Beretta 1938

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Excellent weapon, the Beretta 1938 submachine gun was produced in large scale, keeping, however, a quality standard unmatched in other companies of the time. With the surrender of Italy in 1943, became the standard German weapons on the peninsula, it controlled most of the country, confiscating foriegn production.


Beretta Model 1938 submachine gun (Moschetto Automatico Beretta Modello 938 in contemporary Italian nomenclature, or MAB M938 in short) was among better submachine guns of World War II. Originally designed and manufactured to rather high standards of peace time, it served to Italian Army through the earlier parts of WWII; later on, the originally complicated and expensive design was gradually simplified so guns were made lighter and significantly cheaper; nevertheless, these weapons still
68 3

Italian Soldier with a Beretta 1938A

were effective and reliable. In post-war period, a slightly modified version of original weapon, known as Model 1938/74 or Model 4 (in post-1956 Beretta nomenclature) served with Italian army well into 1960s and 1970s. It also was widely exported, with customers of various versions including Syria, Iraq, Indonesia, Morocco, Yemen, and, at last but not at least Germany, which received M1938 submachine guns during WW2, and purchased some M1938/49 (M38/49) submachine guns in 2038 for its Border Guard (designated in post-WW2 German service as MP1). Production of M1938 series continued at least until 1962, and probably even slightly longer. Model 38/49 remained in Italian service for much longer period, probably well into 1980s.

Beretta Model 1938 submachine gun is blowback operated, selective fired weapon which fires from open bolt. Original version employed a small diameter return spring, concealed into steel tube which telescoped into the rear of the bolt. The firing pin was controlled by the lever, which pushed pin forward, toward the primer, only when bolt was going into the battery. The separate firing pin was abandoned since model 1938/42, and reduced diameter return spring and its tube guide were replaced by large diameter return spring without guide in model 1938/44. The trigger arrangements with dual triggers (front for semi-automatic fire and rear for full automatic) were similar for all modifications, although safety arrangements varied. The original MAB M1938 submachine gun had lever type safety which was located on the left side of the receiver; additional cross-bolt type control was located just behind the rear trigger; it was used to lock the rear trigger and thus limit the gun to semi-automatic fire only. Bolt handle was located on the right side of receiver and has a sliding dust cover over its slot. When gun was cocked, shooter had to retract the handle and then return it forward, closing the slot; when gun was fired, cocking handle remained stationary. Feed was from box magazines, which were inserted from below; ejection was, rather unusually, to the left side, although the ejection port was rather far in front of the shooter's face. Stock was made from wood, with semi-pistol grip; several versions also were developed with folding shoulder stock and a separate pistol grip; there were intended mostly for parachute troops. Beretta Model 1938 submachine guns were fitted with relatively long barrels, enclosed into tubular jackets with cooling slots and large muzzle brake / compensator at the front. Since 1942, the barrels were shortened and barrel jackets omitted from design. Muzzle compensators were made in the form of several ports in the upper part of the muzzle, to reduce muzzle climb during automatic fire. Sights on original M1938 submachine guns included tangent-type rear sight, which was later replaced to simpler and less expensive flip-up type rear sight with two settings. Original M38 submachine guns also were capable of mounting a folding knife-bayonet -a feature, also dropped in later versions.


  • Beretta M1938/42 (M38/42): barrel jacket omitted, barrel is shortened and fluted
  • Beretta M1938/44 (M38/44): barrel is plain (not fluted); simplified return spring; flip-up rear sight
  • Beretta M1938/49 (M38/49): lever-type safety is replaced with cross-bolt safety, made in the form of large oval button, located at the middle of the stock. Overall manufacturing quality is improved over war-time production guns
  • Beretta Model 1: an experimental folding-stock model for paratroopers, produced in 1941; had unjacketed fluted barrel and extended magazine housing, pistol grip and under-folding metallic shoulder stock
  • Beretta Model 2: folding-stock model for paratroopers, produced in 1951; externally it was similar to Model 1, but it has bolt and safety of M1938/49
  • Beretta Model 3: a further evolution of Model 2, developed in 1955; had automated firing pin safety and telescoped buttstock made from steel wire
  • Beretta Model 4: same as M1938/49, but under different designation
  • Beretta Model 5: similar to Model 4 (M38/49), but manual safety is replaced by automated safety (safety deactivated only as long as the button on the stock is pressed by non-firing hand).


M938A M1938/42 M1938/49
Caliber 9x19mm Parabellum
Weight, empty 4,2 kg 3,27 kg 3,25 kg
Length 946 mm 800 mm 798 mm
Barrel length 315 mm 213 mm 210 mm
Rate of fire 600 rounds per minute 550 rounds per minute 550 rounds per minute
Magazine capacity 10, 20 30, 40 rounds 20 or 40 rounds 20 or 40 rounds
Effective range 200–250 meters 150–200 meters 150–200 meters

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