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Smith & Wesson M76: A Super Gun for U.S. Navy SEALs?

Though the M76 didn’t achieve the real-world success that its manufacturer had hoped for, the gun was at least partially immortalized in action-adventure fiction.

Smith & Wesson M76
Smith & Wesson M76. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

When one thinks of Smith & Wesson (S&W) – one of the “Big Three” American gun manufacturers along with Colt and Sturm, Ruger & Co. – one typically mentally associates the name with submachine guns (SMGs).

Rather handguns, mainly revolvers like the S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum and M19 .357 Magnum, and to a lesser extent its autopistols, whether old-school classics like the Model 39 or newer models like the M&P.

When one thinks of SMGs, one is more likely to think of the German Heckler & Koch (HK) MP5, Israeli Uzi, and American MAC-10.

But sure enough, Smith made an SMG back during the Cold War, and it was “recruited” (so to speak) for the Vietnam War. Say hello to the Smith & Wesson Model 76 9mm SMG.

S&W M76 History & Specifications AKA “A Rose, er, Swedish K By Any Other Name …”

The S&W M76 made its debut in 1967 and ceased production in 1974. Cold War SMG-savvy readers will note the gun’s resemblance to the Carl Gustaf m/45 AKA “Swedish K” SMG, which in turn was produced from 1945 to 1964. That’s no accident

The U.S. Navy SEALs had been using the Swedish K during the early years of the Vietnam War. However, the Swedes, being true to a longstanding policy of neutrality during the Cold War – remember, this was many decades before Sweden finally made the decision to join NATO – were upset over one of their products being used in that controversial war, so they halted their export of weapons to the U.S. as a protest gesture, thus leaving the SEALs without a suitable weapon. The military branch was out of readily available stock of m/45s and spare parts.

The fine folks at Smith & Wesson, being the American patriots that they were, decided to make an effort to fill in the gap. The end result was the M76, which was a virtual spitting image of the Swedish gun, but with a few extra tweaks, as noted by Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons: “The S&W gun had an ambidextrous selector lever allowing either semiauto or full auto fire, and a permanently fitted magazine well for use with a close copy of the Suomi 36 round double stack box magazine. Most interestingly, the inside of the receiver tube is cut with long rifling-like grooves to allow dirt and fouling to accumulate without impacting the gun’s reliability.”

Alas, the Smith SMG didn’t score the big bucks Navy contract that Smith had expected: “Only a relatively small number of 76s were procured by the Navy (under the designation Mk 24 Mod 0), as the availability of AR15/M16 carbines proved more attractive option than 9mm submachine guns. The company would continue making them until 1974, with a total of 6,000 produced. This particular example is a T prefix serial, which I suspect (but cannot prove) was Navy purchase … The reputation of the S&W 76 has been unfortunately tarnished by a succession of full auto and semiauto clones, none of which are as well made or as reliable in use as the original S&W production.”

The S&W M76 was a blowback, open-bolt SMG with a barrel length of 8 inches, an overall length of 30.5 inches with the stock extended (22.5 inches with the stock folded), an empty weight of 7.25 pounds, and a fully loaded weight of 8.75 lbs. The cyclic rate of fire on full-auto was 720 rounds per minute.

Appearances in Fiction

Though the M76 didn’t achieve the real-world success that its manufacturer had hoped for, the gun was at least partially immortalized in action-adventure fiction. In the Phoenix Force action novel series, a spin-off from the bestselling Mack Bolan/The Executioner series that was published from 1982 to 1991, one of the members of the eponymous team, Calvin James – who ironically had a background as a SEAL during Vietnam – carried the Smith SMG in several of the novels. 

The M76 has also appeared in 30+ movies, including the Steve McQueen film “The Getaway,” “Magnum Force” from the Dirty Harry series, and “Black Sunday” (movie buffs may remember that one for the Goodyear Blimp being commandeered for a terrorist attack on the Super Bowl).

Want Your Own?

Well, good luck dealing with the expense and bureaucratic headache of the BATFE Class 3 license paperwork to legally obtain a full-auto weapon in the first place. Once you’ve jumped through that set of hoops, then you gotta deal with the expense of affording the price tag of the actual M76 gun itself. recently sold one for $13,500.00 USD, whilst Rock Island Auction Company has two of them set to go up on the auction block in May 2023; one with an Estimated Price of $13,000 – $19,000, the other with an Estimated Price: $14,000 – $22,500.

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. 

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Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).