Best SMG of World War Two: The Beretta M38A

Best SMG of World War Two: The Beretta M38A

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00:03
hey guys thanks for tuning in to another video on forgottenweapons.com i'm ian mccollum and i'm here today at morphe's taking a look at what i'm i'm comfortable saying is one of the best submachine guns of the second world war this is the italian beretta model 38a now a couple years ago i had a chance to do some shooting with one of these which we have on camera and i'll link to that video at the end of this one but at that point i never had a chance to sit down at the table here and take the gun apart and describe its history to you so
00:33
that's what we're doing today this gun was developed by a man named tulio marangoni who had extensive experience working for beretta he was essentially beretta's lead designer he was responsible for most of beretta's pistols for the course of something like 30 years and he actually had experience designing submachine guns over that long as well because when the italians had the villar perosa model of 1915 in world war one which you may recall is the really funky nine
01:04
millimeter top magazine fed double barrel double action aircraft machine gun that was adapted to infantry use and then finally people realized that this was not a good configuration for a useful infantry weapon and so they split the villa peroses into two pieces and turned them into early real submachine guns some of in fact the very first submachine guns ever fielded in combat well there were two patterns of those one done by ovp themselves and one done by beretta and it was tulio marangoni who developed the beretta
01:34
version so this man has experience with submachine guns dating back to 1918. now with the benefit of a couple decades more firearms design experience in 1935 he sets about the beginnings of what would become this now he started from essentially the beretta in 1918 1918-30 which was a semi-auto only uh carbine like one of the first pistol caliber carbines truly also a very interesting gun in its own right and i have a video on that one as well he said about turning that into a
02:06
military submachine gun and the early versions in 1935 had some interesting features had this big funky steampunk looking aluminum finned cooling jacket almost like what you see inside the shroud of a lewis gun and actually i should say perhaps most importantly the beretta 38 starting in 1935 was developed for a new pistol cartridge for the italian army to use and this was would be adopted as the nine millimeter m38 cartridge it was essentially interchangeable with nine millimeter
02:37
parabellum prior to this the italians had been using nine millimeter glycente which is rather lighter loaded than nine parabellum and they finally got around to just standardizing essentially now the the m38 cartridge is a pretty potent one as nine millimeter parabellum goes it was developed specifically for submachine guns like this so anyway the short version is essentially at this point or italy has finally come up to the international standard of nine parabellum which is essential for this gun to
03:08
really be a success and the extra power does it well because this gun is easily able to handle the power of this improved higher power ammunition so getting back to where i was uh 1935 first prototypes are developed funky cooling shroud they eventually simplify a lot of that down the gun reaches essentially this stage of its development by the very beginning of 1938 january of 38th it's not quite this exact pattern this is a third model gun in a moment when we take a closer look i'll show you what changed but they're pretty much just aesthetic changes to
03:40
the gun production begins in january of 1938 it is then six months later formally adopted by the italian army in july of 1938 beretta was apparently pretty confident in the gun and with good reason so let's go ahead and take a closer look and let me show you how this thing actually works and let's take it apart there are a bunch of things to go over here and we'll start off with the fact that the beretta 38 is a relatively unusual submachine gun actually it's a very unusual submachine
04:11
gun in that it ejects from the left so we have a charging handle here on the right and our ejection port is actually over here on the left now the early prototypes were actually a center top eject system and you may have noticed that i'm talking about beretta 38 but also beretta 38a and the reason for the redesignation to a is a little bit mysterious there's no formal documentation that anyone has
04:41
been able to find to explain precisely what the a modification was the best theory that i have found on the subject on the question is that it was the change from top eject to side eject they went from model 38 to model 38a the 30 the original 38 did not see any significant mass production so virtually all the guns that you well all the guns that you find out there are going to be 38as or the later simplified versions which we'll talk about uh in a
05:12
few minutes we have a bunch of markings here on the top of the receiver mojito automatically model 38a caliber 9 and then patents a couple patent numbers there and then manufactured by p beretta pietro beretta gardone uh valtropia italy and then interestingly this one is dated 1943 xxi xxi is of course the 21st year of the italian fascist era which is 1943.
