Walther P 38's for practical use


PDA






Jim NE
May 18, 2011, 01:59 PM
Hi,
I've been toying with the idea of getting an additional 9mm. I've seen some P 38's online that are described in excellent condition, but I'm not sure what "excellent" means when you're talking about 60 year old guns.

I've always wanted a P 38. The "cool" factor on p 38's is about as high as it gets, IMHO, but what I really NEED is a gun that will be solidly reliable and reasonably accurate, not a momento. Obviously, I know that gun design has come a long way in the last half century. Still, if one of these guns could be counted on to not jam and to hit it's target, I would love to have it over a new gun. Good idea or bad idea? P 1's look like they might be a good alternative.

Are there people out there who carry P 38's? Use them for home defense? Opinions welcome.

If you enjoyed reading about "Walther P 38's for practical use" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
NG VI
May 18, 2011, 02:23 PM
I wouldn't use one for either, mainly because literally anything a few decades more current will be a better weapon for carry or home defense.

For fun, I have no experience but would definitely be down to pick one up. It's just a primitive Beretta 92, so if you want a P38 that's slightly more modern, and definitely more suited for combat, try any of the pistols on that platform.

1KPerDay
May 18, 2011, 02:54 PM
I shoot my AC41 P-38 pretty regularly and it is accurate and reliable (and fun!). However the double action trigger is VERY heavy compared to more modern designs. For that reason alone I wouldn't use it for carry/defense.

http://i12.photobucket.com/albums/a206/1KPerDay/Guns/78497352.jpg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJU90KTrKCI

legion3
May 18, 2011, 04:45 PM
The closest I have come is the Walther P4. I carried one for a while back in the 90's. It was kind of cool and stylish but like some other guns I have had, the HKP7 and Walther P5 Compact, 8 shots of 9mm just seemed to old school when a Glock 19 was lighter and carried way more.

The P4 is an updated version of the P38/P1.

It has a decocker only and a shorter barrel, it was built at the same time as the Walther P38K the real short barreled gun, for the West German police after the olympic hostage debacle of 1972.

Although it wasn't adopted several were purchased and used as a stop gap firearm.

Ultimately this led to the adoption of the Sig P6, HK P7 and Walther P5 as the 3 "offical"police guns of West Germany.

The P1/P38's now retired from German probably would give OK duty still but many had feeding issues on hollow points.

A ww2 P38 I would not carry for SD

Jim NE
May 18, 2011, 04:54 PM
Thanks for the great input everyone. I think I'm starting to get a clear idea - good guns, just way behind where things are nowadays....kinda as I expected.

I may still end up getting one, just for fun (the opposite of what I originally intended to do.). Theres a late 70's P-1 I've found, not so much for defense, just for fun. Hey, everybody's got to have fun now and then, right?


BTW, that gun of yours is VERY pretty, 1KPerDay.

1KPerDay
May 18, 2011, 05:11 PM
Thank you.

This guy runs his P38 in 'practical shooting matches' if you want to see how he does. Pretty cool. Music's annoying, but still...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PE0oMHO4bUc&feature=related

Fishbed77
May 18, 2011, 05:22 PM
Have you considered a Walther P5? It's not a P38/P1, but it was developed from those models, and shares some features. I haven't presonally ever handled one, but there are number of folks over on the Walther forum that swear by them and carry them.

KodiakBeer
May 18, 2011, 05:26 PM
Get a Hi Power. Same era, same cool factor, better trigger, better ergonomics and much higher capacity.

il_10
May 18, 2011, 05:29 PM
I had one briefly. Never shot it because it was an unfired collectible, but it was heavy, unwieldly, the double action trigger pull was terrible, everything about it was sharp enough to cut you... I wasn't a fan. I wouldn't be opposed to owning one as a fun gun or plinker, but with the limited capacity, and high price compared to the features, I'm happy to say I traded mine for a Russian SVT-40 and haven't looked back. There are refinished and shooter p08 lugers out there that will serve well as fun guns for about the same price as the war-time p38s. I wouldn't dream of trading out my luger.

xr1200
May 18, 2011, 05:34 PM
Great gun for 9mm, it hits POA and are very well made, The alloy frame surplus ones are best and are more accurate than the ww2 german steel frame guns.

I had a 1941 steel frame nazi model that was in 95% condition it shot a 5 inch group at 20 yrds., while the alloy frame model shot 3 inch groups at 20 yrds.

bestseller92
May 18, 2011, 05:42 PM
For those who say the P38 is too old a design to be used for any serious purpose today, what about the even older 1911? :)

My only experience with the P38 was with one my brother had in the mid 1980s. The DA trigger pull sucked donkey butt, but overall it was a pretty nice, reliable gun.

