Who says that military and procurement agencies can't have fun in their service? In particular, acronyms lend themselves as starting points for humorous creativity. The French armed forces recently proved this. The pistol project launched in spring 2019 went by the abbreviation "PANG". The sonorous name did not refer to the sound that can be heard when a gun is fired. Rather, the abbreviation stood for "Pistolet Automatique de Nouvelle Génération", i.e. new generation automatic pistol. The finalists were GLOCK and the Croatian company HS Produkt. Around the turn of the year 2019/20, the decision was made: the order went to Deutsch-Wagram in Lower Austria – where, incidentally, the French emperor Napoleon won a brilliant victory in a battle fought from July 5 to 6, 1809, which heralded the end of the Fifth Coalition War. GLOCK, the global company now based there, is supplying a version of its G 17 Gen 5 model as the new French service pistol.
The predecessors and successors of the PSA GLOCK pistol
This pistol with a sand-colored grip frame and black slide also received a new abbreviation, namely "PSA". This stands for "Pistolet Sémi-Automatique", “semi-automatic pistol”. It is to replace the pistol models still in service by 2022. These are:
- MAC50, an in-house development from the 1950s, and the
- PAMAS G1, a licensed production of the Beretta 92F
The first batch of GLOCK pistols arrived in France in December 2020 and passed quality control. In the meantime, more than half of the 75,000 or so ordered have already been delivered to the troops.
The tough selection process until PSA was awarded the tender
Despite the pistol project being named with a slight wink, the procurers took the project very seriously. All the more so because the semi-automatic pistol per se has gained considerable importance in armed forces worldwide as a secondary or "back-up" weapon. There was little surprise about the caliber of the handgun. Like most NATO countries, France has so far stuck to the tried-and-tested 9x19 mm (9 Para) cartridge. However, new approaches compared to the previous models were adopted almost everywhere. One of the other specifications was a grip frame in the color known as "Coyote Brown”.
Since the French armed forces traditionally operate worldwide, the pistol was to achieve as universal a camouflage effect as possible and also blend in well with combat uniforms and personal equipment. High stress, climate and environmental tests were also added. Evaluations were carried out in climatic chambers to confirm functional reliability even under extreme operating conditions. In addition, experience shows that armed forces renew their handgun stocks in long-term cycles. During the tests, for example, an approximately 25-year usage cycle was simulated by firing 25,000 rounds. As the test winner, the GLOCK test guns clearly exceeded this requirement, achieving over 30,000 rounds. However, testing was not limited to the laboratory.
Here, too, the French armed forces were creative. They included a large cross-section of users in the evaluations. Experienced and inexperienced shooters, men and women with hands of different sizes, staff soldiers and special forces alike tested the weapon. Of course, the focus was on ergonomics, safe handling and performance. All in all, the GLOCK G 17 was fully convincing.
Not a single PSA pistol, but a complete package with accessories
Furthermore, the French followed the system approach for their PSA. Accordingly, the system consists not only of the handgun itself, but also includes ammunition, suppressors if necessary, as well as optical equipment and laser light modules, ancillary equipment such as holsters, magazine pouches and accessories such as cleaning kits or armory tools. And training and the associated appropriate training aids are also part of the handgun system.
Consequently, in addition to the pistols, the order placed with GLOCK also included matching holsters, 7,000 suppressor kits, 15,000 laser light modules, 9,000 training guns, 45 million cartridges each with full metal jacket bullets, 2 million subsonic cartridges, 4 million marking cartridges and other accessories. GLOCK invited various manufacturers and evaluated their products against the background of the French requirement list.
Thus, proven partners came on board. The holster system comes from Blackhawk. The versatile T-Series model features a thumb-activated retention and a retention strap. Both devices can be released during the drawing motion by pressing the safety button on the side of the body with the thumb. The holster system offers numerous ways to carry the pistol in a variety of operational situations. Thanks to its quick release loops, the holster can be quickly attached to a belt bar or a battle belt, to a thigh platform or to a tactical vest. Sellier & Bellot was selected as the ammunition manufacturer.
