Airtronic Takes Over Contract for 14 million M9 Pistol Magazines, Offers Sand Solutions
TACOM Rock Island Arsenal has awarded five-year indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract W52H09-05-D-0328 to Airtronic Services, Inc. in Elk Grove Village, IL for the production of Beretta M9 Pistol Magazines. The contract requires Airtronic to initially produce 900,000 magazines for $4,059,000. The maximum number of magazine to be produced is 14 million units at $63 million. Airtronic noted that the previous vendor, Checkmate, had charged $8.51 each.
Defense Review has a fine investigation and review of the M9 pistol’s various reported problems and controversies over the years, and their note re: the past performance of pistol magazines in Iraq and Afghanistan provides valuable food for thought that Airtronic is addressing. But TACOM’s award did not remain uncontested…
PHT Corporation filed a bid protest with the US Government Accountability Office, maintaining that the agency improperly evaluated the past performance record of Airtronic, and that Airtronic’s price was unreasonably low. In decision file B-297313, the GAO denied the bid protest:
“Where solicitation defined relevant past performance as performance on contracts with a value over $500,000 that demonstrates the successful manufacture of M9 magazine cartridge or similar item, award to offeror with no relevant past performance was reasonable where source selection authority recognized the awardee’s lack of relevant past performance, but nonetheless reasonably concluded, consistent with the solicitation, that the awardee’s overall past performance record justified a “moderate” risk rating.
One does hope the folks at TACOM and the GAO paid attention to field reports along the way. From Defense Review:
“Recent reports from Afghanistan and Iraq have reported less than satisfactory reliability with the M9 pistols traceable to the magazines. Until very recently, the magazines for the M9 pistol were produced by Mec-Gar. The military decided to go with another vendor, Checkmate, to supply the magazines for the M9. By all reports I have heard from the field, the new magazines are not made as well and are extremely sensitive to dirt and sand. Considering that the troops are using the M9’s in an area of the world that is populated by little else but dirt and sand, this makes the use of such magazines a bad idea.”
Airtronic Services is a woman owned licensed manufacturer of firearms, destructive devices and components for military use. Their President, Robert E. Walter, responded to DID’s enquiries about this problem:
“Airtronic has made several improvements. The greatest improvement is that we copied magazines produced by Mec-Gar for Beretta. It turns out that one critical radius on the magazine is entirely too small to allow for adequate clearance in the magazine well. The other major improvement is the plating and dry lubricant process that will prevent very fine sand from embedding into the surface.
We are planning to evaluate harder coatings that include ceramics. While slightly more expensive they offer far superior performance and have already been proved in the small arms field. Additionally, we are submitting samples of ceramic coated M2HB Top Covers and Barrels Supports that we manufacture.
We begin First Article Testing of the magazine January 16, 2006 and should announce the results by Shot Show in Las Vegas.”
Someone was paying attention. Good to see.