HOWARD J
May 18, 2011, 05:43 PM
Years ago I took mine to the police station to register it so I could safely
take it to the gun range. The guy at the Records Area did not want to register it because it only said P-38 but it did have a serial number.
I informed him that the Krauts did not want him to know where it was made--so no Mfr's name or city, etc.
After the usual BS discuss--they finally registered it.
Typical goverment people..................:banghead:
It's so much nicer today---No permit needed with a CCW--Buy the gun & mail the paperwork to the police station.--NICE

PS: Nice to show it to folks---that's as far as I go with it.

gopguy
May 18, 2011, 05:47 PM
Actually a lot of the Walther P1 pistols you are seeing for sale, via AIM and such are fairly new. The bulk of what is available as of late are the post 1975 production guns with reinforced frames and heavier slides. The Germans made and used those guns up to the mid 1980s.

As far as practical use, they are not bad. With narrow grips, a mag heel release and chamber loaded indicator, they do not make bad house guns for novices who want a more elementary and forgiving semi auto pistol. However they were designed for use with ball (FMJ) ammo and most of the post war pistols will not function reliably with hollow points. Mine seem to love Winchester White box 115 grain 9mm ammo.

With the spare magazine and holster they make a good buy at the prices they are offered at as well as owning a piece of cold war history. I own several and really like them.

Fishbed77
May 18, 2011, 06:02 PM
EDIT - Sorry - double-posted when I tried to edit.

PRM
May 18, 2011, 06:19 PM
I currently own a Walther P1 that is one of the most accurate and dependable guns that I have. Compared to more modern designs, you get a 9 shot capability (8+1) VS 13 - 15 rounds. I personally find the single stack P1 more comfortable over the thicker double stack modern guns.

The P38/P1 is a battle/time tested firearm. It remained in service with the German military from the late 1930s through the late 1990s. It did what it was designed to do then and is still capable of functioning as a defensive and sporting arm.

The price on these guns make them very reasonable. I had Allen's make a custom high rise holster for mine and have found it no more of a problem for CC than any other full size semi auto.

The P38/P1 was designed around the 124 grain FMJ standard velocity bullets. A lot of shooters have had good results with the 115 grain FMJ WWB ammo. Stay within the design limits of the gun and you will rarely see a problem. It is not recommended to shoot heavier weight bullets or +P rounds in these guns.

Walther put two upgrades on their guns as they continued production.

Hex Bolt. This feature was added to give the locking block a hard surface to ride on and greatly extends the frame life. The Hex Bolt was not added as some have posted to prevent cracked frames, but rather to reduce wear. Although not necessarily a deal breaker, this is a nice upgrade to have hand picked. Stay away from heavy after market spring kits as they really beat the frame.

Fat Slide. Walther did have some very limited problems with some of the war time models experiencing cracked slides. This was mostly due to late war QC practices. There were some incidents of this in post war models, but again rare. Walther did increase the thickness of their slides in later models. Another nice upgrade if one is being hand picked, but again not a deal breaker ~ there are thousands out there without it that have had no issues. Just stay within the design limits of the gun as far as ammo. The fat slide is easily recognizable with the longer battery of serrations that extend forward of the safety/decock.

If you do get one, remember any sight adjustment is with the front sight. Move the rear and you will damage the cover on top of the slide which is a pressed fit ~ Not good.

Here is a couple of neat web sites to read up on them:

http://www.waltherforums.com/forum/

http://forums.p38forum.com/forums/

Pic 1 is my P1 with the Hex Bolt and fat Slide
Pic 2 is the Allen's custom holster

SharpsDressedMan
May 18, 2011, 09:16 PM
I want one of these! http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m247/matquig/UNCLE20gun201.jpg

goon
May 18, 2011, 09:48 PM
Like any other handgun - buy it. Try before you buy if possible.
If it's reliable and you shoot it well, use it for defense.
What's the problem?

NG VI
May 18, 2011, 10:10 PM
Sharps what the crap is that?

Jim NE
May 18, 2011, 10:58 PM
Goon, the opinions on this site are free of charge. I'd be silly not to solicit them before spending hundreds of dollars on a firearm. Now I've heard from half a dozen people who actually own one of these guns, which is a half dozen more than I'd heard from before I started this thread.

And yes, my decision to use it or not use it for defense will be based on the gun's performance.

