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Air Force Begins Fielding New Army Handgun to Security Forces

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Tech. Sgt. Brady Craddock, Air Force Gunsmith Shop noncommissioned officer in charge, fires an M18 handgun. (U.S. Air Force/Vicki Stein)
Tech. Sgt. Brady Craddock, Air Force Gunsmith Shop noncommissioned officer in charge, fires an M18 handgun. (U.S. Air Force/Vicki Stein)

The Air Force recently began fielding the compact version of the Army's new Modular Handgun System to its security forces as a replacement to the Cold War-era M9 pistol.

So far, the Air Force has taken delivery of more than 2,000 XM18 9mm pistols from Sig Sauer, according to a recent Air Force news release. The service plans to buy 130,000 XM18s, which is a more compact version of the Army's standard XM17 striker-fired MHS.

The Army awarded Sig Sauer an MHS contract worth up to $580 million in January 2017. In addition to the Air Force, the Marines and Navy have also agreed to purchase the new MHS.

The XM18 will replace the Air Force's inventory of Beretta M9 pistols as well as the service's M11-A1 Compact used by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Army M15 General Officer pistol used for military working dog training, the release states.

The modular grip system on the MHS allows it to be tailored to multiple hand sizes, the release states.

"This is going to help shooters with smaller hands," Staff Sgt. Richard Maner, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 37th Training Support Squadron armory at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, said in a statement. "It also has a much smoother trigger pull, leading to a more accurate, lethal shooter."

Maner added that the XM18 also "gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol."

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Once the Air Force completes fielding of the MHS to security forces units, the service will field it to special warfare airmen, "Guardian Angel/pararescue" communities, Office of Special Investigation personnel as well as air crews, the release states.

"Aircrew communities and other installation personnel will be issued the handgun as well based on requirements," Master Sgt. Shaun Ferguson, Air Force Security Forces Center's program manager for Small Arms and Light Weapons Requirements, said in the release.

Master Sgt. Casey Ouellette, the 341st Military Working Dog flight chief at San Antonio-Lackland, called the M18 a "leap forward" over the M9 pistol.

"It's more accurate and, with a great set of night sights and with their high profile, follow-up shots have become easier than ever before," Ouellette said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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