As a gun flashlight, GLOCK is supplying its in-house GTL 51 tactical light. The total order value for the PSA-GLOCK package was around 44 million euros. This makes it a veritable major handgun project. And yet, compared with other armaments projects, it is "good value" when you consider the quantities involved. By comparison, the German Ministry of Defense spent almost five times that amount – over 200 million euros – on external consultants in 2015 and 2016 alone. Unfortunately, often expensively advised service commanders still do not seem to realize what a small investment it would take to modernize armament and personal equipment. The resulting service satisfaction has a positive impact on image and personnel recruitment.
Our test weapon: a civilian GLOCK 17 Gen 5 FR Coyote
A modern service pistol that has been put through its paces is also well received by sport shooters, hunters and collectors. Of course, interested civilians did not have to apply to the Foreign Legion to get their hands on a PSA. Thus, for a limited period of time, the GLOCK 17 Gen 5 FR Coyote was offered – an identical model of the French service pistol for the civilian market. We at all4shooters.com already presented it here. Now comes the practical test.
The striker-fired pistol with Safe Action system initially offers the features familiar from the standard Gen 5 introduced in August 2017: an improved surface coating in the form of the nDLC finish ensures scratch resistance, corrosion protection and durability. The new GLOCK Marksman Barrel features a polygonal rifling with right-hand twist and 250 mm twist length. The magazine well is flared to allow faster reloading. The slide stop can be operated from either side. The Gen 5 does away with the finger grooves on the front of the grip. Two earlier service pistol projects – one for the FBI, the other for the US Army's Modular Handgun System – had shown that the finger grooves tended to make for a more uncomfortable grip on the gun, especially for very large or very small hands. The proven, three independently operating safeties have remained: drop safety, firing pin safety and trigger safety. Thanks to interchangeable grip backstraps, the gun can be adapted to different hand sizes. Front serrations on the slide facilitate cocking and safety checks. The magazine release button can be swapped to the right if required.
The "extra wishes" of the French for the GLOCK PSA pistol
The GLOCK 17 Gen 5 FR Coyote or PSA is equipped with luminescent night sights as standard. In addition, there is a lanyard loop behind the magazine well. Especially in the military field, lanyards still play a relatively important role in securing the weapon against loss. This proves to be an advantage in maritime or amphibious operations or in the mountains. The slide lock for disassembling the weapon is extended and thus easy to operate. As already mentioned, the grip frame is in Coyote Brown. The same applies to the magazines, whose elevators again have an orange hue. Among other things, this facilitates safety checks. GLOCK also delivers the pistol in a Coyote-colored plastic case. In addition to the gun, the set includes a spare magazine, a loading aid, a grip backstrap set with four backstraps in different sizes, a cleaning rod and brush, and the operating instructions.
On the shooting range with the PSA pistol from GLOCK
We fired the Glock 17 Gen 5 FR Coyote both statically at 25 yards and in practice-oriented scenarios at shorter ranges. This was partially done from the accompanying Blackhawk T-Series holster and while wearing gloves. Unsurprisingly, as a service pistol shooter, you immediately feel comfortable with the GLOCK 17 Gen 5 FR Coyote. The gun is easy to operate even with gloves on, thanks to the easy-grip serrations, the ambidextrous slide stop, and the oversized magazine release button. The safe-action trigger is very easy to control. The trigger reset, i.e. the return of the trigger to the point where it re-engages the striker, after the shot has been fired, can be felt well even when firing fast shot strings. The luminescent night sights allow the target to be picked up and hit quickly. A skilled shooter easily holds the target bull's-eye during precision series at 25 meters. And even during dot drills at short ranges between three and five meters, the hits are in the black.
Test wrap-up: the GLOCK is limited-edition, exclusive and fully serviceable
With a recommended retail price of 805 euros (price may be different in your country), the Glock 17 Gen 5 FR Coyote is slightly more costly than the amount of around 740 euros that you have to pony up for the standard version. For that, you get an appealing, somewhat more exclusive and in any case practical pistol out of the box. This is also confirmed by the French comrades in their first reports on their new PSA.
For more information on the G17 Gen5 Coyote please visit the GLOCK website.