SharpsDressedMan
May 18, 2011, 11:17 PM
I may be giving away my age, but that is a pic of the original "Man from U.N.C.L.E." gun from the 60's show. They used original P-38's, cut the barrel and installed a custom flash hider, and the grips were milled, solid aluminum that had a bracket built in to take a scope mount and slotted for a shoulder stock. The pistol could be built into a carbine, with stock, scope, and sectioned barrel with a two stage silencer. http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m247/matquig/UNCLE20GUN20CARBINE.jpg

451 Detonics
May 18, 2011, 11:17 PM
The P-39Ks were fun guns and carried well. I had about 1/2 dozen made from imports when I owned my shop. Basically just shortened the barrel and dovetailed a sight into the front of the frame.

http://i188.photobucket.com/albums/z271/reloader1959/handguns/P38K.jpg

PabloJ
May 18, 2011, 11:30 PM
Hi,
I've been toying with the idea of getting an additional 9mm. I've seen some P 38's online that are described in excellent condition, but I'm not sure what "excellent" means when you're talking about 60 year old guns.

I've always wanted a P 38. The "cool" factor on p 38's is about as high as it gets, IMHO, but what I really NEED is a gun that will be solidly reliable and reasonably accurate, not a momento. Obviously, I know that gun design has come a long way in the last half century. Still, if one of these guns could be counted on to not jam and to hit it's target, I would love to have it over a new gun. Good idea or bad idea? P 1's look like they might be a good alternative.

Are there people out there who carry P 38's? Use them for home defense? Opinions welcome.
While there is nothing wrong with antiquated P-38 or alloy framed P1 if you like this type of gun I would buy surplus Beretta 92 instead. I have seen some as low as $300.

SharpsDressedMan
May 18, 2011, 11:37 PM
FWIW, I had a recent import P1, with the reinforced frame, made in the 1980's, and it fed anything I put in it, including some newer Win and Rem HP's, like SXT and Golden Saber. I'm not saying all will do it, but mine was fine.

mgmorden
May 19, 2011, 01:57 AM
It's been pretty thoroughly covered at this point, but my $0.02:

The design is a bit dated. The newer P1 models were made far more recently, but in reality the DESIGN goes back to 1938 - even if the pistol itself doesn't. Things have changed a bit since then. The DA trigger pulls have improved - double-stack magazines have become common. The heel mag release has been mostly abandoned. The half-unshrouded barre . . . well it doesn't affect anything but it's certainly indicative of the age :).

Like most older styled semi-autos my take on it is this: if you happen to have found yourself with such a gun - ie, inherited it, someone gave it to you, etc - it will probably make due just fine. People haven't gotten tougher since these things were issued, and the P-38 design certainly has enough modern features that it's not as if you're packing a muzzleloader or anything.

That said, if you're specifically looking for a defensive gun to purchase, there are better options on the market. Pickup any one of the numerous modern polymer framed "wonder-nines". They're not as classy nor will they have the conversation appeal at the range, but just to protect yourself with, they'll do it better.

goon
May 19, 2011, 04:00 AM
Jim NE - no offense intended. My contention was just that in spite of their age, I'd use one if it was reliable. But the only way to really know if your specific example is going to be reliable is to shoot it - which usually comes only after you buy it. Unfortunately, I've learned about this reliability test the expensive way a few times (even on guns that should have worked right out of the box).

Steve C
May 19, 2011, 05:59 AM
The P38/P1 will do fine for defense, its not the gun, its the shooter that makes the weapon effective.

Recent polymer guns have some advantages, mostly in capacity but revolvers designed in the late 1800's and the 1911 designed over a 1/4 century before the P38 all are still effective self defense guns. The P38/P1's where commercially manufactured into the 80's and could still be in production today if Walther would have adapted a hi cap magazine to it and put an accessory rail on it. The reality is there's cheaper ways to make guns using plastics so the metal frame semi's are on the decline except perhaps for 1911's and that's a niche market.

PX15
May 19, 2011, 08:58 AM
JMOfartO:

I'm a big Walther fan, period.. In the past I've owned a PP/P1/P5/P99c/P99.. All were excellent.... The P99c/AC was amazingly accurate, but all were very reliable.

But since you were asking about the P38 (P1) specifically, I'd say FOR ME, the P38 is just too large and bulky for personal use when there are so many better, modern, options.

I think any gun nut (such as myself) should have the "opportunity" to own, or at least shoot a Browning HP, 1911 Colt, Walther P38 (or P1), HK P7.. These pistols are just "classics" and yes, I'm owned, or at least fired one of each.

I still have a P7.

If you just want a neat WW2 era classic, the Walther P1 is a good choice.. Plenty available, price is right, and they ARE fun plinkers.. I liked the P5 a little better, but they are less available and more costly.

