Friday, July 08, 2005

Handicapping the Big Guys

I spent a bunch of time yesterday on the phone setting up several SHOOTING GALLERY episodes, and it gave me a chance to get a feel for the buzz around the anticipated new sidearm contract for the U.S. military. I thought it might be fun this morning to handicap some of the companies who will be major players should the Trials materialize. In no particular order: GLOCKPros...the most widely issued military sidearm on earth; the weapon of choice for the rank and file of American law enforcement; a long-proven reputation for indestructability; the Glock "safe-action" trigger; price. Cons...despite a huge American presence, still a European company; Glock .45s haven't shared in the legendary reputation of the 9mm and .40s; lack of an external safety, which has typically been a military requirement on large purchases.
KIMBERPros...the gold standard for 1911s; choice of Marine Expeditionary group, LADP SWAT, etc.; an American success story; ability to quickly turn around custom models; aluminum and polymer framed models. Cons...builds "traditional" 1911s with single-action trigger; no alternative trigger designs.
SIGARMSPros...the 226 9mm was the only gun other than Beretta to pass the military trials in the mid-1980s; issue gun for SEALs, Coast Guard, Homeland Security, Texas Rangers, etc.; arguably the most reliable, durable gun on the planet; has one of the best .45 single stacks — the 220 — ever made; multiple trigger options. Cons...expensive expensive expensive...the reason they lost the military contract last time around; early versions of SIG's 1911, the GSR, was perceived as not to SIG standards; as with Glock, at heart a European company.
RUGERPros...a dark horse, but Ruger is the American manufacturing powerhouse; 5000-gun Army contract that has been, according to my cherubs and seraphim, a big success; a reputation for building "tanks;" new P345 .45 has been big hit with civilians and cops; the only American manufacturer who can run with Glock in terms of price. Cons...relatively unknown in military circles; lacks the big bucks "military consultants" who broker these deals.
SMITH & WESSONPros...the S&W Performance Center, the best turbo-speed R&D development facility in the business...a highly regarded 1911 that has steadily chipped away at Kimber's dominence of the market; a variety of different "platforms" that can carry a .45 single stack gun; an American company. Cons...at various times, issues with qaulity; a recent series of corporate upheavals and missteps.
SPRINGFIELD ARMORY Pros...the XD, Springfield's re-spin of the Croation HS-2000, has been a huge success; a veteran 1911 manufacturer, including the TRP-PRO, the FBI contract pistol; makers of the SOCOM 16 MIA rifle — the gun most American special team guys in Iraq wish they had. Cons...some corporate uncertainty in the distant past; off-shore manufacturing; occasional quality issues on lower end guns.
HECKLER & KOCH — Pros...the 800 POUND GORILLA, the undisputed front-runner.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wonder if Ernest Langdon's arrival at S&W and his immediate assignment to focus on this contract will make a difference for S&W? At least they have somebody on their team this time around who understands part of the DoD puzzle and decision making? His influence on the design they submit could be a positive?

I hope it comes down to S&W or Ruger this time out. I sure hate seeing Germans or other Europeans get these contracts.

Patrick Sweeney said...

Unfortunately, the decisionmakers on this one will probably not be "gun guys." The decision will really be made by whoever draws up the "must-haves" on the list. And then the lowest-cost bid will win, because things like saving five bucks a handgun are more important to those at the top than what the guy going through the door thinks he needs.
(I obviously need more coffee and my afternoon happy pill.)

Anonymous said...

When will we get the rest of this?

Anonymous said...

You left out the "cons" for the HK.
Basically the same ones as the SIG: big $$, overseas company, etc.
I'll take a 220 over an HK, but that's just me...

Anonymous said...

The latest "trials" that pitted the big guys against each other had SIG leaving HK, S&W, Beretta, Springfield and Glock in the dust. SIG got the DHS contract followed by the USCG contract. Performce AND the fact they manufacture in the US played a role in their winning...and yes, they also won on price. Kimber was a no show because they make only one gun (and one the has its own set of reliability issues). Ruger was also a no show.

In a world of a large military with limited budget for firearms training, some of these companies won't make it. The cost of training to prevent an AD might be more than the Army is willing to pay. They need guns for the lowest common denominator.

Daniel Watters said...

One tid bit concerning the purchase of 5,000 Ruger P94, TACOM also awarded a contract for 5,000 SIG SP2022 on the very same day.

One suspects that these are going to the Iraqis or some other FMS.
You see, just a few weeks earlier, TACOM issued a solicitation for 10,000 9mm pistols. Less than a week was given for replies. Key passages include:

"One or multiple awards may result from this solicitation."

and

"The second price would be for the contractor's pistols to be shipped directly to Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq."

Note that between the Rugers and the SIGs, this adds up to the requested 10,000 pistols.

pdb said...

Uh oh, I think someone whacked Bane in the middle of a blog post! Someone call Monk!

Scott said...

What about a .45 version of the rumored upcoming S&W M&P auto?

OXEN said...

Glock con... "lack of an external safety"

I actually like that there's no safety on my Glock (G30).

I carry it daily and if I'm ever in a situation where my life is threatened I don't want to have to think about taking the safety off.

All I want is to draw, aim, and fire.

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Patrick Sweeney said...

Back to what Mike was doing, handicapping the makers. What a lot of "gunnies" miss about such endeavors is that the people involved are not gun people. They love process. They aren't going to be using the gun selected, they might not even care if there is one selected or not. What matters to those involved is that the criteria are clearly defined and measured. That the methodology is transparent, and that the results could be reproduced by anyone who cared to. If the results of the test prove that a sharp stick is the best choice, that's what they will list as the #1 choice.

Anonymous said...

Patrick's comments bring up one question...the eternal question from the great Monte Python. "What if they come at you with a pointed stick?"

Just in case the military goes with the pointed stick option, I'm going to trademark all the cool names so I can dominate the commercial market. Thanks for the tip Mr. S.