Military Review

Submachine gun MAS-38 (France)

After the end of the First World War, French specialists thoroughly studied the trophy German weapon and concluded that it was necessary to develop their own submachine gun. In the early twenties, the first French project of this class was created, and in the middle of the decade a new weapon could come into service. However, it was abandoned in favor of not yet developed systems. Subsequent work continued until the second half of the thirties and led to the appearance of the product MAS-38.

In 1926, the French industry launched the first serial submachine guns of the STA / MAS 1924 M1 model, which were soon to enter service. However, at this time, the military revised their requirements for new weapons, and therefore abandoned existing projects. For a number of reasons, the army decided to transfer submachine guns to ammunition with an 7,65-mm bullet. Existing products chambered for 9x19 mm “Parabellum”, thus, had no real prospects.

Submachine gun MAS-38 as a museum piece. Photo of Wikimedia Commons

France's leading weapons organizations, including the Section Technique de l'Armée (STA) and the Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne (MAS) factory, have begun to develop new types of weapons that meet the updated requirements of the customer. The enterprise from Saint-Étienne achieved the greatest success in this matter, however, in his case, things went worse than the army would like. For a long time, designers could not create a project that fully meets the requirements. Various modifications and improvement of the available prototypes continued until the mid-thirties.

Only in 1935 was the experimental model MAS-35 presented, which almost completely corresponded to the technical task. This product was another upgrade option for older STA 1924 submachine guns, but it had the most noticeable differences. Like its predecessors, the 1935 model of the year did not fully suit the customer, and the development of the project was continued. Its further development soon led to the desired results. Modified MAS-35 could be adopted.

The design, testing and fine tuning of the MAS-35-type products has been going on for several years. The order to adopt such weapons for the French army appeared only in 1938 year. In accordance with it, the serial submachine gun was given the official designation MAS-38 - “Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne, 1938 year”.

Submachine gun MAS-38 (France)
The scheme of weapons. Figure Wikimedia Commons

The project MAS-38 offered the design of a relatively simple submachine gun under the pistol cartridge 7,65x20 mm Longue French development. The weapon required a rate of at least 600 shots per minute with the possibility of a reliable defeat of enemy personnel at distances up to 150-200 m. In addition, due to certain ideas and solutions, the product could differ in small size and weight. It is curious that relatively small dimensions remained even in the presence of a rigidly fixed stock.

The submachine gun MAS-38 was not very complex. Its main element was a steel receiver of a relatively simple form. In front of her joined the trunk, behind - butt. Below on the box were the store receiver and pistol grip with controls. In connection with the use of a specific variant of automation, the longitudinal axes of the barrel and butt were located at an angle to each other. At the same time, a new product was distinguished by a comparative complexity of production: a significant part of the parts had to be made by milling.

The weapon received a barrel length 222 mm (29 gauges) with a threaded channel. The barrel had a conical outer surface, but it narrowed slightly. In the muzzle of the provided thickening, which was located on the front sight. The breech containing the chamber was distinguished by large transverse dimensions.

Trigger design. Figure Wikimedia Commons

The stem box of the new weapon was made of steel and consisted of two main parts. The top was large and had a complex shape. Its lower section was made in the form of a rectangular unit, above which was a projection of a similar shape. The upper influx, which served as a support for the sight, began next to the barrel mount, and in the rear part of the receiver rose noticeably above it. On the right side of the box there was a window for ejection of the sleeves and a longitudinal groove of the bolt handle. The bottom element of the box was a tray with a store receiver in the front and means of fastening the details of the firing mechanism in the back.

Specialists of the MAS plant suggested using the original design of automation based on a semi-free shutter. In order to reduce the required dimensions and mass of the gate, it was decided to use specific means of its inhibition. The guides of the gate inside the receiver, forming the side of its upper unit, were located at a certain angle to the axis of the barrel. Moving back under the effect of recoil, the shutter was forced to overcome the resistance of the friction force and lost some of its speed.

