MAS 38

MAS 38

MAS 38

MAS 38, left and right views

Type Submachine Gun
Weight 2.87kg
Length 635mm
Barrel Length 222.25mm
Rifling 4 grooves, RH
Magazine Capacity 32 rounds
Caliber 7.65mm Long
Muzzle Velocity 350 m/s
Cyclic Rate 600 rounds/minute
In Production 1938-1946
Country of Origin France

Despite its odd, ‘downhill’ appearance created by the slope of the stock in relation to the barrel, and its underpowered 7.65mm Long cartridge (which, by the way, was only used and manufactured in France), the MAS 38 was one of the best submachine guns of its day in terms of reliability and accuracy.

The MAS 38 submachine gun was produced from 1938-1946 at Manufacture d’Arms de Saint-√Čtienne, in Saint-√Čtienne, France. It was an evolution of the earlier MAS 35, which featured a metal tube buttstock. The MAS 38 was a blowback operated weapon and fired from an open bolt. The retracting slide assembly doubles as an ejection port cover when the gun is not in use. When shooting, the retracting handle/port cover must be in the rear to keep the ejection port open. A spring-loaded plate swings over the magazine opening to keep dirt and debris out of the magazine well when a magazine is not in place.

The operating feature that gave the MAS 38 its characteristic shape was the bolt and spring arrangement. The bolt operated within a cylindrical recess in the receiver. This interval was at an angle to the bore of the barrel and was in line with a tube that ran through the wooden buttstock. This tube contained the recoil spring. Because the bolt contracted the breach at an angle, the bolt force was machined at a corresponding angle. This was probably not a conventional system, but it worked well and kept recoil and muzzle rise to a minimum during the full-automatic fire.

Although the MAS 38 was primarily of machined steel construction, there was no extreme metal, and the weight (2.87kg), was not excessive. The MAS 38 served well during its years of service. Had it been chambered for something other than the weak 7.65mm Long cartridge which was only used (and manufactured) in France, it could have had excellent export potential.


The MAS 38 was replaced by the MAT 49; a reasonably conventional submachine gun chambered for the nearly universal 9mm Parabellum. This became the French Army’s standard submachine gun in Algeria and Indo-China. This stamped sheet metal gun weighed almost two pounds (907.2 grams) more than the machined steel MAS 38.

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