Mitraillette Vigneron Submachine Gun (SMG)
The Vigneron submachine gun appeared with the Belgian Army in 1953 and was subsequently used in Africa in quantity.
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The Mitraillette Vigneron was born in post-World War 2 Belgium Army requirement for an indigenous and modern submachine gun. After the war, the rebuilding Belgian Army relied heavily on foreign stocks of weapons, principally of American and British origin for the most part. After testing of several designs, Belgian authorities selected an indigenous design to be known as the "Vigneron M1". The weapon was designed under the direction of former Belgian Colonel Georges Vigneron (hence the weapon's name) and chambered for the universally accepted 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge firing from a 32-round
"MP40 style" straight detachable box magazine (as such the weapon could make use of war-time MP40 ammunition stocks). After formal developmental trials, the weapon was accepted into service in 1953, becoming the standard-issue submachine gun of the Belgian Army.
Design of the Vigneron was relatively straightforward and borrowed much of the appearance of war-time designs such as the American M3 "Grease Gun" and French MAS38 submachine guns. The firing action relied on the blowback principle to which a rate-of-fire of 620 rounds per minute could be achieved, spent 9mm casings being ejected out of the right side of the receiver. Effective range was out to 100 meters and sighting was accomplished through fixed iron sights found at the rear of the receiver and at the muzzle. The charging handle was set to the left side of the weapon. The upper receiver was tubular in its general shape, attached to a squared-off lower receiver section. The stock consisted of a single-piece wire system forming two struts mounted to either side of the receiver. The stock was curved at the shoulder end for some comfort when firing. A selector switch was set near the pistol grip which itself was integrated to a solid trigger unit. Magazines were inserted ahead of the trigger unit in a typical fashion. Loops at the rear and front of the receiver allowed for use of a shoulder sling. The barrel was finned near its base for some basic cooling while the muzzle was perforated along the top facing. Construction was of stamped sheet metal while the grip frame was of plastic. The selector switch allowed the operator to manage a safety and semi-automatic and full-automatic modes of fire. Full-automatic fire was generally less accurate for obvious reasons, ultimately requiring semi-automatic fire at ranged targets to be the norm. As the Vigneron was principally a short-range weapon, this was negligible. A safety mechanism was also built into the grip.
The Vigeron M1 model series was produced until 1954 to which an improved form - the Vigneron M2 - was introduced. This included a reinforced dust cover over the ejection port, a revised rear sight (notched installation from the original peep sight) and a protector for the forward sight placement.
The Vigneron series of submachine guns endured operational service up until the 1980s. All production was held on Belgian soil through SAPL in Herstal, the Liege State Arsenal and the Brussels-based AFEM concern. Operators went on to include Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Portugal. In Portuguese Army service, the Vigneron was known as the "Pistola Metralhadora Vigneron M/961".