Sig Sauer, the maker of the U.S. Army's Modular Handgun System, intends to sell a special, commercial version of the full-size MHS 9mm pistol.
"We are planning to do a limited release of about 5,000 of the Army variant of the M17 for the commercial market," Tom Taylor, Sig Sauer's chief marketing officer and executive vice president for commercial sales, told Military.com. "The timing is not finalized yet, but it looks to be late spring."
The Army awarded Sig Sauer the MHS contract worth up to $580 million in January. The service launched its long-awaited MHS competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol.
The selection of Sig Sauer formally ended Beretta's 30-year hold on the Army's sidearm market.
The new M17 is lighter and simpler to use than the Beretta M9. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)
The 10-year agreement calls for Sig to supply the Army with full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of its 9mm pistol. The pistols will become the M17 and M18 after they are type-classified.
Each commercial MHS will be serialized and have serialized matching coin as well as a letter of authenticity from the CEO of Sig Sauer, Taylor said.
Sig Sauer would likely be able to sell more than 5,000 of these pistols, but Taylor said, "we just wanted to make it really special. ... And once they are out there, the owners will be privileged to own the actual gun."
The commercial version will be almost identical to the Army-issue, full-size MHS, except it will not have the anti-tamper mechanism for the striker action, nor will it have the special coatings on some of the internal parts that help it maintain lubricity under harsh conditions, Taylor said.
The Army MHS comes standard with a frame-mounted thumb safety. The commercial version will be available with or without the thumb safety, depending on customer preference, Taylor said.
Sig Sauer has not yet decided on a price tag for the endeavor.
"It's high in demand, but if we price it too high, they will say 'I really want it, but it is just too expensive.'"
In addition to Sig Sauer, Glock Inc. told a German publisher in August that it plans on selling its MHS variant on the commercial market as well.
The M17 and M18 use the same polymer grip module and trigger group, with new slides and barrels for full-sized or compact models. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)
Glock, FN America and Beretta USA, makers of the current M9 9mm pistol, all lost to Sig Sauer, but selling their versions of the MHS may allow them to recoup the money they invested in the high-profile endeavor.
Richard Flur, head of international sales for Glock GmbH, based in Deutsch-Wagram, Austria, told Stephan Dorler, managing director of European Security and Defence, a publication based in Bonn, Germany, about Glock's plans to sell its version of MHS on the commercial market.
A Glock official in the U.S. said, however, there is no timeline yet for such a plan.