A Look Back: Smith & Wesson "Hush Puppy"

posted on October 19, 2015
During the Vietnam war—or conflict as the government preferred to call it—the SEa, Air and Land special operators (SEALs) were just developing their covert techniques that would eventually vault them into the finest fighting force in the world. Most of what these men did—the war stories and how they accomplished what they did—remains classified. Some things eventually do leak out, and one of them was the “Hush Puppy” pistol, a modified Smith & Wesson Model 39 with a screw-on suppressor that was named the Mark 22 pistol by the U.S. Navy.

The SEALs were given the freedom to utilize non-standard military arms because of their special operations status. At first the Navy bought a handful of Model 39s for testing purposes. Then the fledgling SEALs got hold of them and found them useful. The Model 39 is a 28-oz. 9 mm double-/single-action semi-auto pistol with a 4” barrel and a single-column, 8-round magazine. At 11 ozs. less than the 1911 A-1, the compact 9 mm seemed to offer exactly what a covert operator needed in a sidearm. Its light weight and smaller profile were highly desired features by the early SEAL operators.

Then, as today, the guys in the field started pining for modifications to the standard Model 39. Relatively few were modified into Mark 22 status. Those modifications included a slightly longer barrel threaded at the muzzle to accept the suppressor, high-profile sights that could be seen and used with the suppressor, and the grip was reconfigured to accept originally a Browning P35 double-column, 13-round magazine—later to utilize a Smith & Wesson designed 14-rounder. A slide-lock switch was added to the frame to prevent the slide from operating, thus making the pistol a single shot. This was done to prevent the enemy from hearing the pistol operate. The suppressor was so effective with sub-sonic ammunition that the loudest part of the gun was the cycling of the slide. A detachable wire shoulder stock and holster were also part of the weapon package.

That suppressor, called the Mark 3, was 5” long and weighed 8 oz. Because the frogmen often operated in a marine environment, a chamber plug and muzzle cap made from phenolic were included in the Mark 22 kit. Special ammunition, Mark 4, featured a 158-gr. FMJ bullet with a green tip and loaded to 900 fps. Also included as part of the kit was a spare suppressor insert tube with extra heavy rubber wipes. These wipes were reputed to be serviceable for a couple of dozen rounds or so before needing replacement.

If that seems rather fragile, remember this pistol was not intended as a quintessential self-defense weapon; rather it was designed around the need to take out sentries very quietly. SEALs were—and are—superb combat marksmen and were fully capable of neutralizing a target with a single round.

Altogether, the Hush Puppy Mark 22 package, including the pistol, can and a loaded 13-round magazine weighed in at 40 ounces, only an ounce heavier than a 1911 A-1 pistol. It was replaced in 1991 by the Mark 23 pistol, a 12-round-capacity .45 ACP made by Heckler & Koch. Though larger, heavier and more powerful than the first Mark 22 pistols, the concepts developed more than 50 years ago for a covert pistol for SEALs and other special operators still remain the foundation of such weaponry.

Very few—some say only two—original Mark 22 Hush Puppies have found their way into private collections. I was unable to find a “going rate” for such a collectable, but it would likely be astronomical.

The Model 39 Smith & Wesson remained cataloged for 27 years—1955 to 1982. Eventually Smith & Wesson made a commercial model of the Hush Puppy pistol, the 14-shot Model 59—sans the can, shoulder stock and extra-high sights. Later generations of these pistols were called the Wondernines during the latter 1980s and early ’90s.

Hush Puppy image courtesy Small Arms Review.



Rifleman Q&A: Bullet & Primer Sealant

From the archives of American Rifleman, one NRA member questions the importance of the colorful or black-colored paint-like coating around the cartridge necks and primer pockets of surplus ammunition.

Preview: Zero Tolerance Knives 0357BW

The U.S.-made Zero Tolerance 0357 Black Wash liner lock features a 3.25" blade of hard, wear-resistant CPM 20CV steel treated with a scratch-hiding blackwash finish best suited for everyday carry.

The French FR F2 Sniper Rifle

Conceived during the Cold War and after thirty years of service, the French are beginning to phase out the FR F2 bolt-action sniper rifle, with the surplus rifles available for sale from Navy Arms.

SIG Sauer P210: The Long-Lived Swiss Service Pistol

First designed in 1947, and formerly the official sidearm of the Swiss Army, the SIG Sauer P210 is still in production today, with a few modern upgrades.

The Winchester Model 94: History & Disassembly

Compact, reliable and powerful, Winchester's Model 1894 lever-actions may not have the popularity it once had with Western settlers, prospectors, law enforcement officers, hunters and ranchers, but its legacy remains today and is a fan favorite in Winchester's current product line.

NRA Gun of the Week: Fabarm USA Autumn

On this week’s “Gun of the Week” video preview, American Rifleman examines a first from Fabarm, a side-by-side break-action shotgun called the Autumn.


Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.