There was a lot of iconic guns that became famous, or more famous, during WW2. The submachine guns seemed to get special attention. A lot of those are familiar to even the non-gun person. The Thompson, the Mp38/40, the PPsh. But perhaps the best SMG of the war, is not very well known at all in comparison.
Produced from 1938 to 1950 it fired the 9mm round. The gun was machined and produced to a very high quality standard. Magazines for the gun came in 10s, 20,s 30, 40. The M38 was highly regarded by Roy Dunlap, a Sgt. of Ordnance in WW2 who gave his opinion on most Axis and Allied weapons in his book Ordnance Went Up Front.
“Their Beretta M38 is one of the best ever built. Of 9mm parabellum caliber, taking a powerfully loaded Luger cartridge, simple blowback operated, it is hard ot beat for performance”.
“Sights were adjustable 100 to 500 meters with blade front sight. The gun has a 3/4 length stock , and barrel jacket perforated with round cooling holes and incorporated a built in compensator to aid in control under automatic fire. A dust cover on the magazine port keeps out dirt when carrying unloaded.”
“The magazine enters from the bottom and ejection port is on the right hand side of the tubular receiver, just forward of the operating handle which incidentally is free of the bolt and does not move with it in action, serving only to cock it, as in the case of our BAR. Fire is controlled by two triggers, front for semi automatic fire, rear for full machine action. The gun fires from an open bolt.”
“The Beretta 38 is my favorite gun of its class, as it was of the Eight Army. As easy to fire and control as a 22 sporting autoloader, it had terrific punch and range. The special 9mm cartridge loaded for it made it effective at 300 yards and dangerous to 500( when you consider the .45 caliber Thompson is an even money bet at 100 yards you will understand why we liked the Beretta). It would operate well with German, British or American 9mm Luger ammunition. No one every bothered with any other kind of submachine gun if he could get hold of a M38 and keep it. even the Germans liked it and they hated to admit anything was good except their own stuff. “
The M38 and its variants was so good it was issued to elite units like the Italian 185 Airborne Division which used it exclusively. Other elite units within divisions used theM30 as their sole infantry arm, making it even more associated with special troops. and as Roy is quoted above, everyone who could get theirs hands on one used it.