The bolt group of the submachine gun was simple and actually borrowed from the previous STA 1924 product. The shutter was made in the form of a cylindrical part of a certain mass, inside of which there was a channel for a moving drummer and a returnable combat spring. Also, the shutter was completed with means for extracting the spent cartridge case. Drummer was a cylindrical part with a long needle-brisk on the front end. This firing pin was displayed to the shutter mirror through the corresponding channel of the latter. The bolt group was controlled by the handle, which was placed on the right side of the weapon. The handle was made integral with a rectangular lid, with which the holes of the right side of the box were covered. When firing, the cap and grip were fixed in the rear position.

The interaction of the shutter and trigger mechanism. Figure Wikimedia Commons

The problem of placing the recoil-fighting springs decided, using the butt. A tubular casing was attached to the rear wall of the receiver, inside of which this spring was to be placed. The casing itself was inside the butt. Thus, the entire internal volume of the receiver was given only to the bolt group, which allowed in some measure to reduce the dimensions of the weapon assembly.

The trigger mechanism of the new submachine gun allowed firing only in bursts. All its parts were located in the lower part of the receiver and installed in the space from the shaft of the store to the back of the pistol grip. USM consisted of several parts that ensure the lock bolt in the required positions. So, before the shot, the shutter stopped in the rear position with the help of a sear. Due to pressing the trigger, it shifted and allowed the shutter to go forward, completing the shot.

Fuse submachine gun MAS-38 had a very original design. Its main part was the rocker, installed behind the store. The back of his shoulder had a prong similar to that located on the sear. To activate the fuse should turn the trigger all the way forward. At the same time, its upper part, hidden inside the weapon, worked on the back shoulder of the rocker arm, causing it to lock the bolt in the forward position. Having returned the hook to the working position, it was possible to cock and fire the weapon.

General view of MAS-38. Photo

The submachine gun was supposed to use detachable box magazines with an 32 cartridge capacity. Ammunition 7,65x20 mm Longue differed from the "Parabellum" smaller dimensions, which led to the emergence of a more compact and lightweight store. The box-type store MAS-38 was placed inside a low receiving shaft and was locked in place by a latch. The latter was controlled by a button displayed on the left wall of the receiver. In the absence of a store mine was covered with a movable lid. After installing the store, such a lid was placed vertically along its front wall.

The product MAS-38 was equipped with an open sight. On the muzzle of the trunk was a small fly. The upper influx of the receiver served as the basis for the sight. Details of the latter were located inside the notches of sufficient size and were partially recessed into the influx. The main part of the open sight was a reversible rear sight, which allowed firing at distances 100 and 200 m.

The weapon received uncomplicated wooden fittings. On the vertical metal base of the pistol grip, two wooden linings were fastened, which provided a comfortable grip of the weapon. On the back tube, which contained a spring, was installed the butt of the traditional trapezoidal shape. Its back surface was equipped with a metal back plate connected to the inner tube. On the left above the trigger guard there was a sling anabka for the belt. The second end of it was fixed on the mortise unshank of the butt.

Receiver close-up: the shutter is retracted to the rearmost position, the receiver of the store is closed with a lid. Photo

The new submachine gun was distinguished by its small size and reduced weight with, in general, acceptable technical characteristics. The total length of the product was 635 mm, of which 222 mm was in the barrel. The specific design of the weapon eliminated the possibility of folding stock. Without MAS-38 cartridges weighed 2,83 kg. The 32 magazine weighed around 750. The submachine gun showed a firing rate of at least 600 rounds per minute. The initial speed of the bullet - 350 m / s. The effective range of fire was seriously limited to a relatively weak cartridge and did not exceed the 100-150 m.

Appearing as MAS-35 and having passed all the necessary improvements, the new weapon was adopted by the French army in 1938 year. A promising product MAS-38 went into the series; the corresponding order was received by the Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne factory, which developed this project. The first batch of serial weapons was handed over to the army at the start of the 1939 of the year. Soon the customer received several more small batches.

