle any recoil. My niece is 5′ 3″ 95 lbs. and she shoots my .375 J.D. Jones in a 14″ contender pistol.

  • M Towery

    9mm are a piece of trash, we need to back to the 45

  • Lonny Lester

    While in Vietnam, I carried a 38 S&W, in a shoulder holster. It was a last minute back up weapon, but as a revolver, it was totally reliable.

  • PomonaCop

    Gotta disagree with you here, LRP. Back when a LEO in Commiefornia, I had a 1911 Colt that kept having random FTE and many stovepipes. Two trips to the dept. armorer (and a few weeks wait) and no change, other than being told to “firm up your grip”. It worked fine with the dept. training ammo, but was terrible with our duty fodder (Black Talons). Took it to a civilian gunsmith and within 2 days had no more problem. Bad extractor was replaced.
    Turns out the ‘issued’ 1911 had been used by someone who always kept one in the chamber and the mag full, like most of us. Problem was, they put the round in the chamber, dropped the slide and then inserted the mag. The extractor was never designed to repeatedly slam into the rim of the rounds. ALWAYS load the extra round from the mag and your extractor will last a lot longer. Nuff said. ;-)

  • MakeMyDay

    I’ve seen what a .38, .357, .40 and .45 and yes a .454 Casual can do in both civilian and military useage and I’d take a .45 any day of the year. Knock down power? You can not beat the .45 except for the 454. I’ve hunted deer with a Ruger .454 casual revolver and stopped deer with one shot past 50 yards. Kick is like trying to tame a mule. I’ve seen criminals shot with .38’s, .357’s and .40’s at less than 30 foot and they never flinched, but not so getting hit with a .45. That extra weight and slower speed of the .45 bullet has stopped many a big man in his tracks no matter where they get hit. I conceal carry a Ruger 24/7, .45 ACP with a 13 round magazine feeling that if I do have to use it, I know damn well right, that whoever is on the receiving end will go no further with just one shot. I also have a lazer light mounted under the receiver so I know where my 1 bullet will be going. At the range with the target at 15 yards and rapid fire and using just the lazer light for aiming, I can put every shot from 2 magazines into the chest area.

  • HJudson

    I will still take my Springfield .45 ACP, 15 shot, double action any day. Over anything else…Vietnam ’63-’64

  • captaindoc

    i personally feel that one shoud carry what your mto&e tells you to carry. learn to use it and quit ******** about and giving opinions about the firearm you are issued.

  • majrod

    Lance – First it’s a safe bet to assume the Army has lube. Second, my point remains about substandard mags causing a lot of the trouble. Don’t believe all the propaganda about training. Like I said, I’m sure the Marines are competently trained with their SAWs though they complaints about reliability were part of the justification for the M27. No such complaints coming out of th Army.

    • Lance

      No I know GIs in Iraq the army had solders overly clean there pistols and there was no lube given to solders Larry Vickers on this site had a video stating this about the M-9 too. I agree Checkmate mags where to blame too.

      A major improvement would be a 147gr bullet round adopted to replace 9mm NATO loads in use.

  • SFC E


    This was to have commonality of ammo with big Army to make logistics work better. Also so they wouldn’t have to dip into SOF specific funds for bullets.

  • SFC E


    Need to link up. Can you push me at *************@*******.***?

  • SFC E

    That didn’t work, but do need to link up. spartiate1218 knology net

  • Grnt$nipe11

    While I agree that there are some issues with the M-9 based on maintenance and training, I would have to say that its’ deficiencies do not outweigh it’s benefits. When loaded and properly maintained it can be a very useful tool to a well trained shooter however; if you actually put enough rounds through one to become a well trained shooter the thing falls apart. Then there’s the whole 9mm issue, supporters will be the first to attest to the capabilities of a 9mm round then name off some obscure specialized round that makes people’s heads explode or some other fantastic crap like that. Sadly in this country we allow our police to have specialized ammo but not our troops which despite Geneva regulations is complete BS. What I can say from personal experience both as an entry team member and instructor us that shot placement is everything but reliably getting the M-9 to shoot is a different story. The military should go with .40 cal like the Coast Guard has and in addition to that I would like to put in a plug for the Smith and Wesson M&P. I personally think it is one of the best handling weapons in .40 or .45 out there, maintenance is easy and it doesn’t have the grippy issue like the Glock which for me is a major turn off.

