P-38 ????


March 6, 2004, 11:17 PM
I've always liked the looks of the Walther P-38 and wanted to own one, but really had no desire to get into the whole Nazi-memorabilia thing. Well, lo and behold - today, I came across a post-war aluminum frame P38 in a local shopm arked at $360. Looked in good shape - clean bore, rifling looked good, not many wear marks.

So, who here has any experience with the P38? Is it a reasonable and reliable shooter?

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March 6, 2004, 11:23 PM
Good price, good shooter! This gun will go up in price! I still have a nice AC41 & a Walther factory commenrative stashed. I shot the snot out of one like yours 30 years ago, nothing bad to say!:D

March 6, 2004, 11:31 PM
Does the aluminum frame hold up OK? Also, I've heard that the safety is a bit frangible - true?

March 6, 2004, 11:33 PM
It is a Walther P1, the post war version, with aluminum frame.

It is a spectacular 9mm and one of the best deals going. It will not be as collectible as a real wartime P38 but if you are after a little piece of history that you don't feel bad about shooting it is great.

The P1/P38 should give you a great 9mm with a lot of history and make for a fine modern firearm for shooting fun and defense as well. The double action trigger pull is stout but reliabilty should be flawless.

I say go for it. P38s and P1s do have some durability quirks that you might want to research but all in all they are very well made very durable firearms.

As for the safety I would recommend when you use the safety/decocker to also hold the hammer and let it fall gently. This will prevent any breakage. This goes for early Walther PP, PPKs etc.

As for the frame, clean it, and take care of it and your great grandchildren will be shooting it.......................assuming that the two real enemies of firearms to destroy the gun...........rust and politicians.


March 7, 2004, 12:30 AM
I have a Walther P-1 and it is one of my favorite plinkers.There are two frame types for the P-1.The later types have a hexigonal steel insert that passes through the frame just forward of the trigger guard.Mine is the early type without the insert and I have many thousands of 9mm through it and it still shows no wear.I replaced the worn out factory recoil springs with heavier (8lb) Wolf springs when I got it .I would not use any P+ ammo through it.


March 7, 2004, 12:43 AM
Price seems a little high to me. In the latest Shotgun News www.centerfiresystems.com has them listed for $269.97. Of course you have to add in shipping and transfer fee, but my dealer only charges $15.

March 7, 2004, 06:18 PM
If only those P-1s were C&R ;)

March 7, 2004, 08:53 PM
CDNN has 'em for $249 in good to very good condition, $279 for select, FWIW .

Jim K
March 7, 2004, 09:34 PM
That hex frame insert fits into the frame at the point the locking block is forced upward to lock. That was a weak point in the alloy frame, as the edge wore down pretty quickly. I don't care for the looks, but the mod is good.


March 7, 2004, 09:44 PM
I had one for a while, sold it to a friend then he sold it to another ,we still all go shooting together, I sent it on cause I've got a WWII P38 and wanted another gun, he sold it cause he wanted a Ruger Blackhawk I had in .45 acp, ect. It's what you expect from Walther, worked very well with the Walmart white box 124g 9mm, it was a little boxy for me but shot well, accuracy was not as good as BHPs or Lugers, just make sure the top plate/cover is secure, is unsettling for it to pop off and lose all those little parts in there. Disassembly takes a little to get used to, definitely not a Browning design. I'd say go for it.


Lobotomy Boy
March 7, 2004, 09:51 PM
The P38 can seem a little odd if you are used to shooting modern autoloaders, especially the sights, but once you get used to it, the P38 can be a lot of fun.

March 7, 2004, 10:16 PM
Very interesting! What is the difference(s) in a P-1 and a P-38. When were P-1s produced? Are both actual German made guns, or is one of lss quality than the other?

March 7, 2004, 10:24 PM
The POST-WAR aluminum frame P-38 and the P-1 are the exact same gun.
The only difference is the stamping on the slide.

The P-38 stamped guns were intended for German police, and commercial and non-German military sales.

The P-1 marked guns were for the West German military.

This is sort of like the Beretta Model 92 and the US Military M9.

Both the P-38 and the P-1 were first produced Post-war in France by Manurhin, and are so marked.
By the late 50's Walther had built a new plant in Germany, and moved production back there.

The current crop of P-1's are all German-made.

In either case, Manurhin or German produced, the quality is uniformly VERY excellent.

March 7, 2004, 10:54 PM
That hex frame insert fits into the frame at the point the locking block is forced upward to lock. When I go back to look at this pistol again, how can I view this/tell if the P1 has the insert or not?

