The Vesely Machine Carbine (aka V-41, V-42, and V-43) was a submachine gun designed in Britain by a Czech refugee named Josef Vesely. In most respects, the Vesely was a typical subgun, firing 9mm Parabellem cartridges and using a simple blowback mechanism. It offered a selector for semi and full automatic modes, a manual safety, and 900 or 1000 rpm rate of fire (depending on how the bolt was configured). The sights had three settings, for 100, 200, and 300 yards. The standout feature of Vesely’s gun is its magazine, which is a double-column 60-round affair.
This magazine appears to fit a rifle cartridge, until you look at the follower. In fact, it holds two full columns of 9mm pistol cartridges, one behind the other. The front column holds 31 rounds and the rear column holds 29, for a total of 60 rounds capacity per magazine. The magazine well contains a clever mechanism which holds the rear column of rounds depressed below the travel of the bolt until the front column is empty. At that point, the interlock lever is released, allowing the ammo in the rear column to rise into the bolt’s path and feed the gun.
You can find more drawings and a detailed description of how this system worked in the three patents awarded to Josef Vesely (all three are available for free download below).
In addition to a standard model (the V-41 and V-42), a version was also designed specifically for paratroopers. The stand V-42 disassembled by removing the buttstock only, leaving the barrel and receiver as a single unit. This was too large for convenient paratroop use, and the buttstock had a tube which the receiver nested in, and this tube was too fragile for rough handling when the gun was disassembled. That would not normally be an issue, but it wasn’t suitable for strapping into a drop bag and jumping out of an airplane with. Instead, the paratroop version (the V-43) used a set of locking tabs to allow easy removal of the buttstock without any fragile bits being exposed, and also had an interrupted thread to allow the barrel and shroud to be easily removed from the receiver. Along with the gun, a special pack was developed to house the three gun components and three magazines.
The Vesely also included a bayonet mount on the muzzle for a simple spike bayonet. When not needed, the bayonet could be mounted in reverse on top of the barrel shroud for convenient storage.
All in all, the gun seems to have been well thought out and well built. It was not adopted into British (or anyone else’s) service, though – probably because it didn’t ultimately offer very much more than the Sten, which was already in use and significantly cheaper to manufacture.
We have a bunch of documentation on the Vesely, including two technical reports, a full-on operator’s manual complete with a bunch of disassembled photos, and three patents awarded to Josef Vesely describing the gun and in particular the unique magazine and feed system. Interestingly, our two reports are identical in text, but one calls the gun the V-41 and the other calls it the V-42. Presumably this is simply a paperwork change, as there do not appear to have been any changed to the gun between the two. You can download all of these documents from the Vesely V-42 page in the Vault
(Note that these patents were applied for in 1942 and 1943, and granted on the dates listed)
US Patent 2,383,998 (Josef Vesely, “Magazine for Firearms”, September 4, 1945)
US Patent 2,399,900 (J. Vesely, “Firearm”, May 7, 1946)
US Patent 2,391,756 (Josef Vesely, “Magazine for Firearms”, December 25, 1945)
Courtesy of the UK MoD, we were able to handle a V-42 and take a handful of photos (click here to download them all in a high-res zip archive):