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Beretta out as standard-issue Army sidearm, Pentagon taking bids for replacement

Smith & Wesson and General Dynamics have already announced plans to enter their jointly-produced M&P polymer pistol.

By Matt Bradwell
Beretta out as standard-issue Army sidearm, Pentagon taking bids for replacement
The pistol being developed in the General Dynamics, Smith & Wesson bid to supply the Army with a new sidearm will be based on the S&W M&P9 pictured. (Smith & Wesson photograph)

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- The Pentagon announced it will actively seek a new manufacturing contract to replace Beretta as the primary sidearm of the United States military.

Gun manufacture Smith & Wesson and a division of General Dynamics have already announced plans to enter a jointly-produced firearm based on Smith & Wesson's M&P, an already popular polymer pistol used by law enforcement agencies around the world.

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"The strategic partnership between our two companies provides us with a tremendous opportunity to support our military with a state-of-the-art sidearm, namely our M&P pistol," Smith & Wesson President and Chief Executive Officer James Deb said of the joint venture.

A potential military contract has lasting historic implications for the gun model chosen. The Army first contracted the 9mm Beretta M9 in 1985. Before the M9, the Colt M1911 served as the Army's standard-issue sidearm for nearly 90 years.

In addition to the finacial security of a long-term government contract, producers of the military's most common pistol also become cultural icons.

According to CNNMoney, "Guns chosen by the military achieve cult status, used as iconic weapons in James Bond and other action movies, and become highly desirable among civilian gun owners too."

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Indeed, the "lethal weapon" carried by fictional Detective Martin Riggs in Richard Donner's Lethal Weapon was a 9mm Beretta.

The Pentagon will formally issue the Modular Handgun System solicitation in January. Beretta has announced it will also enter the competition to retain its title as the primary U.S. military sidearm.

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