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In 1949, after evaluating several prototypes (including a collapsible design from Hotchkiss), the French MAT factory began production of the MAT-49 9 mm submachine gun. The MAT-49 used a machine stamping process which allowed the economical production of large numbers of submachine guns, then urgently required by the French Government for use by Army, French Foreign Legion as well as airborne and colonial forces to meet the need of a compact weapon.
Production continued at Tulle until the mid-1960s, then switched to the Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne plant (MAS), where the weapon was produced until 1979. In that same year, the French armed forces adopted the FAMAS 5.56 mm NATO assault rifle, and the MAT-49 was gradually phased out of service.
The MAT-49 saw widespread combat use during the First Indochina War and the Algerian War, as well as the 1956 Suez Crisis. The weapon found considerable favor with airborne and mechanized troops, who prized it for its simplicity, ruggedness, firepower and compactness.
After French forces left Indochina, the People's Army of Vietnam and Viet Minh converted many captured MAT-49s to the Soviet 7.62 mm Tokarev pistol cartridge, then available in large quantities from the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. These converted versions could be distinguished by a longer barrel and a higher rate of fire at 900 rpm.
North Vietnam covertly provided MAT-49s to anti-French occupation groups during the Algerian War after the French left Indochina.
The MAT-49 had a short, retractable wire stock, which when extended gave the weapon a length of 720 mm (28 in), and the magazine well and magazine could be folded forward parallel to the barrel for parachute jump or with a 45° angle hence allowing a safe carry until the magazine well is brought back to vertical position before opening fire. Barrel length is 230 mm (9.1 in), with the MAT-49/54 manufactured with extended barrels and non-retractable wooden stocks. As issued, the MAT-49 fires a 9×19mm Parabellum cartridge, using a single-column 20-round magazine for desert use or 32-round similar to the Sten magazine.
The MAT-49 is blowback-operated and box magazine-fed, with a rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute on full auto. The MAT 49/54, a modified MAT-49s manufactured for police forces, had two triggers, allowing use of full-auto fire or single shots, but most were manufactured as full-auto only. Minus magazine, the MAT-49 weighs about 3.5 kilograms (7.7 pounds), which is heavy for a submachine gun. The weapon incorporates a grip safety which is located on the backside of the pistol grip. The rear sights are flip-up and "L"-shaped, and marked for a range of 50 and 100 meters (55 and 109 yd). Production ceased after the introduction of the FAMAS assault rifle in 1979.
- MAS-48 - prototype variant.
- MAT-49 - main variant.
- MAT-49/54 - gendarme variant with extended barrel and fixed wooden stock with a sling bar.
- MAT-49 silenced - variant fitted with a suppressor.
- MAT-49 M - variant modified by the Viet Minh, firing in 7.62×25mm Tokarev. It had a longer barrel, modified 35-round magazine, and a higher rate of fire (900 rpm). It was distinguished from the 9mm version by having a letter "K" stamped on the top of the receiver's endcap and the side of the compatible magazines. Spare parts were still produced in the 1970s, the gun being used by the Viet Cong.
- Burkina Faso
- Central African Republic
- Republic of the Congo
- Cote d'Ivoire
- Equatorial Guinea
- France: Adopted by the French army in 1949. Also used by the National Gendarmerie.
- Guinea Bissau
- Iran: Used in small numbers by the Shahrbani.
- Kingdom of Laos: Received from French government during First Indochina War.
- Mali - Armed and Security Forces of Mali
- Syria: used by police and special forces
- Turkey: Captured MAT-49s donated to Village guards.
- Vietnam: used 9mm and 7.62mm MAT-49s.
- National Liberation Army (Libya)
- Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army[failed verification]
- Viet Minh, known as Tuyn, from the name of the manufacturer (Tulle).
- ETA: Produced unlicensed copies of existing weapons in an underground workshop at Mouguerre after it was raided by police.
- Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
- Gevarm D4
- Hotchkiss Type Universal
- Sola submachine gun
- Vigneron submachine gun
- MAS-38 replaced in the 1950s by the MAT-49 submachine gun.
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