05:43
again we'll talk about this in a few minutes but there were actually simplified versions of the gun that were made starting in 1942 but they continued to produce the original 38as as you can see from this particular example that is a 1943 date we have a proof mark here on the front of the receiver we have the serial number and caliber markings there on the front of the receiver 23.96 the full serial number is g2396 which you can see on the back of
06:14
the receiver here and also on the stock these used a number of features very similar to the carcano rifles including the stock so things like the sling bar the stock configuration the stamping in it are very similar to the carcano rifles this particular example is actually the third pattern so the first pattern of production guns which are quite scarce instead of having round holes had elongated slots in the barrel jacket
06:44
and they had a really big two shroud or a two port muzzle break so the same size as this but two really big ports one on each side the first pattern also had a bayonet lug on it and it used a bayonet a folding bayonet that was conceptually the same as the model 38 carcano folding bayonet but not actually interchangeable kind of curiously they got rid of the bayonet lugs fairly quickly they got rid of the elongated slots fairly quickly so the second
07:15
version retained the bayonet lug but went to round holes like this and then this is the third version with round holes got rid of the band hat lug because do you really need a bayonet on a submachine gun not not really for controls we have a dual trigger system that would become very typical of beretta the front trigger is semi-auto the rear trigger is full auto it's a little hard to see there and this rear trigger by the way has been bent up just a little bit still works but that's not quite the shape you would normally expect the rear
07:47
trigger is serrated so that in the dark you can tell if you're on the full auto trigger or the smooth semi-auto trigger there is also a safety lever on the side of the receiver fire and safe what this does is lock the bolt in position so if i engage that the bolt's not going to open this does work in either the open or closed position of the bolt so that's how that works the original magazines for the 38a were
08:18
20 round sticks like this they did later develop 30s and 40s the 20s are relatively scarce it's really cool that this actually has its original 20 round magazine with it and then one of the other features that marangoni put on the gun is a sliding magazine cover so if you're transporting the gun or for whatever reason just have the magazine out of it for a while you can close that up to keep gunk out of the action the magazine release is just a simple lever right there
08:49
the rear sight is an adjustable tangent it goes out to 500 meters that's really fairly optimistic for a nine millimeter sub machine gun but that was typical for this period the the late pre-world war ii submachine guns now disassembly is very easy we have an arrow here what you're going to do is push the button in and rotate this end cap so the arrow is lined up right on top there we go this one's a little bit stiff
09:25
and then i can just pull the end cap off and we have a self-contained captive recoil spring system in there one thing to be aware of when you're taking this out the tail on this bolt is flexible and it has a tendency to drop down and jam into the stock right here which you can see has happened a bit in this gun's old history so when you take the bolt out be careful to lift the tail up so you don't gouge the stock right there
09:59
for further disassembly we can pull these two screws out to take off the trigger guard and then pull this screw and take the action out of the stock this one by the way is a split screw which makes it a little trickier to get out so this is something that troops weren't really supposed to be taking apart in the field fortunately from my long period of tinkering with french guns i have some split head screwdrivers that will fit this
10:30
so with that nut off we can pull out the screw which is actually the sling swivel and then the front band comes off on the trigger guard note that we have the fancy captive screws here all right with that screw out we can remove the trigger guard and now we can take the action out of the stock one thing that's worth pointing out here from an engineering perspective is that this receiver is not a tube it is a single machined piece
11:08
and if we zoom in on it here you can actually see some of those machining marks still on it certainly down here but also on the round section so a pretty simple receiver regardless just a channel for the bolt essentially the one feature to point out is our ejector here which is a solid block which is also going to be important for firing the gun if we take a look at the bolt assembly we can see that beretta is one of those
11:39
interesting early submachine guns early more complex or first generation submachine guns that have that does not have a fixed firing pin instead you can see the firing pin there it actually has sort of a hammer right here when the bolt fully closes this hammer hits the back of the ejector block and it pushes the firing pin forward to fire so that ensures that a cartridge can't be detonated until the bolt is fully
12:10
closed and it prevents out of battery discharges which are kind of a a rare but real fact of life on fixed firing pin submachine guns now this also makes the bolt a little bit funky to disassemble so let's get into that we have a recoil spring inside this tube it is captive so when the gun fires the bolts going to reciprocate back like that and in order to take this apart we have a little sliding wedge here this is definitely under spring tension
