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The Beretta Model 38A was one of the very best submachine guns of World War Two. Designed by veteran Beretta engineer Tullio Marengoni (who designed most of Beretta’s pistols as well as the Beretta M1918 SMG and 1918/30 carbine), it was the first Italian weapon to use a cartridge equivalent to 9x19mm Parabellum instead of 9mm Glisenti. Development began in 1935, and the final version entered production in January 1938.
The change from the Model 38 to 38A is unclear, but seem most likely to be the change from the top ejection of the prototypes to the left-side ejection of the production model. The 38A was formally adopted by the Italian Army in July 1938, but issue was delayed until 1940/41 because Beretta first produced a 20,000-unit order for the Romanian military.
By 1941, the basic design had been significantly simplified, and the Model 38/42 would significantly reduce production cost by removing the magazine well cover, barrel shroud, and removable firing pin. Simplified 38/42, 38/43, and 38/44 models would enter production, but original 38As were also manufactured until 1944 (this particular example is dated 1943). The gun was very popular with both Italian and German troops, and production continued under German occupation late in the war. Total numbers are unavailable, but are probably in excess of 500,000. The gun was so popular that Beretta was able to restart production after the war and continue selling them until the early 1960s.
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