July 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army announced Friday it is to begin fielding its new Sig Sauer XM17 modular handgun to troops in November, starting with the 101st Airborne Division.
The pistol is replacing the Beretta M9, which came into service in 1986.
The 101st Airborne are scheduled to receive about 2,000 pistols. Eventually, the Army will distribute the weapons to all units over a 10-year period. From November until September 2018, the semi-automatic weapons will be fielded at a different posts each month, except for March and April of 2018, according to the current plan.
The X-17 modular handgun is the Army's version of the Sig Sauer P320. It will come in two variants -- the XM17 and XM18.
The weapon features improved durability and adjustability over the M9, along with interchangeable grips, a safety and self-illuminating sight.
"A big reason why the modular handgun system is such a leap ahead in ergonomics is because of the modular hand grips, instead of just making a one size fits all," Lt. Col. Steven Power, the Army's product manager for soldier Weapons, said in a press release. "The shooter will have a handgrip that fits their hand properly which does a lot to improve accuracy -- not only on the first shot but also on subsequent shots."
Sig Sauer's U.S. subsidiary won the $580 million contract for the weapons in January after winning the Army and Air Force's XM17 Modular Handgun Competition.
The Army said it will continue to use 9mm rounds with the gun and has sub-contracted Winchester for the ammunition.
The civilian P320 comes in variants firing different ammunition loads.