Should All Infantry Soldiers and Marines Carry a Pistol?

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 3 months ago

From the BBC:

Five UK soldiers killed by a “rogue” Afghan police officer did not have enough pistols to defend themselves, one soldier’s father has said.

Adrian Major, of Cleethorpes, North East Lincs, whose 18-year-old son Jimmy was shot last year in Helmand, said he had been told it was too expensive to issue every soldier with a pistol.

“If I had known that, I would have bought him a side arm myself,” he said.

The MoD said cost was not an issue and not all troops carried a pistol.

But the BBC has learned this policy has now been reviewed.

Five servicemen died in the attack by Gul Buddin at a police outpost in Helmand, southern Afghanistan last November.

Radio 4’s File on 4 programme has also learned that the gunman should not have even been at the police post.

He had been employed unofficially by the local police commander, who is now under arrest.

The Taliban subsequently claimed they had carried out the attack.

The soldiers, who had been mentoring the Afghan police, had become concerned about their inability to verify the identity of some of the people they were working alongside.

The troops from the Grenadier Guards and the Royal Military Police had just returned from a morning patrol.

Once inside their defended compound, they put down their main weapons and removed their body armour, as Army rules allow.

A policeman known as Gul Buddin, who was on guard duty, stepped aside from his position and opened fire at close range on British soldiers sitting in a group.

Mr Major, from Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, and other bereaved families have been briefed by British military personnel.

“Jimmy was on guard on the roof. He had just been relieved for five minutes and they were sat at the end of the building on a step and the Afghan policeman was in the corner and he just walked over and just opened up on them all as they were all just sat down chilling out,” he said.

“[The soldiers] are there to help the people. It’s like any soldier – if you are going to die, you want to die in combat. To be murdered in cold blood, it beggars belief,” he added.

“I think if they’d had side arms and body armour on, I don’t think he would have done it.

“He had the ideal opportunity – they were sat and relaxed and he took great advantage of it.”

The MoD said: “This is absolutely not an issue of cost – not all British troops routinely carry side arms.

“There are enough side arms in theatre, should individuals require them, and they will be carried if individuals are trained to do so and their roles require it.”

However, the BBC understands the MoD has investigated the possibility of issuing all its soldiers with side arms, with priority being given to troops involved in mentoring operations. It’s understood extra pistols have been bought and sent to Afghanistan.

It would seem questionable whether pistols would have stopped the attack if the attack was premeditated and it was conducted inside the wire.  Maybe so.  But let’s put aside that issue for a moment.  The MoD has a point, at least as it concerns standard protocol for issuing pistols.

Pistols are issued in the U.S. to fire team members who carry the SAW, of Squad Automatic Weapon.  It is also issued to squad leaders, even though those squad leaders also have their carbine (M4) or rifle (M16A4).  All of the Soldiers or Marines in infantry have the same MOS (military occupational specialty), but for those who have duties which require them to carry a SAW or be a squad leader, they also qualify on the pistol before being formally issued that pistol.  Soldiers and Marines who are infantrymen who do not carry a SAW or have the duties of squad member are not typically issued a pistol.

But what would be wrong with issuing a pistol to every Soldier or Marine who has the infantry MOS?  If we limit this to infantry, a small fraction of the overall force given the bloated ratio of support to infantry, cost is not a prohibitive concern.  Qualification on a pistol is not that time intensive or attention consuming.  Furthermore, being in infantry, they have been taught muzzle discipline and fire team and squad member responsibilities.

There is no good reason that I can think of not to issue pistols to all Soldiers and Marines who have the infantry MOS.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. On October 6, 2010 at 12:34 am, Rupert Fiennes said:

    If you are looking for reasons not to carry a pistol, there’s always wieght, plus the somewhat higher rate of negligent discharges with pistols

    However, having a pistol seems a good idea to me, especially for FIBUA/MOUT.

  2. On October 6, 2010 at 12:38 am, Herschel Smith said:

    Yea, I know. Negligent discharges. But they happen with rifles, and when they do, the boys are hazed. They learn discipline. They could learn this discipline with pistols too.

    Weight. You’re right. But get a good composite pistol and that issue goes away or reduced to the point of insignificance. Still, any weight at all is not good. I get your point. Weight to an infantry Marine is a bad thing; they can leave the line at 120 lbs.

    For MOUT you’re right. And for things like rogue ANP.

  3. On October 6, 2010 at 9:43 am, Bill Rankin said:

    I would like to have had a small (personal defense) light weight composite pistol of 380 or 9mm a few times as I remember.

  4. On October 7, 2010 at 8:55 am, Ron Peery said:

    As an ETT in Afghanistan I carried an M4 and an M9 pistol. I never used the pistol, but it was a constant companion. Always good to have a backup, and it is sometimes quicker to change weapons than magazines. The issues concerning weight and “negligent discharge” are not worth considering. The weight of an M9 pistol is negligible compared to other gear a soldier must carry, and you get used to it quickly. In fact, I found it uncomfortable to NOT have a pistol strapped to my leg when I got home and had to start being a civilian again. My personal experience with the “negligent discharge” issue leads me to believe that ND’s are a result of troops being so used to having an unloaded weapon that they fail to pay proper attention to the weapon when it is loaded. My team was “red” at all times, and never had an ND in 15 months. Give the troops a backup weapon.

  5. On October 20, 2010 at 4:32 am, Nick said:

    A Glock 26 would be perfect. Minimises weight and size whilst conceding little in effectiveness.

    The Brits use SIGs P228 and 226 and Browning HP35s.

  6. On February 13, 2013 at 4:58 pm, dale said:

    every single soldier should cary a sidearm (or 2) i think they should cary a 25 round double stacked mag .45 and a small handgun like the glock 30 (.45)

  7. On February 13, 2013 at 5:58 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Where’s the love for the XDm? I actually don’t like the Glock (and I’ve shot one before), and I do like the XDm. Also, maybe they should think about a small frame revolver somewhere. They do carry an awful lot of stuff on their vest and belt. More stuff is not necessarily better, so there is a point of diminishing returns. That’s the only limit in my view, and it is a practical limit.

  8. On February 27, 2013 at 8:00 pm, Isaiah said:

    I am a U.S. infantry Staff Sergeant (squad leader) and I’ve NEVER been issued a sidearm…not as an infantryman. I spent a year with USASOC where I was issued a sidearm. Much nicer to have one and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Weight was not an issue since we flew 90% of the time. I say all infantry, Soldiers or Marines, should carry a sidearm.

  9. On August 15, 2014 at 9:32 pm, Gallan said:

    Doubt a pistol would have deterred the gunman seeing as they were sitting on the floor. They should have had a soldier guarding them. (Which seems to have become standard practice for trainers now).

  10. On August 16, 2014 at 11:47 am, madoradataman said:

    The pistol(s) wouldn’t have been to deter him. It/they would’ve been to shoot him!!!

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You are currently reading "Should All Infantry Soldiers and Marines Carry a Pistol?", entry #5580 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Weapons and Tactics and was published October 5th, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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