Smith and Wesson 39-2 Review | The Improved Version of a Legendary Pistol

Smith & Wesson is one of the most popular gun manufacturers in the world. Even its early firearms hold up well in modern times. The Smith and Wesson Model 39-2 is one such weapon that continues to be appreciated by all who carry it.

If you want a piece of history in your gun collection that stands the test of time, the S&W39-2 will serve you well. I'd like to share my thoughts on this classic firearm so that you'll have a better understanding of why it is such a well-liked weapon. Nevertheless, you can still check out the best 9mm pistols we compiled for you. On the other hand, if you are just buying into handguns, take a good look at our best first handguns options. We also reviewed perfect handguns for women and tried to find out the best option to feel safe at home, to boot.

Before we jump into the particulars, I believe a short history lesson is in order.f

History of the Smith & Wesson 39-2

The Smith & Wesson Model 39-2 is a reliable gun with quite the history behind it. Following World War II, the United States military started looking for a new 9mm service pistol to replace the revered Colt 1911. Smith & Wesson answered this call to action and got to work on the Model 39. While here, why not check out on this budget-friendly handgun from the same maker in our Smith and Wesson 5906 review.

Man’s Best Friend

You may recall hearing of a time when our Navy SEALs used a firearm known at the Hush Puppy. This was, in fact, a modified version of the Smith & Wesson Model 39. The changes in the 'Pup were an added suppressor and a modified slide lock.

To improve Smith and Wesson M39, the slide lock was changed to prevent it from sliding back after firing. This, along with the suppressor, helped reduce noise exponentially. Thus, the Hush Puppy was born.

So far so good, right? You would certainly think so. But, because of financial principles, the U.S. military lost interest in the S&W 39 and went back to using the Colt 1911. This was a somewhat confusing turn of events, as the S&W Model 39 was considered a revolutionary handgun at the time. 
two guns

A Solid Predecessor of S&W 39-2

It boasted an aluminum frame and weighed in at a ground-breaking 28 ounces. As a lightweight single-stack semi-auto 9mm pistol with an aluminum frame, the Smith & Wesson 39 seemed to have it all in terms of build quality and construction.

Admittedly, it lacked the polish found in other firearms, but you couldn't argue with its performance. Rough as it looked, the Model 39 delivered a solid shooting experience. After the military switched back to using the Colt 1911, Smith & Wesson released its new Model 39 to the public in 1955.

A Worthy Successor

Years later, Smith & Wesson started working on the S&W 39-2 and released it to the civilian market around the early 1970s. At that time, Smith & Wesson guns such as the Model 39-2 and Model 59 were considered the new weapons of choice for many pistol carriers.

What was it that made the S&W39-2 such a beloved pistol? As you will soon learn, it boasts all of the hallmarks of a well-designed weapon. Fast-forward to modern times and the Smith & Wesson 39-2 still holds up well.

It remains a classic piece that enjoys many of the same features as the original Model 39. However, Smith & Wesson made sure to implement improvements where needed, resulting in a familiar yet polished update.

Design of The Smith and Wesson Model 39-2

The semi-automatic S&W39-2 sports a de-cocker on its left side. This is notable for being different from the ambidextrous de-cockers found on most 4-digit S&W guns. The slide is crafted from carbon steel, ensuring longevity and reliability.

smith and wesson design


The frame of the S&W39-2, however, is made entirely of aluminum, which is a welcome feature carried over from the original Model 39 (though there was a steel frame version available). This decision was made to maintain the pistol's overall reduced weight. In line with the Model 39, the S&W39-2 weighs a slim 28 ounces.

It is a stunning firearm, with a pure aluminum frame that shines in the daytime, exuding a premium and collectible appearance. A true American classic pistol, it holds historical significance as the Navy SEALs' silenced pistol in Vietnam and was also used as the sidearm of Colonial Marines.

On that note, first, let's take a moment to observe the Model 39-2's specifications.

