Weird Magazines, Vol. V: The Vesely Submachine Guns

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For this fifth installment of our series on unusual, strange, or remarkable magazines, we’ll be talking about a Czech weapon designed in Britain in the 1940s for the war effort against Nazi Germany. Joseph Vesely was a Czech migrant to the UK in the late 1930s, with most sources having him fleeing the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in early 1939. During and after the so-called “Phony War”, the British were looking to re-arm with new weapons, including submachine guns, having purchased over a hundred thousand .45 caliber Thompson submachine guns from the American concern Auto-Ordnance, and having copied the German MP.28 submachine gun as the Lanchester. Vesely approached the British Ordnance Board with blueprints of a new weapon which utilized a tandem column magazine of 64 cartridges (initially) of 9mm Parabellum. At the end of this post I will provide resources for our readers to learn more about the Vesely submachine gun designs, but the primary interest of this post is the magazine system itself, and how it worked.

Vesely V40

The Vesely V-40 blueprint, primary plate. Image source: The Vesely V-40 blueprint, available in the Small Arms Review archive courtesy of the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

The magazine uses two rows of 9mm ammunition in staggered, double-stacked configuration. When the front stack of the magazine is full, a spring-loaded lever in the side of the receiver depresses the rear stack, allowing the bolt to bypass the rear stack and feed from the front. When the bolt retracts and ejects the last case fired from the front stack, the front follower rises into position and cams the lever out of the way, allowing the rear stack to rise, and the bolt to feed from it. This gave the weapon a great capacity for uninterrupted fire, while still maintaining a magazine of reasonable design and profile that could be loaded by a human unaided.

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A plate from the original V-40 blueprint, presented to the Ordnance Board in late 1940. The follower of the front magazine interacts with a lever, allowing the rear cartridge stack to rise into position. Note the two-position feed magazine. Image source: The Vesely V-40 blueprint, available in the Small Arms Review archive courtesy of the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

Four basic models of Vesely appear to have been made. The initial model was the V-40, with a 64 round tandem double column magazine.The V-41 was a lightened, simplified version of the original, with the major change of using two right-side-only-feed tandem 30-round columns with total capacity of 60 rounds, instead of two two-position feed 32-round columns like the V-40. The V-42 apparently added more protected military sights, as well as a folding integral bayonet, while the concurrent V-43 paratroop model featured a mechanism, resulting in three compact pieces (buttstock, barrel, receiver) for stowage.

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The Vesely V-43, broken down into its three components. This system made for a very compact package for paratroop and vehicle use. Note the folded bayonet on top of the barrel shroud. Image source: Image source: The Vesely V-42 and V-43 manual, available in the Small Arms Review archive courtesy of the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

Below I have linked some resources on the Vesely submachine guns, for further reading:

Firearms.96’s page on the Veselys
Forgotten Weapons’ article on the Veselys
The Zonwar.ru page on the V-42
Vesely V-42 manual at Small Arms Review
The V-42 brochure at Small Arms Review
V-41 brochure at Small Arms Review
V-40 blueprints (part 1) at Small Arms Review
V-40 blueprints (part 2) at Small Arms Review
V-41 blueprints at Small Arms Review

You can also read the previous installments of Weird Magazines by clicking the links below:

Weird Magazines, Vol. I: The Kottas Magazine System
Weird Magazines, Vol. II: The Hill Submachine Gun
Weird Magazines, Vol. III: The Heckler & Koch Transverse SMG I Mag
Weird Magazines, Vol. IV: The ZB-47



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Andy B

    That is damn nifty looking.

  • Mike

    Magpul, are you reading this??????????/

    • Magpul

      Thanks for asking.
      As we can suppose you expect us to utilise this system in your future product?
      Here is the hint — we would.

      • Kelly Jackson

        I bet it would work better than your Glock magazines, just sayin…

      • Kivaari

        I’d just as soon change magazines. Cheaper and less likely to go fritz.

      • Mike

        How about larger capacity glock mags. same size as the 22 round .40 mags but in 9mm. Should hold about 25 rounds. The 33 round mags are too big

    • BattleshipGrey

      To fit in a 9mm AR?

      • iksnilol

        Why not, magwell is long enough I believe?

    • Hexmang

      We have a working triple stack magazine, get ready for SHOT 2016.

