The MAS-38 was a French submachine gun designed prior to the Second World War and used by French and German forces. It derived from a small arms development program that took place between 1918 and 1922 under the control of the Service Technique de l'Armement. A submachine gun, a light machine gun and a semi automatic rifle were developed to replace all the existing small arms. Budgetary constraints due to choices like building the Maginot Line led to the delay of adoption of these new arms except for the LMG 1924.
The Pistolet Mitrailleur MAS modèle 38 (MAS Model 38 Submachine Gun) was developed from the experimental MAS-35, itself derived from the STA 1922 and the MAS 1924 both in 9 mm produced immediately after World War I. Prior to the development of this weapon France used a variety of German and Swiss submachine guns.
The French Ministry of War approved the MAS-38 in 1938, but production did not begin until 1939. Initially the weapon was supplied to the Garde Nationale (National Guard) rather than the French Army.
The MAS-38 was chambered for the 7.65mm Longue cartridge, although similar to the .30 Pedersen cartridge, is not an exact copy. The 7.65 French Longue cartridge is several millimeters longer than its predecessor used by the Pedersen device. This was also the cartridge used for France's M1935 series of service pistols, allowing for limited standardization, but with the effect of preventing French soldiers from using captured enemy ammunition.
Production ended in 1946. By that time 1958 were built before German occupation, and further production is unknown. The French police continued to use the MAS-38 after World War II until it was replaced in the 1950s by the MAT-49 submachine gun.
A very high quality weapon, the MAS-38 was machined from solid steel with only a few stamped parts. It was designed with a buffered sear assembly to prevent wear and increase the life of the internal parts. A dual range sight system was concealed within the receiver so as to be out of sight until it was flipped up for use.
The odd appearance of the MAS-38 did not detract from its accuracy, but its cartridge was underpowered compared to the German 9mm standard pistol ammunition. However this cannot have made any difference to the outcome of the Battle of France, and in any event the German army seized the MAS plant in 1940 just as the MAS-38 was entering large-scale production. The Germans accepted the gun as a substitute standard weapon, naming it the 7.65 mm MP722(f). They continued production of the gun for their own armed forces and supplied some to the Vichy French.
On April 28, 1945, it was used by Italian partisans to shoot the former Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.