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Old 08-07-2017, 03:25 PM
MWater MWater is offline
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Default 1981-84 Pistol Trials

I've read a lot about the Army pistol trials that selected the M9, most of it hearsay and random anecdotes (much of it featured on this forum!). I recently found an actual GAO report that includes analysis of various allegations made about the trials along with very detailed results. Pretty much everything you need to know about the trials.

http://archive.gao.gov/d4t4/130439.pdf

Here are some interesting S&W-related tidbits:

Quote:
Firing Pin Energy (Page 4)

The firing pin energy requirement was designed to ensure that candidate pistols could fire any 9-mm. cartridge having a primer hardness manufactured to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) specifications. Our calculations show that the requirement was overstated because of a mistake in converting the NATO metric standard to U S. units of measurement.

The Army rounded off to the nearest whole number and failed S&W for missing the required measurement by one-ten-thousandth of an inch. With such a miniscule margin of failure, it is clear that the conversion from metric to US measurements was critical and that rounding-off to whole numbers was inappropriate S&W’s test pistols would have passed the more precisely converted firing pin energy requirement. This aspect of the firing pin energy issue was not considered by either the district or appellate court.


Service Life (Page 4)

The Army’s rationale for eliminating S&W based on demonstrated service life was also flawed.
The request for test samples called for “an expected service life of at least 5,000 rounds.” The word “expected” is defined in dictionary terms as average and is used in the same way as the phrase “life expectancy”

The Army told firms that it needed pistols with an average service life of at least 5,000 rounds. The average service life of the three S&W pistols tested was at least 6,000 rounds. While not discovered until after 5,000 rounds had been fired, one of three S&W pistols cracked at some point between 4,500 and 5,000 rounds. S&W was elminated because each of its weapons did not exhibit a minimum service life of 5,000 rounds.

The Army rationale for its use of minimum service life was based on the small number of weapons tested (three from each firm) and the desire for a high degree of probability that the selected pistol would actually meet the requirement for an average service life of 5,000 rounds. This application of the test standard was not made known to the competing firms. The decision to test a limited number of weapons was made by the Under Secretary of the Army and was intended to conserve test resources and expedite the selection process.

The court, in dealing with this issue, held that the Army interpretation was reasonable and did not “materially deviate” from the announced 5,000 round expected service life requirement. We believe that the court’s view resulted from misunderstanding the Army’s statistical calculations.

S&W’s test results, the Army told the court, indicate that It had a 52 percent probability of having an average 5,000 round service life According to the Army such a low probability compared to Beretta’s 88 percent was unacceptable and justified interpreting expected service life as a minimum 5,000 round criterion.

However, no one explained to the court that because the test results were so close, because so few weapons were tested, and finally, because so few rounds were fired, any probability statement was grossly imprecise. Both Army and GAO statisticians agree that such probability statements cannot properly be used to differentiate among candidate pistols. The Army inappropriately used such probability statements to justify S&W’s elimination despite the fact that S&W’s pistols passed the announced service-life criterion.


Conclusions (Page 8)

While we found no evidence that the 9-mm handgun procurement was “wired” for Beretta, we believe that one competitor, S&W was unfairly excluded from the competition. The goal of the 9-mm testing program was not to eliminate all but superior candidates, but rather to identify those whose products met the government’s needs .. and open competition requires that all qualified competitors be allowed to submit price proposals.

Army test data supports a conclusion that S&W was a technically acceptable candidate and, therefore, should have been allowed to enter the final phase of the competition—the analysis of price proposals. Since its pistols met the Army’s announced needs, we have to conclude that S&W was improperly eliminated from the competition because S&W’s price proposal was never evaluated, the Army cannot establish that it obtained the lowest overall price in meeting its needs.
Note: the Beretta price in the end was the wholesale price per pistol that Beretta Italy charged Beretta USA. So, rock bottom. It was still $3 higher than S&W's quoted price from 1981 (they were not allowed to provide a price in 1984).


Last edited by MWater; 08-07-2017 at 03:30 PM.
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Old 08-07-2017, 03:49 PM
MattyD380 MattyD380 is offline
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This is very interesting. Not exactly sure how to read that chart... but I see a lot "fails" on that list. Which is kind of surprising.

I'm guessing "SACO" is Sig Arms...
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Old 08-07-2017, 05:31 PM
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lhump1961 lhump1961 is offline
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All I can say about Government contracts is to look at how government operates in general. Improprieties, corruption and lies on the part of government (and other large entities) always come to light decades later when guilty parties are long gone or out of reach. Not that we ever learn the whole story about anything but we learn enough to know they were telling lies, serving themselves and covering their butt at the time.

If S&W says there was favoritism and that the trials were rigged I believe there is something to it...hard to believe they would engage in a legal battle over nothing. But knowing something and proving it are two different things. If S&W thought they were bested fair and square I doubt they would throw more money away on legal action where they had no case at all. Lots of $$$ at stake in these contracts so to think that there isn't any back scratching and back room deals is naive. We won't ever know the whole truth...we rarely do. I could be wrong but I'm not. (Eagles)
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Old 08-08-2017, 01:08 AM
DCW DCW is offline
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Default 439

Coincidentally I was waxing about the 439, built during the 1980s and it brought to mind the Pistol Trials and I wondered... and wondered . . . and here you are . . . with it!

Nice job, sir. I am appreciative of your efforts - as I am certain untold others will feel the same now and into the future because it's a worthwhile read that will be referenced time and again.

Later.
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Old 08-09-2017, 04:15 PM
MWater MWater is offline
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Saco Defense was a weapons company at the time (they made the M60 machine gun) and they worked with Sig to enter the 226 into the competition. This is before Sig had a US presence.

You'll notice that most of the fails in the table above were from the 1981 tests. The criteria were reworked and relaxed a bit for the 1984 tests.

One of the things I've heard over and over again is that the 459 did better than the Beretta and the Sig but was disqualified for reason X (usually something far from the truth), but the Beretta did edge out the 459 in almost every test, often by quite a bit. The firing pin disqualifier is, of course, BS (is that why the hammer spring is so stiff on the third gen?). The frame failure at ~4500 rounds for one pistol is really just very unfortunate.

One of the interesting things they mentioned in that report is that using Beretta was expected to benefit the US economy *more* than using S&W because S&W would have manufactured the guns using existing capacity (sounds unlikely), while Beretta had to build new factories, supply new equipment, hire new workers, etc.

Last edited by MWater; 08-09-2017 at 04:16 PM.
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Old 08-10-2017, 04:46 PM
MackTech MackTech is offline
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Was the Smith entry a off the production line pistol or something more custom? There is a cool video about the Colt entry on Forgotten Weapons YouTube channel. I've heard little about the Smith entry.
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Old 08-11-2017, 12:10 AM
MWater MWater is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MackTech View Post
Was the Smith entry a off the production line pistol or something more custom? There is a cool video about the Colt entry on Forgotten Weapons YouTube channel. I've heard little about the Smith entry.
They submitted the 459A in 81 and 84 which was mostly off the shelf but with 1911-style sights. The 459M was submitted in 88 and added a modified extractor.
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Old 08-11-2017, 08:27 AM
donk52 donk52 is offline
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These guns were made from production parts but they were hand selected and extra attention was made for fit and function.
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