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MAT 49: Iconic SMG of Algeria and Indochina


Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian McCollum, and today we’re going to take a look at a really interesting French submachine gun. This is the MAT 49, and it’s a pretty iconic machine gun of, well, pretty much, … every war France has fought since World War Two. These saw extensive use in Algeria, in Indochina, and in all of the other hosts of small conflicts that the French have been involved in. Now this was developed after World War Two. Of course before World War Two the French had the MAS 38 submachine gun, which was an excellent gun that was kind of handicapped by the cartridge that it used. The MAS 38 used the 7.65 French Long cartridge, which is kind of in this grey zone between .32 and .380. Not necessarily a bad cartridge,
but considered underpowered and it definitely wasn’t standardised in
the way that 9mm Parabellum was. So after World War Two the French military had some pretty
large supplies of a variety of different submachine guns. They had MP40s that they’d taken from the
Germans, they had a bunch of Lend-Lease war aid guns from the United States, they
had Thompsons, they had Grease Guns. And they decided that, while they had a lot of guns
available, they wanted to standardise on something, and for a couple of reasons
they wanted it to be French made. So of course one of those was simple national pride. If the military is going to be equipped with something
new, it ought to be something made in France. And as a secondary consideration they also wanted
to give some of the French arsenals some business, just to keep them going economically,
make sure that the workers stayed employed. You didn’t want to lose your
experienced workforce in the arsenals. So they set up a trials program, and in 1948 four
different arsenals or companies submitted guns. So all three of the major French arsenals,
Tulle, Châtellerault and Saint-Étienne, and then the Hotchkiss company
also submitted a gun to the trials. There were extensive trials done. In fact some of these 1948
pattern guns actually did see field service on small scales. The Hotchkiss contender, by the way, was the Hotchkiss
Universal which, because Hotchkiss was a private company, after it failed to win the French military
contract they did actually continued to try and promote the gun commercially,
which the … French arsenals did not do. At any rate, the gun from
Tulle ended up winning the trials and was adopted as the MAT
(Manufacture d’Armes de Tulle) 49 in 1949. Pretty much immediately went into
production and would stay in production until 1979. So the gun itself, it’s in 9mm
Parabellum and in many ways it’s like a product improved Grease Gun. It really
does take a lot of cues from the Grease Gun. So let’s take a closer look at this, and I’ll show you how it
comes apart and a few of the weird features that it has. So the lineage here to the Grease
Gun is really kind of visibly evident. This is a heavy gauge basically
stamped sheet metal weapon. In particular the lower assembly here is all stamped,
the top is square instead of round like a Grease Gun, but you can clearly see the lineage of the stock. It’s interesting to note that where the Grease Gun stock
actually has a loading tool, the French didn’t put that in, which seems a little bit curious, but. Got a heavy gauge barrel shroud on the front. One of the distinctive elements of
this is that it has a folding magazine well. So for transport or storage or for
safety’s sake potentially you can flip this up. We have really markings only on the top. These were initially produced at the Tulle Arsenal,
although that did change later on to Saint-Étienne. But this is one of the earlier guns made at Tulle. So we have the whole arsenal up
there, Model 1949 and a serial number. That serial number is repeated on the back of
this assembly, this is actually the lower assembly, and so there’re only two main parts of the weapon
and the serial number is located on both of them. The controls are quite straightforward.
There is a button here, which locks the stock. So push that button in and
then you can extend the stock. You have two different positions there, and
then push it again and you can retract the stock. In order to fold the magazine well up there’s a big
latch back here. So push that and the mag well folds. Once it’s in position, there is actually a
little catch right here that locks onto the barrel, like so and that locks it in the upward
position. In order to release the magazine well you don’t have to do anything with the lever
back here, all you have to do is push that button in and drop the mag well down. The magazine release is located on the bottom of the
mag well, push that in, and the magazine comes out. The magazine is also heavily influenced by the
Grease Gun and in progressive line by the Sten gun. You can see this reinforced upper assembly,
very reminiscent of a standard Grease Gun mag. These are pretty easily identifiable by
the stop catches here on the bottom. This is a 32 round magazine and, like the Sten and the
Grease Gun, it is a double stack, single feed magazine. So this is a bit difficult to load without a tool, which makes it a little bit odd again
that they didn’t include the tool on the buttstock like the Grease Gun did.
They did also make a 20 round magazine which is… basically it’s the same length,
but it’s got some detent ribs in the body. And the idea, if I understand correctly, I don’t have
one to actually look at, but I believe that was a dedicated single stack magazine. So that,
in theory, it was a little less susceptible to sand getting into the mag body because there wasn’t
this double stack configuration that you had to deal with. So really the standard magazine that was used however was