12:40
so when i open this up i want to hold on to the back end there we go there is a little detent so that will snap into place there and then i can let that out so there's the spring tube there's the spring itself and now we have the bolt body that is our firing pin and in order to disassemble it we actually have this serrated thumb pad here because what i need to do
13:15
is pull this all the way back that allows the firing pin to come out the back so what we've got going on here is this well let me pull this out first so there's our firing pin it has a return spring on it right there and it has this open lug this open block in the center this rotating hammer has three separate lugs on it so that lug right there is normally the one that's going to sit in the firing pin
13:45
and push the firing pin forward this is serrated for you to grasp for disassembly and reassembly and this is the part that actually hits on the ejector block and causes the firing pin to go forward so this is 180 degrees opposite of this lug so in order to disassemble it we have to pivot this into this position so that the firing pin can slide out the back in order to reassemble it and this is worth pointing
14:17
out to reassemble it what we actually want to do is put the the hammer the rotary hammer here in the horizontal position so that the firing pin can slide in here the firing pin has to be able to slide all the way in like so and then we want to rotate the hammer up into the firing pin and keep it in place see it's got springs in it so if i don't have a way to lock it in place it's
14:49
going to pop back out the back of the bolt carrier so what i do is snap this lug forward which locks the whole thing in place and then this can actually stay forward while it's in the gun because the hammer here doesn't when it when it fires it doesn't travel far enough to have to push this lug back so this funky thing is just here to allow for disassembly of the firing pin the production and the further development of the beretta 38a are another interesting story worth telling
15:21
the first 500 guns that were produced went actually not to the italian army but to the italian african police in october of 1938 and then there was actually a significant delay in getting these to the italian army because in some time 3839 the romanian army placed an order for 20 000 of them and beretta actually produced those before it produced the ones for the italian army so the italian army wouldn't actually start getting these guns until 1940 or 1941
15:51
once they did of course they wholeheartedly accepted them and and these became very popular sub machine guns they were initially intended for basically assault troops paratroops you know sort of the the special frontline uh elite soldiers but as the war progressed world war ii progressed they would filter out to a lot of other different units different organizations and kind of anyone who could get their hands on these really liked to they became particularly popular with the germans
16:22
skipping ahead a little bit here after uh the italians after the italian armistice beretta or bretta was occupied by the germans and continued to produce these submachine guns for german usage both these and the simplified version which i should also mention here as early as 1941 there were plans in place for a much simplified cheaper version of the beretta 38 these would go into production in 42 become known as the beretta 3842 3843 and 3844 as they
16:54
went through a number of iterations uh but what they would do essentially is get rid of a lot of the fancy features they got rid of the barrel shrouds they got rid of the magazine dust covers they got they got rid of like the whole fancy bolt firing system and went to a much simpler fixed firing pin very basic very plain uh bolt however these guns actually continued to be produced in the original beretta 38 configuration like this one through 1944 and we saw this as a 1943 production one they were
17:26
manufacturing 38as and the simplified versions at the same time it's unclear exactly why they were doing this aside from perhaps leftover stocks of parts there are even some really funky hybrid guns out there that have simplified simplified front ends like the simplified barrel simplified bolts but 38a receivers that were produced under german occupation so that was clearly a matter of cleaning out old parts but as i said they were producing the fancy ones and the simple ones at the same time
17:56
overall production figures are not clear we know that there were at least a couple hundred thousand thirty eights of various patterns made during german occupation because some of the german records survive but as far as total production of the 38as under italian governance we just don't really know but quite a lot of them so lastly the story of this particular gun is i think worth telling this is a u.s veteran bring back gun from world war ii
18:27
uh the soldier who brought this back proceeded to when he got home give it to his nine-year-old nephew as a gift what could be cooler as a nine-year-old than getting your own actual submachine gun uh also what could perhaps be more american and this this was in 44 45 i don't know exactly which theater it came back from but uh that kid kept the gun and uh in 1968 when there was the amnesty uh the nfa amnesty he
18:58
went ahead and registered at that point now at that point being old enough to do so and so this is an original world war two bring back unmodified uh amnesty registered beretta 38a uh as i said these are fantastic submachine guns if you haven't seen the footage i did shooting them definitely take a look at that i will link to it in the end cards of this video hopefully you guys enjoyed it thanks for watching

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