The Vigneron is a submachine gun manufactured in Belgium during the 1950s. It used the 9×19mm NATO cartridge and was used by the Belgian Army until the 1980s. The Vigneron is a selective-fire weapon for short-range street and brush fighting. It remains reasonably accurate up to 100 m using sighted semi-automatic fire. For close-range combat, 2- or 3-shot bursts are recommended.
After World War II the Belgian Army was equipped with a mixture of British and American guns. The army, wanting to replace them with a modern and, if possible, Belgian design, held tests between several prototypes:the Imperia, an improved Sten gun;
the RAN, a design by "Repousmetal S.A.";
several FN prototypes; and
The Vigneron M1
The Vigneron M1 was designed by a retired Belgian army Colonel, Georges Vigneron, and officially adopted by the Belgian army in 1953. (this adoption date needs to be confirmed, one known survivor serial 002212 is stamped ABL 1952, indicating it was in Belgian army service a year before this date)
The first series of Vignerons was manufactured by the Societe Anonyme Precision Liegeoise in Herstal. Some parts were subcontracted to the State Arsenal at Rocourt in Liège, who eventually began making complete guns. Other Vignerons were fabricated by the company Ateliers de Fabrications Electriques et Metalliques or AFEM in Brussels. An unconfirmed story says that the CMH inscription on the grip means Compagnie de Manufacture Herstal, and this company is supposed to have made the plastic lower receiver.
The first model Vigneron was made until serial number 21300 in 1954. (This date needs to be confirmed since known M2 survivors have serial numbers indicating that at least 90,530 M2's had been built by 1953). Some sources state that many M1's were reworked to M2 standard by fitting hood over foresight, changing the rear sight and fitting a stronger spring to the ejection port cover and that when this upgrade was done the M1 designation was overstamped M2, but examples of M1's that have been upgraded to the M2 exist where the original M1 stamp has not been over stamped.
The M2 version was an improvement in several ways, it was in production by 1953: (One known Vigneron M2 is stamped as serial 086916 and is dated 1953)a front sight protector was installed
a rear sight notch was used instead of a peep sight
the dust cover closing spring was made stronger
The Vigneron is a simple blowback design and was made out of stamped sheet metal and a plastic grip frame. It uses the standard 9×19mm NATO round out of a 32-shot double-column, single-feed, box magazine. Army doctrine recommends to shortload the magazine to 28 rounds to prevent failures. A box type loading tool is used to assist loading the magazine.
The gun was designed with a long barrel (305mm) which featured a compensator and cooling fins. The replaceable barrel was held in by a knurled nut, but a design fault meant that the barrel could be fitted upside down (a famous picture exists of a member of the I.R.A. brandishing a Vigneron, with the foresight below the barrel). This fault was never corrected. Empty casings are ejected out of the ejection port on the right which has a hinged dust cover. This cover opens automatically when cocking the gun. If the gun is to be kept cocked in dusty conditions the cover can be manually closed after cocking to exclude dust and grit, and it will open automatically when the gun is fired.
The bolt handle is on the left side and is non-reciprocating. A cover plate excludes dust and grit when the lever is returned forward.
The stock is heavy steel rod and it telescopes along the receiver; one end is slotted for swabs and the other is threaded for a cleaning brush.
The sights are fixed and set for a range of 50 m. The M2 has a simple notch rear sight and a hood cover that protects the front sight.
The pistol grip contains a grip safety which must be held before the weapon can be cocked or fired.
There are three selector positions: safe, single round and full automatic fire. When set to full-auto; it is still possible to squeeze off single rounds with good trigger control.
Influence by some popular WW-II-era designs is apparent. The barrel compensator and cooling rings are reminiscent of the Thompson submachine gun, the wire stock looks like the M3 submachine gun, the bolt design is nearly identical to the Sten and the magazine is almost the same as the one designed for the MP40; but contrary to popular belief, each type of magazine will only fit the gun it was designed for. (the VIG magazine is too wide to fit into the MP40, and the MP40 magazine is too long, front to back, to fit into the Vigneron.)
A blank firing barrel and a grenade launcher attachment were also made for this gun.