March 7, 2004, 11:29 PM
If you haven't tried, you might consider posting over at www.P38forum.com. Those guys live and breath P-38's. The insert is a steel pin just behind the disassembly/takedown lever.

March 7, 2004, 11:39 PM
I noticed just today in CDNN's latest flier catalog ... they have some for $249 ($279 ''selected'') (back page) ... wonder what shape they would be in?

Is this a blowback .... I have sorta assumed they were.?

Zeke Menuar
March 8, 2004, 12:23 AM
If only those P-1s were C&R

I'll have to check my ATF propaganda books. Some of the P-38/P-1's might just be coming into C&R eligibilty pretty soon. It would be great if I could get one shipped to my door.


March 8, 2004, 04:18 AM
My P1 is from 1980 and it shoots really well.
In fact, if I could find a good concealment holster for it, I might consider carrying it!!! :eek:
It always gets looks when I take it to the range, especally when accompanied by my P08 Luger!!! :D

March 8, 2004, 05:06 AM
That hex frame insert fits into the frame at the point the locking block is forced upward to lock. That was a weak point in the alloy frame, as the edge wore down pretty quickly.

That doesn't sound so good, sounds like military pressure ammo is out and shooting it alot with Winchester Whitebox is even iffy....

Another problem I have with them is that they eject to the left and I'm a righty.......

I hate brass in my eye, that just ruins my day...and possibly alot more.

March 8, 2004, 05:27 AM
You'll find that most P-38s are hardball only propositions, but they're accurate and easy to make hits with once the SA trigger is mastered.
Can't speak for the late-production examples, but the WW2 era pistols
had heavy DA and SA triggers.

If you start playing with the ramp and throat, you may find that it won't
even feed ball...Best leave it alone.

Wondernine said:

Another problem I have with them is that they eject to the left and I'm a righty.......

I hate brass in my eye, that just ruins my day...and possibly alot more

The ones that I've shot don't kick the brass in your face, but rather throw
it high and over your left shoulder. 11 O'clock and back at about a 30 degree angle. I've shot several, and never been beaned yet.

The pistols that hit you in the face...notably the 1911...don't eject the brass
back at you. They eject it high at about 1 O'clock, and the the slide hits
it on the way back before it can get clear of the port.



Lobotomy Boy
March 8, 2004, 08:27 AM
The P38 seems pretty rugged as long as you use mild FMJ ammo. They seem to tolerate Winchester Value Pack with no problem. I'd be a little hesitant to buy one as a daily shooter, but I have no reason to feel this way. I've run over 500 rounds of Wally World White Box through a couple of older examples and have not experienced any problems. Except for the odd controls and sights that were difficult for me to master, they function like any other modern double-action autoloader.

Still, if I was looking for a gun that I planned to run 200+ rounds per week through, I'd probably select a modern gun with a reputation for robust construction.

Sylvilagus Aquaticus
March 8, 2004, 01:21 PM
I bought a very nice BYF back in the early to mid 80's. Great shooter, reasonably accurate in my hands. It made a nice 'glove box gun' at the time. Unfortunately, I paid about $350 for it, which was the going rate at the time. A couple of months later the 'powers that be' began importing the Grey Ghosts by the shipping container load and retailing them for about $175 to $200. Needless to say, I was as upside down as the new owner of a zero-down Daewoo Leganza with a 7 year note. I sold it some years later and took what I considered to be a beating, but we both were happy. I parlayed that cash into a minty Ruger Blackhawk in .30 carbine and haven't looked back.


March 8, 2004, 05:49 PM
The P38 seems pretty rugged as long as you use mild FMJ ammo.
Mild FMJ ammo???

The P38 was the issue handgun of German Army (and others) from the 40s to the 80s. It was also a common LE handgun. It has evidently handled full CIP and NATO handgun loads for the last three decades--and its direct descendant, the P5 (with the same steel hex pin) is still in general service (and probably one--if not THE--finest single column nine ever produced). Why has it become so fragile all of a sudden?

(That being said, I would opt for one with the steel hex pin.)

Lobotomy Boy
March 8, 2004, 09:21 PM
The two examples I've shot have been WWII-era guns. They are probably tough as nails, but given that they are antique guns that belong to friends, I tend to treat them as if they are fragile. For example, I don't let the hammer fall when I hit the decocker.

Bart Noir
March 9, 2004, 02:39 PM
I checked my P-38 (1962 vintage) and in the cavity that the locking block drops into, I see what looks like a steel insert, so that the locking block is lifted by this steel surface. I don't see any indication of this on the outside of the frame, it's not like an inserted pin that goes through the frame. So am I right in saying that mine has the steel insert?