32 rounds right here. 32 rounds of course comes because ammunition was packaged in 8 round increments
to account for eight round magazine capacities in pistols, both old captured German
pistols and the French MAC 50 pistol. Going back to the controls for a
moment, we have a dust cover here that snaps in place on the side of the gun.
That automatically opens when you rack the bolt. The charging handle is on this side. It is non-
reciprocating, but it is also not spring-loaded. So when you charge the bolt, you then
push the charging handle back forward. Continuing a grand tradition from French semi-auto
rifles there is no manual safety on the MAT 49. All it has is a grip safety, and
we’ll take a look at this inside, but what’s kind of interesting is the grip safety
actually doesn’t stop the trigger from moving. What I have done right now is sort of jammed
the gun by pulling the trigger without having the grip safety engaged. So in order to fix
that I just pull the bolt back and re-cock it. What this grip safety does is lock the bolt
either in the forward or the rearward position. So in order to take a closer look at that,
we actually need to take the gun apart. Oh, one last thing to look at are the sights. The rear sight is an aperture. It’s 100 [metres]
or flip it up for 200 yards or, I’m sorry, 200 metres. Something I have noticed with a lot of French, well specifically French submachine guns,
the Hotchkiss Universal, this and the MAS 38 all is that the sights are actually
remarkably low on the gun. This is the easiest of them to use so far in my experience, but you kind of have to cram your face down
on these things more than you might expect. The front sight is a nice wide post protected with
an integral hood. Pretty simple, pretty basic there. The front sling attachment on
this is kind of a unique thing. It is just this round pin that’s run through the front
sight block there. It can pivot from side to side. And the sling itself just has a very simple clip hook on it and attaches like so. Nothing complicated there, just an interesting
system that I haven’t seen elsewhere. And then on the back end of the gun the
sling just clips over this bar on the stock, like so. Now to take this thing apart we’re going to start
by dropping the bolt to relieve spring tension, so I’m just going to hold on to that, depress the grip safety, depress
the trigger, let the bolt forward. Then I have to fold the magazine well
part way up, and there is a button right here. Hook your thumb behind in the
trigger guard, push this button in, and you unlock the upper and lower halves of the gun. And then just pull the top assembly off. There’s the bottom assembly. We
can then pull out the recoil spring, The bolt slides out the back, and
the charging handle comes out. And that’s it. As you can really see from this,
well, field stripping process, the thing that the MAT 49 is really particularly
best known for is simple sheer durability. This is a beast of a gun. It’s really
pretty much a soldier proof gun. It’s heavy, this thing weighs in at about 8 pounds
empty, 3.6 kilograms, and 9.4 pounds loaded, 4.7 kilos. So especially compared to the earlier MAS 38
it’s a much heavier gun, but it just always works. And that’s primarily what led soldiers to really
appreciate this thing. It may not be super comfortable, you know, it’s got a wire frame
stock. That isn’t like a wood stock, not as nice to use. This does
have some issues in cold weather, the stock’s gonna be cold on your face in cold weather. The hand guards can be really quite cold to handle
in arctic conditions if you don’t have gloves on. And at the same time this barrel shroud, while helpful,
doesn’t prevent the thing from getting pretty darn hot if you’re doing a lot of shooting. This whole thing
would get really quite toasty hot out in the desert, which is one place where the
French used them quite a lot. So there are a lot of details about
this gun that you could complain about, but overall the fact that it just always
worked really endeared it to French soldiers, and honestly to everyone else
who managed to capture them. I should mention the Vietnamese had a habit of
capturing these and converting them to 7.62 Tokarev and used them in reasonably
substantial numbers in that format. So the main operating bits here are of course the bolt.
The bolt rides on a single recoil spring guide rod like so. This doesn’t have any specific points
in the receiver that it physically locks into, but it does hold itself in contact with the front of
the receiver, up here. The back of this section is open. You can see the point there where
the back of the recoil spring guide sits. Right like so, and this guide helps
… reduce wear in the receiver itself because the bolt’s not really running on
the receiver, it’s running on this guide rod. With the MAT 49 the French took really an
extra step in addressing some safety issues that a lot of other submachine
guns didn’t bother with. And maybe a step that wasn’t necessary,
but it’s pretty interesting regardless. You’ll notice that the bolt face protrudes substantially
forward like, what, 20mm, a good half an inch or more from the face of the bolt body itself. It’s a little bit difficult to give you a really
good view here, but if we look at the back end of the barrel, you can see that the barrel
is also recessed inside the back of the receiver. It means that when the bolt is actually
firing, before the bolt’s fully seated like so, the cartridge is fully enclosed
in this extension in the trunnion. And so the reason for this is if
there is an out of battery detonation. If the cartridge detonates early when it’s being
chambered. For example if it hits some sort of small obstruction or something in the chamber, and stops.
Well the bolt has a fixed firing pin on it, and so as soon as the bolt has enough force against
