Weird Magazines, Vol. V: The Vesely Submachine Guns

    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. He can be reached via email at [email protected]


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