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.
"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.
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.