Thursday, July 07, 2005

Handicapping the Big Players

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 & KOCHPros...the 800 POUND GORILLA, the undisputed front-runner; the very definition of "military-industrial complex;"

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