UK

Glock 17 9mm pistols replace Browning for UK forces

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Media captionWarrant Officer 1 Mark Anderson of the Royal Marines shows the features of the new gun

British forces are to be given a new standard issue handgun for the first time in more than 40 years.

The Ministry of Defence has signed a £9m contract to provide the Armed Forces with more than 25,000 new side-arms and holsters from Austria's Glock.

It will replace the Browning 9mm pistol which has been in service since 1967.

The Glock 17 9mm pistol is lighter than the Browning and can be fired faster, within a second or so.

Colonel Peter Warden, from the MoD team introducing the new weapon, says that after well over four decades in service, the pistol from US manufacturer Browning was no longer the ideal weapon and had become increasingly expensive to maintain.

"We began to lose a little bit of confidence in its reliability. So we trialled seven different weapons, and got down to the Glock as the best of the bunch," he says.

After a tendering process which lasted just two years from start to finish, the MoD is buying the side-arms to issue to all three services.

Among the first people to get the new Glock over the coming weeks will be troops serving in Afghanistan, where the enemy can sometimes attack at very close range.

The pistols are most effective at a range of between 10 and 25 metres, and the Glock 17 is lighter, more accurate and its magazines can carry more bullets than the Browning it replaces, according to the trials team.

The new weapon has a magazine capacity of 17 rounds, compared to 13 rounds for the Browning, though the 9mm ammunition remains the same.

The old Browning's external safety catch could also mean a longer delay before pulling the trigger, says Warrant Officer Class 1 Mark Anderson, from the Royal Marines, who was part of the team testing it. He has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Sierra Leone.

"In the event of your main weapon failing, with the new Glock you can draw and shoot the enemy within two seconds," he explains.

"That inspires confidence, and with the short-barrel pistol, it's easier to acquire your target, and makes it a lot safer to conduct your job."

Climate tested

The Glock has three built-in safety catches, and the pistol can be kept fully loaded with a round in the chamber - even when it is in the holster.

The Glock 17 generation 4 pistol, manufactured in Austria, was tested for around 18 months, with the team firing thousands of rounds in climates ranging from -40C to deserts at over 50C.

It has been widely used in armies and police forces around the world for many years, and proved both reliable and easy to use in the MoD tests, according to Philip Page from the MoD's defence equipment and support branch.

"We tested them in several environments, from the Arctic in Norway, to the deserts in America, including sand drag tests, special mud tests, and in the freezing rain.

"It's about stopping the target - it's an incapacitation effect, which is vital if you want to stop the attack."

Troops on operations in Afghanistan will still use their SA80 rifles or other heavier weapons as their main weapon, with the new Glock to be carried as a side-arm for personal protection.

"It offers peace of mind," says weapons specialist Staff Sgt Matthew Hodgkinson.

"You need to know that wherever you are, whatever you're doing, if your main weapon fails, you have that secondary system - and that within seconds you and your comrades can draw your pistol and engage the enemy."

With insider attacks in Afghanistan still a threat to western forces, personal protection remains essential.

Military commanders say that the old Browning pistols saved troops' lives in the past, and that the new Glock standard issue pistol will do so in the future.

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