The Army moved a step closer to adopting a new standard-issue sidearm Wednesday after presenting the most detailed requirements to-date for to more than 20 interested companies at the Picatinny Arsenal in Wharton, N.J.

The new pistol, dubbed the “XM-17,” will replace the M9 Beretta with a more modern sidearm that can mount accessories under the barrel and be fitted to different sized hands. The Beretta has been in service with the U.S. military since the mid-1980s, when it replaced the .45-caliber Colt M1911. Federal procurement restrictions do not allow the disclosure of the names of firms participating, an Army official said.

One of the major changes to the solicitation requirements is that companies are now allowed to use different types of ammunition instead of just the standard ball ammunition. These include hollow-point and fragmenting ammo types. That has prompted at least one military legal expert to take on critics who question its legality.

Richard Jackson, the special assistant to the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General for Law of War, said the Army currently only uses hollow-point pistol ammunition for counter-terrorism operations. The change is based on the Army’s desire for more lethal ammunition, Jackson said.

“They wanted to be better at felling the adversary than the current ammunition,” Jackson said.

Hollow-points are often more lethal because of the design of the bullet. It gives the bullet more surface area upon impact with the target, creating a larger wound cavity.

Jackson said the controversy around hollow points involves the Hague convention of 1899, which prohibited “bullets that easily expand or flatten in the body.” Jackson said he’s currently in the process of “myth busting” the notion that hollow points are somehow illegal to use in combat.

“Very few states have signed [the Hague Convention] and the United States is not one of them,” he said. “Law enforcement agencies use hollow points all over the world, so if it doesn’t violate the human rights standards that applies these days, why are we applying those standards on the battlefield?”

The United States does adhere to Article 23 of the Hague Convention of 1907, which says that it is forbidden “to employ arms, projectiles or material calculated to cause unnecessary suffering.” But Jackson said hollow points are actually more humane than conventional ball ammunition.

“There are actually humanitarian benefits from the use of this type of ammunition,” Jackson said. “By staying in the target there isn’t as many collateral effects….it will not go through the target into a bystander nearby or someone in the next room.”

Army National Guard Spec. Jorge Rodriguez, an infantryman who is now a police officer in Texas, echoed Jackson’s statements. Rodriguez noted that the introduction of the hollow point will not only make the shooter more lethal but also reduce unintended casualties.

“With today’s battlefield there’s no clear line, there’s going to be civilians mixed in with combatants,” Rodriguez said. “Without hollow points it increases your chances of shooting through the target and into something you don’t want to hit.”