In 1985, the US Army selected the Beretta M9 (a version of the 92FS) as its standard issue side arm. On January 19, the Army ended that 30-year relationship when it chose the Sig Sauer Model P320 as its new weapon of choice. If you’re keeping score, that 10-year contract is worth $580 million. The Army plans to purchase more than 280,000 full-size handguns and approximately 7,000 sub-compact handguns. Other military services who participate in the program may buy an additional 212,000.
Founded in the 16th century, Beretta is the oldest active manufacturer of firearm components in the world. In 1526, its inaugural product was arquebus barrels; by all accounts Beretta-made barrels equipped the Venetian fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. In 1650, the company invented the breech-loading cannon, and Beretta has supplied weapons for every major European war since. Beretta’s sister company, Beretta USA Corp., located in the United States, manufactured and delivered over 600,000 M9 pistols to the United States Armed Forces starting in 1985.
So how does the oldest firearm manufacturer in the world lose a 30-year relationship with the US Army?
While we will probably never know all the details we can make some observations:
When you are on top, you tend to play defense to try not to lose. That is not the same as trying to win. Beretta spent the last 30 years trying not to lose the government contract. Over those 30 years Beretta only made a few updates to the M9. The M9A1 came out in 2005 (15 years after Beretta started delivering guns) and was mostly driven by negative feedback from the US Armed Forces. The M9A2 never saw the light of day and the M9A3 submitted to the Army in 2015 was a last-ditch effort to compete with Sig Sauer’s modular and adaptable platform. Too Little Too Late.
Sometimes your best features today can be your greatest defects tomorrow. The very things that made the Beretta the dominating weapon in the military trials 30 years ago: stable, heavy, 9mm, DA (double action meaning a trigger pull can cock the gun) with interchangeable parts–became it’s undoing in the current environment. Today the military wants a Modular Handgun System (MHS): a non-caliber specific weapon with modular features to allow for the adaption of different fire control devices, pistol grips, and alternate magazine options; fitting various hand sizes and mounting targeting enablers using Picatinny rails. These “features” have been cropping up in gun design for the last 20 years. Beretta should have seen the writing on the wall and adapted sooner. Too Little Too Late.
When your customer says you’re wrong, you are wrong. Beretta didn’t have to see any writing on the wall. As early as 2009, the Army evaluated the changes Beretta incorporated into the M9A1 and maintained that the M9 system did not meet their MHS requirements. There is being bold and there is being stupid. Beretta may have thought they were being bold to maintain their commitment to the M9 platform but if they wanted the Army as a customer they were being stupid. When your customer tells you loudly and clearly exactly what they want, you should give it to them. Too Little Too Late.
What does this have to do with Kimray?
We don’t want to be the Beretta of the Oil & Gas industry.
We are one of the oldest continually operating companies manufacturing production control devices. We are the product of choice. We have long relationships with our customers and they have bought a lot of our products. Sound familiar?
If we want to win going forward we must play offense, not defense. If we want to remain relevant, we must acknowledge that yesterday’s products may not meet tomorrow’s needs. If we want to make a difference in the lives of those we serve, we must listen to them.
Let’s make that the Kimray Way.
P.S. I love Beretta guns. I love the 92FS and have several of them. They are my favorite handguns to shoot. I still think the 92 is one of the greatest guns ever designed, and that Carlo Beretta, Guiseppe Mazzelli, and Vittorio Valle (the designer/engineers) are geniuses. Unfortunately (to the tune of $580 million) the US Army doesn’t agree with me.