    As for the SAW Majrod, it was a worthless piece of crap, (at least the ones the Marines had) it jammed every 3 rounds and was a heavy beast. We cleaned them properly and had them maintained by our armorer but despite that the A-gunner spent most of his time hosing the thing with CLP to keep it firing. One redeeming factor about it was the box mag, if the MK-48 had a box mag it would be perfect. most of the time in Iraq we ditched our SAWS for COTS heavy barreled uppers and grippods so we had 4 potential support gunners per fireteam. If only surefire would have come up with those super big mags back then. The M-48 or even the standard 240G was preferred to the SAW since you knew it was worth the weight.

  • Gage

    I’ve heard of Delta Force operators using Glock 22’s (.40 S&W) in the ‘Stan.

    • SFC E

      Out of repect for my friends in specific units I will not discuss their capabilities.

      • Billy Richardson

        Wow, that was very interesting.

  • Gage

    Glocks are cheaper.

  • SFC E

    SF has a need to go concealed too, so they didn’t want the bulk of the G17. There was no sacrifice in accuracy with the G19.

  • SFC E

    I have a need to talk with serving (AC or RC) shooters about pistols. Specifically, the current service pistol. I can be reached at spartiate1218atknologydotnet. Need some feedback ricky tick. TM to any that are willing to go point to point on this.

  • Poseidon114

    How about a little history on the SOF Offensive Handgun, which was the written requirement under which a developmental effort was launched and what has been referred to in the two articles as the MK23 SOCOM. H&K won the contract award and developed what became the MK23 SOF Offensive Handgun. Why was it developmental? Because NO pistol to date (1993) could fire 2,000 rounds without a “stoppage”, had a magazine capacity of 15 rounds, was compatible with a suppressor, and fired .45 ACP as well as “Plus” rounds without degradation of performance. This developmental effort broke a paradigm in pistol manufacturing. The MK23 is a “whopper” ie., it takes two hands to handle one, but it sure can drive tacks. It took a weapon this big and heavy to meet the requirements. H&K’s USP line is a direct descendent of the MK23 development and within a few years almost every pistol manufacturer out there could produce a weapon that could’ve met the SOCOM (Read Naval Special Warfare ie. SEAL) requirement. In regard to the “best” pistol, it’s more personal than what you like in your women! Since your life is not typically on the line with whom you date! If a soldier, sailor, marine, airman or law enforcement person goes from their primary weapon to a pistol the most important factor is confidence in the weapon; that it will function properly and effectively to eliminate a “near” threat so that you can 1) get your primary weapon back on line, or 2) get to cover so that you can get your primary weapon back on line or you’re at least out of the line of fire and your buddies can engage. Terms like “knock down power” are meaningless when evaluating “terminal ballistic performance” of any bullet. No one gets “knocked down” or even knocked back. Laws of physics apply here, “equal and opposite effects”. The most influential factor is terminal effectiveness is where you hit them, and the most important aspect of this besides the accuracy of the weapon is training.

