I recently wrote an article on Guns.com about what caliber I'd pick for the new Army round. Here's the link: http://www.guns.com/2015/01/13/opinion-my-pick-for-the-new-army-pistol-caliber/
Like a knucklehead, I wasn't thinking much about the crazy laws and political goofiness surrounding changing rounds. While I did opt to stay with the 9mm, I suggested going to a 147g JHP. But, even without going to a hollow point, I'd still opt that the conventional military stays with the NATO 9mm.
When I realized that suggesting a JHP round had a lot more to it, I decided to go to an expert. I'm not going to go into John Talbot's background, but suffice it to say, he's squared away and knows what's up.
On Facebook (or as one man I know called it, FacePlant), I asked John, "am I wrong about using a JHP round because of international military law? I didn't even consider that. Ugh." Here's John's reply to my Facebook inquiry:
Jeffrey Denning...long and short is that the Hague Convention of 1899 prohibits the use of expanding ammunition. The convention consisted of a number of separate conventions and declarations. The ones that concern us are Hague II Annex, Article 23, which prohibits the employment of "arms, projectiles, or material of a nature to cause superfluous injury;" and Declaration III, which prohibits "the use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as bullets with a hard envelope which does not entirely cover the core, or is pierced with incisions." We are not Hague signatories but that's irrelevant since its become customary international law and, as such, applies to us. The US understanding of the rule, however, pertains to the use of such ammunition to increase suffering of the enemy, i.e. superfluous injury. Of course we use all sorts of hollow point ammunition today but the purpose, for example with boat tail hollowpoints, is not to cause unnecessary suffering, but rather to increase accuracy. Our interpretation of Hague is that we can use any round as long as the purpose is not to increase suffering. In fact, every type of modern rifle ammunition going back to pre-WWI days, flattens and fragments inside the human body. It is arguable that the use of hollow point handgun ammunition would be permissible following the same underlying logic as that which supports using the boat tail hollowpoint. In the case of a JHP round the supporting reason would be that its actually safer in urban combat situations, where noncombatants are often in close proximity and even mixed in with combatants. The JHP is less likely to overpenetrate a bad guy and in the event of a miss less likely to penetrate through common building materials and injure or kill a noncombatant in another room.
Not that's the argument for, but the law as applied by US forces would forbid that. As I see it that is more of a policy decision than an absolute legal requirement. But for now it is what it is and the bottom line is that no one in authority has the political stones to make the change. However, one interesting alternative would be the use of Expanding Full Metal Jacket ammunition, EFMJ. I believe there are rounds from Federal that they call EFMJ and something else from Hornaday that uses some sort of plastic plug in the otherwise hollow tip of the round. While these expand and/or flatten easily, they are certainly not employed to cause unnecessary suffering. So, again, like the use of HP rifle ammunition for increased accuracy, it would take someone with chutzpah to decide that we were going to depart from Hague 1899 for reasons that are acceptable. Its doubtful that anyone would expend the political capital necessary on a handgun round.
I will point out that many of our allies, including 22 SAS, have been using FMJ 9mm NATO ammunition to kill bad guys for a long time. So has the US Navy SEAL community with their SIG 226s. I personally think the handgun ammo debate is a red herring. Outside of the special operations forces in the US military, almost no one is properly trained to employ a handgun. They can't perform with anything approaching what I would consider mediocre shooting with the 9mm they have now. The .45cal will not improve this situation unless the military commits to abandoning its nearly primitive handgun training methods and follows civilian competitive shooters and the law enforcement community and actually trains its personnel to use handguns.
What I find amusing is that Soldiers will show up at a handgun match...once. After they are thoroughly embarrassed by the 55 year old lawyer and a number of other competitive shooters far better than me, including those with no military or LE training or experience who shoot far better than they do, including overweight guys, young kids, female shooters, etc., most Soldiers never come back. They think they can shoot and they find out that they don't know what they don't know. The issue isn't the hardware as I commented before, the gun and the bullet are fine. The issue is training. And with the inept training that the vast majority of Soldiers receive on handguns, the .45 will only make things worse. So I agree that 9mm is the way to go, but I depart from you in that I believe that whether they use NATO FMJ ammunition or a HP round. is irrelevant 9mm remains the way to go.
What's the worst thing about this is that the Army that is firing Soldiers left and right, decorated and experienced combat veterans, officers, NCO's, combat leaders, is prepared to spend in excess of $350 million and likely a lot more, probably in excess of half a billion dollars, to get a new SECONDARY weapon that they then won't properly train people to use or maintain. As a taxpayer and retired Soldier I think this is sheer insanity. Instead we should keep some personnel for the inevitable fight with ISIS and Islamic terrorists and teach our trainers how to use dry fire and other methods to get Soldiers proficient with the tool they have now. Software not hardware. New toys is the lazy man's way. I just don't support it. Getting a Glock or S&W is not a magic bullet that is going to make every Soldier an Operator level shooter. It won't even make them competent. Striker fired triggers are especially prone to negligent discharges for those with poor gun handling skills. The FBI had a huge issue with it when they went to Glocks. I love my Glock and carry it every day, at work and on my own time.
Most Soldiers I saw in nearly 22 years service have about as much business carrying a Glock as I do playing in the NFL. Zero. What will happen after the also inevitable rash of negligent discharges is that instead of employing a training solution the Army will do what it always does...write and adopt some draconian and tactically debilitating "safety" rule to prevent negligent discharges, like you can only carry your Glock w/ the magazine inserted but no round in the chamber. Then they will fail to train people how to properly draw their Glock and put it into operation with an empty chamber from the draw, further handicapping the already poorly trained Soldier from successfully defending himself when he or she most needs that handgun...when an enemy is w/in 25-30 meters and literally fractions of a second separate life and death.
Anyway just my 2 cents. Stay w/ 9mm NATO hardball and the handgun you have now or the proposed M9A3 and train, train, train to learn how to properly employ it. I realize that I'm in the minority here. So be it. Sorry this was so crazy long.
Thanks John. I couldn't have said it better, and I totally agree with the training aspect, and everything else, for that matter.
Check out my articles at http://www.guns.com/author/jd/
- Jeffrey Denning (WarriorSOS.com)
- I'm the author of four books: Warrior SOS, The Work of Death, Together Forever, and Leaders Wanted. I'm in the doc film Please Remove Your Shoes. I've blogged for The Washington Times, and I write for Guns.com. I've worked for the high-profile U.S.-led Roadmap to Mideast Peace in Israel and Palestine. I've also worked as a SWAT team leader, a Federal Air Marshal and a sole-source training instructor on a classified contract with a U.S. government customer. My master's degree is in Military Studies and terrorism. I'm a former noncommissioned and commissioned Army officer, with service in Iraq. I've been Scuba diving and skydiving; I have trained with members of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team, and I'm an FBI-trained crisis negotiator. My interests lie in helping others and in strengthening America through inspiring moral courage, government fiscal responsibility and accountability, and maintaining principles that have made--and will continue to make--the United States of America a blessed and prosperous country. I'm a father of six, a husband, and a police officer. I reside in Utah, and I'm a Mormon. See also www.WarriorSOS.com.