Production of submachine guns continued until the middle of the 1940 year, up to the end of hostilities and the defeat of Germany. During this time, gunsmiths from Saint-Étienne managed to collect only 2000 of MAS-38 products. Further production of such weapons, for obvious reasons, was excluded. Invaders got acquainted with the trophies, but did not want to continue their release. The Germans had their own submachine guns with the desired characteristics and qualities. However, the German army adopted the MAS-38 and limited use of these weapons under its own designation MP 722 (f).

Top view of the receiver box. Photo

A noticeable number of submachine guns released before the occupation fell into the hands of the Resistance fighters. This weapon was actively used in various operations and obtained acceptable results. With the help of such weapons, the French partisans destroyed a significant amount of enemy manpower. In addition, historically significant episodes took place in the “labor biography” of MAS-38. Thus, the overthrown Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was shot precisely from a French submachine gun. Now that very sample of weapons is kept in one of the Albanian museums.

During the battles, the conclusions reached during the tests were confirmed. MAS-38 had both pros and cons. The most important positive feature of this weapon was its small size and weight, which simplified its operation. A relatively weak cartridge did not give a big return, which had a positive effect on accuracy and accuracy. At the same time there was a serious problem directly related to the ammunition. The 7,65 Longue cartridge markedly limited the effective range of fire, and the weapon, in terms of basic combat qualities, was losing to other models of its time, using more powerful ammunition.

Shortly after the end of World War II, the French military industry resumed the production of submachine guns of pre-war development. With the help of this weapon it was planned to conduct the desired rearmament of the army in the shortest time possible. New serial production continued until the end of the decade, and during this time the MAS plant was able to transfer several tens of thousands of submachine guns to the army. As far as we know, post-war weapons did not have any significant differences from the products of the first series. All noticeable differences consisted solely in labeling.

Upper case and store feeder. Photo

Already in 1946, the French submachine guns again had to fire at the enemy. The Indochinese war began in Southeast Asia, during which France tried to preserve its colonies. The French infantry most actively used the MAS-38 submachine guns and some other weapons created before the Second World War. During this conflict, a certain number of weapons were transferred to friendly local formations. In addition, submachine guns became the trophies of the enemy. As a result, the French MAS-38 were later able to take part in the Vietnam War.

In the mid-forties, the MAS-38 submachine guns were considered as a temporary measure to rearm the army as quickly as possible. This task was successfully solved, and in parallel there was a development of new types of small arms. A little later, new products went into series, and France was able to start a new rearmament. No longer needed MAS-38 were sent to storage or transferred to third countries. It should be noted that in some cases - as was the case in Vietnam - it was far from always that the weapon was “handed over” to friendly parties and on a mutually beneficial basis.

The first model, designed to replace the aging MAS-38, was the MAT-49 submachine gun. He went into production in the 1950 year, and by the end of the decade its production had made it possible to abandon the weapons of the previous model. By the early sixties, the French army had stopped using MAS-38. Nevertheless, the operation of such weapons continued in the armed forces of other states.

Submachine gun MAS-38 Walter Audizio in the National Historical Museum of Albania. From this weapon was shot Benito Mussolini. Wikimedia Commons Photos

To date, all operators have managed to abandon the MAS-38, as well as dispose of a significant amount of weapons decommissioned. However, a significant number of samples of this type is still present in the exhibitions of museums and private collections. What is important, among the remaining submachine guns there are samples of pre-war issue.

An interesting fact is that many submachine guns remain operable, but will not be able to shoot from them. The original French-made 7,65 Longue cartridges are mostly spent or disposed of. The remnants of such ammunition are not too large, are rarely found and could be subjected to corrosion, which, at least, complicates their use. In recent years, a number of foreign companies have established production of cartridges of similar size and characteristics that can replace the original 7,65 Longue. Nevertheless, as practice shows, not all such products are capable of justifying the hopes placed on it. “Ersatz cartridges” often do not fully comply with the configuration of the sample being replaced, and therefore MAS-38 cannot use them.

Like many other types of weapons and equipment created in France in the late thirties, the submachine gun MAS-38 faced a typical problem in the form of German occupation. Due to a certain complexity of production, before the surrender, only an insignificant number of serial products was collected, which did not allow for the desired re-equipment. The situation changed radically only after the war, but by that time the existing project had become outdated and demanded replacement.