I'm fortunate in that in my old age I can afford to carry pretty much whatever pistol I want, and you know my preference in 9MM?

Ruger LC9...

Why?

I have owned Ruger firearms for over 4 decades, with so far, nary a bad one in the bunch...(KOW)..

The Ruger LC9 is light and slim, amazingly accurate at self defense range, and has been, as have all of my Rugers been, absolutely reliable.

$365.00+tax... :D

As good as the old P38 (P1) is, it's just too large and bulky for much other than perhaps a fun casual plinker, or in a pinch, a home defense choice.. (and not the best for that duty)..

Great guns of the past... It's just that there are "greater" guns available which offer more "bang for the buck"..

Just my personal opinion, no offense to anyone, 'specially the P38 fans..

Jesse

Jim NE
May 19, 2011, 12:54 PM
Goon said: "My contention was just that in spite of their age, I'd use one if it was reliable. But the only way to really know if your specific example is going to be reliable is to shoot it - which usually comes only after you buy it."

Of course, you're very correct. I'm starting to think that because I've always wanted one, I should probably buy one. The determination as to whether it'll be a practical defensive weapon or a conversation piece will come after I use it a while. If I approach it from that mindset, I won't be profoundly disappointed by it's deficiencies.

The gun that I've found that I like is a late 70's P1. I don't like it's parkerized finish, and I prefer the look of the ribbed grips of a WW2 era gun, but I like the fact that it's newer. It's an ex German cop gun. I believe it's also less money than a WW@ era gun.

mgmorden
May 19, 2011, 01:00 PM
I believe it's also less money than a WW@ era gun.

By quite a ways. The current crop or surlpus P1's tend to go for about 1/3rd or so the price of a WW2 era steel P38. Same general gun - just an alloy frame over the steel one. As a matter of fact post-WW2 there were P38's manufactured for the civilian market that were identical the to P1 production - alloy frame and all. The only difference was that P1 was the police designation whilst P38 was the civvy designation (much like the SIG P6 was the SIG P225 in it's civilian form).

One cool tidbit if you do get the P1 - CDNN currently has used factory magazines for it for around $12 each. Hard to beat those prices for stocking up on mags. The one I bought only came with 1 so I got 3 more from CDNN.

leadcounsel
May 19, 2011, 03:53 PM
Great antiques. Certainly deadly and *could* get the job done. But as others noted there are much better designs and materials for roughly the same money. And the mag release is clumsy on the P1/P38.

rcmodel
May 19, 2011, 03:56 PM
Cabala's sale flyer today has Surplus P1/P38's on sale.
Gun, two mags, and a holster for $359.99.

They say they have aquired 700 of them somewhere.

rc

KodiakBeer
May 19, 2011, 04:00 PM
The first shot is the one that counts. Do you really want to rely on a 64 pound trigger pull for that first shot? For home defense, maybe, since you can probably cock thumb-cock it first. Not for carry!

legion3
May 19, 2011, 04:39 PM
a 64 pound trigger pull

:what: :D

PRM
May 19, 2011, 05:17 PM
a 64 pound trigger pull

I can understand not liking a particular model or brand of pistol ~ but, this is close to the extreme of bashing. I like to see some documentation with that statement.

1KPerDay
May 19, 2011, 06:01 PM
It was obviously an exaggeration with humorous intent. Let's not get our panties in a bunch.

I WOULD like to get a trigger pull gauge on my P38. I'm guessing the DA trigger has got to be close to 15-20 pounds.

SharpsDressedMan
May 19, 2011, 06:31 PM
Maybe he meant 64 ounce.........

Jim NE
May 19, 2011, 07:15 PM
PRM, your P1 looks excellent! I haven't seen any that clean on the net.

rcmodel, thanks for the heads up on the Cabelas sale, and mgmorden for the mag source.

And thanks for everyone else's opinion. I will say it's kind of odd to hear so many comments about the limitied capacity, though. The idea that the effectiveness is compromised because it holds 8 rounds. I wonder how many 5 shot revolvers S&W, Ruger and Taurus/Rossi have sold in the last 10 years because of the booming concealed carry market?

KodiakBeer
May 19, 2011, 11:50 PM
I can understand not liking a particular model or brand of pistol ~ but, this is close to the extreme of bashing.

Oh, lighten up! The P38 is a terrific and historic pistol, just not a great carry choice for the reason I pointed out - a poor DA trigger pull.

harmon rabb
May 20, 2011, 12:01 PM
Did I get a freak P1 or something? The DA trigger on mine is not bad. Feels like maybe 10-12lbs.

If you enjoyed reading about "Walther P 38's for practical use" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!