  • CK

    Lots of great statements about ammo and what is worth carrying.
    I use a ankle strap P-22 with lazer scope on one leg( if operationa) knoives on left leg) have a funny old contraption that fires in close 25 cal( bit more accurate by 2 mm from a Sat night special), a multiple round back holstered berretta and a sig Sauer P 226 I have had and used since 1983 when I was active. It’s a 40 cal, the beretta is a 45.
    As this isn’t about rifles i kit up occasionally just for fun around duck season up here and once a friend and I told some guards and the sheriff in advance( we were filmed but was blocked from You Tube) carrying everything including my double short swords, an old ring that protruded a does of , well whatever that was given to me…dangerous little ring, gives me the creeps) . We were wearing long “Chicago coats” and had an MP 5( folding stock) he had an M-16 with attached M203, a security belt full of goodies and more. it was fun dropping all that gear on an x ray machine while the civilians9 we were civvies also) dropping a ton of gear.
    But mainly if at night round here I’ll just carry my lil P 22 with the lazer of the old S&W Hushpuppy sand silencer9 illegal) and the sig P 226, my old 80’s model that has never let me down. I love that weapn and never fired it against any ally or American. I hope I never have to. The rifles are mine but I leave them in Oregon at a ranch where they’re legal, California is NOT as kind with having an arsenal like mine, mainly I’m just a collector.
    Take care all, My you ever be blessed and may your new Year be filled with thousands of rounds of ammo and a truck load of ME’s and your bunker ofr cave be outfitted with all the finest.
    HOOOO-8urp* Ahh!

  • Ernie

    Some good comments re: sidearms. I’m an old timer Korean War vet. USMC infantryman.
    (1951-52) I own a 92F and a Glock 23 .40. I’ve heard a lot of negatives about the M-9 but I like my 92F (Same same) Those that were issued side arms ie: tankers, machine gunners etc. used the 1911 of course.
    Without going further, I always ask friends when this topic comes up. “How many of you have had to use your sidearm in a combat situation?” The M-1 Garand and fragmentation grenades were fine with me. Was never issued a side arm. Today, I think the M-9 is good enough and is more accurate than most that I’ve fired. Just sayin

  • Don G

    Ref the stovepipes with the 1911, I use a 20lb slide return spring with mine and have no problems with stovepipes. Generally the presumed cause for stovepipes is light charge reloads or too loose of a grip. Usually, tightening up on your wrist will cure that problem. I’m a believer in the theory that the 1911 was, is, and always shall be the finest combat handgun ever made, as long as you know how to use it.

  • SleepyDave

    See, that right there answers my question. Commonality of ammo and the need for a concealable weapon. Outstanding, thank you, Sergeant. No need to discuss what “those other guys” are up to.

  • Jerry

    I have the HK USP Tactical and USP compact 45s and they operate flawlessly. I’ve used both in three gun matches and prefer the compact for that style shooting. I have had several Glock model in 9, 40, & 45 and they worked very good. I started out carrying a 1911 as a duty weapon for about 15 years and then moved to the Glocks and then to the HKs after that. I’m currently back to the G21 for a duty weapon and the USP compact for off duty. I like the HK USP Tactical and the USP compact the best for work and the USP compact for concelled carry, but still have spot in my heart for the 1911. If I ever buy another 1911 I would look at the Ed Brown or Wilson Combat companies for one of their great offerings in a light weight vesion for person carry protection.
    Pick a good quality gun that fits your hand is very impotant to be able to place good shots, and practice, practice, practice.

  • Murray

    I am not sure what makes this author an “expert” but everyone has their opinion. As a retired MSG (22 years), I find that my Walther P99QA is the best among the many pistols I have ever owned.

  • Mark S

    Was that an order? I think an informative conversation from smart experienced folks with differing points of view can be enlightening. Of course we all know we need a gun that can use ammo that is easily obtained thru our supply chain. I don’t see where the harm is if someone wants to use a tool he feels is more effective and user friendly. It might save a life or two. Guys trick out their rifles all the time and so long as the ammo in the can works, good for them. When I was in,(71-74) the army was filled with draftees who didn’t care about their gear. We have a much smarter, better traned, and motivated bunch now. I wish I was in with guys like these instead of many of the guys(potheads) I knew back then.