Based on:
Popenker MR, Milchev M.N. World War II: gunsmiths war. - M .: Yauza, Eksmo, 2008.
A clear demonstration of the compatibility of the original MAS-38 and the modern "ersatz-cartridge":
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  1. polpot
    polpot 17 January 2018 17: 34
    Thank you for the article . One has to agree with the Germans, it is difficult to consider this product of French gunsmiths a masterpiece, with the presence of MP 38, the production of such a system was absolutely pointless.
    1. verner1967
      verner1967 17 January 2018 20: 25
      Quote: polpot
      it is difficult to consider this product of French gunsmiths a masterpiece

      a little better in aesthetics than the English and German end of the war, but still - freaks
      1. sd68
        sd68 17 January 2018 21: 12
        During the war, everyone tried to reduce the cost, stamping and water pipes, but here milling, the price went over the top for sure.
        1. V. Salama
          V. Salama 19 January 2018 21: 17
          Quote: sd68
          During the war, everyone tried to reduce the cost, stamping and water pipes, but here milling, the price went over the top for sure.

          PPSh is definitely more expensive, but it was produced before the war. I do not think that pre-war France laid the cost of producing a sample of weapons as an indicator. This was relevant in the USSR. In this regard, the German MP was not cheap either, since during the war machine-guns Germany produced about 1 million units, and the USSR - 6 million units.
    2. V. Salama
      V. Salama 19 January 2018 21: 06
      Quote: polpot
      ... One has to agree with the Germans, it is difficult to consider this product of French gunsmiths a masterpiece, with the presence of MP 38, the production of such a system was absolutely pointless.
      Not a masterpiece, for sure, but not because he doesn’t want to eat new-made cartridges in the video. But the MP-38 is also not a masterpiece - the rate of fire is lower, the dimensions are larger, the trajectory is inferior, the accuracy of bursts also. Therefore, to change the Germans is not a masterpiece for not a masterpiece, it makes no sense. If for a duel of these two samples I would have to choose - I would prefer the MAS, as I understand it in weapons. But if I were to arm my unit, I would choose the MP. This is my opinion, I do not pretend to be true.
  2. sd68
    sd68 17 January 2018 20: 37
    Most of the software then performed on a design with a free shutter.
    The work of such automation imposed restrictions on the energy of the cartridge.
    The firing range is determined by the speed of the bullet.
    Thus, it is more profitable to use cartridges of 7,62, for example, with the same energy than the cartridge of 9 mm - the speed of the bullet, and therefore, the firing range will be higher.
    In practice, in the vast majority of massively used PPs, a 9 mm cartridge is used, PPSh is one of the few exceptions.
    Of course, the stopping effect of a 9 mm bullet is noticeably higher than 7, 62, but at a distance of 50 meters it will not be very important.
    It is difficult to understand why the designers, it turns out, worsened the firing range, and so low for army weapons.
    I have never seen an explanation convincing to this.
  3. Sasha75
    Sasha75 18 January 2018 00: 17
    He is so small for whom he is so miserable. They would have done it under 9 pairs and the norms turned out, and because of the deceit of the French, it’s not right here.
  4. Northern warrior
    Northern warrior 18 January 2018 02: 01
    French weapons - complete shit, despite all their efforts. There is not a single sample of a firearm of French origin that would surpass or be at foreign standards. They always have two extremes - complex, expensive and unreliable or extremely cheap, ugly and EXTREMELY unreliable weapons. It is enough to recall the Shosh machine gun to understand the scale of the ass in the heads of designers. Post-war “products” are no better than their pre-war predecessors. FAMAS may well compete with the M-16 for the title of the most unreliable assault rifle of our time, although the French tried to fix its shortcomings for a very long time, but could not. Now they have decided to completely score for their weapons school and are stupidly buying licenses from Belgians, Italians and Germans.
    1. fighter angel
      fighter angel 18 January 2018 11: 15