  • MPWS

    This is definitely an ingenious design although it involves other utility in form of “order of fire levers” attached to receiver.

    It may have been discussed here before, but I like to bring attention to an alternate idea which does not require any additional implements and solves all of arrangement inside its quad magazine – Italian/ Swiss Spectre M4. This is one unique piece since it allows for loaded shot to be carried safely and fired on demand by double-action trigger mechanism. It can be carried and fired from beneath clothing.

  • mechamaster

    Nice food of thought…

    I Imagine something like modified STANAG 5,56 magazine, to load 60-plus rounds of .380 ACP… ( with Upper AR receiver dedicated for this magazine )

    Note = Overall lenght of 5,56x45mm is ± 57mm.
    Overall lenght of .380ACP is ± 25mm.

    Overall lenght of 9mm Para is ± 30mm. ( it’s doesnt fit except slighty modified projectile to fit the stanag magazine.. )

    • Riot

      I think 40 S&W or 357 sig would be pushing the limit on length.

      • mechamaster

        Yes, but the rim diameter of .357 SIG and .40 S&W is slightly larger than 9mm Para or .380 ACP.

        Slightly less ammo capacity when stacked in STANAG magazine,

        but the total lenght is fit although the 357 SIG need to slightly trim the projectile tip to add some tolerance.

        Maybe the .22TCM9R with shortened bullet head will nice ( overall lenght maintained in ± 27 – 28 mm )
        ( Just for a little imagination of course . ^_^ )

    • Southpaw89

      Hadn’t thought of using this in an AR, that would have the advantage of allowing for experimentation with the concept while not having to design a whole new platform, although I have some doubts as to how it would perform when dirty, but it would sure be fun to try.

    • iksnilol

      What about the angle? Two .380 rounds in front of eachother is going to be a different angle than the single 5.56 round.

      • mechamaster

        ( maybe ) with some angled follower or something. ^^

  • Anonymoose

    I need one. 😮

  • Edeco

    Appears to require long bolt travel and the rear cartridges to take a little scenic road trip before getting to the chamber. So if anything goes wrong, I could picture kinds of jams that are otherwise undreamed-of (a rear-stack cartridge up-ending in the front mag area etc).

    Still, double ammo capacity with only, well, that amount of increased weight/size… I could see it being a good deal.

  • Frank

    Was the system error prone or did it work rather well?

  • gunsandrockets

    fascinating system

    however, in terms of modern applications I think something like the 9mm belt-fed AR upper is more practical and probably more reliable too

  • roguetechie

    Nathaniel,
    as always you have put together an awesome and thought provoking article.

  • noob

    The second V-40 blueprint shows that the lever that rotates into position to hold down the rear bullet stack relies on the topmost bullet in the rear column is on the right. That means troops would need to be trained to always load an even number of rounds even if they are underloading the weapon to avoid spring problems.

    Here’s a thought for a range toy – instead of double column magazines organised for and aft like this, make them quad stack magazines like the surefires.

    I wonder what 120rds of 22TCM9R would be like on full auto. Would it feel like a pocket light machine gun at ranges of less than 100m?

    • You will note they rectified this with the later single-position magazine.

  • This would be one cool PCC if they were to make one today.

  • nova3930

    like the design articles like this. as an engineer the mechanical design of firearms is what originally interested me in them…

  • Kivaari

    It’s a good looking carbine. That with a 30 round functioning magazine would be alright to have. It would likely fail in the market place, like all the other pistol caliber carbines. Although I personally had NFA Uzi’s and HK’s. I like ’em, but the $200 tax and initial cost has made them much less attractive. SOGs SBR is a nice gun, if it were half the price.

  • Amanofdragons

    I was just thinking of something like this.

  • iksnilol

    Do this in 5.56 with quad stack magazines.

    Or just do it with quad stack mags in general. Could be a reasonably compact way to get 100 rounds (especially in 9mm).

    • mechamaster

      If this available in 5,56 x 45.. the shape is like the APS rifle magazine. ^^

      • iksnilol

        Perfect! The mag pouches already exist 😛

  • Jean Luc Picard

    This system is very interesting, I saw this already on the springfield SPIW.
    I see how the SPIW ended up to have the same mag system, I wonder if any other weapon uses the same system aside of these two. Quite interesting to see at least two weapons having the same system 🙂