the primer of the cartridge it will fire. Well if it fires, normally you’d have it blow gas and debris
out the side of the ejection port which can be hazardous. With the MAT 49 that’s actually contained within the trunnion.
And there are two holes here like you can see they go clear through. Those holes on either side of the upper
receiver lead into that area in the chamber, and those are vent holes. So if there is an out of
battery detonation, it will vent out these two holes. It will not damage the gun, it will presumably not
damage the shooter, and it will safely contain the event. That’s pretty cool, that’s something that you
don’t really see in any other submachine guns. And very interestingly, that very serious approach to
safety really isn’t duplicated down in the fire control group. So we have a grip safety and a trigger, and you’ll notice
that the safety doesn’t do anything with the trigger. I can pull the trigger (which is a
very simple trigger, it’s full-auto only, there is no semi-auto option on the MAT 49),
pull the trigger, sear drops, gun fires. The safety is this tab. When you
depress the safety the tab goes down. And all that’s doing is holding the bolt
in place, so when the bolt is rearward that tab hits the face of the bolt like
that, prevents it from going forward. That’s why – you saw when when I had the bolt back
and I pulled the trigger without dropping the safety, the bolt actually dropped from its sear engagement slot,
here, and kind of jammed up onto the safety tab here. When you depress the grip safety, that’s out
of the way, the bolt can freely travel forward. And then when the bolt is in the forward position and the
grip safety is released, that prevents the bolt from coming back. So this really does all the work that you
would need of a safety on a submachine gun. It does mean you don’t want to carry this thing around cocked and
with the grip safety depressed unless you’re actually ready to fire. But in general it’s a pretty practical system. Reassembly is just as simple as disassembly. We’ll
start with the bolt handle, put that in push it forward, drop the bolt in, push it forward,
put the recoil spring in, push it forward. And then we’re … gonna
pull the magazine well down slightly, drop that in right there, depress it
against its spring, drop the button, pull the stock out, depress the grip safety,
and the gun’s ready to go. Note that here when I don’t have the
grip safety depressed, I can’t open the bolt. This is of course an open bolt gun,
I should have mentioned that earlier. And, of course, the dust cover pops open automatically when you fire. There was also a second version
of this gun made, the MAT 49/54, specifically for the Gendarmerie, the
police, the Metropolitan Police in France. Their version actually had a wooden stock because they didn’t
care about having it compact for paratroopers or vehicle crews. It also had a longer barrel because, again, they didn’t care
about keeping it compact for paratroopers and vehicle crews. As a gun for policemen on the beat, those
two factors both made the guns easier to shoot, practically speaking made them more accurate and more
comfortable to shoot as well with the wooden stock. So those are out there as well, … neither of
them is really particularly common in the US. Production of these ended in 1979 with about
700,000 of them made, really quite a large number, because in 1979 the French adopted the FAMAS. And the
idea behind the FAMAS was that it was a bullpup assault rifle, and it was intended to replace both the standard
combat rifle, the MAS 49/56 and the submachine gun. The theory was, and this was kind of
the universal theory with bullpup rifles, is that it had the power and barrel
length of a rifle and could thus do that job. But it was also a very compact style of design
and could take over the job of the submachine gun. Now, that doesn’t really turn out to have been the case, and for that reason there aren’t a lot of
countries that are adopting new bullpup rifles now. But that was the idea, and that’s what
ultimately put the MAT 49 out of production, it’s been replaced by the FAMAS.
Now you might think that with 700,000 of them made they’d be
fairly ubiquitous and easy to find. That’s definitely not the case.
As with many French military weapons, the French government never really had any
incentive or desire to sell these on the open market. So they didn’t really do any marketing to try
and sell them to other major military powers. They were used by a bunch of countries, mostly
small countries that had connections to France from the colonial days, so you’ll see them
in a lot of African countries in particular. But they were never sold in large numbers, the way, say, the
Americans sold Thompsons and exported Grease Guns. A lot of American and a lot of obviously
Soviet bloc guns really got around. French stuff? Never really got around.
And when the French were done using it they either gave it as military aid to one of these other
smaller countries, or they just outright destroyed it. So as a result MAT 49s are really pretty
uncommon guns to run across in the United States. Really the only batch of them, the only group of MAT 49s we
have, are those that came back as war trophies from Vietnam. So in order for that to have happened the
gun had to be taken there by a French soldier, captured by the Vietnamese, and then
recaptured from the Vietnamese by the Americans and then brought home. That’s pretty much
the story for all of the MAT 49s in the US. Anyway, a big thank you to the owner of
this gun for letting us take a look at it today. Hopefully you enjoyed the video, stay tuned
for another cool Forgotten Weapon tomorrow. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “MAT 49: Iconic SMG of Algeria and Indochina

