The SEAL Submachine Switch

By Frank Iannamico

Covert Ops Led to Experimental Smith & Wesson Model 76 Submachine Gun

During the 1961-1975 Vietnam War, the United States Navy had begun to procure submachine guns for use by its SEAL teams; a special operations force operating in-country. SEAL teams often used foreign submachine guns for their more covert operations for plausible deniability. Unhindered by any political, official standards or requirements for their proposed submachine guns to meet, the SEAL’s weapon of choice was the reliable and accurate 9mm m/45, Swedish K submachine gun. One of the Navy requirements for a submachine gun class weapon was the ability to drain water quickly from the receiver.

Problems with the military procurement of the Swedish submachine guns were eventually encountered due to Sweden’s long-standing position as a neutral country, along with their outspoken protest of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

During the early spring of 1966, the U.S. Navy Department contacted Smith & Wesson representative Mr. George Ersham to inquire about the possibility of the U.S. company designing and manufacturing a weapon that would be similar in concept and operation to the Swedish K. By the fall of 1966, the Development Section of Smith & Wesson received an official written request from the Department of the Navy for the development of a new 9mm submachine gun. Corporation officials met with SEAL Team One at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, in San Diego, California, to discuss the project. During the meeting, Smith & Wesson officials were provided with a list of the characteristics desired in the proposed submachine gun. The rival Colt firearms company had the military market virtually sewn up at the time. Mr. Gunn recognized that a lucrative military order could help sustain his company’s future well into the 21st Century.

Mr. Dwayne Charron of the Research and Development Section of Smith & Wesson was chosen to head up the project. Mr. Charron was well qualified for the task, having a lot of experience with the development and design of many of the company’s firearms. The model designation assigned to the submachine gun project was...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N1 (January 2019)
and was posted online on November 16, 2018


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