In October 1938 the new weapon, designated "37-millimeter M1939 (61-K) automatic air defense guns", entered firing trials. In 1940, competitive firing trials were conducted, with results indicating that these new weapons performed similar to the Bofors 40-millimeter/56 guns (design was similar).
The design entered production in 1939 first as a ground-operated weapon for the Soviet Army. These weapons were mounted on four-wheeled ZU-7 carriages operated by eight men. These guns were considered effective weapons against German dive bombers and horizontal bombers, and had claimed to have shot down 14,657 enemy aircraft. One major complaint, however, was that the barrels had relatively short service lives, with barrels needing to be changed after only 100 rounds fired; the ground-based weapons never had this issue addressed. This variant design remained in production until 1945 (by which time 20,000 units were built), but they remained in active service until the ZSU-57-2 self-propelled anti-aircraft guns were introduced in 1950. Although production in USSR ceased in 1945, factories in Poland, North Korea, and communist China continued to build them for some years to come. The single-barreled variant was designed Type 55 by the Chinese communists, twin-barreled as Types 63, 65, Type 74, Type 74SD, and Type 79-III. The North Koreans mounted these guns onto vehicles, thus creating self-propelled weapons.
It had naval versions, such as 71-K and V-11M.
In foreign service, various variants of this Soviet 37-millimeter gun design saw action in the Vietnam War, the Cambodian Civil War, and other conflicts.