BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- More than 30 years ago, the M9 Beretta entered service into the military, but on November 30, the 2nd Security Forces Squadron will arm up with the M9 for the final time.
Instead, they will begin carrying the M18 Modular Handgun System, a shorter, more compact weapon. The change is expected to enable defenders to complete their jobs more efficiently and effectively, according to the 2nd SFS Combat Arms team.
“It is an easier system to operate,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Johnson, 2nd SFS Combat Arms assistant non-commissioned officer in charge. “This is because it is a striker-fired weapon which means the trigger squeeze is the same each time.”
“The M9 requires a stronger trigger squeeze at first and then gets lighter as it shoots. The M18 uses a consistent amount of pressure, taking away the anticipation and added strength needed from the M9, allowing the shooter to not have to think about the trigger squeeze every time, granting more accuracy,” Johnson added.
Among other aspects like customizable pistol grips, the M18 is known for its durability and simplified operating system.
“Four of us instructors attended the Sig Armorer course at the Sig Sauer Academy to learn more about the breakdown and maintenance portion of the weapon as well as some of the new ways they build the system,” said Senior Airman Matthew Lazo, 2nd SFS Combat Arms instructor. “There are fewer pieces that we are going to have to fix as often and the system also comes to where you are just changing out one whole part versus having to change a million different ones.”
The deadline for the switch was set for July of 2020, a year from when the team received the weapon systems on base. The team made a goal to break that deadline by seven months. Together they had to find a way to get more than 280 personnel qualified on top of their 300 personnel monthly firing schedule.
“It took us about a week, but we laid it out by figuring out how long it takes us to run everyone through the course, and we came out with the plan,” Lazo explained. “Not only getting everyone in once but two or three separate times.”
The qualifications aren’t as simple as members showing up to fire. There is a specific 90-round handgun course of fire qualification process that includes not only a hands-on portion but also a classroom instruction.
Before the qualification process began, the firing range on base was shut down for updates to the safety features, causing the team to have to find another range to train.
“At the range on base, we have 21 points, which means we can have 21 people fire at a time,” Johnson explained. “At the off-base range, there were time restrictions, and we could have as many as 16 points at once to as little as eight depending on the time.”
The Combat Arms team didn’t let that set them back as they continued to adapt and overcome all the hurdles thrown their way. They are still going to be able to meet their early deadline.
Dec. 1, 2019, will mark the beginning of a new era of weapon systems within the 2nd SFS as the black M9 is replaced by the coyote-tan M18.