The Navy’s small arms program isn’t exactly at the forefront of most people’s minds. When you steer a warship with the population of a small city and the ability to invade nearly any country with a beach, your rifles and handguns don’t get much love. This is sad because the Navy has some very interesting handguns. Today we are looking at the Top 6 Mk handguns.
What does Mk mean? Well, it’s pronounced “Mark” and is a Navy designation. The Army uses the M or Model, and the Navy prefers Mk. That doesn’t mean only the Navy uses a particular weapon on the list, for example, the Mk19 is used by the Army and the Navy. Instead, Mk means the Navy tested and potentially developed the weapon system.
The Mk handguns exist due to special requirements from the Navy, typically the Special Warfare folks of the Navy SWCC and SEAL teams. The Navy’s operators often have requirements and conditions separate from the Army and basic firearms will not do.
Into the Mk handguns
1) The Mk 1 Underwater Defense Gun
It feels like just yesterday I did an article on underwater firearms, and now we are looking at the O.G. once more. The Mk 1 Underwater Defense Gun came to be in the 1970s and was developed for fighting frogmen defending ships, docks, and infiltrating faraway shores.
This multi-barrel handgun has six barrels that fire a 4.25-inch long metal dart. The Mk 1 Underwater Defense Gun uses a removable cylinder that contains the darts and keeps them sealed until fired. The system allowed underwater commandos to fight underwater at relatively short ranges effectively.
These guns didn’t have the same range as a normal firearm but didn’t require the user to get in knife-fighting range to use. Still, their effective range was a mere 30 feet. The Mk 1 Underwater Defense gun was only used for a short period but was proven effective.
Related: Into the dark: Reflections of a combat swimmer
2) The ultra-silent Mk 22 Mod 0
In the early days of the Vietnam War, American commandos were really focusing on stealth. They needed something silent, super silent. In fact, they didn’t even want to hear the noise of the slide clacking back and forth. With that requirement, we got one of the unique Mk handguns.
The Mk 22 Mod 0, aka the Hush Puppy, was developed by the Naval Ordnance Laboratory at the request of SEALs in the field. The engineers took an S&W Model 39 and outfitted it with a modified 14-round magazine, threaded barrel, suppressor, and sights high enough to clear the suppressor.
They also fit it with a slide stop that would prevent the slide from moving back and forth when a shot was fired. This killed the noise and made the weapon the most silent of the Mk Handguns. SEALs used it to take down dogs and sentries silently. Heck, they even added a stock that would allow the shooter to place shots as accurately as possible.
Related: How the Vietnam War changed the Navy SEALs forever
3) The offense-oriented Mk 23
Oh boy, if Solid Snake had to choose one of these Mk Handguns, I think I know on which he’d settle. The Navy and SOCOM wanted a new offensive handgun unlike any other.
Handguns were seen as sidearms, but the Mk 23 would be an offensive weapon. The project involved SOCOM, the Navy, HK, and Knight’s Armament.
The end result was a massive handgun chambered in 45 ACP. It packed 12 rounds of the 230-grain pills and hit hard. The subsonic nature of 45 ACP made the gun a natural suppressor host and kept the weapon quiet. The Navy tested the Mk23 harshly and pushed it to its limits with tens of thousands of rounds fired in heat, cold, and saltwater, but the gun came through.
This big pistol provided a capable, quiet, and potent primary weapon for extreme close-quarters combat. I imagine the Navy SEAL first up a ship’s boarding ladder or the SEAL in charge of the working dog would pack one. These days that job might be done with the MP7, but apparently, the Mk 23 is still kicking around.
Related: What it means to be a Navy SEAL, according to 5 SEALs
4) The compact Mk 24
The Mk 24 descends from the Mk 23, and in civilian parlance, it’s called the HK45 Compact Tactical. As the name implies, the HK45 CT uses a 45 ACP cartridge. It’s subsonic, so it’s naturally easy to suppress. This is one of the most modern firearms on the market that keeps the Mk23’s famed reliability.
Firearms instructor Ken Hackathorn and retired Delta Force operator Larry Vickers helped Heckler & Koch develop the HK45 for a joint service pistol competition, but that competition flopped. However, SEAL Team 6 saw the potential for the firearm, and Navy Special Warfare Command followed suit.
The Command adopted the compact tactical variant as a sidearm. This variant provided a smaller, lighter model that was easily equipped with a suppressor. Suppressors add a fair amount of size to the firearm, so the compact model kept things a little smaller and lighter.
The Mk 24 is one of the heavy hitters in the world of Mk handguns.
5) The extremely durable Mk 25
When the U.S. Army chose the Beretta 9mm, most of the military followed suit. This includes the Marine Corps, the Air Force, and most of the Navy. Yet, the SEAL teams weren’t partial to the Italian stallion so they instead chose the SIG P226, which became the Mk 25 handgun.
Modern Mk 25 pistols utilize a Picatinny rail and a cute little anchor on the slide. The Mk 25 is a hard-hitting, all-metal pistol that holds 17 rounds of 9mm. The DA/SA action accommodates a long first shot trigger pull, while subsequent shots feature a much lighter pull.
The Mk 25 and, by extension, the SIG P226 are outstanding pistols. They are extremely durable, and it makes sense why the SEALs would want them.
The Navy’s Mk 25 features a special corrosion protection coating due to the rather brutal nature of saltwater.
6) The super-dependable Mk 27
The newest of the Mk handguns is the Mk 27. The Mk 27 comes from the famed Glock 19. This compact polymer frame pistol is one of the most popular pistols worldwide. It’s in the hands of countless police forces and military forces. The SEALs adopting it makes sense.
The compact 9mm presents a very simple and reliable firearm. It’s rugged, simple, and utterly dependable. This is a striker-fired pistol and the only striker-fired pistol on this list. In fact, it’s the first of these Mk handguns that lacks a hammer.
The Mk 27 is easy to handle and comes complete with 15-round magazines, but SEALs have been known to use 17- and even 24- and 33-round magazines in their Glocks. The Glock has made its way around the military, and the Navy calls it the Mk 27.
The many Mk handguns
Why isn’t there a Mk 26? I’m not sure, but we certainly have plenty of awesome Mk handguns.
These handguns rule inside and outside of their Navy service. Even in the civilian world, these firearms are highly regarded.
The Mk handguns are evidence that the Navy has great taste in handguns. Which is your favorite? Do we have any sailors in the audience with any experience with these firearms? Sound off in the comments below!
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