Bart Noir

March 9, 2004, 02:56 PM
There is actually a hex pin going transversely thru the frame. Looks like a section of allen wrench. You will not be able to miss it. If you can't see it, it ain't there. HTH

March 9, 2004, 04:35 PM
I had one of the Manurhin produced pistols, and here are my experiences.

1. Would feed anything, FMJ or JHP
2. Due to the regulation of the fixed sights, only 124 grain would hit to the point of aim at 25 yards (Yeah, I know they used meters, but that doesn't change anything)
3. Never did like the DA/SA mode of operation
4. Take down is quick and easy
5. These are NOT small guns
6. The narrow barrel makes for a bit of muzzle climb
7. My slide started to crack on either side, so I had to get rid of the gun. Don't remember exactly where, but when examined closely, they were there.
8. Whether wartime or post-war, they're a neat bit of history.



March 9, 2004, 05:21 PM
Whenever owning and shooting a P-38 is in the offing, keep in mind that,
even though the pistol was adopted by the German military, it wasn't in
the same context and intended role as that of the Colt.

The 1911 was designed first and foremost to be a fighting pistol for the cavalry, and robust enough for hard the duty that the cavalry would require of it.. The German army had a different view of the Pistole' 38. Meant to be issued to officers as more of a symbol of rank than anything else...and a tool that COULD be used in a close-range emergency, but probably wouldn't have to. As such, the pistols were generally fired only enough for familiarization and rarely, if ever, shot for practice or recreation. Even then, a magazine or two would probably be about the limit. Think of it as a swagger stick that would go bang.

During WW2, the role of the pistol changed somewhat in the U.S. Army, and
had we dropped the 1911 in favor of another design, it's not likely that it
would have been as tough...nor as heavy as the 1911...and it probably
wouldn't have stood up to as much hard use, either.

The Walther P-38 is a fine pistol. Well-engineered and well made...but
it won't tolerate the heavy use and abuse that Old Bigmouth takes in stride.



March 9, 2004, 07:32 PM
P95Carry, No, the P38 is not blowback. I believe the term used to describe the barrel lockup is "falling block". Beretta copied this system, it is used in the Berretta 92's and 96's among others. I have a Walther P5 which is basically an updated P38 and uses the same system. I'm sure someone else could describe the function much better than I can, so I won't confuse you by trying to do so.:)

March 9, 2004, 08:46 PM
Just an observation.

The Germans went to great lengths to conceal the numbers of arms they were producing, and contrary to the swagger stick comment every bit of German combat footage (East or Western Front) the Pistol is commonly used, much more so than you see in Allied films.. particularly in urban fighting.

I think the majority of the idea that any walther is "frail" is a late WW2 production gun, or the aluminum frames without the hex insert.

March 9, 2004, 09:04 PM
Dr. Rob said:

I think the majority of the idea that any walther is "frail" is a late WW2 production gun, or the aluminum frames without the hex insert

No no...Not frail, and I never meant to imply that, but the P-38 (and the Luger) was developed for a much different role in a war zone than the 1911. The Colt was intended to be the cavalry's primary weapon and because it would take an active, aggressive role, it had to be rough and tumble.

As I noted, the P-38 is a very good design...Ingenious, in fact and ahead of its time. It's just not as brawny as the big Colt. I've seen some of that
footage, and recognized the pistols taking an active role...but a sidearm shot into unserviceablility by a soldier was replaced at no cost to the
soldier. If you or I shoot one apart, it's out of pocket. I shot a couple to
destruction back before they became hot collectables. A BYF 42 and BYF 43. All matching numbers...Wish I had'em back now.

Just my nickel's worth...


March 10, 2004, 11:32 AM
Must disagree about the usage of handguns in the German army. The 9mm pistols (P-08, P-38, Radom and HP) were issued to officers and troops that saw front line action and were expected to use them and especially to those that serviced MGs and artillery. Staff officers and REMFs got 7.62 (32 ACP) pistols.

The P-38 (WW2, all steel version) had a reputation of working better than the P-08 in the mud, ice and snow of the Eastern Front and was also well liked by GIs who liberated them. The US Army was impressed enough to start looking for a 9mm replacement for the 1911 right after the war, this led to the S&W 9mm autos.

The postwar P-38s (P-1) had some problems that were rectified with product improvements, ie, the steel hex frame reinforcemnt and a thicker slide. If you buy a surplus post-war P-38/P-1 get one made in the late 70's or 80's as they will have the improvements as well as better sights. But you are still stuck with Walther's lousey trigger.

As for as the 1911, have to agree with Tuner, it's a big, rugged cavalry gun meant to shoot horses as well as men. Compared to its contemporaries its ergonomics were superior. JMB was and is a genius.

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