Why the Navy SEALs chose the SIG Sauer P226 over the M9
In 1985, the U.S. military adopted the Beretta 92FS as the M9. Replacing the M1911A1 as the standard sidearm of America’s armed forces, the M9 was issued to all service branches. However, not all of the nation’s warfighters carried the Beretta. Army Special Forces preferred the greater stopping power of the M1911A1’s .45 ACP and continued issuing the pistol. Meanwhile, the Navy SEALs adopted the Beretta’s competitor.
During the handgun trials to replace the M1911A1, the Beretta proved itself to be exceptionally reliable. In a 1977 test, it experienced just one failure in 2,000 rounds fired compared to the 1911 which experienced one failure every 748 rounds. Seven years later, under the XM9 program, the Beretta achieved 1,750 mean rounds between failures compared to the 1911’s 162. However, in that same test, another pistol went 2,877 mean rounds between failures.
Like the Beretta 92, the SIG Sauer P226 is a double/single-action 9mm pistol. Throughout the 1984 test, the SIG was the only entry that posed serious competition to the Beretta. At the conclusion of the test, the P226 actually beat the 92 with an overall score of 853.6 compared to the 92’s score of 835.34. However, on November 20, 1984, the Army issued a request for best and final offers from the competitors. While SIG Sauer maintained its bid, Beretta lowered its unit price by 18%. With a lower price, Beretta increased their score to 858 while SIG’s score fell to 847. As a result, Beretta won the contract.
Like the rest of the Navy, the SEALs received the M9 and got to work testing it for themselves. However, they soon ran into problems with the new pistol. SEAL teams reported slide cracks in their M9s and even had catastrophic failures that split the pistol’s slide during firing. No injuries were reported, but the M9 was taken out of service with the teams. Instead, the SEALs adopted a maritime version of the P226, designated the Mk25 Mod 0.
During the subsequent investigation, it was discovered that the M9 was not at fault. Rather, the 9mm submachine gun ammunition used by the SEALs fired at a higher pressure was the cause of the slide failures. Despite this finding, the M9 was not readopted by the SEALs, who continued fielding the Mk25 until the adoption of the Glock 19 as the Mk27.