Smith & Wesson 39-2 Specifications




Overall length:

 7.55 inches long


 8-round magazine

Barrel length: 

4-inch barrel




28 ounces




The barrel is very similar to that of the Colt 1911's. It is made out of carbon steel and is polished as such that it resembles stainless steel. There is a barrel bushing present at the end of the slide, which again, is just like the one on the Colt 1911.

There are no two ways about it; the barrel is simply stunning. It only further adds to the allure of the pistol. And when you factor in the classic grips (more on that in a second), you've got a fantastic-looking firearm.

Measuring 4 inches, I find M39 pistol to offer the perfect balance. It still feels good the hands, regardless of any shortcomings.


sights of a gun

The sights on this pistol may not meet the high standards of today, as they are all-black with an adjustable low-profile rear for windage and a fixed front sight. However, considering the time when this firearm was produced, they were acceptable back then. 

Despite this drawback, the gun itself is accurate, well-shooting, and comfortable, making it my favorite. I have found that the trigger performance is outstanding, allowing for fast speed shooting that surpasses any other semi-automatics I've tried. I have even used Smith Wesson model 39 in combat, and it performed exceptionally well, solidifying my preference for this brand.

The only downside I've noticed is that it tends to catch light, which can be problematic at night, so I tend to keep it stored away during those times. Additionally, I own a 39-2 that is identical to this model. It had only been used with one magazine of eight rounds when I obtained it, and I have since fired around 25 rounds through it. 


Checkered walnut is used for the grips on the S&W39-2, giving it a stylish appearance. Not only do these grips look classy, but they also offer exceptional handling and control. Holding this pistol and pulling the trigger allows you to truly understand the value of these grips.

Their craftsmanship is evident, with fine details that have stood the test of time, leaving a lasting impression. The S&W39-2 features a nickel construction with wood grips, and it also comes with a set of Pachmayr grips.

The wooden grip provides a comfortable shooting experience, adding to the overall premium feel of the firearm. With 8 rounds per ammo, it performs well, although the cost of ammunition is worth considering.

All in all, the S&W39-2 is a treasure that any gun collector would appreciate.

grip of a gun


The magazine capacity of the S&W39-2 is a standard 8 rounds, and it initially came with two magazines, each capable of holding 8 rounds of ammunition. While the design and construction of the original magazines may seem outdated, they still perform their function effectively.

Surprisingly, the 39-2 boasted superior accuracy among all the S&W auto pistols I've ever fired. It's somewhat ironic that they equipped this three-digit gun with adjustable sights. The Smith and Wesson Model 39-2, along with the special model 439 from the 80s, holds a special place as my second favorite 9mm pistols.

In fact, I believe S&W should consider incorporating it into their "Classic Series" today. This pistol delivers exceptional accuracy even with standard 124gr FMJ ammo!

check out our review about snw 39 2

Shooting the S&W39-2

Here's the thing when shooting this semi-automatic pistol: it doesn't feel all that dated. I know that it has plenty of years behind it. But you would be surprised at how well it shoots. It remains one of the more serviceable semi-automatic pistols from yesteryear and is remarkably accurate, all things considered.

The S&W39-2 and Law Enforcement

It's interesting to note that for the first several years of this gun's existence, law enforcement barely batted an eye at it. During that time, revolvers were all the rage. Pistols were seen as being unreliable and underpowered.

This is especially true when speaking about 9mm handguns. And in the field of law enforcement, the need for power and efficiency reigns supreme. Had the S&W39-2 been a larger caliber pistol, there's a good chance that it would have gotten more attention than it did.

While most law enforcement passed on the gun, there were some plain-clothes detectives that regularly carried the S&W39-2.

I'll agree that there are much better semi-automatic 9mm pistols out there for the shooting. But I do like the overall feel and balance of the S&W39-2. Sure, it's a bit clunky by today's standards. But we're talking about a historic piece of weaponry here.

There are bound to be some inconveniences, especially when you're used to firing modern pistols. The single-action and double-action functionalities feel a bit janky at times. But the more you shoot with it, the more natural it becomes.

Trigger Pull

I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to cover the trigger. If there's one area that is sure to prove bothersome for some people, it's definitely the trigger.

