Great Story… Awesome Guns!!!

After visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and witnessing the changing of the guard, Beretta patriarch, Giuseppe Beretta, said, “We have to do something better for these men.” Consequently, Baretta made presentation-­­grade M9s that were built and carried by Tomb Guard sentinels beginning February 17, 1988. The Beretta M9 served well alongside American servicemen and provided a great legacy, indeed. But the time had come for another change and SIG Sauer rose to the occasion. This past Fall, four SIG Sauer ceremonial M17s were presented to the sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, replacing the M9s in their holsters. Each is a work of art that was specially created by SIG Sauer for this duty. Serving since 1784, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — no matter the weather. Sentinels are all volunteers and considered to be the best of The Old Guard, the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, headquartered at Fort Myer, Virginia, next to Arlington National Cemetery. The Old Guard is the oldest active U.S. infantry unit. Lets simply say the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery is a moving event that touches many of its visitors, you can feel the power of this sacred place. The Tomb rests on hallowed ground. If you haven’t made a trip to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the graves of the fallen and witness the solemn changing-­of-­ the-­guard ceremony, it should move to the top of your list. Words can’t explain the power of this experience. Below are a few of the highlights about the four SIG Sauer pistols that are now being carried by the sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (Source: Guns & Ammo)

Pistol Names: Each of the four pistols bears the name of Silence, Respect, Dignity, or Perseverance and is featured on the dust cover. Dignity and Perseverance represent “The Sentinel’s Creed,” and Silence and Respect represent the request to the public by Arlington National Cemetery when visiting the Tomb of the Unknown, and during the Changing of the Guard. The two M17 pistols destined to be carried during the day are Silence and Respect, they were polished to a brilliant reflection using a multi-­step process that included three different materials being deposited on the aluminum frame as well as one precious metal. This process was completed with the application of Diamond-­Like Carbon (DLC), a special treatment that protects the pistols’ polished appearance. They seem to be black as night. Dignity and Perseverance are considered the night and inclement-­weather pistols, finished matte black and have black grips. The day pistols wear grip inserts made of wood from the USS Olympia and finished with the Tomb Badge applied to the right-­side grip.

Serial Numbers: The full series of M17 Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Pistols serial numbers are: LS02JUL37A21 (Silence), LS02JUL37B21 (Respect), LS02JUL37C21 (Dignity), LS02JUL37D21 (Perseverance). The “LS” in the serial number represents “Line Six” of the Sentinels’ Creed, “My standard will remain perfection; “02JUL37” to signify the first 24-hour guard posted at the Tomb of the Unknown on July 3, 1937; “21” to signify the 21 steps it takes the Tomb Sentinels to walk by the Tomb of the Unknown, and the military honor of a 21 Gun Salute.

Custom Wood Grips: in 1921 the chosen Unknown soldier was transported to the United States of America aboard the USS Olympia. The wood for the pistols’ grip inserts was carved from the deck of the USS Olympia and include the crest of the 3rd Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier identification badge inset.

Cocking Serrations: XXI cocking serrations are engraved on the slide to signify the twenty-one steps it takes for the Tomb Sentinels to walk by the Tomb of the Unknowns and the military honor of a 21 Gun Salute. Look closely and you’ll see that the slides are engraved with the Roman numerals “XXI” to the same proportional depth that marble was cut when engraved on the Tomb. Unlike movements in our military ranks, the sentinels do not execute an about face when they reach 21 steps during their march. They stop, turn and face the Tomb for 21 seconds. Then they turn to face the opposite direction. However, before they begin marching again, they count 21 seconds before stepping off. This is repeated until the sentinels are changed. Duration of a sentinel’s shift can be as short as 30 minutes or as long as 2 hours.

Sight Plate: Alongside of the marble sight inserts is a three-­dimensional engraving of three Greek figures: Peace, Victory and Valor. This was made possible with the help of the U.S. Parks Service who had digitized and created the image from the Tomb’s carving. The image was then laser engraved on the sight plate for each M17.

Sights: Interestingly, the night-­sight pockets on these M17s feature glass vials made with marble dust from the Tomb. The dust was recovered when the Tomb received the inscription “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.” The inscription was added to the face of the crypt after Lieutenant Michael J. “Blaze” Blassie’s remains were identified and removed from the Tomb of the Unknown in 1998. The marble dust was introduced to glass by heating it to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit and then formed for inserts into these pistols’ sights.

Engraved Magazines: the 21-round magazines feature an aluminum base plate engraved with the names of the Greek figures featured on the Tomb of the Unknown – Peace, Victory, and Valor – and include a name plate on the bottom of the magazine engraved with the Tomb Sentinel badge number. Yes, the gun carried on duty is loaded.

“A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for any amount, up to and including their life.” Please remember, “Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier/sailor/marine/airman who died to protect it.”

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