The U.S. Army made headlines last week when news broke that it had dropped the gun-maker Smith & Wesson from its Modular Handgun System competition.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who has criticized the program in the past, on Monday didn’t comment on the service’s recent decision — or the status of any of the companies involved — but said the acquisition effort is now “on track.”
Speaking at the annual Association of the United States Army annual conference in Washington, D.C., Milley said he wouldn’t provide an update on the status of the MHS program “because of where it’s at in the process. I’ll just let that settle.”
But he added, “I’m confident as chief of staff of the Army that it’s on the right track.” He vowed to provide more information “in due time. But I’m comfortable right now, as opposed to whatever it was a year ago or a little bit less than a year ago.”
At one point, Milley reportedly explored the possibility of the Army joining the Army Special Operations Command’s pistol contract to buy Glock 19s.
Smith & Wesson, which teamed with General Dynamics, was one of five gun makers competing in the program to replace the Army’s M9 9mm pistol made by Beretta.
More than 20 companies expressed an interest in competing for the acquisition program by turning out for an informational event last year at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.
The Army had planned to down-select to three competitors by this summer — and its decision to drop Smith & Wesson appears to be part of that process. The service next week may release additional information about the remaining competitors.
The Army last year launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol.
One of its major goals is to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm. The U.S. military replaced the .45-caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.
–Matthew Cox contributed to this report.