When firing double-action, you will need to provide nearly 12 pounds to complete the trigger pull. And for single-action, you're looking at just over five pounds. If you aren't comfortable with firing older guns, it may take a while to get acclimated.

Most people who invest in this semi-auto pistol are likely to do so solely to add a third-generation weapon to their arsenal. But make no mistake; this Smith and Wesson firearm can still hold its own if you ever need to use it.


1. How many rounds does a Smith and Wesson Model 39-2 hold?

A Smith and Wesson Model 39-2 hold up to 8 rounds.

2. What are the variations of the S&W Model 39?

There are numerous versions of the S&W Model 39 for collectors. Pre-model numbers, 39's and 39-2's, alloy and steel frames, blue steel and nickel plating. You can hope to one day come across a SA model or a 52-A among the 30 Luger variations (more than 500 were produced for sale in Italy). Don't forget about the models 439, 539, and 639 from the second generation.

Wrap Up

If you're interested in the S&W39-2, you will likely need to do some searching to find one for sale. These pistols are still floating around out there and in varying degrees of quality. Models that have seen better days can easily go for upwards of $300.

But if you want one that's in really good condition, be prepared to fork over $1,000 or more. Keep in mind that these guns were used by a variety of people and from all walks of life. You may need to wait until the right one comes up for sale to get your hands on a quality S&W39-2.

13 thoughts on “Smith and Wesson 39-2 Review | The Improved Version of a Legendary Pistol”

  1. The S&W M39-2 is an outstanding pistol that years ago the military rejected. With zero malfunctioning, it easily fires any cartridge configuration you decide to use. JUST GREAT.

  2. Just doing research on my Dads 39-2. It was his service weapon, I inherited it. I remember him showing it to me in the early 80’s. Have not fired it yet. It’s the silver one pictured above with wood grips. It’s about the same size as my Ruger SR9c, it will be heavier once loaded. Looking forward to shooting it!

  3. I am a retired LEO with over 43 years of service and was a certified police firearms instructor.
    Over the years I have personally owned many semi-autos and a number of 9mm’s. From Hi-Powers, P-08’s and a P-38. But none like my 39-2. My former father-in-law gave me his 39-2 and I will never let it go. It is spot on.

    It feels right. Crisp trigger. A tac driver.

  4. The S&W M39-2 is an outstanding pistol that years ago the military rejected. With zero malfunctioning, it easily fires any cartridge configuration you decide to use. JUST GREAT.

  5. Bought the S&W 39-2 in about 1973. Around 2008 it had developed a problem which I can’t remember what the problem was but I sent it back to S&W. They sent it back a few weeks later twice as good as it was when I bought it new. They included a hand written and signed list of things they had done to it.
    They even paid the shipping back to me, no charge for anything. THANK YOU Smith & Wesson custom shop. I have a Sig 226, a S&W MP, Springfield XD, ect, looking for the perfect all around 9mm, the short of it is I still carry the 39-2.

  6. I’ve had my 39-2 since 1997 (purchased from a former LEO who used for undercover narcotics work). Beautiful classic look; a little bit finicky ammo-wise (eats Win white box with few issues, but jams more frequently when dirty or with cheaper range ammo). Super accurate; makes me look better on the range than I really am…

  7. My first handgun was a S&W 59, the 39’s big brother. I later had to sell it during a period of under-employment. Once finances got better I acquired a Model 39-2 and a DA-only Model 5946, which I believe NYPD issued for a time.

    The thing all three have in common is their ability to digest just about any load you feed them. The only failure to feed I ever had was with my original 59, and believe it or not, it was with S&W Nyclad hollow
    points. Go figure.

  8. I bought my first model 39 in 1961 during my first overseas tour. I had to part company with it later and really missed it. Now in 2022 I found a 39-2 is a less than pristine state. I bought it and had it ceracoted in glossy black. Found new old stock original grips, original magazines and ordered a galco holster. I often rescue older guns and put them back into useable condition. The 39-2 got promoted to my carry gun. It loves critical duty rounds.


Leave a Comment