      Absolutely agree. Apparently, the Napoleonic flintlock muskets, the Tuvenin rod capsule fitting, the Gra system rifle (single-shot with a longitudinally-sliding bolt) should be considered the most successful examples of small arms army in France. That's probably all. The rest is a solid engineering and weapons "creative", little adapted to real combat conditions or obviously outdated models, such as the Lebel magazine rifle arr. 1886 with an under-barrel magazine ... Although, perhaps, it is possible that the MAT-49 is a good example PP, but again, with the appearance, he was delayed for about 20 years ...
      1. Northern warrior
        Northern warrior 18 January 2018 11: 59
        The Lebel rifle was a good weapon at the time of its appearance, but it was quickly surpassed by Mosinka, Mauser and Lee-Anfield.
        1. fighter angel
          fighter angel 18 January 2018 15: 42
          Yes, Lebel sample 1886 is one of the first European "clean" store rifles. If not the very first in Europe. Another was Schulhof rifle arr. 1882, with an applied store, but it did not become a mass and successful system. Previously, it was reworked from single charges, for example, the Gra-Kropachek system, sample 1884, our experimental Mosin system with rack-and-pin, sample 1885. Cartridge Lebelevsky was on smokeless gunpowder, also an innovation for those years.
  5. Michael_Zverev
    Michael_Zverev 18 January 2018 21: 04
    A freak of some kind, forgive me, Mr. Lord, either the Mauser S-96, or the balalaika, and even under the defective cartridge.
  6. John22
    John22 19 January 2018 12: 22
    Weapons of the original design with sensible solutions, but made according to the technology of those years. One of the first PP pre-war times, when there was no experience with the use of PP. Designed under the cartridge of a pistol standing then. But he was, of course, rather weak. At the lower limit for punching and stopping action. But these are the features of the national weapons school. Due to the long shutter speed, it had a normal rate of fire (not that of PPSh, but of PPS it was improved). Operation of weapons gave experience that was taken into account when developing the next model. So it goes.
  7. Catfish
    Catfish 19 January 2018 23: 14
    In my opinion, a purely police weapon. Or a tool for a terrorist, it’s not for nothing that the poppies used these machines - conveniently and lethally point blank. I am almost sure that Mauser model 712 (1932) will beat this toy in all respects. wink
    1. V. Salama
      V. Salama 20 January 2018 11: 42
      I agree, no one will argue. However, in 2012, at one of the international arms exhibitions, Makarov’s pistol took first place as the best pocket pistol. We still plan to use it in combat by special forces soldiers of various departments if there is a wide range of samples available, including foreign ones. As everything is relative, however, in matters of weapons - a taste that is not argued about, conceivable situations based on experience or formed ideas, and even the hell are those in which the declared combat characteristics lose their significance.
  8. Catfish
    Catfish 21 January 2018 02: 21
    Quote: V. Salama
    I agree, no one will argue. However, in 2012, at one of the international arms exhibitions, Makarov’s pistol took first place as the best pocket pistol. .

    I don’t know what pocket is needed in order to carry Makar in it. You tried? I’m only in a winter tank jacket, there is a special pocket on my chest. At least at the time I was in service. In other pockets - I can not imagine. hi
    1. V. Salama
      V. Salama 21 January 2018 20: 35
      I agree too. But, I noticed that the terminology is often also extremely arbitrary. Introducing the classification of something, a sign (quality) and a norm are needed. With the latter problem, for example, we normalize the weight and dimensions. It is unlikely that anyone will dare to determine up to a millimeter and a gram. Most likely they are guided by the external impression and taste. At least it’s known that the CIA or FBI operatives, I don’t remember already, often use it as a second pistol. It’s so customary for them to have two. And where they put him in, I don’t even know, I can only judge by films.
      1. V. Salama
        V. Salama 22 January 2018 00: 18
        PS Yes, by the way, I remembered - according to the Western classification of the PM, the army model group (they use such a term) no longer falls into the cartridge power. And what other groups are there, I was not interested, but in any case, the conditionality of the choice of the term will take place. In our pocket, as we understand it, it’s difficult to carry almost any pistol, even PSM and OTs-21, they are not secured at least, and this is also prohibited by law on weapons trafficking.