  1. In the game Rising storm 2 (Red orchestra 3 in a way) Set to the vietnam war, you can choose between Vietcong version and French version. do you know what is the differances?

  2. Very interesting, i'm french and did not even know a thing about this gun.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us sir!

  3. I had a demil MAT 49. The trunion is spot welded (8 visible rectangular spots). After exam, It came out that 3 of these welding spots had not penetrated at all!. poor QC !

  4. Also used by french Police forces until 2000's, was one of SMG (Pistolet Mitrailleur in french acronym PM) official dotation for interior security, second one was Beretta M12SD made under License by Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne and there were MP5 too. Police version was the same as the model you show here. As always great documented video,appreciate a lot, thank you.

  5. Got to use one of thies and the F1 when we trained with the legion back in the 80's decent weapons with badass motherfuckers attached to the triggers.

  6. There's NO WAY this POS gun is better than the German MP40. Mat49 is a doofus of a gun—heavy, bad ergonomics, and probably NOT more reliable than the MP40, and i'm sure inferior accuracy.

  7. I do not dislike the fact that they destroyed much of their old weaponry, selling them would have been like pouring oil into the fires France had been trying to put out.

    It sounds like the responsible thing to do, really.

  8. Thanks for your contribution. Now, regarding lesser known weapons.Have you done a video on “Suomi Konepistooli” used during the Finnish-Soviet Winter & Continuation War 1938-1944. Also, What is “Grease gun?” Bangkok -Johnnie CarSanook Media THAILAND

  9. I have used it during my basic training in the navy back in the early nineties. This SMG was a bit challenging for a first timer. We had a short demonstration of "do's and dont" on the shooting range. (The weapon instruction in the classroom was made with the MAS 49/56). You had to remember the safety procedure and we were something like 150 men and women to shoot our 2, 32 rounds magazine. One woman made a mistake loading the cartridge pushing the grip safety and pulling the trigger at the same time. The instructor had managed to keep the weapon in line with the firing range but it was close to an accident. The gun was also known to keep firing when it was very hot even if you stopped pulling the trigger. We kept it in the navy during the nineties and it was finally replaced in the early 2000 by the FAMAS G1.

  10. Go figure they stole the german and american design but ignored important thing, like safety and loading tool, french pride..arrogance.

  11. "You didn´t want to lose your experienced workforce"…that thought seems to have gone out the window in recent years.. *sigh*…we´re gonne make it so much more efficient nowadays….

  12. Extensively used in all wars Frech lost since the epic failed WWW II: Algerie, Indochine (later Vietnam)…

  13. Shot those on cross-training with the French back in the early 80s. Heavy as f**k, but practically impossible to jam. The stock not being comfortable compared to a wooden stock didn't really matter, as it was tactically used for point shooting short bursts…

  14. FFA veteran, It was my weapon, during my military service in the 12th regiment of Cuirassier, French Regiment of tank AMX 30, in 1980-81. A rudimentary weapon, 9 mm para, the accuracy, ok up to 75 m Often incidents of shooting, containment. not good at all, for the fight of more than 50 m.And later, when we received our Famas 5.56×45 caliber A clear improvement, but a very sensitive weapon, delicate, problem of aiming, disturbance of the aim is a shock. On the other hand, in some special units we plane SIG 550, like the Swiss army, super accurate to 300m, we put everything in a circle of 30 cm and 600 m all in a circle of 50 cm. But France does not have enough money to equip its army with good weapons. Although since 2017 a part of the French army receive H & K 416, a very good weapon to do everything, myself I have one, since I live in Switzerland, where the weapons are part of the national sport

  15. I think that grip safety is inherently flawed. If you pull the trigger for some reason without the grip safety fully engaged I can see how someone may instinctively grab the grip at that point or shortly after. Even though they probably had their finger off the trigger at that point, the gun would fire just by grabbing the grip safety since in that condition the grip safety is no longer a safety – its a trigger. This probably isn't much of a practical problem since most of the time most people only squeeze triggers when they're trying to fire a gun anyways but as a safety design thats just not good.

