The Navy’s Mk 22 ‘Hush puppy’ Pistol

by Chris Eger, Guns.com  |  published on February 5, 2013

So you are a Navy SEAL crawling around deep in the enemy’s back yard. You are vastly outnumbered which means your primary weapon is stealth. You are a shadow—you have to be if you expect to get out of this alive. The thing is, the enemy’s camp has dogs that are bound to bark. What do you do to keep hidden?

Bring a Hushpuppy.

What was the Hushpuppy?
Today the US Navy’s 2000+ Special Warfare operators, commonly referred to as SEALs for their mastery of SEa, Air-and Land insertion and extraction techniques, are

well-known. In the 1960s, however the concept was brand new and just a few hundred men formed two small teams of frogmen. The majority of these divers, trained to fight in small groups, were forward deployed in a nice slice of green hell and brown water known as Vietnam. Operating in an intensive and unforgiving environment, these early Seals were always on the lookout for non-standard firearms to help give them an edge. Besides the myriad of standard-issue military weapons in Uncle Sam’s deep closets, the Seals used Swedish K-guns, commercial shotguns, and non-standard pistols.

Among these was the Smith and Wesson M39, a 9mm handgun. Originally bought as a commercial off the shelf design this compact semi-auto pistol was coupled to an effective detachable suppressor and dubbed the Mk 22. Since its use was in taking out sentries and the occasional yapping stray dog, it was commonly referred to as the Hush Puppy.

Carl Hellstrom at Smith designed the S&W M39 in the early 1950s. It was a lighter pistol, at 28-ounces than the popular (and heavy at 39-ounces) Colt 1911 style semi-autos of the time period. Unlike the 8.25-inch long single-action Colt, the DA/SA M39 fired the 9x19mm parbellum round and carried eight of them in a single-stack magazine. With a 4-inch long barrel, the all-steel S&W auto loader came in at 7.55-inches overall. Borrowing ideas from several past designs, it used a cammed barrel-dropping design with a Browning-style lock up and Walther surface controls for reliable operation.

It proved a slow seller for more than a decade and only gained in popularity once the Illinois State Police adopted it for duty use in 1967, the first large US law enforcement agency to adopt a semi-auto pistol as standard. This brought the gun to the attention of those in the Department of the Navy who bought the M39 in a small batch for testing.

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