The military’s new 9mm, 1955 edition
In January 1955, United States Marine Corp. Lt. Colonel John Rentsch visited Smith & Wesson President Carl R. Hellstrom to examine the brand new Model 39 9mm pistol. Developed over six years and through 30 prototype changes, the Model 39 was the first double-action, auto-loading pistol manufactured in the United States.
Developed for the military, Uncle decided to stick with the millions of M1911s they had already on hand and do an open-handed shrug at NATO standardization when it came to pistol calibers until 1984, though the M39 did prove popular on the civilian market for years and was one of the best CCW guns of the 1960s and 70s. Just ask Paris Theodore.
Now with the 9mm Sig P320 winning the Army’s MHS competition, and the word that the Navy, Marines and Air Force are likely to tag on to replace their Berettas, it looks like the Devils are going Swiss-German (by way of New Hampshire) moving forward, with S&W being passed over yet again.
However, the Navy did end up using the M39 to one degree or another, in combo with the Hushpuppy Mk 22 suppressor in Vietnam.