  16. Say you pulled the trigger without depressing the grip safety first.  Is it possible to fire the gun by squeezing the grip safety hard enough to move it out of the way of the bolt?

  17. Ian, I know you probably won't respond to this knowing how extremely busy you are all the time, and that's okay I understand! But please peek my curiosity, why are French, South African, and Australian weapons so peculiar and weird, but work so wonderfully? Thank you if you get the time!

  18. Something I've always wondered about the MAT49 and hope someone might know. If you pull the trigger without the grip safety depressed and it jams up the bolt, is it then possible with a hard squeeze to the grip safety to drop the bolt?

  19. The main "flaw" id say is that it looks like the trigger can be pulled, & then the grip safety can be used to fire it unintentionally

  20. "no one is really adopting new bulpups today"…. weeeeeelllll no one is really developing them is more the truth……. because the ones currently militarily available and commercially available have been kept up to modern standards…. some nations are still adopting the AUG because when it come out it was modern and has continually been upgraded to keep being modern…. and the tavor was and is modern…. other nations just keep remaking and trying to improve stuff that has already hit its highest level…..

  21. I wish Americans felt that way, to there cars, clothes, Electronics, ECT… The fact that they don't, is causing the death of the American middle class

  22. Pretty sure Aeon Flux used something like this in the original 'Aeon Flux' series that was on Liquid Television in the early '90s.

  23. one of my friends shooted all the target until 200 m he shooted my target I had a Mas 49 also I shooted ever twice the target of the Sniper of the platoon , We wre ever the best platoon of the régiment , the mat 49 is very good if you dont need to fight ever drivers loved it and that is a good hammer

  24. Was a very pleasant little thing to shoot. Not very powerful because the heavy bolt would adsorb most of its punch and the side sear ( cran de l'armée ) was too thin and sometimes would break ( I've been there … ), spraying around what was left in the magazine. But a nice little thing indeed, all things considered.

  25. you forgot that the barrel will retract back into the receiver as well . This weapon was designed for paratrooper and tanker use primarily but by the time the french were in Vietnam every one used them . the Vietcong loved them as they could hide them well so they could sub-prize you … love your reports and just wanted to give you the skinny on the Mat Mate

  26. Apparently I've seen this video before (youtube informs me at least), but I've no memory of it. @11:55 Ian uses metric, "20mm", before imperial units. Warmed the cockles of my heart. BTW: Ian, thank you for always converting things to SI units for us. While we still use imperial units for ppl's weights and height in Canada + many years as a scientist … I just don't have a good mental map for "1/X" of an inch and such.

  27. A real good weapon. A very interesting review. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Greetings from Peru.

  28. My grandpa used this in the Algeria war. We’re French/Spanish and we are what we call “Pieds Noirs”. Thank you for this video Gun Jesus

  29. My father in law (89 year old in 2019) was a young paratrooper in Indochina & Algeria & used that gun a lot. He told me that one shouldn't put more than 15 cartridges to avoid blocking 🙁

  30. I really like these type sub-machine guns. If any firearms could persuade me to go through all the red-tape of legally owning a full-auto firearm, it would be to have a chance to own one of these utilitarian 2nd generation sub-machine guns from WWII or the immediate post-war era. My preferred on would be the Swedish K Carl Gustav, but the MAT 49 would be a good addition to any firearms collection.

  31. Wait… that rear sight is awfully familiar.

    I have an aftermarket enlarged variation of the same pattern for my M1 Carbine. Makes the carbine a hell of a lot nicer to shoot.

  32. MAT 49 is seen quite a lot in Day of the Jackal.

    http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Jackal,_The#MAT-49

  33. Wait, is this gun not known for being used by the Vietnamese in the Vietnam war? That's the only thing I think about when thinking about this gun.

  34. "MAT" means : "Manufacture Arms of Tulle" ( Tulle is the city where it was designed
    and made). For the "MAS 36" rifle , "MAS" means the same thing , but this time ,
    made in the city of "Saint-Etienne" (as for the FAMAS). For the "MAC" 50 pistol ,
    that means it was made in the city of Châtellerault.
    For the collectors now , some Mosin Nagant rifles were for instance made in
    Châtellerault's factory..
    Greetings from France

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