Classic Wonder Nine: Smith & Wesson Model 59
By Chris Eger
Like bellbottoms and disco, the Model 59 was 1970s cool in a red-and-white striped Ford Gran Torino kinda way. (All photos: Guns.com)
One of the more key developments in American semi-auto pistol history, Smith & Wesson’s Model 59 sprang on the scenes in 1971 and gave birth to the company’s “Wonder Nine” period.
Just four years after the end of World War II– a conflict in which the U.S. Army became well-acquainted with modern double action semi-auto combat pistols such as the Walther P-38— the Pentagon embarked on a light DA 9mm pistol program. To win what could have been a juicy contract to replace the M1911A1, Colt, S&W, and High Standard all submitted prototype designs for Army trials in the 1950s.
While none of the pistols proposed met with acclaim from the Army, who chose to just keep their .45ACP Government models for another 30 years, Smith’s test gun, the T4/X100, went on to become Big Blue’s Model 39. Using an aluminum alloy frame and an 8-shot single stack mag, the Model 39 entered production in 1955 and was the first popular U.S.-made 9mm pistol on the consumer market.
S&W used the fact that the Model 39 was double-action as key in their marketing, as