  • scribe21

    Early in the ‘Nam War, combat handguns were not issued to mil personnel, except to some MPs and officers. Soldiers had use of an M-14 rifle which fired a NATO 7.62 mm round (same cal as a 30.06), and that was it, unless assigned a specialized task. Many of the soldiers there in 1965, including my elder cousin Phil (a sgt who arrived with the first regular Army division deployed to ‘Nam), wrote home and asked family or friends to send them a .45 handgun. Phil’s mom sent the gun, and it arrived the day Phil was wounded in dawn action on a road outside Saigon. Nearly dead, he was transported from field mash to base hospital, then to Philippines hosp, and finally to Walter Reed in D.C. He never received his handgun. He did receive a Purple Heart.

    • Billy Richardson

      scribe21, You are pretty close, the M-14 is actually 308 cal., and I was there in 1966-67 and was issued .45 cal colt because I was in a special weapons unit. It was not very accurate because it was worn out but if you hit what you were shooting at, you could be sure it was going down. I still have and use 1911s and think they are the best handguns ever made for warriors.
      SGT. B.D.Richardson USMC

      • scribe21

        Thank you Sgt. Richardson for the correction. I’m fairly firearm-illiterate, but have an interest because I’m closely associated with a few ‘Nam Vets and an Iraq War Vet. And had fun back in the day targeting with my dad (22 pistol), plus firing a 12 gauge shotgun once, with assist of my late husband. [When my dau was little, we lived in the middle of nowhere, so, when hubby was away, I’d sleep w/the loaded shotgun under my pillow. (Our mixed-pitbull was not a barker.)] I was recently given an older 22 Marlin rifle, which, I’m told, will be useful if I want to hit someone over the head with it. Anyway, I’ve taken some notes about everyone’s opinions of various handguns so I’ll be a little more literate if/when I decide to purchase one. Thanks. [And please try to keep the comments on the sniper page clean. I read that, too. One of my other cousins was USNavy Special Ops in ‘Nam. (DoD won’t give him permission to publish his book.)]

        • Billy Richardson

          Scribe21, You commented on the sniper page and asked that I keep it clean. If I said something that offended you I absolutely and seriously appologize to you. I am an old Marine and we sometimes get a little carried away. I do not normally use profane or suggestive language around women so if I did please forgive me.

  • AJ

    Mark, I remember that ‘era’ as a very bad time to be in the service.

  • Barbara Garner

    To SGT. B. R. – Pretty sure it wasn’t your language. Nice apology, though.
    Sad to say that one of my ‘Nam Vet/Marine friends passed away at the end of January after years of dealing with service-connected ailments. In Feb. he rec’d full military honors burial at Ft. Sam Houston Mem. Cem. For some who make it home, the war isn’t over ’til the folded Colors are handed to one’s kin.

    • Barbara,
      I am very sorry about your friend. You are absolutely correct in your statement that the war isn’t over til the folded flag we fought for is handed to your neares relative. It will never be over until you can no longer remember it. Thank you for caring, there aren’t many who do anymore.

  • Skip McGranahan

    Say what you want, but it is the man with the combat knife, ie Gerber Fighting Dagger that comes home,

    • Billy Richardson

      Dude, what planet do you live on? How many fights for your life have you been in?

  • Barbara Garner

    No, Billy, Thank You! And your word “anymore” is important because I think it applies to both the past and the present. Time will tell again whether people give a care when the latest generations of service-men and -women need understanding somewhere down the line. The collective memory can be darn short.
    I’d say something about Mel Gibson’s dagger fight on the road in movie “The Patriot,” but he had two weapons.

  • Daric Wade

    I never carried an M9 in Iraq, being a POG, but here in the States I carry a Colt Defender 1911 in .45ACP, which, if I recall, is built on the Colt Commander frame. With the aluminum receiver, it can be a bit stout in terms of recoil, but I’ve never had any reason to doubt its ability to do what needs to be done. It’s a fantastic weapon, and I’ve never had an issue with it that I didn’t cause (i.e. ‘idiot scratch’ on the receiver from my first time trying to take it apart).