The first version of the Model 38 was the Model 1938A and it had a wooden stock, tubular body, downwards pointing box magazine and a perforated barrel jacket. Some examples of the M38 had provision for a folding bayonet at the muzzle. The 1938A fired the 9x19mm Parabellum Cartridge (except for a few that fired a high-velocity 9mm round) and measured 94.6 cm in length, of which 31.5 cm was the barrel. The loaded weight of the M38 was 4.97 kg while the M38's rate of fire was about 600 rounds per minute. It had a muzzle velocity of about 420 meters per second as well. It's maximum range was approximately 300 meters which was about average for must submachine guns of the time.
The weapon was very reliable and accurate in the field and especially these traits earned it a very good reputation among the German, Romanian, and Italian troops who fielded it.
One of the first variations in the design of the Model 1938A was the introduction of a lightened version for desert region use. This variant lacked the bayonet and some of the refinements of the basic model. Another change was the introduction in 1941 of a stamped and welded barrel jacket to ease production after Italy entered the war. Following Italy's surrender, the Germans took over production of the Beretta, revising the design to further ease production and assembly to produce the simpler Model 38/42, which lacked some of the 1938A's finesse.
The first Model 1938As were produced in Brescia, initially appearing in 1935, with mass-produced examples appearing for issue in 1938. However, the term 'mass-produced' is slightly misleading in this instance. Despite being produced on normal production lines, early examples of the Model 1938A could almost be considered hand made, due to the care and attention that went into making them.
- War Machine Magazine issue 6 - Sub-machine Guns of World War II. Orbis Publishing, Page 120