Just prior to the opening of WW2, the Soviet army was in the middle of several firearm upgrade programs. One was the SVT semi-automatic rifle program, the other was upgrading the production of Mosin Nagants from the 91-30 model to the M38 model.
Unlike its predecessor, the M38 incorporated a much needed shortening of the barrel down to a more manageable length of a little over 20 inches. This enabled the rifle to be much more manageable, over the M91 series which at total length of 48.5 inches (128.5cm).
M38 rifles have found their way into surplus markets around the world and are highly sought after due to their rarity compared to the much more produced M91/30 and the M44. These rifles also served as a prototype for the final M91/30 replacement – The M44. The primary difference between the M38 and M44 was the additional of a permanent, folding bayonet on the side of the rifle. The M38 lacks the bayonet which was one of the primary complaints about the rifle.
Although production began in 1938-9 of the rifle, the production was tapered severely during WW2 in favor of the more well known 91/30 series rifle.
Overall the craftsmanship of the M38 is fantastic, and most collectors enjoy keeping them in their collection to use as regular use rifles.
Market value on these rifles is also superior to that of many series of Mosin Nagants, ranging from a low end of $200 to upwards of $600. One of the more important characteristics to look for if collecting is all matching serial numbers (As many post-war refurbs have mismatched parts) and correct pre-war M38 stock which lacks bayonet cutouts.