MAT-49 (Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Tulle 49)
Submachine Gun (SMG)
The MAT-49 gets its designation from the French factory known as Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Tulle as well as its year of introduction.
Authored By: Dan Alex | Last Edited:
The MAT-49 is a submachine gun developed in France by Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Tulle (MAT) and accepted into service in 1949 - hence its designation "MAT-49". Production lasted from 1949 until 1979 and the weapon was widely used by French Army and police forces in that span. Despite it having been replaced by the FAMAS assault rifle in French service during 1979, the MAT-49 still enjoys some level of use among French police forces today as well as operational use in countries around the globe. The submachine gun also saw actions in the First Indochina War (1946-1954), the Suez Crisis (1956), the Algerian War (1954 - 1962) and the Vietnam War (1959 - 1975) - the latter conflict saw the North Vietnamese produce a version chambered to fire the Soviet Tokarev cartridge over the original Parabellum.
The MAT-49 can make use of a 20- or 32-round detachable straight box magazine. Unloaded weight is about 3.5 kilograms with a loaded weight nearing 4.17 kilograms. Overall length is 26 inches with the wire butt completely extended and 16 inches with the wire but collapsed. The base barrel measures in at 9 inches and features a 4-groove, left-hand twist insertion. Muzzle velocity is a reported 1,200 feet per second. The primary cartridge is the 9x19mm Parabellum and the firing action is blowback. Rate-of-fire is approximately 600 rounds per minute.
The French Army adopted the MAT-49 for operational service in 1949 and both it and the French police made use of the submachine gun for some thirty years after, making it a success and proving the design sound. The simplicity of the MAT-49 made it a robust and reliable weapon system that went on to see use by forces within Cambodia, Laos, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Vietnam and Lebanon. The MAT-49 proved acceptable in practical service - its collapsible features made it ideal for paratroopers and specialized infantry as well as weapons to serve with vehicle crews where space was often an issue. Operators noted the submachine guns available firepower, inherent man-stopping capabilities and its customizable small size despite its no-frills design and somewhat heavy size for a weapon of this class.
Externally, the MAT-49's design was utilitarian to the core. Construction was of heavy-gauge stamping and the weapon's straight lines help speed up production while keeping costs down. Internally, the machined parts were purposefully limited in number, helping the MAT-49 achieve some noticeable longevity during its lengthy decades-long tenure. The receiver was rectangular and housed the major internal working components of the weapon. The angular pistol grip (with its plastic furniture) and trigger unit resided under and to the rear of the body. The butt was of a retractable wire (not unlike the American World War 2-era M3 "Grease Gun") and held a flat end suitable for positioning against the shoulder for accurized fire. When the wire butt was fully collapsed against the receiver, the MAT-49 user enjoyed a shorter, more handy overall design. There was a noticeable safety component built into the backside of the pistol grip. The magazine was inserted into the lower forward portion of the body to which the magazine housing itself could pivot forward along a hinge. This feature further lessened the overall size of the weapon for carrying and concealment and was known as the "safe position" when cully collapsed. The magazine of the MAT-49 was oft-noted for its association with the British Sten magazines of World War 2 fame while the housing itself also doubled as the foregrip. The trigger was a large, solid component and protected by an integrated trigger ring. The barrel resided within a ventilated casing and extended a small portion away from the receiver. The muzzle was capped by a tunnel foresight to compliment the rear "flip-up" sight, the latter situated along the top aft-end of the receiver. The cylindrical cocking handle was positioned along the left side of the gun body.
In the Vietnam conflict, the North Vietnamese took on the surplus MAT-49s left behind by the retreating French Army and modified them to fire the Soviet 7.62x25mm Tokarev cartridge - understandable since the round was much more readily available throughout the region than was the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge. These weapon systems could now be identified by their longer (35-round) curved magazine. They also offer up an improved rate-of-fire nearing 900 rounds per minute over the 600 rounds per minute of the French original.
The MAT-49/54 appeared in 1954 as a modified form of the original MAT-49. This version was developed for police forces and was differentiated by its use of a double-trigger design (for full-automatic and single-shot fire). An angled fixed solid wooden buttstock and longer barrel (with a longer vented housing) also greeted the new design.