By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
One of the big selling points for handguns, rifles and shotguns is whether they get used as service weapons by police or militaries. This has been a selling point for more than a century, and getting a gun picked up by a few departments, agencies or a military is a great way for a gun company to goose sales.
Recently, it was discovered the US Border Patrol was switching from H&K .40 caliber pistols to a new Glock, the Glock 47. The 47 isn’t exactly ground-breaking; it’s a Glock 17 Gen 5 MOS slide on a Glock 45 frame, which is just a Gen 5 19X. When it goes on sale sometime soon, a bunch of people are probably going to buy it.
When the Sig P320 (albeit in the M17 variant) was picked up by the US military, people went nuts over it. It’s a selling point for a host of other guns, including Colt (and other) AR-15 platform rifles, Benellli M4 shotguns, AK-pattern rifles, other handguns such as the Beretta 92, Sig P226, the 1911 platform (two world wars and they don’t make a .46) and so on and so forth.
After all, some people insist on using what the professionals use, but a dirty secret is the professionals don’t always use something because it’s the best.
Here’s the thing. For one, service weapons aren’t perfect; just because a military or police department uses them doesn’t mean they are 100 percent perfect or reliable.
The M1911 and M1911A1 were not as beloved as you’d think. People hated the tiny sights, not everyone appreciated the recoil of .45 ACP, and given the paucity of training, a good number of personnel came away with the opinion that you couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with one.
The Beretta 92 had a litany of known issues. The grip is a brick. It has to be run wet in order to run reliably, it doesn’t do so well in dusty, sandy environments and you won’t be running the controls one-handed unless you’re Johnny Bench.
Let us also not mince words, here. If you think that cost isn’t a factor in what service arms that police departments or militaries equip their soldiers with, then you have another thing coming.
So, when the US Army wanted a new handgun back in the 80s, one of the reasons they picked Beretta over Sig Sauer was that the 92 – which actually didn’t better the P226 in most areas in testing – was $3 million cheaper, according to National Interest. A couple of years later, slides started fragmenting! Beretta had to change manufacturing methods and created the forged slide model (or FS) which has been pretty much the standard version ever since.
It wasn’t the best gun, but it was good enough and was cheaper.
The reason the P320/M17 was selected over Glock and other bidders was much the same thing; it wasn’t the overall best but was more than good enough and was cheaper than anything else!
The M9, with upgrades and the onset of inflation, had gone up to a per unit cost of $263; in the 80s, it was just under $180. The Sig P320/M17, on the other hand, had a per unit cost of $203, according to Tactical Gear. It was pretty well publicized that Sig beat Glock’s total bid by about $100 million. The contract, you see, includes the guns, magazines and parts; Sig lost to Beretta in the 80s despite beating the per-gun cost being lower by a few dollars on that basis.
In other words, Sig charging too much for magazines is confirmed! Ha ha ha ha!
Another thing to know is that factory guns are kind of made the same everywhere. Is there some magic formula that the biggest companies in the industry are using? No, not really; you can find lesser-known gunmakers that produce guns to scrupulous standards as high (or higher) than the really big names in the industry.
When it comes to manufacturing, what you look for is factory certifications. Granted, you can get a doctorate in divinity for $20 online and start a church; certifications aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. Make sure to research what a certification means before you go trusting it.
Canik, a Turkish gun company, is an ISO-9000 and NATO-certified maker of firearms, certifications that are neither easy nor cheap to get. However, their TP9 pistols are considered to be generally excellent for the price point and their CZ clone pistols (sold through TriStar Sporting Arms) are quietly also considered some of the best budget pistols available. Speaking of CZ, they also produce some incredibly high-quality pistols and are likewise a NATO-certified facility.
The point here is that if you do your homework, there are a lot of makers of rifles, shotguns and pistols that make their products to the same standards as “what the professionals use.”
But then again, who cares? Get what you like. So long as you train with it, and it works, that’s all that matters.
Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.